Orchestra Digest: January 11, 2013

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This week: Toronto loves Mozart, opera meets improv in Chicago, reviewing a tough year in the performing arts, and conductors' pop music favourites. Here are stories we're following, in the news and on the web...
  • The Toronto Symphony's Mozart Festival runs January 9-17, and the Toronto Star interviewed four TSO musicians about Mozart's unique and enduring qualities. 
  • Last week Chicago Lyric Opera and The Second City improv comedy troupe put together a collection of sketches and scenes called "The Second City Guide to Opera", and the Chicago Tribune gave it high marks for hilarity and audience-building. The Chicago Sun-Times reports the show will be reprised in June. 
  • The Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä, nominated for a Grammy for their recording of Sibelius 2nd and 5th Symphonies, will perform those works in a special concert on Feb. 1st, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. This will be the first time in months that the locked-out orchestra has performed with their Music Director.
  • Save Our SPCO, a community group seeking to end the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra lockout, this week delivered a petition to SPCO President Dobson West with nearly 3,000 signatures, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reports. The petition calls on management to move towards resolving the impasse.
  • The Indianapolis Symphony ended its lockout in the fall, but the current contract hinges on a $5 million fundraising goal by Feb. 3rd - and the ISO is still $2.4 million short, the Indianapolis Star reports. If not met, the 5-year agreement reached in October will be null, and musicians and management will restart contract negotiations.
  • ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge and Stanford professor Robert J. Flanagan spoke to USA Today about difficulties facing orchestras: Performing arts face strikes, layoffs, bankruptcy. While the headline is bleak, the article notes that orchestras in Cincinnati and St. Louis have weathered the economic downturn quite well. 
  • The New York Times reports that Varèse Sarabande, a US label specializing in film soundtracks, has just merged with a larger British firm, the Cutting Edge Group. Executives involved plan to expand the use of soundtracks in live concert events. 
  • The Philharmonie, a new concert hall in Paris, has attracted controversy over its spiralling price, the Guardian reports. French Prime Minister François Hollande has supported the Jean Nouvel-designed building, but opposition parties and state auditors have criticized overruns that have pushed the cost to 387 million euros.
  • Sir Simon Rattle announced his term as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic will end in 2018, when his current contract expires, the Guardian reports. Rattle's tenure began in 2002, and will reach 16 seasons. 
  • The LA Times asked prominent conductors what non-classical music they enjoy, with some surprising results - Michael Tilson Thomas loves James Brown, Dudamel admires Aerosmith, and Riccardo Muti adores Cèline Dion. Bramwell Tovey declined to name any current pop stars, but listed Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Cole Porter, among others. 
Compiled by Matt Heller, OCSM President. Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA, as well as NPR's Deceptive Cadence blog. Our new website is now up and running!: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php


  • Orchestra Digest: Influencers edition


    Influencers in the headlines
    The Toronto Symphony named Matthew Loden its new CEO, the Toronto Star reports. Loden currently serves as interim co-president of the Philadelphia Orchestra; Loden will take over from interim CEO Gary Hansen this July. 
    The Philadelphia Orchestra named Matías Tarnopolsky its new President and CEO in March, the NY Times reported; he currently leads Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley. 
    The TSO also announced that Simon Rivard, currently the conductor-in-residence for the Thunder Bay Symphony, will take over as their resident conductor next season. CBC reports on the move and a conductor on the rise. 
    Composer, violist, and teacher Quentin Doolittle has died at age 90, the Calgary Herald reports. Doolittle composed more than 60 works, including 4 operas; served as principal violist of the Calgary Philharmonic; founded New Works Calgary; and he was among the University of Calgary's first arts faculty. 
    Elizabeth "Betty" Webster, Orchestra Canada's founding executive officer, has died at age 93, the Hamilton Spectator reports. Webster also directed the Hamilton Philharmonic from 1967 to 1975, and was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1992. Orchestras Canada gives an annual award in her name for contributions to orchestral community. 
    Irwin Hoffman, a past music director of the Vancouver Symphony (1952-1964) and founder of the Florida Orchestra, has died at age 93, Slipped Disc reports
    National Ballet Orchestra of Canada principal percussionist Kristofer Maddigan was nominated for a Juno for best instrumental album, CTV News reports. Maddigan's composed the soundtrack to an indie video game, Cupheads.
    Winners at the 2018 Juno Awards included Jan Lisiecki (Classical album of the year: Large ensemble); Barbara Hannigan (Classical album of the year: vocal or choral); and Jocelyn Morlock (Classical composition of the year). 
    Conductor Noel Edison resigned as artistic director of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, after an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, the Toronto Star reports. Edison had been nominated for a Grammy earlier this year for a recording with the TMC and TSO. 
    The Globe and Mail profiled violinist Benjamin Bowman, the Metropolitan Opera's newly appointed concertmaster. Bowman previously served as associate concertmaster of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra for ten seasons. (Paywall)
    Financial column
    Quebec's three major orchestra will receive supplemental grants from the province, to be disbursed in supplements over five years, the Montreal Gazette reports. The total amounts of the grants are significant: $7.5m to the Montreal Symphony, $3m to the Quebec Symphony, and $2.5 million to Orchestre MétropolitainLudwig van Montreal also reported on the OM grant (in French), while Slipped Disc noted that OSM receives the most government funding of any North American orchestra. 
    The San Antonio Symphony's season seemed poised to end on January 5th, as the board considered bankruptcy -- only to pull back from the brink, with the help of several key grants. Texas Public Radio reports on a crisis averted at the last possible moment. 
    Eight of Calgary's "cornerstone" arts organizations, including the Calgary Philharmonic, are advocating for increases in municipal arts grants, which have been frozen for eight years, according to a report in the Calgary Herald. The organizations proposed a "sustainability framework" to a city council committee last week. 
    The province of Alberta has set aside $13m to fund an expansion project for Edmonton's Winspear CentreCBC reports. The $53m project is roughly 50% funded, with completion targeted for 2022. 
    A new report released by the U.K. Musicians' Union highlights the financial difficulties even full-time orchestral musicians are facing: salaries averaging 21k pounds (approx. $28,500 USD) coupled with high instrument costs and student loans. The findings were reported by New England Public Radio; the Musicians' Union is launching an awareness campaign
    New seasons, collaborations, and reckonings
    A drag queen, a Star Wars star, and local heroes will headline Symphony Nova Scotia Pops concerts next season, The Signal Halifax reports
    The Hamilton Philharmonic's 2018/19 season, the Spectator reports, opens with Gemma New's favourite symphony (Brahms 1st), features a Bach Festival with Ivars Taurins, and closes with Mahler's 5th. 
    For 2018/19, the Calgary Philharmonic welcomes Renee Fleming and Measha Brueggergosman as guests, and features an Under the Influence Festival, the Calgary Herald reports.
    The Montreal Symphony's new season pays homage to some of the OSM's most iconic recordings, the Montreal Gazette reports, with programs featuring Berlioz, Dukas, Ravel, and Debussy.
    The Thunder Bay Symphony hosted its first Indigenous concert last month, CBC News reported, spearheaded by musician/board member Shy-Anne Hovorka. 
    Few orchestras, if any, touch their cities as deeply as the Baltimore Symphony, the NY Times reports: the BSO's OrchKids program now reaches over 1,300 students in 6 schools. The Times profiles some of those students with an extended photo essay. 
    As #MeToo reckonings have touched classical music organizations in Toronto and elsewhere, Toronto Star critic John Terauds argues that classical music has enabled bad behaviour by prominent male artists, and asserts that we need to change such patterns. Globe and Mail critic Marsha Lederman surveys the reckoning in Toronto's arts scene more broadly, considering how structural power dynamics play a part. 
    Notice a correction, or an orchestra news story I missed? Please email me at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or post to the list yourself! (Remember to include your name and orchestra in your post.) Thank you! - Matt Heller

    Compiled by Matt Heller, with editorial assistance from Francine Schutzman and Robert Fraser. (Errors are Matt's!) Sources include the discussion groups of ICSOM and ROPA. Visit OCSM online at: http://ocsm-omosc.org/index.php. Visit OCSM on Facebook, or tweet us @ocsm-omosc.
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