The New York City Opera, after a year of being homeless, is very much alive and thriving back home in the newly renovated David H. Koch Theater (formerly the NY State Theater). The orchestra committee reports that, most importantly for the orchestra, the renovations include a wonderful, enlarged pit, which can be raised to various heights—including stage level—enabling the theater to be used for symphonic concerts.
In addition to the improvements of new seats and additional aisles that are visible to the public, there were many behind the scenes upgrades. Among them were: a new stage lighting system; a new, sound-proofed fire curtain; a new media center and wiring allowing the possibility of HD video and state of the art audio recording; and many others. The acoustics, both in and out of the pit, have also been greatly improved.
The company recently completed its latest season of VOX, the NYCO’s American opera lab/workshop. Since it began in 1999, VOX has been an outlet for the future of American opera, giving composers a chance to hear large excerpts of their works—finished or in progress—with full orchestra and singers. Of the more than 100 works that have been performed since its inception, 40 or so have gone on to receive fully staged performances. The readings have been free to the public and have been packed, attracting crowds of opera aficionados, impresarios, and other very interested parties. This year people had to be turned away at the door.
On March 11 the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra embarked on its first tour in twenty years. The five-city tour of Florida included concerts in Fort Lauderdale, Daytona, Vero Beach, Sarasota, and Gainsville with Music Director JoAnn Falletta. Tour repertoire included Rossini’s Semiramide Overture, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (with BPO Concertmaster Michael Ludwig as soloist), Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major (with Fabio Bidini), and Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2.
The tour was made possible by the highly successful fundraising efforts of BPO Executive Director Dan Hart and Music Director JoAnn Falletta. Virtually all of the funding for the tour was raised through personal meetings with potential donors who have roots in Western New York but who now reside in Florida. These efforts were responsible for the tour finishing with a financial surplus.
Many of our Florida audience members were interested in the possibility of acquiring a recording of these concerts. In response, the Buffalo Philharmonic is producing a CD of two of the works from the tour repertoire (the Rossini and the Rachmaninoff), making use of the Live Recording Agreement and utilizing archival recordings made prior to the tour.
In September 2010 the Buffalo Philharmonic will begin a season-long celebration of its 75th anniversary.
The San Diego Symphony will celebrate its centennial year starting in July. Both the summer and winter seasons have been enhanced for the occasion with special events and a celebrity cast of soloists. The San Diego Symphony has had successes that include seven straight years of rising subscription attendance and ten straight years of budget surpluses. With the SDS’s fiscal year ending in June, the 2009–2010 year was threatening to break its string of balanced budgets, but an end-of-the-year matching gift of $500,000 by an anonymous donor, dubbed the Fortissimo Challenge Grant, will hopefully give the fundraising effort enough of a boost to keep the succession of balanced budgets intact for the eleventh straight year.
Despite the massive flooding of and damage to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center (see story on p. 4), the Nashville Symphony is forging ahead to complete its 2009–2010 season and hopes to be back in its hall by the end of the year. Delegate Brad Mansell reports that the NSO concluded its Classical Series at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, as scheduled, with a performance of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle—complete with an unveiling of glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly created around the piece. The summer season is moving forward and there are plans to complete all scheduled performances in other venues. A recording project of works by Joseph Schwantner is also planned. Other good news, despite the flooding, was the announcement that NSO has been invited to perform in Carnegie Hall in May 2012 as part of Spring for Music, a festival designed to encourage greater creativity in programming and to spotlight the vitality of orchestral life in American orchestras. NSO musicians send their thanks to all of the ICSOM orchestras for their support and concern, with a special thank you to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for their generous donation at their May 15 performance in Nashville.
Besides concern at The Florida Orchestra about a probable season deficit and the continued erosion of government and corporate funding due to the recession, there are also positive developments to report. The Florida Orchestra has begun to reverse a more than decade long decline in subscription sales, and single ticket sales this season for all concerts are exceeding goals by more than 25 percent. There has also been an increase in individual donors and donations. Delegate Warren Powell emphasizes that the musicians hope these are indicators of a better future for TFO.
The Chicago Symphony’s in-house recording label, CSO Resound, has enjoyed continued success in 2010. The most recent release, conducted by Pierre Boulez, includes Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, Symphony in Three Movements, and Four Etudes. The 2009 release of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, conducted by Bernard Haitink, was named Gramophone Magazine’s February 2010 CD of the month.
In May, the Los Angeles Philharmonic went on a two-week state-side tour with its new music director, Gustavo Dudamel. The two programs for the tour included Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety, with soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, City Noir by John Adams (commissioned and premiered by the L.A. Phil this past fall), and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (“Pathétique”). Due to the flooding in Nashville, the concert there had to be moved from the recently completed Schermerhorn Symphony Center to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The musicians and management of L.A. Phil, including Dudamel and Thibaudet, donated $25,0000 to the Nashville Symphony to assist in repairs to their hall and to replace lost instruments. Nashville hosted a reception for L.A. after the concert.
Music students in the Honolulu community presented a benefit recital to support the musicians of the bankrupt Honolulu Symphony. Many of these students were winners of the Honolulu Symphony’s annual concerto competition and had previously performed with the full orchestra. Student organizers and performers T.J. Tario, Alda Lam, and Annie Kwok, all accomplished pianists from the Ellen Masaki School of Music, initiated this project. They invited friends to join them, solicited donations, made posters, flyers, bumper stickers and concert programs, and contacted local radio and TV stations to publicize this event. The organizers were joined by several pianists from other private studios, 26 violinists from Suzuki Talent Education of Hawaii based at Punahou Music School, and several student cellists (all of whom study with teachers who play in the Honolulu Symphony). At least a dozen Honolulu music studios collaborated for this project. The concert was held at the University of Hawaii’s Orvis Auditorium and supervised by Honolulu Symphony members Nancy Masaki and Thomas Yee. During the intermission, homemade cookies, cupcakes, and mochi (a local treat made from rice) were available for sale. Honolulu Symphony Orchestra Committee’s Vice-Chairs Jonathan Parrish and Anna Womack and many Honolulu Symphony musicians were on hand to express the musicians’ heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for these students’ and their families’ support. Thirty-six students volunteered to perform in the concert. The program included solo and chamber music by Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Paganini, and Dvorak. All proceeds were donated to the Live Music Awareness funds in support of the Honolulu Symphony musicians.
Donors, staff, board and many others joined the musicians of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Music Director JoAnn Falletta to celebrate VSO icon Janet Kriner, who had recently announced her retirement. Janet’s 45-year career as a VSO cellist spanned half of the orchestra’s 90-year history. Mayor Paul D. Fraim (who spoke at the 2009 ICSOM Conference) proclaimed April 3 “Janet Kriner Day” and designated her as a “Community Treasure.” Among those present was ICSOM Chairperson Bruce Ridge who, as a youngster, had shared the stage with Janet. As the VSO was saying goodbye to Janet, it was also getting ready to welcome a new executive director, Eric Borenstein, formerly of the Erie Philharmonic.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in May enjoyed a very successful three-week tour of Europe with its new music director, Manfred Honeck. The tour took the orchestra to eight countries, including appearances in Paris, Dresden, Prague, and Budapest, and pairs of concerts in both Luxembourg and Vienna (Mr. Honeck’s home). All the concerts were sold out, and return invitations have already been extended to the PSO.
May was “Making Sense of Alzheimer’s Month” for the Utah Symphony. Collaborating with the Utah chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, the Utah Symphony offered discounted concert tickets, Abravanel Hall tours, and special programs for those with the disease and for their caregivers. As part of the project, musicians also performed at seven assisted-living centers. This is not the first foray into such territory for the Utah Symphony. It has also sponsored special programs for the blind and visually impaired as well as for children with autism and their families.
The most recent release of the San Francisco Symphony’s Mahler Recording Project, the Symphony No. 8, has won three Grammy awards in the categories of Best Classical Album, Best Choral Performance, and Best Engineered Classical Album. Launched in 2001, the San Francisco Symphony and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas’s series of critically acclaimed Gustav Mahler symphony recordings are issued on the in-house recording label SFS Media. The Mahler cycle will be completed this year and has already received a total of seven Grammy Awards and nine Grammy nominations. SFS Media’s Mahler series has sold over 130,000 units worldwide and has earned international critical acclaim.