NYCO Honors Rudel
NYCO Renaissance and the Rudel Family presented a musical tribute to Maestro Julius Rudel on March 9th at Rose Hall. Rudel passed away last June, and he made explicit that he did not want any memorial service. His last public appearance had been at NY City Center at the NYCO 70th Anniversary concert, presented by Local 802 in February 2014.
Rudel had spent much of his career with the New York City Opera, beginning as a rehearsal pianist and eventually running the company. It was only fitting for the orchestra and some of his favorite singers to take to the stage to honor his life. The list of singers who appeared was long and included Frederica von Stade, Plácido Domingo, Mark Delevan, Christine Goerke, and Kristin Sampson, to name but a few.
The evening was more than just an artistic success; for everyone involved, the remembrance of Maestro Rudel through living music was an emotional experience. A short film that had been produced about his life reminded everyone of the profound impact he had on musicians, singers, the cultural life of New York City, and the development of American opera.
The concert and gala dinner that followed celebrated two lives. One was the opera legend and the other, a renaissance of the legendary opera company. NYCO Renaissance raised over $800,000 that evening to help fund a new season that is anticipated for 2015-2016.
The bankruptcy proceeding continues, as of this writing. NYCO ICSOM delegate Gail Kruvand said, “We remain hopeful that we will soon be back in the orchestra pit.”
Dallas Receives the Sun and Moon
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) has received a $5 million gift from the Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger family. “The artistic quality and organizational strength of the DSO has been transformational here in Dallas,” said Nancy A. Nasher. “We are delighted to invest in the Dallas Symphony’s future, providing opportunities for all to enjoy the beauty and inspiration of music.” The gift will be recognized through the naming of the DSO’s SOLUNA Festival. The festival will now be titled The Nancy A. Nasher and David J. Haemisegger Family SOLUNA International Music & Arts Festival. The inaugural festival begins on May 4, 2015, and continues through May 24, 2015. Anchored by DSO performances led by Music Director Jaap van Zweden, the Festival will showcase internationally acclaimed guest soloists, visual artists and performing artists alongside leading Dallas-based companies and ensembles. A new annual, three-week multidisciplinary event, SOLUNA will stage performances and exhibitions across such venues as the Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas City Performance Hall, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Nasher Sculpture Center and Dallas Museum of Art, as well as other prominent galleries and performance spaces in the Dallas Arts District.
Saint Paul’s New Hall
On Thursday March 5, 2015, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra performed the first concert in its new home—the Concert Hall at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Saint Paul—to high acclaim, both for the fine performance of the orchestra as well as the acoustics of the new hall. Tim Carl of HGA Architects and acoustician Paul Scarbrough have designed a 1,100-seat hall that is acoustically ideal for the SPCO.
The hall also is designed to be visually stunning, with white walls sculpted with abstract shapes. The ceiling is made of wooden dowels, set in waves that sweep down towards the stage. All of the work was done with acoustics in mind. The shaped walls diffuse sound and prevent echoes, while the dowels allow the sound through into the space above, adding warmth and resonance.
“This is like being given a Stradivarius,” SPCO President Bruce Coppock said. “And of course the orchestra will learn to play it the way one explores an instrument. The orchestra’s musicians couldn’t be happier about the hall’s intimate sound.”
“You can play as soft as you want and you can hear it at the top of the second tier,” musician Kyu-Young Kim said. “I have been all throughout the hall and it’s really exciting.”
Music critics have called the new space “an acoustic wonderland”, “resonant and rich”, and “inviting and acoustically ideal” for the Chamber Orchestra. The $42 million Concert Hall also provides a more intimate setting for the audience, as no seat is more than 90 feet away from the stage. A total of $83 million was raised for this project—$42 million for the hall, $32 million to an endowment fund, and $9 million to a maintenance/transition fund. Of that, $20 million was raised from a state bonding bill, and $3 million from the City of Saint Paul.
New York Looks to the Future and the Past
Lincoln Center has announced that Hollywood mogul David Geffen has pledged $100 million for the naming rights to Avery Fisher Hall, making the estimated $500 million renovation in 2019 more of a reality. Avery Fisher Hall will officially be named David Geffen Hall at the New York Philharmonic’s opening gala on September 24, 2015. Geffen’s gift gives him the naming rights in perpetuity, as did Avery Fisher’s $10.5 million gift in 1973. Fisher’s children have negotiated a $15 million payment in exchange for releasing their family’s naming rights. Geffen grew up in Brooklyn, NY and has expressed an interest in spending more time in the city, as well as being more involved in New York’s cultural life.
The Philharmonic also announced that it has received a $300,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), its first such grant in 30 years. The funds will aid in the creation of the New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives, with a planned completion in 2018. The materials to be digitized—dating back to 1842—include correspondence, operation files, financial ledgers, minutes from business and artistic meetings, marked scores, printed programs, and press clippings. The materials will be made available to scholars and the general public, and offer unprecedented access to nearly 130 years of cultural, political, and social history.
Cincinnati Conductors Continue
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra recently announced that it has extended the contract of its relatively new music director, Louis Langrée, for an additional three years, through the 2019-2020 season. Under his leadership, which began in September 2013, the orchestra has undertaken a wealth of new initiatives, including its partnership with MusicNOW (Cincinnati’s new music festival), the popular community engagement program One City, One Symphony, and the LumenoCity concert and image mapping event.
“Louis has captivated Cincinnati through electrifying concerts and bold initiatives while at the same time reinforcing a welcoming and vibrant culture around the Orchestra,” said CSO President Trey Devey. “Being determined for greatness is one of the CSO’s core values and Louis embodies this with his remarkable leadership and unparalleled artistry. Extending his current contract three additional years advances our vision to engage audiences and community in extraordinary ways in the seasons ahead.” In order to expand awareness of the orchestra in the community, Maestro Langrée and his family have moved from France to Cincinnati, where his two children are attending local high schools. He and his wife, Aimee, have become popular figures at events throughout the area.
The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra also re-engaged its Conductor, John Morris Russell, although he will soon be dividing his time between Cincinnati and Buffalo (see below). Russell, in his third season as the Conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, shared the podium with Langrée during the inaugural LumenoCity concert, and previously served as the CSO’s Associate Conductor.
Buffalo’s New Conductors
John Morris Russell will become the Principal Pops Conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra beginning in 2016-17 (after a season as Principal Pops Conductor Designate). “John Morris Russell has the charisma and energy to be a first-rate face of the BPO Pops series,” said Louis Ciminelli, BPO board chair. “We are confident that he will bring the best of pops programming to Buffalo and add extra vitality to an already outstanding series. He will create a dynamic leadership team with JoAnn Falletta.”
Russell will join the recently hired Associate Conductor, Stefan Sanders, who played in the orchestra’s trombone section from 1999 to 2006, and subsequently served for a year as an apprentice conductor at the BPO.
Reaching New Audiences in Baltimore
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra announced that it will receive a grant of $400,000 from the Wallace Foundation, part of the foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative. The BSO, one of 26 performing arts organizations to receive a grant from the foundation under this initiative, will use the grant to fund its classical/rock series Pulse. “This will support the first year of what, hopefully, will be a multi-year program,” BSO president and CEO Paul Meecham said in an interview (quoted in the Baltimore Sun). “The series is geared to 25- to 39-year-olds. Baltimore has a large proportion of millennials, and this is the demographic we need to be engaging with.”
Other ICSOM orchestras to receive grants under the initiative include the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
North Carolina Musicians Respond
Members of the North Carolina Symphony gathered at a popular restaurant/bar in downtown Raleigh on April 29 to play chamber music in an effort to raise money for the Nepal earthquake relief efforts. The devastating earthquake struck Nepal on April 25, and as of this writing more than 7,500 people have lost their lives as a result of the tragedy. The event in Raleigh was organized by NCSO violinist Maria Evola Meyer, and donations to assist the recovery efforts in Nepal will be made through globalgiving.org.
Boston Announces New Recording Project
On April 3rd the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced that it has entered into a new partnership with Deutsche Grammophon (DG) that will consist of a series of live recordings under the direction of Music Director Andris Nelsons. The project, entitled “Shostakovich under Stalin’s shadow”, will focus on works composed during the period of Shostakovich’s difficult relationship with Stalin and the Soviet regime—a period that started with his fall from favor in the mid-1930s, continued through the composition and highly acclaimed premiere of his Fifth Symphony (the BSO gave the first Boston performances in January of 1939 under the orchestra’s Assistant conductor Richard Burgin), and concluded with the premiere of the composer’s Tenth Symphony, purportedly written as a response to Stalin’s death in 1953. In addition to Symphonies 5 through 10, the project will also include performances and recordings of the incidental music from King Lear and Hamlet, as well as the “Passacaglia” from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, the opera that first brought official disgrace to Shostakovich. The recording of these works will take place at Symphony Hall during performances scheduled in the BSO’s 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 seasons. The first of the five albums in the series—to be released by DG in three installments between summer 2015 and summer 2017—will feature the “Passacaglia” and the Tenth Symphony, which were captured during recent performances, on April 2, 3, and 4. Everyone at the BSO is thrilled that this recording project has materialized, especially in an environment that has seen such a precipitous decline in recording company-sponsored projects.