Detroit Moves Fast
The last two weeks of January were eventful ones for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. On January 22, the DSO announced that Italian conductor Jader Bignamini has been appointed Music Director, beginning with the 2020-2021 season. Bignamini was first introduced to the DSO in the spring of 2018, stepping in at the last minute for Leonard Slatkin in concert performances of Puccini’s Turandot. He will replace Slatkin, who is currently the orchestra’s Music Director Laureate after a decade-long tenure as DSO Music Director.
On January 30, it was announced that a new contract had been ratified, seven months before the September 2020 expiration date. Some highlights of the agreement include a scale increase of 5.1% over three years and an increase of performance weeks from 38 to 39, while maintaining four weeks of vacation. This puts the total minimum guaranteed compensation for the DSO at $105,481 by the end of the third contract year. Also, an orchestra position will be added, increasing the complement to 88. Family leave will be expanded, and stipend payments for non-work, non-vacation weeks will be continued.
The Detroit Symphony musicians extend their deepest gratitude to the members of their negotiating team: musicians Jeremy Epp, Will Haapaniemi, Peter McCaffrey, Karl Pituch, and Robert Stiles, along with AFM Local 5 President George Troia, Jr., and attorney Kevin Case.
ICSOM at the GRAMMYs
The 62nd annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony was held on January 26, and eight ICSOM orchestras were in the running. The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s album Norman: Sustain was nominated both for Best Orchestral Performance and Best Contemporary Classical Composition, winning the former category. Gustavo Dudamel, the LA Phil’s music director, conducted the orchestra for the recording, and the work was commissioned by the orchestra as part of the celebration of its centennial season.
The winner of Best Contemporary Classical Composition was the Higdon Harp Concerto on the album American Rapture, featuring the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by its music director, Ward Stare. The RPO gave the work its premiere and was part of a consortium of orchestras that commissioned it.
American Rapture was also nominated in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category, which was won by a recording of Wynton Marsalis’s Violin Concerto and his Fiddle Dance Suite. The album featured the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Cristian Măcelaru, and it in turn was also nominated in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category.
A fourth nominee in that category was Fire in my mouth, with the eponymous work by Julia Wolfe, featuring the New York Philharmonic conducted by its music director, Jaap van Zweden. Fire in my mouth also received a nomination in the category of Best Engineered Album, Classical. (Note: NY Phil ICSOM Delegate Leelanee Sterrett gave a presentation about this work at the 2019 ICSOM conference in Park City.)
Joining it in this category was the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9, conducted by Music Director Manfred Honeck. The album also received nominations in the Best Orchestral Performance category, and its producer, Dirk Sobotka, was nominated for Producer of the Year.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Copland’s ballet scores Billy the Kid and Grohg) and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (Transatlantic, a recording that featured the premiere recording of the new critical edition of Gershwin’s American in Paris (Note: see “The Gershwin Critical Edition” in the March 2016 issue)) both received nominations for Best Orchestral Performance. The Nashville Symphony was nominated in the Best Classical Compendium for its album of works by Jonathan Leshnoff. The major work on the album is Leshnoff’s Symphony No. 4, “Heichalos”, which featured the Violins of Hope (Note: see “Newslets” in the June 2018 issue). This category also included another nomination for Cincinnati (as the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra), for its album American Originals: 1918.
The Baltimore Symphony announced in February that its music director, Marin Alsop, will be stepping down from that role at the expiration of her current contract, in August 2021. She began her tenure in September 2007.
Alsop is the first and only female music director of a major 52-week American orchestra. In 2005, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship—one of the only conductors to receive that honor thus far—and used the monetary award to fund the BSO’s OrchKids, a year-round program inspired by El Sistema that provides music education, instruments, academic instruction, meals, as well as performance and mentorship opportunities at no cost to students and families.
She will continue her relationship with the BSO as music director laureate and OrchKids founder. Players Committee Chair and ICSOM Delegate Brian Prechtl said, “The musicians are proud of what we have accomplished under Marin’s leadership. Her inventive and forward-looking tenure has been characterized by collaboration, inclusion and creativity. Marin’s ability to draw listeners and community into greater understanding and relationship with the music and the musicians sets a new standard across the orchestral world. We are delighted that we will continue to work together for years to come.”
Also stepping down at the end of the 2020–2021 season is the Oregon Symphony’s Carlos Kalmar, who has held the position since 2003. His lengthy leadership of the orchestra has been noted for the orchestra’s acclaimed Carnegie Hall debut, as part of the first Spring for Music Festival, and a string of Grammy-nominated recordings on the PentaTone label that followed as a consequence.
“Carlos Kalmar is an absolute force of nature in the conducting world, and a ‘musician’s musician’ to us in the Oregon Symphony,” said Orchestra Committee Chair Peter Frajola. “From his incredibly well-informed Viennese musical upbringing to constantly learning about and synthesizing every other culture he visits, from his own highly artistic and musical instincts to nurturing all of ours on stage with him, Carlos is always sure of what he wants and makes us sound and play at an incomparably high level.”
Kalmar will continue in his roles as artistic director and principal conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival.
New Milwaukee Hall Named
The Milwaukee Symphony announced that it has received a $52 million naming-rights gift, and the building housing its new concert hall will be called the Bradley Symphony Center, in honor of Harry and Peg Bradley.
The building, formerly the Warner Grand Theater, is currently undergoing extensive renovations and is expected to open in fall 2020 before the beginning of the orchestra’s 2020–2021 season (Note: See “Newslets” in the March 2017 issue). The hall itself will be dubbed Allen-Bradley Hall, named for the company that Harry Bradley founded with his brother Lynde.
A large portion of the gift, $20 million, is from the charitable foundation that the brothers created, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. The remainder is from two of the Bradley grandchildren, David Uihlein (with his wife Julia Uihlein) and Lynde Uihlein, and the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation (founded by the mother of Lynde and David Uihlein).
“The MSO musicians are very grateful to David and Julia Uihlein and the Bradley Foundation for their generosity in making the renovation of the Warner Grand Theatre possible. The new hall will be transformative for both our artistic endeavors and our financial health,” said Rudi Heinrich, chair of the Players’ Council.
The Philadelphia Orchestra announced in February that it would begin offering free on-demand streaming of many of its concerts.
The orchestra launched its first streaming service in 2016, calling it Orchestra on Demand. Later, it was rebranded to Listen on Demand, while access to the service continued to require a donation to the orchestra or the purchase of a ticket to a concert. Now access is being provided to anyone, as one aspect of a re-launch of the orchestra’s website.
“This is all about engaging our audience in as many ways as possible and as meaningfully as possible,” said orchestra president and CEO Matías Tarnopolsky, as quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The more you burnish the brand of the Philadelphia Orchestra by sharing the art that the orchestra and Yannick and others make on stage, the more you hopefully increase ticket sales and philanthropy, too.”
Features of the new service include a PDF of the program book for each concert and a clickable track listing (by work, not by movement). The service currently offers some of the concerts from the 2018–2019 season, and the orchestra plans to post more in the near future. The number of performances ultimately available through the new Listen on Demand service is potentially hundreds culled from several decades, Tarnopolsky said.