LINKS: Two views of the L.A. Phil from the east coast

Alex Ross in the New Yorker HERE and Zachary Woolfe in the New York Times HERE sing the praises of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, while hoping that LAPO President and CEO Deborah Borda’s transfer to a similar job at the New York Philharmonic will lead a revitalization of that important ensemble.

The headline on Woolfe’s article — “Los Angeles Has America’s Most Important Orchestra. Period.” encapsulates the article’s thrust. Ross’ article from a month ago includes this quote: “The L.A. Phil’s 2017–18 season, just announced, is so far ahead of that of any rival, in America or around the world, that the orchestra is mainly competing with itself.” Both articles give the LAPO a lot to live up to.

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More on Deborah Borda’s leaving the L.A. Phil

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

As you can see by the post ABOVE Deborah Borda (pictured left) is leaving her position as President and CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic to take a similar position with the New York Philharmonic, effective Sept. 15.

It is a move that has rocked the classical music world, but in reading the various press reports I was struck by two reasons she advanced.

First, the move means that she and her partner, Coralie Toevs, assistant general manager for development at the Metropolitan Opera, will now be able to live in the same city as opposed to being 2,500 miles apart. Second was this quote: “This is an opportunity,” she said [to L.A. Times critic Mark Swed), “that won’t come up again.”

That’s undeniably true. At age 67, Borda would not likely have the chance to return to her native New York City and take on the NYPO challenge (one that she had already tried before coming to Los Angeles). So if that floats her boat, my feeling upon reading the news was, “You go, girl!”

If the news was shocking to the music world, one presumes that it wasn’t completely unthinkable to the L.A. Phil board, at least not if that group was doing its normal due diligence. Executives leave for any number of reasons when they reach her age and, one hopes, the LAPO board has had in place some sort of succession plan. In the short term, the Phil’s management seems very strong and capable of moving forward while the board undertakes its search for Borda’s successor. Various reports indicate that planning for the orchestra’s centennial season in 2018-2019 is well underway.

Nonetheless, the news brings to an abrupt close a magnificent chapter in the Phil’s history. During Borda’s 17-year-tenure she has balanced budgets, helped increase the orchestra’s endowment from $45 million to about $276 million, led the organization as it achieved remarkable labor relations with its musicians (there hasn’t been a work stoppage in half a century), was integrally involved in the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003, and — in perhaps her greatest decision — gambled on a very young Gustavo Dudamel to succeed Esa-Pekka Salonen as the L.A. Phil’s music director.

Borda has also been instrumental in continuing and expanding the Phil’s emphasis on creating new music, something that has made the LAPO the envy of the classical music world. In addition, she has nurtured an extensive number of young conductors who have moved on to major roles around the world, including Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Lionel Bringuier and Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla. In the upcoming season, Susanna Mälki will become the Phil’s Principal Guest Conductor, a title not used for more than 20 years at the Phil.

She certainly faces major challenges with the New York Philharmonic. The current music director, Alan Gilbert, leaves after this season and his replacement, Jaap van Zweden, doesn’t officially start until the 2018-2019 season. The Phil’s current home, David Geffen Hall (aka Avery Fisher Hall) will undergo a major renovation if Borda and her new board can manage to raise somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million.

During the reconstruction the NYPO will be homeless for at least two years, although I suspect that Board will solve this problem with her usual innovative skills — in fact, I believe this will turn out to be the capstone of her tenure in New York.

I have only met Borda a couple of times and only, then, to say hello. Nonetheless, I — like everyone who has attended a Phil concert — owes her a huge “thank you” for her work here during the past 17 years. I hope for her sake and for the NYPO’s that she will be able to prove Thomas Wolfe wrong!

(c) Copyright 2017, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: LA Philharmonic and its musicians reach new labor accord

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily News

The big news that came out of the announcement from the Los Angeles Philharmonic yesterday wasn’t the positive but what might be termed in linguistic terms the double negative.

The orchestra and Professional Musicians, Local 47 (the union that represents the orchestra’s instrumentalists) reached a new four-year agreement effective immediately and two weeks in advance of the opening of the Phil’s 2014 season. The old contract had expired Sunday.

The agreement meant that the two sides avoided the sort of acrimony that has plagued orchestras across the U.S. during the past years, bitterness that has seen strikes at symphony orchestras in San Francisco, Chicago and Detroit, a lengthy bankruptcy battle at the Philadelphia Orchestra, and a now-months-long lockout at the Minnesota Orchestra.

The new agreement calls for salary increases totaling 3.8% over the four years, bringing the annual base pay up to $154,336 in the final year of the contract (according to a Los Angeles Times report HERE, the base in the old contract ended at $148,700). As is the case with most orchestras, many members make far more than the base. The last contract had increased musicians’ salaries 17% over four years.

However, the most intriguing line in the release was the inclusion of a “housing allowance” (undefined and unspecified as to amount), which would help compensate for the relatively modest salary increases. According to the Phil’s release, the new agreement also includes “managing the Association’s healthcare expenses through restructured healthcare plan offerings” and “new contributions to a 403(b)” (the nonprofit equivalent to the more familiar 401(k).

The new contract announcement comes on the heels of a LA Times report (HERE) that detailed significant compensation increases for Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and President and Chief Executive Officer Deborah Borda and a generally robust financial picture for the orchestra, particularly when compared with other arts organizations.

The Phil’s 95th season opens Sept. 29 with a free concert where tickets are already gone but which will be simulcast on the new Grand Park lawn just south of the Music Center. The annual gala concert takes place on Sept. 30 and the first subscription concerts are Oct. 3-6. This season marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall. Details HERE.

(c) Copyright 2013, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS AND LINKS: Second “LA Phil Live” season to debut Oct. 9

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily


The Los Angeles Philharmonic will present a second season of
its “LA Phil LIVE” movie-theater telecasts with three programs, including one
from Caracas, Venezuela. Tickets go on sale tomorrow ONLINE and at some participating
theater outlets.


All three concerts will be telecast at 2 p.m. (Pacific
Time). The 2011-2012 series will begin on Sun., Oct. 9, with Music Director
Gustavo Dudamel leading an all-Mendelssohn program: Hebrides Overture, Symphony No. 3 (Scottish), and the Violin Concerto, with acclaimed Dutch violinist
Janine Jansen as soloist.


The most intriguing offering will be a telecast of Mahler’s
Symphony No. 8 on Sat., Feb. 18 from Caracas when Dudamel will lead the
combined forces of the L.A. Phil and the Simn Bolivr Symphony Orchestra of
Venezuela, along with eight soloists and enough choristers to make the
sprawling work live up to its moniker, Symphony
of a Thousand.


(On Feb. 4, the Phil and SBOV will join with Southland choral
forces for a performance of this piece at the Shrine Auditorium (LINK) as part
of the LAPO’s “Mahler Project,” which will see Dudamel conducting all nine
completed Mahler symphonies plus other works using both orchestras.)


The third telecast is simply listed as “Spring 2012” with
details TBA. If it is going have Dudamel conducting at Walt Disney Concert Hall
on a Sunday afternoon, the options would appear to be the scheduled
presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni on
May 20, a Grieg/Tchaikovsky/Sibelius
concert on May 27 (with as yet-unnamed soloist in the Tchaikovsky Violin
Concerto), or John Adams’ new oratorio, The
Gospel According to the Other Mary,
on June 3. This is one time to take
seriously the disclaimer that artists and programs are subject to change.


As was the case last year, the telecasts will feature
interviews with Dudamel, soloists and other “backstage” features. Hosts for
each program will be announced in the future. The programs are broadcast in
high definition with 5.1 digital surround sound; the two I attended last year
were quite compelling and certainly offer a cost-effective way to experience the
Phil in concert.


Although the Phil termed the inaugural season of this
pioneering venture a success, no details on attendance or income were offered
(in a Los Angeles Times article, LAPO
President Deborah Borda was quoted as saying that the contractual agreement
with NCM Fathom — one of the Phil’s partners in the project — prohibited
disclosing ticket sales).


The media release indicated 430 theater outlets in the U.S.
for the upcoming season, down slightly from last season’s reported number of
450 (a list of theaters by city is HERE).


At this point there are 415 U.S. outlets listed on Fathom’s
Web site for the Mendelssohn telecast but theaters tend to be added as the date
nears. There are only 256 theaters currently listed for the Mahler telecast, but
a spokesperson for NCM Fathom said that it’s too early for some theaters to
commit for a February date and many more would undoubtedly climb on board as
the date approaches. She also said that NCM Fathom’s suggested ticket prices
are the same as the first season, although individual theater outlets can
adjust those as they wish.


View the “LA Phil LIVE” Web site HERE.



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS AND LINKS: L.A. Philharmonic names Lionel Bringuier as Resident Conductor

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily



In what is either a prudent or remarkably forward-looking
decision, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has named Lionel Bringuier as its Resident
Conductor, an appointment extending through the 2012-2013 season. He’s the
first person to hold this title in the Phil’s nearly century-long history.


The 24-year-old Bringuier joined the Phil four years ago as its
youngest-ever assistant conductor. Tonight he concludes his two-year stint as
associate conductor when he leads the orchestra in a Hollywood Bowl program of
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with Yuja
Wang as soloist (INFO).


Exactly what this new appointment means is unclear, i.e., is
this merely a continuation of Bringuier’s associate conductor role with a new
title and, presumably, a raise or does it portend a more significant long-term
relationship? At a minimum, it gives the Phil a major talent as a backup to
Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. On the other hand, conductors holding this title
in other orchestras often lead several weeks of concerts each year. Orchestral
musicians love this because they enjoy working with conductors on more than a
one-week or even two-week a year basis and, based on results, the Phil
musicians respond beautifully to Bringuier’s podium style.


Tonight is Bringuier’s only scheduled concert at the Bowl
this summer and he’s not on the schedule for the upcoming Walt Disney Concert
Hall season — although, since soloists, conductors and programs are always
subject to change — he might make an unscheduled appearance. Given the timing
of the announcement, we won’t know what the long-term ramifications will be until
future seasons are unveiled.


Nonetheless, the appointment continues a relationship between
Bringuier and the Philharmonic that has blossomed wonderfully in the four
years. HERE’S my review of his concert last February at Disney Hall; it’s
typical of what the young conductor has accomplished during his four years with
the Phil.


Bringuier’s most famous moment came in May 2010 when he took
over mid-concert from an injured Gustavo Dudamel and led an inspired account of
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (here’s a LINK to Mark Swed’s Los Angeles Times review of that night
and one written by Timothy Mangan of the Orange County Register is HERE). BTW:
I was scheduled to review the next morning’s performance; by then, Gustavo was
back on the podium.

At a minimum, today’s appointment gives Bringuier a chance
to continue growing professionally while he continues in his role as music
director of the Orquesta Sinfnica de Castilla y Len in Valladolid, Spain,
where he conducted 10 weeks during the past season. The two-year term also
gives him the freedom to see what unfolds in the near future.


Today’s media release said all the predictably correct
things. Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, who recently announced his own contract
extension with the organization through the 2018/19 centennial season of the
orchestra, said, “It’s a very exciting time for our Los Angeles Philharmonic
family, and to have Lionel continue with us in his new role makes me very
happy. He is a wonderful colleague and creative partner.”


LAPO President and CEO Deborah Borda added, “We first met
Lionel when he was 19, and we knew we’d come across a very special musician.
He’s developed into an extraordinary artist, and is now in demand all over the
world. In recognition of this, we are delighted that he will continue with us
in this specially created new position of Resident Conductor.”


Bringuier stated, “The Los Angeles Philharmonic has allowed
me to grow and develop as a musician and it’s a pleasure to extend that
relationship in a place that I consider home. I’m also honored to continue to
be able to work with Gustavo, and be able to learn from him.”


Now let’s see what the future will bring.



(c) Copyright 2011, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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