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

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NEWS: Dudamel’s contract extension affects orchestras in Berlin, New York

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Los Angeles Newspaper Group

With prestigious orchestras — the New York Philharmonic and Berlin Phil — and others searching for new music directors, today’s announcement (LINK) that Gustavo Dudamel’s contract with the Los Angeles Philharmonic has been extended through the 2021-22 season may have put a spoke into several wheels.

Along with the extension — which means the now-34-year-old Dudamel will lead the LAPO for at least 13 seasons — he has added the title of Artistic Director to his current Music Director post. No financial terms were detailed; the Los Angeles Times reported that Dudamel was paid $1.44 million in 2012, according to tax returns. The announcement came during the final leg of LAPO’s Asian tour, which wraps up Sunday in Tokyo.

Given that Dudamel seems fully invested as music director of the Simón Bolivár Symphony Orchestra (flagship of Venezuela’s El Sistema program), it seems unlikely that he could maintain that post, the LAPO position, and a music directorship in either Berlin and/or New York unless he wants to be the reincarnation of Valery Gergiev, the world’s most peripatetic maestro these days.

Alan Gilbert has announced that he will leave his post as New York Philharmonic in 2017 (LINK). Simon Rattle will leave his post with the Berlin Philharmonic a year later and become music director of the London Symphony (LINK).

The same situation would seem to be the case with another high-profile conductor, Yannick Nezét-Seguin, who recently re-upped with the Philadelphia Orchestra through 2022.
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(c) Copyright 2015, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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NEWS: Another American orchestra looks for a music director

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Another major American symphony orchestra is looking for a music director, following today’s announcement that the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. will not renew Christoph Eschenbach’s contract when it expires following the 2016-2017 season. He become Conductor Laureate for three years.

The NSO joins the New York Philharmonic on the lookout; the NYPO’s music director, Alan Gilbert, will leave after at the same time as Eschenbach (LINK).

Anne Midgette in the Washington Post has the news on Eschenbach’s departure HERE and Tim Smith (Baltimore Sun) chimes in HERE.
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(c) Copyright 2015, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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Cleaning out the inbox, checking out other Blogs, etc.

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

Cleaning out the inbox with items that you may or may not
have seen:

 

Andrew Norman will become the Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence for a three-year term beginning in July. He
will succeed Derek Bermel and become the eighth person to hold the LACO post,
which includes funding for a new composition and an opportunity to work in
various educational opportunities. Norman, 32, was raised in central
California, studied at USC and Yale, and now lives in Brooklyn. A Los Angeles
Times story is HERE.

 

Los Angeles Opera has paid off half of the $14 million it
borrowed from Bank of America in 2009 during a liquidity crisis while it was
producing Wagner’s Ring cycle at the
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The loan was guaranteed — not made — by Los Angeles
County and the early repayment saves the company about $350,000 in interest
charges.

 

The financial crisis for arts organizations has apparently
struck Trinity Church in New York City. Anne Midgette of the Washington Post has the story HERE.
(Incidentally, it’s good to have Anne back on the “beat;” she was out on
maternity leave.).

 

You’ve undoubtedly heard about Alan Gilbert, music
director of the New York Philharmonic, who stopped a recent performance of
Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 because of a persistently ringing cell phone. Tim Smith
in the Baltimore Sun has a followup
on this story with threads back to the original story HERE.

 

A new opening on Broadway is The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which has drawn greatly mixed
reviews. You may remember this as the musical that was savaged by Steven
Sondheim in a letter to the New York
Times
last year (LINK). Martin Bernheimer’s review in London’s Financial Tines is HERE; predictably
pulls no punches.

 

I include this final story just because it’s so
beautifully crafted and poignant (LINK). Daniel J. Wakin in The New York Times writes about what
it’s like for a family to sell one of the world’s most famous cellos, the Countess of Stainlein, ex-Paganini of
1707,
played for 54 years by Bernard Greenhouse, a founding member of the
Beaux Arts Trio.

 

Perhaps the key paragraph is what follows:

 

“Through the optic of history, those in possession of these
instruments are caretakers, not owners. For their players, the transfer to the
next caretaker symbolizes the end of performing, the termination of an artistic
prime, the memories of which reside in long-used instruments. “The violin is
not only a friend,” said Aaron Rosand, 84, once a prominent soloist in the
tradition of the great Romantics like Oistrakh, Milstein and Heifetz. “It’s
something that you live with. Every day it becomes more dear to you. It’s
almost like a living thing. You treat it carefully; you treat it gently. It
talks to you,” he said. “You’re caressing your instrument all the time. Parting
with an instrument that has become such a wonderful friend is just like losing
a member of your family.”

 

I resonated to this story. My former wife was a concert
pianist and I was with her when she bought her Baldwin piano. She spent most of
a day trying out Steinways but never found one that made her sing. Late in the
day, we went into the Baldwin showroom (she was age 17 at the time) and when
she sat down at this Baldwin L, it was love at first sight, a love affair she
never let go.

 

P.S. The comments are worth reading, as well.

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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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STORY AND LINKS: Cleaning out the inbox

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

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

 

In another sign of its rebound from near economic
catastrophe several years ago, the Pasadena Symphony Association (which runs
the Pasadena Symphony and Pops) has ratified a new four-year contract with its
musicians, which are represented by Local 47 of the Professional Musicians
Union. The new contract is retroactive to last October and includes a five
percent wage increase over the life of the contract. MORE

 

The New York Philharmonic has named Matthew VanBesien as
its new executive director, replacing Zarin Mehta, who is retiring after a
12-year-tenure with the nation’s oldest orchestra. VanBesien, age 42 and a
native of St. Louis, once played French horn in the Louisiana Philharmonic but
laid it aside to focus on orchestra management. He has held executive positions
with the Houston Symphony and the Melbourne (Australia) Symphony Orchestra.
According to a New York Times
article, the NYPO declined to state the terms or length of VanBiesen’s contract
(both of which will eventually come to light via income tax returns). MORE

 

Pablo Heras-Casado has been named principal conductor of
the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, one of New York City’s premiere ensembles. The
34-year-old Spaniard becomes the fourth titled conductor in the history of the orchestra,
which will celebrate its 40th anniversary during the 2014-15 season. His first
concert in his new position will come in July during the Caramoor International
Music Festival.

 

Heras-Casado, who hair is even curlier than Gustavo
Dudamel’s, has made a positive impression conducting the Los Angeles
Philharmonic in Walt Disney Concert Hall and Hollywood Bowl. He’s scheduled to
lead the Phil March 2-4 at Disney Hall (LINK).

 

The Orchestra of St. Luke’s Web site information on
Heras-Casado is HERE.

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(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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