Troyens

Troyens

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Orchestral Auditions



That photo of Mark Inouye playing in London with the NYPO doesn't mean he is out the door at SFS. Here's how the orchestral audition process works:
  1. Open call for musicians to send tapes.
  2. The tapes are used to cull the field down to those who will audition in person.
  3. Live auditions take place.
  4. If the audition committee and MD don't like any candidates enough, another round is scheduled. (This is currently SFS's situation for timpani and associate principal trumpet)
  5.  If any candidates were good enough, they're offered trial weeks. (This is what Inouye is currently doing with NY. We had Eugene Izotov and a couple of other oboe players sitting in last fall.)
  6. After the trial weeks, the orchestra might make someone an offer. (But not always: Erin Keefe, concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, did trial weeks at the NYPO last year, but was not ultimate offered the job.)
  7. If the player accepts the offer and has a job elsewhere, such as Inouye or Izotov, the player usually goes on leave for a year. Izotov will be on leave from the CSO next season. David Herbert, though, is not on leave from SFS. He resigned outright to go to the CSO, and that's why SFS has held timpani auditions this season.
  8. At the end of the year, the player has to either stay with the new orchestra or go back to the old one. Jonathan Fischer is still on the SFS roster (weirdly, on the web site, he is still listed as acting principal even though Mingjia Liu has played most of this season). This is because of the disarray in the oboes, with Fischer in a trial year at Houston when Bill Bennett died. With Izotov's appointment, Fischer has to decide whether he is staying as Houston's principal or coming back as associate principal. I bet he stays in Houston. He has no chance of becoming principal here unless Izotov doesn't work out. Even then, he may well have auditioned for principal and not gotten tapped.

9 comments:

greg b said...

Dear Lisa,
I miss David Herbert.
IMHO, he's the finest timpanist SFS has ever had (and I'm a big fan of the late, great Roland Kohloff).
I would think David is flourishing in Chicago.
I am too young (ha!) to have heard timpanist Walter Larew in person, but he sure sounded fine on all those old Monteux/SFS 78s.
- best wishes, G.

CruzSF said...

Incredible that Fischer is still listed as Acting Principal here since he's been gone for so long. I personally don't see the attraction of Houston (or Texas) over San Francisco, but ...

Did David Herbert leave on bad terms with the SFS?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Greg, I've been attending SFS consistently for the last 10 years or so, intermittently before that - so I don't have anything resembling an accurate recollection of Herbert's predecessors. Also, I oughta know more about what makes a great timpanist than I know. Happy to hear more about those different players.

Cruz, oh, yeah, he did. See, for example, this, where I reproduced a letter he wrote that was circulated during the strike two years ago.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Reading that two years later, he would have to be very unhappy in Chicago to come back, because he would have to slink in groveling, and nobody wants to do that. It's quite the public burning of bridges, unless, of course, SFS were to offer him everything he wants so he can say "I got what I wanted." But....SFS is holding auditions, so he has resigned.

CruzSF said...

Wow. I'd missed that two years ago. I doubt he'll be back any time soon, for all the reasons you mention. CSO make great music, so he at least he surrounded by talented colleagues. (I know nothing about the management there, however.)

greg b said...

Dear Lisa,
I'm happy to hear of your interest in the timpani.
It's a shame David Herbert and the SFS parted ways. One would think the SFS could arrange a suitable practice situation for the timpanist (and other percussionists) - those instruments are LOUD, and a regular small practice room simply does not cut the mustard. One needs a big room to decently practice on any percussion instrument, and apparently the SFS couldn't consistently provide one for David.
The main qualities a timpanist (and of course other instrumentalists as well) must possess are: precise rhythm, precise intonation, an ability to phrase musically, and good tone quality.
In addition to these (and this is the real sticking point), a truly great timpanist is able to, to steal an expression from jazz, "drive the band" - in other words, to inspire and excite the other musicians in the orchestra to catch fire in their own playing, exactly as a great jazz drummer would.
Herbert has these qualities in spades, as did Kohloff.
The principal timpanists of the SFS during my years of attendance have been, in order:
Roland Kohloff
Elayne Jones
Barry Jekowsky
David Herbert
Herbert and Kohloff were and are the real deal.
Some of my personal favorite real deal timpanists over the years include Karl Glassman in the NBC Symphony (Toscanini), Vic Firth in Boston (Munch, Leinsdorf, Steinberg, Ozawa), Fred Hinger in Philadelphia (Ormandy), Ed Metzenger in Chicago (Stock, Rodzinski, Kubelik, Reiner, Martinon) Werner Thaerichen in Berlin (Furtwangler, Celibidache, Karajan), and Cloyd Duff in Cleveland (Szell, Boulez, Maazel). And of course Walt Larew in the SFS (Monteux, Jorda).
Saul Goodman was great too in his prime - unbelievably, he was principal timpanist at the New York Phil from Mengelberg all the way through Bernstein. (I believe Kohloff replaced him in NY about the time Boulez came in.) Saul's intonation slipped a slight bit towards the end of his career, but, as a player and a teacher: "he da man".
- best wishes, Greg

Lisa Hirsch said...

One would think, though it is also the case that SFS has said that they maxed out space in Davies the day they moved in. (I've never understood why there's a parking lot out back with nothing over it.) Maybe they should have paid for his extra practice space.

Yes, those would be characteristic of anyone in a pro orchestra! :) The ability to drive the band is a quality apart, though.

Russell said...

One caveat - in most orchestras, the time frame for tenure is actually 2 years. At the end of the first, the choice is 1) return for a 2nd probationary year or 2) dismissal. After that second year it's fish or cut bait - either tenure or dismissal. Nearly all of the ICSOM level orchestra contracts I've seen have this time scale.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Very belated thanks to Russell for that correction!

And gregb, could you send me email at lhirsch@gmail.com? It is with regard to something in this thread....