Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Moving Around

The most interesting news I've gotten this week comes from Mr. CKDH at All is Yar, who started from personnel changes at the LAPO and casually dropped in a startling fact about the Met Orchestra.

First, the good news: the LAPO has a new principal flutist, Denis Bouriakov. Bouriakov is the orchestra's fifth principal flute in the last seven years, following the departures of Mathieu Dufour, David Buck, and Julien Beaudiment. I am sure that everyone is holding their breath and hoping that he sticks, given the comings and goings.

Next, the bad news: the orchestra has announced that Michele Zukovsky, principal clarinet and an orchestra member for more than fifty years, will be retiring. She's had a fantastic career and is one of the rocks of the LAPO. I've heard her play and she was great. Hale and farewell, Michele Zukovsky! You will be missed.

And now the startling fact about the Met Orchestra: They've had four principals depart in the last couple of years. Principal clarinet Anthony McGill now holds the same position at the NYPO; principal bass Timothy Cobb also moved across the plaza to the NYPO. Now both of its principal flutes have left, Bouriakov for the LAPO and the other, Stefán Ragnar Höskuldsson, for the CSO, where he'll take the chair vacated by Mathieu Dufour, who has left for the Berlin Philharmonic.

Well, now: that the Met has serious financial problems isn't a secret, and it could be a sign of those problems that they're losing so many principals to other orchestras. It's bad news for them, in any event; that kind of churn in first chairs is not good.


Daniel Wolf said...

Just a bit of clarinet trivia: Zukovsky plays a German system clarinet, her late co-principal Lorin Levee played a Boehm instrument. Although great players are much more than the system they use, the combination did give the orchestra some potential for subtle differences in playing the right repertoire. It'll be interesting to see/hear what systems the successors use.

Tod Brody said...

I've heard of the Met's financial insecurity, and we've seen the multiple departures of principal players. Both of these things are indisputable, but I'm not entirely sure that they're related. In every case, the players who have recently left the Met orchestra have gone to principal positions with the world's greatest symphony orchestras. Not unlike our great local clarinetist Carey Bell, who after six (?) seasons as SF Opera principal went across the street to play principal in the SF Symphony -- playing on stage, with the focus of attention, as the main event, is just a more attractive proposition for many musicians than playing in the pit, even for such a great opera orchestra as the Met. So I'd never be surprised to see an opera musician take such an opportunity at as high a level as each of these Met players has gone to. Denis Bouriakov is a true flute superstar; when he took the Met job it didn't surprise me at all that he won it, but it surprised me that he wanted it. Now, no shame to the Met, it's time for him to move out of the pit and into the spotlight.

Chanterelle said...

You can probably dig up online some of the documentation from the Met O from last summer. Things were VERY tense. It's hardly a surprise that a few folks would bail.

I don't pretend to have inside knowledge, but it's an area of close-to-home interest. That said:

I recently had dinner with a string player who decided to retire from the Met O this year, while continuing to freelance. The between-the-lines impression I get--and I'm jumping to conclusions here--is that there's a certain restlessness, shall we say, over the Met's schizophrenic artistic direction (Levine has taste, Gelb has power, the mix isn't always optimal). Making a further leap, I think the Met music directorship is another position up for grabs, though not until JL (and/or PG?) decides it's time. Could be a year or two, though not too much longer, one hopes. Perhaps the right candidate needs first to emerge--and not get snapped up in today's great global game of musical chairs.

CK Dexter Haven said...

Normally, I'd agree with Tod Brody's take on the situation. Two examples that fit his description: (1) Whitney Crockett left the Principal Bassoon chair at the Met in 2010 to take the same job with the LA Phil, and is now the 2nd highest paid player in the orchestra after Principal Concertmaster, and (2) Steve Williamson leaving the Met for Chicago, playing Principal Clarinet in both.

Of course, both those moves happened before things got really dicey at the Met. It has become decidedly worse since then. Messers. McGill, Cobb, Bouriakov, and Hoskuldsson, have all left within a 12-month span. That's a bit crazy. And there've been others besides them.

The best two examples of non-principals leaving the Met to take jobs you wouldn't expect them to take:
- Jim Ross, 2nd trumpet, left in fall 2014 to take the Asst, Princ. Trumpet job with the Seattle Symphony. Yes it's a step up in title, but it's decided step down in pay and arguably a less prestigious orchestra.
- Denson Paul Pollard, the well regarded bass trombone, left to take the same job at the Finnish Radio Symphony orchestra(!!).

I used the word "hemorrhaging" in my article, and given the number AND the quality of musician that have left in the past year or so I really think it applies.

CK Dexter Haven said...

And, of course, thanks for the shout out, Lisa!