More Philadelphia Orchestra players leaving


Soon after Philadelphia Orchestra principal clarinetist Ricardo Morales decided to take a post with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia is facing the possible departure of another star.

Efe Baltacigil has won the principal cello auditions at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Baltacigil, 32, currently associate principal cellist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, captured the spot Monday after auditions at Benaroya Hall.

He hasn't decided whether to take the post.

"It is all very recent, so I need to evaluate things very carefully, of course," wrote Baltacigil in an email. "I have meetings coming up with both managements, and then we will see the outcome. As we all know, these seats are very rare, so when there is an opening you have to try it. It keeps your playing in good shape."

A Philadelphia Orchestra spokeswoman had no comment.

The Turkish-born Baltacigil started in the Philadelphia Orchestra as assistant principal in 2002, just after graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music, and became associate in 2003. His local profile received a boost in 2005 when a snowstorm prevented Philadelphia Orchestra musicians from reaching Verizon Hall and, with pianist Emanuel Ax, he performed Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 1 with only a few minutes of rehearsal. He won a 2005 Young Concert Artists International Audition, and has performed with Itzhak Perlman, Midori, Yo-Yo Ma and Pinchas Zukerman.

If he leaves, he will be one of several Philadelphia Orchestra musicians moving on.

Principal clarinetist Ricardo Morales last month announced he had accepted the same position with the New York Philharmonic. José Maria Blumenschein, the orchestra's associate concertmaster, has been on leave this season to be co-concertmaster in the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, and has officially resigned from Philadelphia. Stephen Wyrczynski, a violist in the orchestra since 1992, has been on leave to teach at Indiana University, and has now accepted a permanent tenured professorship there.

The loss of talent at the Philadelphia Orchestra has been a major source of concern to players and listeners in this period of financial reorganization. Blumenschein and Wyrczynski made their decisions to leave well before the orchestra board's April 16 vote to file for bankruptcy. Morales has declined to say what went into his decision.

In addition, five players have given notice of their intention to retire after this season, an orchestra spokeswoman said. The total eight or nine musicians leaving at once is much higher than the norm. Typically, in the past few years, the orchestra has had two or three retirements plus one resignation per year, the spokeswoman said.

Players committee chairman John Koen says that in addition to Baltacigil, he knows of five Philadelphia Orchestra musicians auditioning for orchestra jobs or weighing teaching positions elsewhere.

Even just the known departures will represent a lot of institutional memory walking out the door at the same time - and plain wonderful individual talent. Baltacigil, if he goes, is a major loss.

"The music was delightful. Mr. Baltacigil’s tone was warm, rich and a little throaty in a pleasant way, like a good Scotch. Bach lilted and danced; Mr. Baltacigil danced along," wrote the New York Times in 2006 of a performance of Bach in Weill Recital Hall.

He plays a cello made in Cremona in 1680 by Francesco Rugieri and given to him by a Turkish sponsor, according to his official Philadelphia Orchestra bio.

The Seattle Symphony roster holds one other notable Philadelphia Orchestra alum: executive director Simon Woods, who starts the job this month. He stepped down as Philadelphia's vice president of artistic planning and operations in 2004. Flutist Demarre McGill, a Curtis Institute of Music alum and San Diego Symphony member, recently won Seattle's principal flute spot.