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POSTED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 2:29 PM

Ignat Solzhenitsyn is stepping down as music director of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. This will be his last season with the group, and then he'll become laureate. He became music director of the group in 2004 after working his way up from the assistant conductor position starting in 1994.

The Chamber Orchestra is expcted today to announce Dirk Brossé (pictured) as his successor.

The Belgian-born Brossé has been a frequent guest here, and is currently on the 50-city Star Wars in Concert tour with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also guest conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Seoul Philharmonic, l’Orchestre de la Suisse-Romande and others.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 2:29 PM

In case your snow-thwarted paper carrier prevented you from being able to read an update on the Philadelphia Orchestra's music director search, here's the latest.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 2:29 PM

Conductors, these days especially, have to be more than musicians. They are advocates, teachers and, in a substantive way, cheerleaders for the art form. Vladimir Jurowski, who guest conducts the Philadelphia Orchestra this week, has a couple of charismatic gifts unseen by the public during his previous visits here.

In this clip (from 2003) of him speaking about Die Fledermaus, he not only proves an elegant pianist, but also an insightful thinker. It's clear Jurowski is a conductor who makes interpretive choices based on clues in the score and deep consideration. Listen to five minutes of what he has to say about Fledermaus and you'll never hear the piece the same way again.

Jurowski leads the orchestra Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Stravinsky's Scherzo Fantastique, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the astonishing young violinist Sergey Khachatryan and one of the lesser-heard symphonies of Prokofiev, the No. 4.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 2:29 PM
JoAnn Falletta conducting the Curtis orchestra Tuesday night, with concertmaster Joel Link. Photo: David DeBalko

This review is scheduled to run in the physical version of The Inquirer Friday.

Nights like the one the Curtis Institute of Music had Tuesday — in which everything is going right and everyone in the room seems to feel it — are dear in the life of arts institutions, especially in tough times. The Curtis orchestra, in its first concert of the season, played with a magnificent assuredness. Much of the city’s arts and civic leadership was in Verizon Hall, buzzing about the school’s new dorm and orchestra rehearsal hall quickly taking shape a few blocks away.
And you couldn’t help noticing that while all this spoke gamely of the future, in the audience were teachers such as Eleanor Sokoloff, charismatic Curtis piano pedagogue for nearly 75 years and living evidence that its new leadership still values the conservatory’s lineage.
Of course, none of this would have mattered had the level of playing not been so high. JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, brought clarity to the Violin Concerto of Behzad Ranjbaran, order to Strauss’ Don Juan, and, to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade, a surprising and lucid reanimation.
I never tire of hearing Sheherazade, in part since I don’t hear it much anymore. Once a staple, it now shows up less often in concert halls. The work’s youthful narrative is ideally suited to this orchestra; it asks for virtuosity, and the ensemble repays it in the form of ecstasy.
Falletta’s interpretation was self-effacing. She provided a stable framework of tempos, occasionally veering away for expressive purposes, but mostly leaving individuality to unfold in the dozens of instrumental solos. William Short was not merely technically all there in the work’s famous dancerly bassoon solo, but also highly individual in a way that would be notable even in a professional setting. Clarinetist Ruokai Chen placed a subtle elongation in tempo at the top of a run, transforming an excerpt lick into an artistic statement. All throughout the piece, concertmaster Joel Link, a fourth-year student, projected warmth and stability in notoriously treacherous solos.
Don Juan had great structure, though in the details was perhaps slightly prim and proper for the subject at hand. But Falletta was just right in Ranjbaran’s Violin Concerto. The Tehran-born Juilliard composer might be thought of as music’s magical realist. In this work — as well as in his "Persian Trilogy" — a passage can be going along at midlevel dissonance when, as if a light suddenly refracted, the orchestration turns lustrous and the harmonies seductive. You might hear film scoring in his sound. The composer himself identifies Persian modes and rhythms as inspiration, as well as the kamancheh, a traditional Persian bowed instrument.
But for the soloist, the more relevant cousins in the repertoire to this 2003 work are Barber and Korngold, whose spirit Elissa Lee Koljonen evoked in the formidable passage work. Koljonen, a 1994 Curtis graduate who studied with Aaron Rosand, is also Mrs. Roberto Diaz, wife of the director of Curtis, but her appearance on this program was no concession to family ties. She is apart from all her connections a violinist of immense presence. Technique is a given, but with a purpose. Case in point: the many fleeting moments of bending pitch and changing tone for expressive purposes. This was a knowing audience, so it might have detected her exquisite timing and precision. Or perhaps all it sensed was a violinist of considerable soul.

- Peter Dobrin

POSTED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 2:28 PM

Sarah Hicks succeeds Doc Severinsen as the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of pops and presentations. The Curtis Institute of Music grad starts her new four-year post immediately. Hicks (pictured) joined the orchestra as assistant conductor in 2006...

Academy of Natural Sciences president and CEO William Y. Brown is stepping down early next year to become president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. Dr. Ted Daeschler, the Academy’s vice president of systematic biology and library, will be acting president while a search for a permanent successor takes place. Brown has been leader since Feb. 2007. The Academy hosts its next show, on George Washington Carver, starting Nov. 14...

We hate to bring this up, but it just keeps happening. The Berlin Philharmonic's prediction for when Simon Rattle would sign his contract has come and gone - again. September was their latest prediction, and it's now the middle of October. Rattle and the orchestra affirmed their commitment to each other more than a year ago, and yet, despite several statements that a deal was about to be signed, it's still not in writing. By the way, for what it's worth, the orchestra now says the contract will be signed this month.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 2:28 PM

One more chance to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra in incredible form - tonight. Here's a review.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 2:28 PM
Filed Under: Conductors

Leonard Slatkin "sort of" collapsed in his dressing room while guesting with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, and is recovering in a Rotterdam hospital after a stent procedure, the Detroit Free Press reports. The 65-year-old music director of the Detroit Symphony has canceled performances in the coming weeks, but could return to the podium in Detroit as soon as the end of November.

POSTED: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 2:28 PM
Filed Under: Conductors

Osmo Vänskä (on bike) has signed on for an additional four years at the helm of the Minnesota Orchestra, keeping him there (at least?) through 2014-15, effectively canceling his already modest chance to become the next music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Mixed feelings about him, still.

Hans Graf, on the other hand, is getting ready to take his leave of Houston, committing to the Houston Symphony through 2012-13 and not a minute longer. After that, you can call him Laureate.

Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer is the new music director of the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera, succeeding Keith Lockhart. Fischer will continue his current gig as principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

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