It’s been an open secret (or at least a pervasive rumor) that Philadelphia Orchestra music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin would be the next music director of the Metropolitan Opera, and today it was made official. Here are the opening salvo of articles, updated as they come in for the next day or so.
On April 8th the world lost one of the great orchestral violinists, former Philadephia first violinist William DePasquale. He held many title positions in his years with the orchestra, often filling in at the last minute for some of the most difficult concertmaster solos in the repertoire. He was a thoroughly old school player in the best sense. His timing and musicianship were impeccable. But he also seemed to keep up with what the ‘kids’ were doing – playing with a cleaner, less affected style than perhaps some of his compatriots might have done. I studied with one of his brothers, Joseph, for a short time, and had the opportunity to hear William play both with and in front of the orchestra a fair amount (at that point concertmaster Norman Carol was having quite a few health problems), and he never failed to impress. He was a class act, and he will be missed.
Was trolling YouTube for cool classical performances (no, that’s NOT an oxymoron!), and found a hidden jewel: a 2004 Philadelphia Orchestra performance of Strauss’ Don Quixote with Yo-Yo Ma as the famous man from La Mancha, and my former teacher Roberto Diaz as his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza. Not surprisingly, they both kick major ass. This is the excerpt that has the most major of the several viola solos in the piece, wherein there is a dialogue between the Knight and his Squire.
The board of the Philadelphia Orchestra voted today to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This despite $140 million in the endowment. Some legal experts contend that the bankruptcy could be thrown out if it’s not perceived to have been taken in good faith. Others say that it is warranted. Some labor experts see it as an attempt to get out of pension obligations rather than to do any real reorganizing. Are there any good managers left in the League of American Orchestras, other than our own Elaine Calder?
While last-minute talks between management and musicians are underway, the Philadelphia Orchestra edges closer to filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I find it inconceivable that one of the great orchestras of the world might soon go under – clearly there are some hard questions that must be asked about how the organization has been managed over the past two decades. Here’s a roundup of some recent news articles about the situation.
I was thrilled to discover this vintage documentary of the four DePasquale brothers, all of whom played in the Philadelphia Orchestra – at the same time! I studied with Joseph, the violist, who was principal violist of the Boston Symphony under Koussevitsky, and then was hired by Eugene Ormandy, later being joined by his brothers in the Philadephia Orchestra. Classic stuff.
Robert: You see, we’ve been playing together since birth and —
William: Oh c’mon. You make it sound like we were playing the violin
in the crib. I was at least six before —
Robert: I mean we can read each other’s minds; we —
Joseph: What it comes down to is a unity of thought.
Francis: However —
William: A unity of sound, really.
Francis: But —
Joseph: And temperament. Lots of Italian temperament.
Francis: Love! That’s what it is. We’re all hardheaded, but we’ve got lots of love.
As any scarred musician will attest, one of the quickest ways to lose friends is to engage in the precarious art of chamber music. With everyone trying to be boss, squabbles over interpretation can become downright nasty. And with the members of the de Pasquale String Quartet — Joseph, 45, viola; Francis, 44, cello; Robert, 37, and William, 32, violins — it’s even more so. They fight constantly. The difference is, they revel in it. But then they are brothers, and this, they explain, is the secret to successful shouting contests.
“With four strangers,” says Joseph, “you couldn’t insult each other the way we do. There is no malice, and we get it all out of our system. It’s very healthy.” All members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the brothers practice 20 hours a week at their old homestead in the Germantown section of the City of Brotherly Love. “When things get too violent,” explains Robert, “Mama has to come in from the kitchen to mediate.” There is nothing, they say, like Mama’s eggs in purgatorio (fried eggs smothered in sautéed tomatoes) and a spot of vino to cool a heated brow.
In Bold Relief. Last week the de Pasquale String Quartet made its Manhattan debut in Town Hall and all was sweet accord. Billed as the FIRST ALL-BROTHER QUARTET IN MUSICAL HISTORY, they were a trifle jittery in the opening Hayden Quartet in D Minor, Op. 76, but soon found their stride. Turning to the contemporary, their readings of Quincy Porter’s Quartet No. 3 and Vin cent Persichetti’s Quartet No. 2 crackled with clean precision. In Dvorák’s Quar tet in F Major, Op. 96, their tempos, if sometimes inflexible, were brisk and lively, their tone as rich and heady as a draught of May wine. Neither muscular nor mushy, their approach was marked by a warmth and intuitive sensitivity that projected the sweep of the music in bold relief.
For the brothers de Pasquale, the concert was the realization of an old man’s dream. Papa de Pasquale, an im migrant violin teacher, had one ideal in life: to raise a professional string quartet. But in Germantown baseball was the thing, and the de Pasquale boys were forever tossing their baseball equipment out of the second-floor window and sneaking off to the diamond. On Sunday afternoons, however, they were held captive in the living room and made to listen to recordings by Kreisler and Casals. “That’s what it should sound like,” Papa would say, and then he would lead the boys through their paces. If a little extra encouragement was needed, Papa administered a smart rap on the head with his violin bow. Gradually, recalls Francis, “we learned to love, chamber music as much as he did.”
Lone Regret. As their careers blossomed, the brothers agreed that each would go his own way until the time was ripe for them to form the quartet. At 21, Francis was accepted by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Joseph went on to distinguish himself as principal violist with the Boston Symphony and to record trios with Heifetz and Piatigorsky. Robert joined the New York Philharmonic, and William, at 25, was appointed concertmaster of the New Orleans Philharmonic. Their father died in 1956, but each summer the brothers returned home for two months of intensive practice. Then, in 1963, William won a position with the Philadelphia and has since been named an associate concertmaster. The time had come. The following year, the two other boys packed up their fiddles and joined the Philadelphia—Joseph as principal violist, Robert as a member of the violin section—and the de Pasquale String Quartet was born.
This season the quartet’s eleven concerts in Philadelphia drew near-sellout crowds. Following their success in Manhattan last week, the de Pasquale brothers had only one regret. Said Joseph: “If only Dad could have heard us. He would have popped his buttons.”
Philadelphia Orchestra under Charles Dutoit (Chris Lee photo).
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s musicians have agreed to delay a slated 4.8 percent pay raise in their current contract as well as accept the temporary elimination of their Electronic Media Guarantee (EMG) and other work rules and benefits concessions.
Following the trend of other major U.S. orchestras facing financial deficits, the Philadelphia Orchestra announced voluntary cuts yesterday that promise to save $4 million in 2010 and 2011, including a reduction of 4.8 percent in negotiated salary for players.
“For a Big Five orchestra to have voluntary talks about modifying a trade agreement, and to alter the terms of it, shows that the musicians were aware of the financial situation,” a deficit potentially as high as $3 million, “and wanted to do their part to help,” said cellist John Koen, lead negotiator for the musicians.
“They’ve been truly amazing,” said the orchestra’s executive director and chief executive officer, Frank Slattery. “What the musicians did here was pretty heroic, and they did it in a fashion that was as open and as giving as I can imagine.”
Philadelphia Orchestra musicians are known as some of the toughest negotiators in the country, and though yesterday’s vote reportedly was not free of dissension, musicians speaking anonymously confirmed that the attitude was overwhelmingly positive.
In the course of the negotiations, the current contract was extended from three to four years and now will expire at the end of August 2011. That will allow the 4.8 percent raises promised for September to be deferred until the fourth year, beginning in September 2010. The minimum salary then will rise from the current $124,000 to $131,040.
Other cuts included the electronic-media guarantee paid to musicians for recording activities, saving $194,740 annually starting in 2010. Work-rule changes and waived fees for extra concerts will save $265,000 annually in both 2010 and 2011. Pension obligations will be reduced by $1.75 million. The musicians also have pledged to raise $500,000 on their own to contribute to the orchestra’s annual fund. Overall, those factors will reduce musician costs by 10 percent. [via Philadelphia Inquirer]