the orchestra world

a glimpse behind the veil at Cleveland Orchestra

ellen depasquale
Ellen DePasquale

From today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Ellen dePasquale, one of the Cleveland Orchestra’s most high-profile musicians, has resigned as associate concertmaster, even as the orchestra is preparing to hold an audition that will displace her as second-in-line after concertmaster William Preucil.

Some of you may be wondering “what’s the fuss about?” Basically, there is a change in the basic heirarchy of the first violins of the Cleveland Orchestra. If you’re looking at the orchestra from the audience, the Concertmaster sits just to the left of the podium (conductor), closest to the audience. To the Concertmaster’s left is their stand partner, in this case referred to as the Assistant concertmaster. Directly behind the Concertmaster is the Associate concertmaster. In the case of the Cleveland Orchestra, this is the player who moves up when the concertmaster is absent. Apparently, the outgoing Associate concertmaster, Ms. DePasquale, is leaving under protest because the position of First Associate Concertmaster is being added, and will basically cut in line in the order of succession, becoming “a heartbeat away from being concertmaster”.

This is an interesting situation, because what would normally be an in-house, private affair has become news. It also speaks to what might be internal tensions within the upper ranks of the first violin section of the Cleveland Orchestra. I would suspect that there is some tension between the Concertmaster and one of the other titled players (currently, there are the concertmaster, two assistant concertmasters, and one associate concertmaster). Adding the additional First Associate concertmaster position would displace someone one more level from reaching the first stand of the violin section. This might not seem like much, but it’s much like having a noisy neighbor and building a three foot extension onto your six foot fence to make a point.

There were rumors about this resignation a few weeks ago on the MyAuditions discussion forums, and it will be interesting to see what comes of this publicity. This case of ruffled feathers comes on the heels of an inflammatory article on Cleveland Orchestra Concertmaster William Preucil in the Cleveland’s free weekly paper, the Cleveland Scene. As with most weekly free paper web sites, the action is mostly in the comments.

By Charles Noble

I'm the Assistant principal violist of the Oregon Symphony.

2 replies on “a glimpse behind the veil at Cleveland Orchestra”

Since the Oregon Symphony has an open position for concertmaster, it would be great to invite Ellen dePasquale to audition. But the Cleveland Orchestra is at the top of the heap, so she wouldn’t probably consider Portland. I have heard her play with the CO, and she is terrific!

That might have been a possibility if she’d been available before the new year, it makes it hard to schedule the playing weeks even the candidates who are already been vetted. Plus, there is a due-diligence check and other aspects of the vetting procedure which take time to accomplish.

The fact that she was a Cleveland Orchestra associate concertmaster wouldn’t deter her from taking a concertmaster audition here – Michael Ludwig auditioned for concertmaster of Buffalo (and won) after being the associate concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In many cases, titled players from the largest orchestras will take a step down in prestige in order to get on to the concertmaster or principal track.

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