Philadelphia Orchestra files for bankruptcy protection
21 April 2011
The Philadelphia Orchestra has sent shock waves around America’s classical musical community by filing for bankruptcy, writes Michael Quinn.
An open letter jointly signed by the orchestra’s president and chief executive Allison Vulgamore and its chairman, Richard B Worley, described the orchestra’s financial position as ‘serious’ and said its operating funds were ‘dwindling rapidly’ and likely to be exhausted by June.
Although the 111-year-old orchestra – long regarded as one of America’s ‘big five’ – does not have any debt, the letter added, it is currently ‘operating at a significant loss with a structural deficit of $14.5m,’ approximately £9m, a figure aggravated by ‘a decline in ticket revenues, decreased donations, eroding endowment income, pension obligations, contractual agreements, and operational costs’. Recent moves to avert the growing crisis have included pay cuts for orchestra players and administrative staff, and donations of more than $9.5m (£5.85m) from board members in addition to their annual contributions.
The decision to file for Chapter 11 protection – which will cede final decision-making responsibility to a bankruptcy court while allowing management to remain in place to implement a root-and-branch reorganisation of the orchestra’s affairs – was ‘difficult but necessary’.
‘Faced with such substantial financial challenges beyond the growing structural deficit and a lack of additional operational funds available,’ added Mr Worley, ‘the board of directors has chosen this path as the best means to help reset our financial obligations. This is a first step forward toward financial health and stability for this great orchestra.’
Founded in 1900, the Philadelphia Orchestra was brought to international prominence during Leopold Stokowski’s 26-year-long tenure as its music director from 1912. His successors in the role have included Eugene Ormandy, Riccardo Muti and Christoph Eschenbach. Last year it announced Yannick Nézet-Séguin would take up the position at the beginning of the 2012/13 season.
Among the many historic firsts the orchestra can claim are beating its domestic rivals to become the first American orchestra to appear on television, the first to broadcast live on the internet, and the first to visit China and Vietnam.
The orchestra – which is due to make its first appearance in five years at the BBC Proms on September 8, with chief conductor Charles Dutoit – says it will continue to meet concert commitments already announced and has pledged itself to ‘placing all revenues for the 2011/12 season in escrow until the concerts occur’ and expressed a ‘deep commitment to stage a 2011/12 season’.
BBC Proms 2011 announces festival programme
14 April 2011, London
Details of this year's BBC Proms season - running from 15 July to 10 September - have been announced, with full details available on the festival's website.
All of Brahms's symphonies and piano concertos will be performed, including two all-Brahms programmes from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe: they and French pianist Emanuel Ax perform the composer's third symphony and first piano concerto (19 August) and the fourth symphony and second piano concerto (20 August).
British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor will only recently have turned 19 when he performs Liszt's second piano concerto on the opening night, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Jiří Bělohlávek (15 July). Grosvenor will also appear with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (another youthful nominee on the recent RPS Awards shortlist) to perform Britten's piano concerto (6 August).
American composer Steve Reich's 75th birthday will be celebrated with a late night programme of some of his best known works: Clapping music, Electric counterpoint and Music for 18 musicians, performed by Synergy Vocals and contemporary music specialists Ensemble Modern and conducted by Reich himself (10 August).
In total the work of 116 composers will be performed, only six of whom are women. One, the medieval composer, writer and nun Hildegaard of Bingen, has 'inspired' a programme at which the world premiere of the latest work by another, Stevie Wishart, will take place: Wishart's Out of this world is part of a programme which also includes a selection from Hildegard of Bingen's Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum, Britten's Sacred and profane, and Harrison Birtwistle's Narration: A description of the passing of a year (27 August).
There are two innovations in this year's season: a Comedy Prom hosted by Australian pianist-comic Tim Minchin (13 August); and the Audience Choice Prom on 2 September, at which the evening's audience will be invited to 'Create your own Prom' from the music library of the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Ivan Fischer.
Other highlights include a rare full performance of Rossini's opera William Tell with the orchestra and chorus of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome, conducted by Antonio Pappano – and welcome returns for two international youth orchestras: the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, with a programme of Stravinsky, Ravel and Tchaikovsky conducted by Sir Colin Davis; and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra, which joins with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, soprano Miah Persson and mezzo Anna Larsson, under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, to tackle Mahler's epic Resurrection symphony on 5 August.
Borletti-Buitoni Trust announces 2011 award winners
17 February 2011
The Borletti-Buitoni Trust has announced the winners of this year's awards and fellowships. They are:
- Hyeyoon Park (violin, Korea)
- Bram van Sambeek (bassoon, Holland)
- Elizabeth Watts (soprano, UK)
- Elena Xanthoudakis (soprano, Australia/Greece)
Special Ensemble Award
- The Heath Quartet (UK)
- Augustin Hadelich (violin, USA/Germany)
- Hannes Minnaar (piano, Holland)
Given to young musicians across the world, BBT awards are worth £20,000 and fellowships £10,000.
The BBT's special ensemble scholarship of £20,000 is awarded at the discretion of the judges year-to-year, this year going to the UK-based Heath Quartet.
All awards are granted in the hope of developing the careers of young performers. The trust does not accept unsolicited approaches for performers to be considered for grants; instead a selection panel is invited to provide confidential nominations.
Pianomania Q&A with Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the Curzon Mayfair
29 July 2010
Pianomania is a new documentary film that
follows Stefan Knüpfer, Steinway & Sons’ Master Tuner in Vienna, as
he works with some of the world’s best-known concert pianists,
including Pierre-Laurent Aimard, and demonstrates how this unsung hero
is pivotal to realising the vision of each virtuoso.
A special screening of the film will be shown at the Curzon Mayfair, London, this coming Sunday 1 August at 5.45pm. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Robert Cibis and pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard.