December 11, 2012

Here are recommended recordings provided by Mr. Gil French, Concert Editor for American Record Guide, for the upcoming The Four Seasons (Phils 6) on December 13 & 15.  Enjoy!

Puccini: Capriccio Sinfonico
Riccardo Chailly, Berlin Radio Symphony

It’s murder finding a good recording of this work. Riccardo Muti’s with the La Scala Philharmonic (which I’ve never heard) is available online, but Sony no longer issues it.  Claudio Scimone’s old recording has been reissued on the budget-priced Apex label, but the Monte Carlo Opera Orchestra was an inferior ensemble back then.

Decca’s album is called “Puccini: Orchestral Music”.  It was originally on London 410007 and was reissued in “The Originals” series, but seems to have disappeared. Online it is available only through  The album opens with a wonderfully transparent account of the “Preludio Sinfonico”; orchestra colors change as the harmonic textures change, balances between strings and winds are exquisite, the flow is seamlessly operatic, and the orchestra itself is absolutely gorgeous.  Too bad the “Capriccio Sinfonico” that follows isn’t on that same level, but it’s good enough, especially when encased by excellent performances of “Chrysanthemums”, the Intermezzo from “Manon Lescaut”, two orchestral selections from each of Puccini’s early operas “Le Villi” and “Edgar”, and three Minuets originally for string quartet.

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons
Nils-Erik Sparf; Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble
BIS 275

What curves old warhorses can throw! I hadn’t heard a recording of this work for years but always hesitate to rely on old memories of “favorite recordings”. Good thing!

In Baroque works, one normally expects modern “romantic era” orchestras to take more liberties with the score, and early-instrument or “period” ensembles to flaunt their “authenticity” and stick strictly to the score. But with “The Four Seasons” it’s mostly the opposite. Most modern-orchestra performances I listened to were rhythmically square with little spring to their step, and the soloists quite unimaginative, whereas most period performances had exaggerated tempo changes and heaved quickly from quadruple pianissimos to triple fortes; they sounded forced and cute, or, shall I say, “original” in a bizarre way.

The exception is Nils-Erik Sparf. He interprets each movement—in fact, each season—with a unified concept that picked me up at the beginning and didn’t let go until the end. Rhythms are upbeat and brightly articulated, though the sound of his baroque violin is warm and mellow. The same goes for this small orchestra of five violins, two violas, one cello, and one violone (early version of the string bass). Making the sound even warmer is the use of an organ for most of the continuo work, giving velvet support and a firm bass.  Tuning is exquisite—no harsh sourness at all.  Textures are so balanced that one can hear the inner lines’ counter-melodies and harmonic progressions as they play off against the soloist.  Sparf makes virtuosity sound easy, but it is in the slow movements that I found his musicality most striking—how he sustains interest when the torrid air barely moves in “Summer”, and how he works with the teasing, almost baritone harpsichord continuo in “Autumn” before it meets up with that merry harvest-dance finale.

There are two versions of BIS 275 available (at least on The original version contains only “The Four Seasons” and is only 40 minutes long. A later version adds a few other concertos but costs twice as much.  Alas, sometimes the best things come in small packages.



December 1, 2012

Moving Forward with the RPO

Understanding the Board of Director’s Decision on Arild Remmereit
From Elizabeth F. Rice, Chairperson of the Board

On November 28, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Board of Directors decided that 2012–13 will be Arild Remmereit’s final season as music director of the RPO.

The RPO is currently working out the details of an agreement with Mr. Remmereit, and discussing such matters would be grossly unfair to everyone involved; it would also be a distinct violation of the RPO’s own human-resources policy. The RPO does not make a habit of airing its personnel matters in public, and we are saddened and dismayed by people who feel compelled to report rumor and innuendo. 

Understandably, there is significant interest in knowing why the RPO Board of Directors voted to terminate Arild Remmereit’s contract at the end of the 2012–13 season; while the RPO will not identify specific reasons, it is important to provide a reliable description of the background that led to this most difficult decision, and the lengthy process through which the board arrived at it.

The Background

Shortly after the RPO appointed Mr. Remmereit to be music director–designate in summer 2010, tensions developed between him and members of the RPO staff, board, and orchestra. At the time, board members provided Mr. Remmereit with constructive suggestions to assist in easing the tensions. By the end of Mr. Remmereit’s first season in 2011–12, the situation had only grown worse, despite several efforts by the board to mitigate the situation; the orchestra and staff were suffering, and the matter became of serious concern to the board.

In April 2012, after repeated attempts to repair the relationship between Mr. Remmereit and the RPO, the board commissioned Craviso & Associates to identify the underlying problems. As research for the report, Craviso & Associates interviewed Mr. Remmereit as well as people involved with the RPO at all levels. 

The Process

In June 2012, the board agreed upon and communicated specific expectations for Mr. Remmereit to meet in the wake of the Craviso & Associates report so that the relationship between him and the RPO could be repaired. The board developed a protocol for monitoring his progress, provided Mr. Remmereit with a clear means for communicating with the board, and assigned him an advisor to help ensure success. Mr. Remmereit voluntarily agreed to meet these expectations and to follow the protocol.

After five months, the board reviewed Mr. Remmereit’s progress—a process that included input from the staff, his advisor, and board members, and a survey of orchestra musicians—and determined that he had not made sufficient effort to meet the agreed upon expectations and work toward repairing his relationship with the RPO. It was only at this point that the board, after serious consideration of the consequences, took this matter to a vote on November 28, and decided to terminate Mr. Remmereit’s contract.

Factors Considered

The decision to terminate Mr. Remmereit’s contract was made through thoughtful deliberation, and with a number of factors being considered, including the following:
  • the input and reaction of the musicians
  • the input and reaction of other RPO artistic leaders: Jeff Tyzik, Michael Butterman, and Christopher Seaman
  • the ability to sustain our operations with competent and capable personnel
  • the impact on major sponsors and patrons of the RPO
  • the reaction of the general public
  • the effect on year-end donations  
After months of trying to remedy the situation, and assessing all of the above, the vast majority of the board agreed that the best option for the long-term future of the RPO was to release Mr. Remmereit from the contract, as the contract permits it to do. Our assessment of these factors has proven to be accurate and we are very comfortable with our decision.

Moving Forward

The RPO is more than any one individual. While a music director is the public face of an orchestra, just as important are the musicians who make the music. Our musicians have proven time and again that they can play at the highest artistic level with many different conductors and music directors.

The RPO has a vibrant pops program and a world-class principal pops conductor in Jeff Tyzik. It presents educational programs under the capable baton of Michael Butterman, and performs many free community concerts that reach 30,000 people each season.

Mr. Remmereit’s departure does not signal a loss of focus on innovative programming. We will be engaging many talented guest conductors in the future as we begin a search for a new music director. We are confident we can find someone who will bring passion and energy to the position. The RPO’s commitment to education, the community, and artistic excellence in music making remains constant. We hope you'll continue to support our remarkable musicians as so many have done over 90 the past years.