With the start of the new Los Angeles Philharmonic season, it’s time once again to examine the current personnel situation at the orchestra.
The first thing worth mentioning is that there isn’t much to mention, especially compared to previous seasons. Just eyeballing it, but it looks like the orchestra has the fewest empty chairs to start a season since they moved into Walt Disney Concert Hall. Certainly, this is the first time during this period that all the Principal chairs in the LA Phil are filled.
Undoubtably the most surprising — and truly unfortunate — departure has been that of solo E-flat & 2nd clarinetist, Monica Kaenzig, who joined the orchestra nearly twenty years ago from the St. Louis Symphony. She played during the orchestra’s season opening gala this past Monday night, and her name appeared on the evening’s printed program. The next day, I was surprised to see that her name had disappeared from the LA Phil’s online roster and the Mauk/Nunis Chair she occupied was listed as “vacant.” After an inquiry, I received this statement from the orchestra:
“Monica Kaenzig regretfully had to leave the orchestra to care for an ailing mother in the midwest and to be closer to her husband [well known tuba player and pedagogue, Fritz Kaenzig] who is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This was a very difficult decision for her as she’s been with the orchestra since 1993.”
My thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Kaenzig and her family during this difficult time.
A more typical departure is that of Tamara Chernyak, retiring from the orchestra at the end of the 2013 Hollywood Bowl season. The Leningrad-born violinist joined the LA Phil in 1976, eventually rising to the position of 5th Chair in the First Violin section.
In addition, Elizabeth Cook-Shen is no longer listed on the roster. A horn player in the orchestra since the mid-1990’s, she has not played regularly with the orchestra in many years. She had been the LA Phil’s second horn, but last year, she was listed as the orchestra’s fourth horn instead and Greg Roosa took over as second horn. Julie Thayer continues as acting fourth horn as she has the prior season.
Finally, two musicians aren’t in the same spots they were last year. While they are certainly solid players, both moves seem to be the latest examples of how selective the orchestra is in offering tenure to newer musicians:
- Cellist Tao Ni had been named Associate Principal Cello when he joined the orchestra, but he is now listed in the section and the titled chair is once again open.
- Former 3rd Trumpet Michael Myers is now back with the Atlanta Symphony after two years with the LA Phil (Associate Principal Jim Wilt will fill in frequently, though guest players will also be seen, with regular visitor Rob Schaer likely playing in that chair most often).
Of course, the musician mathematics has not all been about subtraction. Robert deMaine begins his first full season as Principal Cello after officially beginning his position in May of this year. Burt Hara, the LA Phil’s distinguished new Associate Principal Clarinet, has been playing with the orchestra since the middle of the summer. The latest holder of the Virginia and Henry Mancini Principal Flute Chair, Julien Beaudiment, began his tenure with Monday night’s gala concert; let’s see how long he stays in that position.
Auditions begin today to fill the vacancy in the bass section created by the sad death this past April of Richard D. Kelley, a six-decade-plus musician who was hired by former Music Director Alfred Wallenstein in the 1950s (!!). Other auditions will be forthcoming later in the year.
But in the end, perhaps the most noteworthy personnel moves are ones that have NOT happened: the fabulous new brass principals — Andrew Bain, Tom Hooten, and Nitzan Haroz — are still Los Angeles Philharmonic musicians. Halleluiah! Mr. Haroz’s previous employer, the Philadelphia Orchestra, no longer lists him on their roster as “Principal Trumpet (on leave)” as they had all of last year. The Atlanta Symphony has already found a new Principal Trumpet to fill Mr. Hooten’s old job.
Perhaps most noteworthy is Mr. Bain, the veritable veteran of the trio (he joined a year before the other two). In his short time with the orchestra, the LA Phil Principal Horn has become a favorite of both fans and critics. One prominent person who has frequented concerts since the 1970’s told me that the orchestra’s horn section is as good as he’s ever heard it. Another compared Mr. Bain to Dale Clevenger at his best.
Folks in L.A. aren’t the only ones to recognize Mr. Bain’s prowess. He was invited to play the Britten War Requiem as guest Principal Horn with the Berlin Philharmonic at the beginning of summer. It went so well that Sir Simon Rattle and company invited him back for another stint later in the summer, not just on their home turf but on tour in Salzburg, Lucerne, and Paris, too. “Berlin was a wonderful experience,” Mr. Bain told me. “A great thrill to play with the Berlin Phil and Simon Rattle. They are at the pinnacle of our profession and I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to perform with them. The orchestra was very welcoming and I had a terrific time.”
He also a member of the Australian World Orchestra. “It is an amazing concept by Alexander Briger to bring Australia’s best ex-Pat musicians from all over the globe back home to perform together,” describes Mr. Bain. “Members of AWO come from the Chicago Symphony, Berlin Phil, Vienna Phil, Munich Phil, LSO, LPO and numerous others including the best Australian orchestras to create a fantastic ALL-Aussie Orchestra.”
This year’s iteration of the AWO features concerts led by former LA Phil Music Director and frequent guest conductor, Zubin Mehta. “Unfortunately, due to the opening of our season here in LA I was unable to attend this year’s AWO with Zubin Mehta. I spoke with Maestro Mehta when he was here last season and he was very much looking forward to the AWO project and going Down Under.”
Despite all of his travels and musical adventures, Mr. Bain is a fan of his new hometown. He’s already done a promo video touting the merits of living in Downtown Los Angeles. And he is as big a fan of playing in the LA Phil as much as all of us are of him . “I have felt very welcomed by members of the orchestra and our wonderful patrons, donors and supporters. I feel extremely fortunate and honored to be a member of the LA Philharmonic. It is humbling to be part of such an iconic organization and I am really enjoying the excellent opportunities that I have had the chance of experiencing since moving to Southern California. I am really looking forward to a fantastic 10th Anniversary season of WDCH, continuing to work with the inspirational Gustavo Dudamel and contributing to the artistic growth of our orchestra.”
- Julien Beaudiment offered LA Phil’s Principal Flute chair
- Burt Hara wins LA Phil Associate Principal Clarinet chair
- Robert deMaine officially accepts LA Phil Principal Cello chair (UPDATED)
- The LA Phil’s new brass principals are definitely making their presence felt
- Andrew Bain and Dale Clevenger: two Principal Horns in very different situations
Photo credits: courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic