There’s been a fair amount of personnel movement at the Los Angeles Philharmonic over the past few months. Let’s get everybody caught up:
Filling empty seats in the Bass section
The LA Phil basses have had two openings since the 2014 retirement of John Schiavo and the sad passing of Fred Tinsley late last year. A few weeks ago, the orchestra held auditions in an attempt to fill both seats and it looks like they were successful. No official word from the orchestra, but multiple sources mention that Edward “Ted” Botsford and Jory Herman have been offered the positions.
Mr. Botsford is currently a member of the Seattle Symphony and Principal Bass of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, CA. He previously was in the Oregon Symphony where he was Assistant Principal Bass since 2010 – 2013 and Acting Principal Bass from 2013–2015. He holds both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Rice University. In a recent interview, he mentions how working with Christopher Hanulik (LA Phil Principal Bass) was critical to successfully winning the Oregon Symphony audition and beyond: “The thing that stuck in my mind is the sense I got when he’d demonstrate something, of the intensity and focus of his musical aesthetic. There was no beating around the bush, it was very clear what he wanted to do. And the sound was huge and rich and full, all the things you’d want from a bass sound. . . . It was eye opening for me to see that and to hear him talk about it.”
Mr. Herman has been a bassist with the San Diego Symphony since 2010. He has also played with the National Symphony and the New World Symphony. Like Mr. Botsford, he graduated with Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Rice University. Among his many musical activities outside of his main gig, he is Director of Community Engagement for “Art of Élan,” a chamber music group that performs throughout the greater San Diego area. He also has released a solo album, J.S. Bach: Unaccompanied Suites Performed on Double Bass.
No word yet on when the two gentlemen will join the LA Phil, but we look forward to seeing them at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl soon. Congratulations to them both.
New Assistant Concertmaster is a familiar face
Violinist Mark Baranov, LA Phil musician since the 1978/79 season, stepped down as Assistant Concertmaster at the end of last year while still remaining in the First Violin section. In anticipation of his move, the orchestra had already held auditions in Fall of last year for a new Assistant Concertmaster, and they didn’t have to look far to find a winner: Akiko Tarumoto, a current member of the orchestra.
Ms. Tarumoto is a formidable musician who easily made my very personal and admittedly biased 2014 list of “Top 10 favorite LA Phil hires of the past decade.” I still remember being bowled over by her playing back in 2002 when she sat first chair for the Shostakovich 3rd String Quartet in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion’s Grand Hall lobby as part of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Shostakovich cycle; the Los Angeles Times called her out as “electrifying” in that performance.
She originally joined the LA Phil’s 2nd Violin section in 1998. She was promoted to the 1st Violin section soon thereafter, but in 2004, left for the Chicago Symphony. The Windy City’s gain was Southern California’s loss; however, while there, she married Nathan Cole (at the time a fellow violinist with the CSO), and not long after that, he became the LA Phil’s First Associate Concertmaster.
In 2011, Ms. Tarumoto won an audition to return to the LA Phil’s 2nd violin section in 2011 and join her husband in the orchestra; in 2015, she was promoted to the permanent 5th Chair in the 1st violin sections, before officially starting her now job last month. Since the orchestra has a Principal Concertmaster (Martin Chalifour), a First Associate Concertmaster (Mr. Cole), and an Associate Concertmaster (Bing Wang), the promotion means that technically she has only stepped up one chair; however, the acquisition of a titled position in the orchestra is non-trivial and calls for major congratulations. So . . . congratulations!!
Herbert “Sonny” Ausman, the orchestra’s 2nd Trombone since 1971, retired at the end of last year, ending an illustrious career with the LA Phil. He played for five Music Directors (Zubin Mehta, Carlo Maria Giulini, André Previn, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Gustavo Dudamel) and with five Principals (Byron Peebles, Ralph Sauer, Steven Witser, Nitzan Haroz, and David Rejano Cantero). In addition to his trombone career, Mr. Ausman has also been a well-regarded recording engineer and, according to reliable sources, is a rather good home brewer of beer.
Mr. Sauer once wrote this about his former section mate:
“In a symphony orchestra, the 2nd trombonist is a crucial part of the brass section. The audition probably required that the playing be at the level of the principal, but the actual job requires a willingness to be an ensemble player (suppression of the ego), having a great ear for intonation (because the 2nd player is usually required to adjust more than the 1st or 3rd players), the necessary people skills to be diplomatic, and once a year or so, to be a soloist (Mozart, R-Korsakov, etc.).
Sonny Ausman was the “meat in the sandwitch [sic]” between Jeff Reynolds [retired LA Phil Bass Trombone] and myself. He always said that his job was “to make me sound good.” That’s why I always (well usually) bought the beer afterwards. The principal player should NEVER make the 2nd player mad. It’s the kiss of death. He can start playing those pesky major 3rds too high, and all of a sudden the music director is calling YOU in to discuss YOUR terrible intonation.
Having a compatible 2nd trombonist in the section makes going to work a pleasure. I’ve played with many great trombone sections at various music festivals over the years and with Summit Brass, but I’ve always been glad to return to LA and play with Jeff and Sonny.”
Auditions for a new Second Trombone will be held in early May 2017. In the meantime, various guest musicians will temporarily fill the role.
There was also a sadder departure from the LA Phil’s extended trombone family: Byron Peebles passed away this past January 16th, just two weeks shy of his 86th birthday.
He joined the orchestra in 1963 and retired in 1999, serving as Principal and Associate Principal during his tenure. Before joining the LA Phil, he had previously been a member of the Chicago Symphony and the Indianapolis Symphony He received his Bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and a Master’s degree from the University of Southern California where he studied with Robert Marsteller, another former LA Phil Principal Trombone.
Timothy Mangan, music critic and former trombone student of Mr. Peebles, wrote a touching obituary on his website, classicallife.net.
By the way . . . the foursome of Messrs. Sauer, Peebles, Ausman, and Reynolds spent nearly three decades together, becoming quite legendary in the process. As a quartet, they recorded their own albums and some of their tracks can be found on YouTube and can still be purchased on iTunes. Together with Roger Bobo, world-renowned former LA Phil tuba player who had previously played in the Concertgebouw Orchestra, they comprised one of the foremost low brass ensembles in the world.
Other news (or notable lack thereof) from the brass section
Still no movement on the open Associate Principal Horn chair. Roger Kaza, Principal Horn of the St. Louis Symphony, has been a frequent guest in first horn chair at Walt Disney Concert Hall, giving LA Phil Principal Andrew Bain some much rest.
Perhaps more importantly for SoCal fans of brass is that the Berlin Philharmonic recently hired a new Principal Horn of their own and it is NOT Mr. Bain (not that he was necessarily in the running anyway). Instead, the Berliners chose someone from a different American orchestra: David Cooper of the Dallas Symphony. Mr. Cooper fills the seat vacated when Radek Baborák left the orchestra in 2010.
According to some reports, Mr. Bain did throw his hat in the ring for the open Chicago Symphony job (Dale Clevenger’s former chair) and was one of the distinguished finalists under consideration in 2015, but the CSO extended no offers. That position remains vacant and there has been no word on when the next audition will be.
That said, antsy followers of the LA Phil brass now have something different to fret about. Given yesterday’s big news that Christopher Martin has officially resigned his post as Principal Trumpet in Chicago to stay with the New York Philharmonic, some are already wondering: would Tom Hooten — beloved first trumpet here in LA — be interested in going after the Chicago gig? If so, how much? He’s said in past interviews that as a student, it was his dream job but that he didn’t expect it to open up anytime soon. Yet now it has.
Be that as it may, he has also made it clear how much he loves playing with the LA Phil and his brass colleagues, and happy he is in LA in general . He also says how important being a teacher is to him, and he is now on the faculty at the USC Thornton School of Music. Things are going well in Los Angeles. Maybe he won’t pursue the Chicago position.
Time will tell. The CSO has not yet announced any audition dates but when it does, Mr. Martin’s move to New York is an indication, anything can happen. We’ll all just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’ll pray — and you should too — that the impressive LA Phil brass section, now with new Principal Trombone David Rejano Cantero, remains intact.
- Trumpeter Christopher Martin makes move to NY Phil permanent
- Checking in with the LA Phil (part 2 of 3): a quick look back at January’s concerts
- Checking in with the LA Phil (part 1 of 3): the 2017 Hollywood Bowl season announcement
- Ted Botsford: courtesy of the University of Washington School of Music
- Jory Herman: courtesy of the artist’s website
- Mark Baranov: photo by Nathan Cole from his Instagram page @natesviolin
- Akiko Tarumoto and Herbert Ausman: photos by Mathew Imaging for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association
- Byron Peebles: photo by Rebecca Dru (Rebecca Dru Photography)
- Los Angeles Philharmonic Trombone Ensemble: courtesy of Western International Music, Inc.
- Tom Hooten and Andrew Bain: photo by CK Dexter Haven
Uh oh! Mr. Hooten was recently Guest Principal with the CSO and it sounds like he really nailed it:
I’m not sure readers are aware of this but one of Mr. Hooten’s primary teachers was current CSO 2nd trumpet John Hagstrom. I fear the opportunity to be Principal Trumpet of the CSO (already mentioned as a dream job by Mr. Hooten himself) combined with playing along side his former teacher may be too great to pass up (assuming he’s offered the job).
Allow me to indulge in a bit of paranoia, but to have concurrent vacancies in the CSO for Principal Trumpet and Principal Horn is the “perfect storm” for the LA Phil. If Mr. Hooten is offered and chooses to join the CSO, Mr. Bain would be primed to join him especially if no successor for Mr. Clevenger is found soon. Mr. Bain was a finalist at the last CSO audition and has performed as Guest Principal (but was not offered the job). We’ve all read the mutual respect Mr. Bain and Mr. Hooten have for each other’s playing so it stands to reason that the CSO might re-consider Mr. Bain.
To the LA Phil Management – for the love of God, make Mr. Hooten an offer he can’t refuse and lock this guy down now! In the meantime I’m going to as many concerts as I can to hear this brass section…change could be coming.
And with the departure of both Carrie Dennis and Ariana Ghez, is something out there that needs further explaining? I figure not too much will be forthcoming, given the nature of the closed-mouth nature of the orchestra and management, which of course still has not announced its replacement for Deborah.
Some things can be said, some things cant and shouldn’t. Stay tuned.
Any news on Carrie Dennis would be welcome. She will be hard to replace.