Hello again, folks.
Long time no chat. Hope you’re well.
It’s obviously been a while, and so let’s start getting caught up by talking about some key personnel moves across the Southern California orchestral landscape and beyond.
New additions to the LA Phil (official and unofficial)
Since the beginning of the calendar year, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has been busy plugging holes in their roster. Nearly all the open chairs – and all the titled chairs – will be full by the start of their Centennial Season concerts in a few weeks.
Most noteworthy are the new Principal Oboe and Principal Viola appointments.
- As previously reported, Ramon Ortega won the Principal Oboe auditions held last fall and will begin his duties once the LA Phil moves back into Walt Disney Concert Hall at the end of September.
- If you don’t want to wait that long to see him perform, he will be playing works by Mozart, Koechlin, and Gounod at Zipper Hall on Sunday, September 23, as part of the Colburn Chamber Music Society. His appearance is part of his role as the Colburn Conservatory’s new oboe professor.
- I had a chance to sit down for a chat with Mr. Ortega earlier this summer, and I’m looking forward to sharing that interview in the next few days. [UPDATE: That interview has been published and can be found HERE]
- Teng Li won the Principal Viola auditions at the beginning of 2018, and officially joined the orchestra earlier this summer. The Nanjing, China, native comes to L.A. after having served in the same capacity with the Toronto Symphony since 2004, a position she won while still a student at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia; she eventually graduated from Curtis in 2005.
- She’s also appeared with numerous other orchestras and chamber music ensembles, most notably as a member of the Rosamunde Quartet (alongside Noah Bendix-Balgley, First Concertmaster of the Berlin Philarmonic, plus Shansan Yao and Nathan Vickery, violinist and cellist of the New York Philharmonic, respectively) and in multiple appearances with the Guarneri Quartet.
- In 2015, she released 1939, an album featuring Hindemith’s Viola Sonata and along with other viola works by contemporaries. “I wondered what inspired Hindemith to write such complexity of expression,” wrote Ms. Li. “My fascination led me to research that period, and I found music from various places written in different styles each with unusually creative compositional techniques. In this project, I wanted to showcase the works of different composers at that point in history to express how human beings from all walks of life can be affected during such horrific times.” She describes the second movement of one of those pieces, Gideon Klein’s Duo for Violin and Viola, as sounding like “the earliest punk or rock-n-roll music you can hear. It really just sounds like screaming. He’s using every possibility he can to scream, ‘What is going on??!’ “
- Prior to studying at Curtis, Ms. Li studied at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, China, where one of her fellow students was pianist Lang Lang.
The only other open titled chair has also been filled: Jaclyn Rainey will be the LA Phil’s new Associate Principal Horn.
- Ms. Rainey has been Third Horn with the Atlanta Symphony since 2014. Prior to that, she held positions of Acting Principal horn with the Naples Philharmonic and Associate Principal horn with the Louisiana Philharmonic. She also performed with the Boston Symphony as part of their European tour in 2015.
- Her appointment ends a prolonged search involving multiple public and private auditions that began when Eric Overholt unfortunately had to step down from the position in 2014 after suffering a debilitating health condition. Since then, a parade of hornists have sat in with the orchestra, some in hopes for gaining the position, others to give Andrew Bain (the orchestra’s distinguished Principal Horn) and others in the section a break. Among the more prominent musicians who have graced the stages of Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl in that time include, in alphabetical order: Dale Clevenger (retired Principal, Chicago Symphony), David Cooper (Principal, Dallas Symphony, and for a time, Berlin Philharmonic), Jeffrey Fair (Principal, Seattle Symphony), Roger Kaza (Principal, St. Louis Symphony), Karl Pituch (Principal, Detroit Symphony), Marcel Sobol (Solo Horn, WDR Funkhaus Orchestre), and Sarah Willis (4th Horn, Berlin Philharmonic). Not a bad group of stand-ins. Credit Andrew Bain’s reputation and relationships (along with those of the orchestra) to attract such excellent temporary talent.
- Ms. Rainey’s name has yet to be added to the official LA Phil roster, but she has already played first chair with the orchestra on more than one occasion. Most recently, she played guest principal for the July 24th concert at the Hollywood Bowl with Stéphane Denève conducting a program of Sibelius and Ravel. While the amplified acoustics of the Bowl can often be uneven, they were well-behaved that night, and Ms. Rainey’s burnished tone came through clearly during her exposed moments, while blending smoothly with her colleagues at other times. Tony Frankel of Stage and Cinema had a similar assessment in his review of the same concert. I look forward to hearing Ms. Rainey play in the friendly confines of WDCH very soon.
Two section positions have also been filled:
- Paul Radke won the audition for 2nd Trombone in May and joined the orchestra in the middle of this summer’s Hollywood Bowl season.
- The young musician, still in his mid-20s, was Acting 2nd Trombone at the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra since 2017. He completed his Master’s Degree at the Shepherd School of Music, Rice University, in 2017 after having completed his undergraduate degree in 2015 from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and also spending some time at The Colburn School. In 2016, he won two trombone competitions: the Lewis Van Haney Philharmonic Prize Tenor Trombone Competition and Frank Smith Tenor Trombone Competition.
- A video of the finale of the Tomasi Trombone Concerto in a 2014 performance by the Young Artists Orchestra with Mr. Radke as featured soloist can be seen HERE
- Mr. Radke fills the chair vacated by Herbert “Sonny” Ausman, an LA Phil veteran who joined the orchestra in 1971 and retired at the end of 2016. He was the final link to the long-standing trombone section including Ralph Sauer, Byron Peebles, and Jeffrey Reynolds, a foursome that was intact for almost three decades. Here’s hoping that current trombone section — (L to R in the Instagram photo below): John Lofton (bass trombone), David Rejano (Principal), Mr. Radke, and James Miller (Associate Principal) — have a similarly successful run.
- Evan Kuhlmann won the recent audition to be the LA Phil’s new Contrabassoon.
- He is currently Assistant Principal Bassoon and Contrabassoon with the Oregon Symphony. He has also performed with the St. Louis, San Diego, and Seattle Symphonies, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, among others. He attended the Juilliard School, where he earned a Bachelor of Music in Bassoon Performance with Scholastic Distinction, a Graduate Diploma in Music Composition, and the Peter Mennin Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Leadership in Music.
- An avowed champion of new music, he has performed countless premieres as Principal Bassoon of the Cabrillo Music Festival, including works of John Adams, Magnus Lindberg, James MacMillan, and Christopher Rouse.
- A Q&A with Mr. Kuhlmann is available on The Bassoon Brothers website.
With no retirements coming at the end of the summer, the only empty chair left for the LA Phil to fill on the current roster is for 3rd/Utility Trumpet. Auditions for that position will be held in early October. If you’re curious, the required repertoire for that audition can be found HERE.
Updates from other orchestras
Carl St.Clair, Music Director of the Pacific Symphony, hired a new Concertmaster for the orchestra in April: Dennis Kim.
- Prior to coming to Southern California Mr. Kim had been Concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic while simultaneously serving on the faculty of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, Canada. He was previously Concertmaster of the Tucson Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Seoul Philharmonic and Tampere Philharmonic. He also has been guest concertmaster of the BBC Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic, among others.
- Mr. Kim is a graduate Curtis Institute of Music and Yale School of Music and plays the 1701 ex-Dushkin Stradivarius violin, on permanent loan from a generous donor.
- He replaces Raymond Kobler, a 17-year veteran of the orchestra who retired in 2016. Mr. Kobler was previously Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony.
- Tim Mangan, music writer extraordinaire, recently interviewed Mr. Kim for his website, A Classical Life. You can read it HERE.
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra is looking to fill two vacancies before the end of the calendar year:
- Auditions for 2nd Trumpet will be held in mid November. Darren Mulder previously held the position.
- Auditions for Principal Viola will occur in early December. Roland Kato, a 40-year veteran of the orchestra, retired from the chair in 2016. Sir Neville Marriner originally hired him in 1978, and he was promoted to Principal Viola by Iona Brown in 1987. He has also held the principal position in many orchestras, including the LA Opera Orchestra, the Pasadena Symphony, the California Chamber Symphony and the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra.
- Ramon Ortega: photo by Steven Haberland, courtesy of the artist
- Teng Li: photo by Sian Richards, courtesy of the artist
- Jaclyn Rainey: courtesy of the Atlanta Symphony
- Evan Kuhlmann: courtesy of the Oregon Symphony
- Dennis Kim: courtesy of Festival Mosaic