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Swiss physicist leaves $7m to upstate US orchestra

October 29, 2017 by norman lebrecht

18 comments.


The Albany Symphony Orchestra wakes up today $7 million richer, thanks to a legacy from Professor Heinrich Medicus, a Swiss-born nuclear physicist, who died in February.

The Albany Symphony, conductor David Alan Miller, has an annual budget of $2.3 million and an endowment of $500,000. It will need to scale up to accommodate this generous gift.


Comments (18)

  1. Elaine Calder says:

    The music director’s name is David Alan (not Allen) Miller.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      corrected, tks

  2. Tim Alexandroff says:

    Now, that you have the moneys, go find some decent players and conductor.
    Like its neighbors Buffalo and Detroit, you reached the point of no return,
    Signs of the time!

    1. Bruce says:

      Ouch. Sounds like somebody lost an audition!

      1. MWnyc says:

        Not to mention the fact that Albany and Buffalo aren’t exactly neighbors – 288 miles/463 km, more than five hours’ driving, and Detroit is another 255 miles/410 km beyond Buffalo (and substantially more if one doesn’t want to cross the U.S./Canada border twice).

        And Buffalo and Detroit have far more people than Albany. They aren’t peer cities any more than they’re neighbors.

  3. Mark Henriksen says:

    Thanks to people like Mr. Medicus for having the means and desire to build their community.

    I played for David Allan Miller a long time ago and it was a great experience.

  4. Elaine Calder says:

    More details here:
    http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Philanthropist-s-bequest-gives-7M-to-Albany-12314224.php
    The $7M is a restricted gift to the Symphony’s endowment fund. The principal is to be preserved in perpetuity and the earnings used to support the orchestra and its programs. At a prudent 4% annual disbursement, this will add $280K to the current budget of $2.3M or about a 12% increase.

  5. DrummerMan says:

    What do you mean by “scale up?’ Do you mean spend more money?

    BTW, Dr. Medicus was a part-owner of the Lindt Chocolate Company, which is where his fortune came from. He was a very generous man, indeed.

    1. Elaine Calder says:

      Now I’m really happy I buy Lindt chocolate bars!

  6. DrummerMan says:

    The article says that the Albany Symphony will also get 50% of the money from the sale of his property/estate, which apparently includes a substantial art collection. One assumes that this will add a few million more to the seven million.

  7. Francis Asissy says:

    That’s enough to hire a full-time second harpist to make it a full symphony orchestra. Wish I’d taken the audition years ago. Except for having to play all that contemporary music.

  8. Old Man in the Midwest says:

    We should be celebrating the generosity of this individual and the impact it can have on a small orchestra like the Albany Symphony that has done good things with limited resources.

    Mr. Miller is a talented conductor that has stewarded the orchestra for many years. Perhaps some of the name conductors with could take a lesson rather than check their frequent flyer miles on a daily basis.

    The principal is protected so don’t expect a Ring cycle or Gurrelieder every season. Steady growth and decent salaries for the musicians within the context of the community cost of living would be ample.

    1. DrummerMan says:

      How do you feel about “steady growth and decent salaries” for their staff? Don’t they deserve to benefit from this generous gift, too?

      1. Bruce says:

        Naturally since he doesn’t mention management salary increases, he must be opposed to them. He also doesn’t express opposition to child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy; I guess we know what conclusion to draw from that innocent-seeming little “omission.”

  9. Elaine Calder says:

    Just working from the $2.3M budget, the gift should be able to provide a permanent increase to all salaries, with lots left over for commissions, recordings, major guest artist fees or a return to Carnegie Hall. Not all of that in every year, of course, but a splendid opportunity to enrich the ASO’s role for both the orchestra and its community. Congratulations to David Alan Miller and everyone who stewarded the donor and gave him such joy.

  10. Alexander Platt says:

    BRAVISSIMO to David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony Orchestra!

  11. William Safford says:

    Dr. Medicus was a kind, gentle, beneficent, munificent man.

    He was also brilliant. He was a professor of physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, specializing in high-energy nuclear physics. He discovered Technetium-99D, which is used in nuclear medicine.

    As well as teaching physics, he also taught a very popular one-credit course on wine tasting. In fact, he continued to teach the course for several years after his official retirement from RPI. He was an oenophile, and enjoyed sharing his interest in wine with others.

    He also holds the Guinness World Record for shooting a champagne cork the farthest distance. I don’t remember the exact distance that he told me, but it approximately the length of a football field.

    He and his late wife loved classical music, and were regular attendees at local concerts. He loved orchestral music, but he had a soft spot in his heart for chamber music. He especially enjoyed listening to string quartets, which he found easiest to hear as his hearing gradually got worse near the end of his life.

    Many organizations are beneficiaries of his munificence, both music- and non-music-related ones. For example, a local hospital received millions of dollars for a new cancer wing.

    We miss Henrich.


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