Chicago names principal bassoon, 21

Chicago names principal bassoon, 21


norman lebrecht

January 21, 2015

The era of grizzled old orchs is over. The Chicago Symphony has joined the new-grad trend by appointing Keith Buncke, 21, to a principal post.

He’s been snatched from the Atlanta Symph, where he’s in his first season as principal.


keith buncke


  • harold braun says:

    Bud Herseth,Willard Eliot,Dale Clevenger,Jay Friedman(still Planung) grizzled old CSO? I rather prefer not to comment on such tactless and senseless comments…

  • harold braun says:

    Sorry I meant of course Mr..Friedman is still playing….Facebook Messenger is playing up again…

  • Patrick says:

    Agree with Mr. Braun. What’s new about this? Willard Elliot was 20 when hired by the Houston Symphony. Adolph Herseth was 27 when he became principal of the CSO. Dale Clevenger was 26 when he won the principal horn position of the CSO. Guess what? We get old and young people replace us.

  • Jaypee says:

    Interesting… I couldn’t find Mr. Lebrecht’s usual concern about the lack of cultural diversity… Could it be that he doesn’t have the same expectation for the the Chicago Symphony (and the NY Phil, the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Symphony, the Cleveland Symphony, etc. etc .etc…). as for the Vienna Philharmonic?

    • NYMike says:

      That’s Philadelphia and Cleveland ORCHESTRAS. Plenty of women and Asians in the orchestras you mention. Blacks are harder to find but are showing up in principal or associate principal positions.

    • MacroV says:

      Not the same thing. Vienna is castigated for the very small number of women and no Asians. The CSO has a decent number of women (don’t know the precise number) and quite a few Asians. And most of the audition (though not the final) probably occurred behind a screen.

      What’s remarkable is that in recent years the CSO seems to have hired a lot of principals away from other orchestras, but only after conducting auditions and not hiring anyone. Then they invited others to try out. This time, given how quickly this occurred, it sounds like they actually ran a regular audition and chose a winner.

      • Jaypee says:

        My point was simply to show the “variable geometry” displayed on this blog. It’s OK to bash Vienna all the time and complain about the lack of cultural diversity or the under representation of women in the Vienna Philharmonic but I am still waiting for a comment on the lack of African-Americans in American orchestras.

        They may be “showing up in principal or associate principal positions”, but there are still more women in the Vienna Phil than Blacks in the five biggest American orchestras together.

        • MacroV says:

          Again, not the same thing.

          There are very few blacks in U.S. orchestras because there are very few auditioning. There are very few auditioning simply because there are very few in the top music schools. There are very few in top music schools because there are very few being trained at lower levels. And that’s largely the case because studying music is a very expensive proposition, and beyond the means of many black students. We definitely should be getting more black children (and people of all ethnicities) into playing musical instruments, but it’s a problem at the root of our social/educational system, not a matter of racial discrimination by American orchestras (where most auditions are conducted largely behind a screen).

          The VPO and women is a very different situation, because there are a LOT of women who are viable candidates for many positions – maybe not on trombone but certainly in most string sections. That there are still so few in the VPO after nearly two decades of a supposed policy of non-discrimination is a fair issue for Mr. Lebrecht to raise.

  • NYMike says:

    This is not exactly new. 16 year-old Sol Cohen (later conductor Saul Caston) became 2nd trumpet appointed by Stokie in Philly in the late 19teens, promoted to principal at age 21. Curtis horn student Mason Jones became 3rd horn in Philly at age 18 during the Stokie/Ormandy era and principal by the age of 21.

  • PTN says:

    Actually, Keith won that job last spring and started with them just a couple of months ago when their lockout ended.

  • Max Grimm says:

    Norman, just a small correction. Keith Buncke is 21 years of age (he won’t turn 22 until June this year).

  • Hans-Dieter Glaubke says:

    Tedious comments of one self-anointed, not seldom ill-informed critic are not acceptable for publication. Consider the ages of some members of the Berlin Phil. upon being admitted:
    Edicson Ruiz, double bass, 17(!)
    Andreas Blau, principal flute, 20
    Emmanuel Pahud, principal flute, 23
    Martin Kretzer, principal trumpet for 31 years, now 2nd trumpet, 23
    Bruno Delepelaire, 1st principal cello, 25
    Albrecht Mayer, principal oboe, 27
    Daniel Stabrawa, 1st concertmaster, 28
    Stefan Dohr, principal horn, 28
    Herr Lebrecht, nicht (wieder) diese Töne!

    • Max Grimm says:

      Also, the Staatskapelle Dresden, Staatskapelle Berlin, Gewandhausorchester, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, the London Symphony Orchestra, etc. pp. have hired principals aged <25 in the past and present.

    • william osborne says:

      I’ve noticed that the average age for new employees of German orchestras is lower than in the States — at least for the top tier orchestras.. They also have an age-limit for applicants, usually 35, which is unheard of in the USA. I think some even push it down to 30.

      German orchestras also have mandatory retirement at 65 (or whatever it is these days) while Americans do not. Many US players after 65 then double dip, collecting both their pensions and their full pay. It seems unethical in a country with so few positions available.

      The resentment expressed by some against Norman is based on his discussions of discrimination in some German-speaking orchestras. These forms of intimidation and aggressive denial are one of the reasons these problems have been difficult to solve. They also hint at the atmosphere women can face in these orchestras.

  • MacroV says:

    Berlin has a new 2nd trumpet this year (name escapes me) who is just 18.

    And I think Radek Baborak became principal horn there at about age 25 (after becoming principal in the Czech Philharmonic at age 18). And left at age 34!

  • Paul Sullivan says:


    A somewhat silly comment. All major orchestras go through gradual changes as players age and new blood comes in. At present here in Boston the orchestra is quite varied with many new young players, and players now in their, 30s, 40s, etc.

    From here, after a brief search, I found a few:

    Larry Wolf 19

    Elita Kang 23

    Kathy Basrak 23

    Daniel Getz 23

    Kyle Brightwell 24

    to name a few.

    To me the comment is just as disingenuous, those that say Halls are filled the “old gray headed folks”. I started attending concerts at the age of 24 (I’m now 63) as I’m sure most of us “old fogeys” did. I can’t say how it is in other cities, but the BSO has done a great job of attracting younger people to the hall, $10 dollar High School and college student cards for selected performances,$20 dollar tickets for those under forty, young professional ticket packages for $100 (4 performances), or $200 (8 performances). It’s great to see so many new young faces here at Symphony Hall!

  • RD Lawson says:

    It’s inevitable that younger musicians replace the older ones. After all, since we all “wear out” after decades of playing in any orchestra, we need young blood in the ranks of all orchestras. Keith Bunke has done the proverbial hat trick by winning the job at the CSO, and time (one year) will tell if that orchestra has chosen wisely! My guess is that IT HAS!