press release:

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will welcome two new staff conductors at the start of the 2015-2016 season. Andrés Franco and Francesco Lecce-Chong both will join the symphony staff as assistant conductors.

Recently named music director of Tulsa’s Signature Symphony at TCC as well as assistant conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Franco is also in his fifth season as principal conductor of the multimedia project Caminos del Inka and his third season as artistic director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Summer Festival. Along with his conducting duties at the Pittsburgh Symphony, he’ll debut with the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra in the 2015-2016 season.


“I am very excited to be joining the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra team! I was in Pittsburgh for the season finale concerts and was very inspired by the passion, commitment and energy the orchestra brings to the stage,” says Franco. “This is truly one of the world’s great orchestras and it is an honor to work with Maestro Honeck and these wonderful musicians. I look forward to becoming part of the Pittsburgh Symphony family and getting to know and interact with our amazing audience, board and staff.”

A native of Colombia, Franco holds a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, as well as Master of Music degrees in piano performance and conducting from Texas Christian University.

Lecce-Chong comes to Pittsburgh after four years as associate conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. He will return to Milwaukee in the 2015-2016 season for several guest engagements and will make his debut at the Florentine Opera. He will continue to serve as associate conductor of the Grand Teton Music Festival.


“I am thrilled to be joining the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and look forward to working with Maestro Honeck, the musicians, staff and supporters,” says Lecce-Chong. “It is inspiring to join such a vibrant organization, with a rich history committed to the arts throughout its own city and the world. I am very excited to become a part of the Pittsburgh community and grateful for the opportunity to share in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s magnificent artistry.”

A native of Boulder, Colorado, where he began conducting at the age of 16, Lecce-Chong is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music, where he received his Bachelor of Music degree with honors in piano and orchestral conducting. Lecce-Chong also holds a diploma from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied as a Martin and Sarah Taylor Fellow with Otto-Werner Mueller. He has been mentored by many world-renowned conductors, including Edo de Waart and Donald Runnicles, with whom he continues to maintain a close working relationship.

Lecce-Chong also has been named the music director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra (PYSO) and will conduct weekly rehearsals of the 95-member ensemble, which performs free concerts at Heinz Hall as well as outreach concerts in the Pittsburgh area. He succeeds Lawrence Loh who held the position for seven years.

Sir Peter Jonas, retired intendant of the Bavarian State Opera, tells us what happened when a visit by the Munich company’s orchestra with its fast-rising conductor was proposed to the BBC Proms.



Kirill Petrenko is one of the great conductors of our time and only in Britain has he been somewhat undervalued and or ignored. His work at the Komische Oper was superb and his performances, as well as his uncompromising leadership qualities and integrity at the Bavarian State Opera, have been thrilling, inspiring and edifying in that they have given many of us faith and belief in the musical future of such institutions.

He is not shy but, rather, in his single-minded pursuit of his musical dream, completely concentrated on the musical task at hand. One prays that he will see out the whole of his contract in Munich as the Staatsorchester at the Opera have flourished working with him (let us not forget this was Carlos Kleiber’s favourite orchestra and had a such a close, affectionate and rewarding relationship with Zubin Mehta during his era as MD).

Maybe this is the riposte to the infamous reply of the BBC Proms management as the Staatsorchester’s committee and their management offered themselves to the Proms for 2016 on tour and were sent away with the exclamation….’Oh no…. Kirill Petrenko?…We do not really know about him over here….’!!! Little Britain!!

The tour will happen…all over Europe but without London and the Proms, which the players are sad about.

Mary O’Reilly, a violinist in the Rottderdam Philharmonic Orchestra, is one of hundreds of students who bonded with the great musician Gunther Schuller, and who never lost touch after they left college.

Mary has written this memoir of Gunther for Slipped Disc.


Although I regularly think of Gunther Schuller, today I am flooded with memories. When in the early 1970’s I as an 18 year old freshman first stood on the stage of New England Conservatory’s renowned Jordan Hall auditioning for orchestral placement I had of course no inkling of what the future would bring, just dreams, hopes and aspirations. And there I first encountered ‘President’ Schuller.

In the course of the years to follow, it transpired that he guided me continually and intensely. It would be an enormous understatement to simply say that he influenced me profoundly, no; he shaped me in a multitude of ways as a musician and person. Through him I gained deep insights into practically ever aspect of the career I would later carve for myself. The knowledge and training he offered me (as well as to scores of others), and the information he imparted, gave us the tools to pursue our dreams, each in our own fashion.

I could reminisce about personal experiences gained (as solo first violinist) during worldwide tours with the NEC Ragtime Ensemble, concerts in major American summer festival venues, recordings and television appearances, a state dinner in the White House – all envisioned, coordinated and directed by himself.

It was a state dinner for the Italian government, with President Ford. We were on tour in Europe with the NEC orch and chorus (another massive undertaking on his part), and I had planned to go visit my parents in Ireland. But that all changed when the invitation from the White House came in – off we went to DC!

gunther schuller ragtime
Gunther Schuller with the NEC Ragtime ensemble, Mary is 3rd from right

Then there were the years I was granted to benefit from his intense tutelage whilst concertmaster of the NEC orchestra and first violinist of his Contemporary Ensemble with two marvellous summers studying at Tanglewood. The performance opportunities he provided were invaluable, though we as students took them all in stride. It can safely be said that he was more than demanding, highly critical, and never minced any words. Often I do think and reflect upon these highlights, but the thoughts that today preside in my mind regard his undying affection and consideration for his students.

He and I never lost touch, and would always meet whenever he was engaged in a production here in the Netherlands. The fact that an ocean separated us never kept us apart. We would often drive around Amsterdam looking at hotel rooms which might possibly suit his him on his next visit. Major criteria? The size of the desk – for composing, of course! Only recently he called just for a chat, and gave me the full rundown on his many endeavors of the moment. Without Gunther’s mentorship my musical life would have been far less fulfilling and/or successful. He offered us as students the opportunity to acquire the tools necessary to enter the world of the successful professional musician. And he loved us and stood by us throughout our careers. It was education par excellence. Thank you Gunther Schuller, what a gift to have known you for so long. Already I miss you exceedingly, but you will live with me forever.

(c) Mary O’Reilly/Slipped Disc

Andrey Boreyko, conductor: ‘Great choice’.

Daniel Harding, conductor: ‘A serious, humble, dedicated and fascinating musician.’

Anon. conductor: ‘He’s Kleiberesque.’

Sir Peter Jonas, retired intendant: ‘This is a wonderful and visionary appointment for the Berlin Philharmonic and Berlin itself as the artistic centre of Europe. Kirill Petrenko is one of the great conductors of our time.’

Germany’s Culture Minister, Monika Grütters: ‘A lovely surprise, a brilliant choice, a strong signal.’

Fabio Luisi, conductor:  ‘one of the most serious, no-nonsense conductors around, a man dedicated to music, a great colleague and a musician who doesn’t care about personal fame and success, but only cares about the integrity of art.’

Dietmar Schwarz, Intendant of the Deutsche Oper Berlin: ‘A universal conductor’.

kirill petrenko conducting2


The separated tenor is being seen out and about a lot with Vienna stage director Christiane Lutz. They’ve been hanging out together for quite a while. Could be getting serious. says our social correspondent.

See their latest picture together here in Kurier.


kaufmann girlfriend

When the leaders of the Berlin Philharmonic staggered, weary and confused, from a May election that split the orchestra between supporters of Christian Thielemann and Andris Nelsons, they knew that there was not time to waste in choosing an compromise candidate. Either of the first choices would have damaged the orchestra beyond repair as the players continued their feud.

Petrenko had conducted the orchestra three times since 2006 and showed no ambition for having a closer relationship. A modest man, focussed closely on music and musicians, he took over only two years ago as music director of Bavarian State Opera. In previous contacts with Berlin he had declared himself unavailable.

But he had a good time in Berlin as music director of the Komische Oper and got to know several of the Berlin Phil players. In the face of their powerful need for a unifying candidate, his resistance crumbled.

He is, beyond question, a brilliant and intense conductor, a leader who fights for his musicians and spares no effort in achieving the best musical results.

His drawbacks? He is unknown outside Germany and attractively shy.

The Berlin Phil is a figurehead role. He will need to change, fast.


Kirill Petrenko was elected yesterday as chief conductor Designate of the Berlin Philharmonic and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. He will succeed Simon Rattle in 2018. He confirmed his acceptance to the orchestra last night.

Petrenko, 43, will need to withdraw as music director of the Bavarian State Opera (although some German media suggest he might retain both posts for a while).

He is the orchestra’s first Russian-born chief, and the first Jewish person to hold that post.

kirill petrenko conducting

First commentary here.

press release:

During an orchestra assembly yesterday Kirill Petrenko was elected by a large majority of the members of the Berliner Philharmoniker as the Chief Conductor Designate of the orchestra and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation. He succeeds Sir Simon Rattle, who will leave the orchestra in August of 2018. Kirill Petrenko said: “Words cannot express my feelings – everything from euphoria and great joy to awe and disbelief. I am aware of the responsibility and high expectations of me, and I will do everything in my power to be a worthy conductor of this outstanding orchestra. Above all, however, I hope for many moments of artistic happiness in our music-making together which will reward our hard work and fill our lives as artists with meaning.”

Orchestra Board members Ulrich Knörzer and Peter Riegelbauer said: “We are extremely pleased that Kirill Petrenko has accepted his election as Chief Conductor Designate of our orchestra. We look forward to our musical future together with great confidence.” General Manager Martin Hoffmann: “As General Manager of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation I am delighted about the election and offer the orchestra and Kirill Petrenko my hearty congratulations.” Sir Simon Rattle: “I have admired Kirill Petrenko for years, and I am delighted that he will be my successor with this wonderful orchestra. I congratulate the Philharmoniker on making such a forwardlooking decision.”

Players and scribblers are slow to arrive at the music director announcement, but photographers are out in force.

Petrenko is a shy man, unused to the hack pack. Let’s hope they don’t scare him off.

berlin philharmonie

Luciana Berger, one of the most eligible MPs in the House of Commons and a former interest of Chuka Umana, tied the knot yesterday in a Liverpool synagogue with local band manager (Man Get Out) Alistair Goldsmith.


photo: Luciana Berger/JC

A ceremony yesterday at Truro Cathedral in Cornwall commemorated the life of Joseph Emidy (1775-1835), a slave violinist from West Africa who became leader of the local orchestra. He was also a composer, ‘his sinfonias … evincing not only deep musical research, but also those flights of genius.’

Full report here on BBC Cornwall.


joseph emidy

Unless a Karita Mattila stride on stage and dispels all doubts, there will always be morning-after questions at any major competition as to whether the judges had picked the right winner.

Right, in two senses: that the trophy holder was the strongest of all talents available, and that he or she has the ambition and resilience to step out and conquer the world.

Those doubts are being heard this morning about Nadine Koutcher, 32, from Belarus, who overcame a wobbly start to convince the judges that she had greater staying power than the Mongolian, Amartuvshin Enkhbat (the audience favourite), or the Korean, Jongmin Park (the Song Prize winner), both of whom were very much the finished object – big singers, big personalities.

What did they do to lose? They took no risks. Koutcher, after seeming to be over-groomed, went for Delibes’s Bell Song totally exposed on the roof of Notre Dame, nailing every last note. Her daring won it.

She has nothing to lose but her obscurity.

nadine koutcher wins

You can watch the final here.

Henrik Nánási has announced he doesn’t want to be Generalmusikdirektor of the Komische Oper any more. The Hungarian conductor will leave in 2017, when his contract expires, to pursue an international career.

photo: IMG