Chicago principal trumpet to play next season with NY Phil

John von Rhein has the story here:

Eugene Izotov, now principal oboe of the San Francisco Symphony, is no longer listed on the personnel page of the CSO program book, and his resignation has yet to be announced. Management has further declined comment on internal reports that CSO principal trumpet Christopher Martin will take a leave of absence next season to play first chair trumpet with the New York Philharmonic.

Do such key personnel changes bother Muti? Do they threaten the orchestra’s musical identity and well-being?

“Absolutely not,” he replied. “With all respect to Izotov, no player is indispensable in this orchestra. I spoke with Chris Martin today. He is very close to the Chicago Symphony but he wants another experience (away from the orchestra). So we shall see. Change is natural in symphony orchestras.’



photo: Todd Rosenberg

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  • Why should he bother…Assistant principal trumpet Mark Ridenour is just as good…and he was an outstanding acting principal for two years after Craig Morris wasn’t given tenure in 2003.Actually he should be offered the job in case Mr.Martin stays in NY….heck of a player!

    • My sentiments exactly, Harold. Riddenour carried this Orchestra for years and did a stellar job. I do have to say that Mr. Martin really nailed An Alpine Symphony this past Saturday evening.

  • A simple Google search would have taken you to Mr Izotov’s website where it states he was appointed Principal Oboe of the San Francisco Symphony in 2014.

  • Why not, like free agency in sports, if you’re a star player, you go to play for the highest bidder, and the only way to negotiate a better deal from your current franchise is to have offers from elsewhere.

    Muti has multiple musical mistresses and would leave Chicago in a heartbeat if Vienna offered him a sweeter deal, so why shouldn’t his players?

    • Absolutely. When Chicago was in its Reiner/Martinon/Solti years, it developed a pretty stable roster of players that we all knew. I wonder if in the current climate that’s not more a thing of the past. I don’t follow these things as closely anymore, so others will hopefully weigh in, but I’m wondering if the era of the “Chicago Sound”, the “Cleveland Sound”, the “Boston Sound”, and the star principals who contributed to those distinctive sounds and styles is long past. I know CSO doesn’t sound the same to me as it did during their prime years under Solti. Not better or worse, just different.

        • I would say that the Mahler 5,6,7 recordings around 1971 define the Solti/Chicago sound in a most favorable way.

          • Yes, I had the 6 and 7, having been directed that way by British disc critics. The period might be termed Early Sterile for the CSO, and Mahler’s music does benefit from a clinical approach.

    • That being said, no orchestra is going to go into a bidding war for a principal player. It makes no sense, economically or artistically.

      That is what Muti means when he says, “with all respect to Izotov, no player is indispensable in this orchestra”, meaning Izotov is good, but there is a cap to salaries, no matter how good you are. Plus, Chicago can hardly be accused of not being among the 1 or 2 highest paying orchestras in the world.

      Finally, it’s counter-productive to create a caste system among orchestra members, where there are divas who get higher pay, more vacation days, more fringe benefits, it breaks down social cohesion among players.

      • It may be counter-productive, but it can happen. Principal players often negotiate their own contracts, which can include not only more money but also more vacation days and things like not having to play kiddie concerts. In Berlin under Abbado, for instance, I remember reading that it was common for the wind principals to show up at a recording session without having to play any of the rehearsals or performances.

        Here’s an article from about 5 years ago regarding pay in the Philadelphia Orchestra. IIRC it came out during some contentious contract negotiations, which is the only time this kind of information tends to reach the general public:

        • It should be noted that since this article’s publication and ensuing PO bankruptcy, its orchestra members have yet to recoup the basic wages and benefits taken away by said bankruptcy. Their defined-benefit pension is gone along with now nine full-time rostered musicians.

          • All true. I thought about mentioning that. The point I was focusing on was the difference between “rank & file” pay and “star principal” pay, so I chose not to go into it. (But it may be relevant: if all the big stars in that article were earning basic principal pay — for concertmaster it’s generally section scale x2, for other principal it’s often section x1.25 or so — the difference would probably pay for those nine musicians.)

  • I’m not familiar enough with Verdi to know what (per the article) “…the encrustations of shoddy performance “tradition”…” would be in a work like this.

    What are they?

    • Generally, things like when singers traditionally interpolate high notes so the audience can experience the glory of their voice, or when conductors bend the tempo to milk extra emotion from the music. I’m not familiar enough with “Falstaff” to know just where such moments might be… maybe Mistress Quickly’s “Revere-e-e-e-e-e-e-heh-hennnn-za” (if you’ve got someone who’s especially proud of her glorious low register)?

  • I would bet Chris Martin will come back after a year in New York, just as Steve Williamson did; why not get the experience of playing with another group, and enhance your market value by showing another top orchestra is interested in you? Absolutely no downside.

    Didn’t realize Eugene Izotov had actually left for San Francisco, but he had a history there, and it IS San Francisco.

    • Williamson actually flip-flopped and tried to go back to NYP one more time but they said no. You can only jerk these groups around so much.

      • Rumors, tumors. I have seen no proof of this, nor does it make any sense, given that the NY Phil hired Anthony McGill the next year.

      • Rumors, rumors. I have seen no proof of this, nor does it make any sense, given that the NY Phil hired Anthony McGill the next year.

      • Both the players from Chicago and Philadelphia were patently bad fits in New York (where their relatively stuffy and uncentered sounds, respectively, became very obvious fatal flaws). Thank goodness they got onto McGill.

    • Bad timing if he’s wanting to give van Zweden a try.

      JvZ won’t actually start in NY until 2018-2019

      • Not to mention when Van Zweden finally comes in 2018, they’ll be renovating David Geffen Hall … so he might not even be back in Lincoln Center until 2020.

    • Perhaps. But what’s the alternative? Orchestras need a leader for at least a 10-year tenure. Even Berlin needs a leader to mold their sound, however strongly the players collectively believe they could maintain the “Berlin sound” on their own. Only Vienna has such a strong tradition that it can embody its sound, passing it on from professor to student, but it comes at a terrible, terrible price: lack of diversity, mainly discrimination against women (forget blacks, I don’t see a black person in Vienna for the next 50 years, imagine saying that about any other orchestra in the world, it’d be a scandal).

      So it is with Chicago. You can tire of Muti, but who’s out there who has the authority to keep Chicago in tip top shape? Not any of the young guns, none of them proven to be orchestra builders.

  • I much prefer Ridenour over Martin anyway so if this eventuates in Ridenour finally getting the job he equally deserved in 2005, great! This is not at all cause for concern. Martin isn’t Herseth and he is very replaceable. No idea why Martin wants to go into the NYP and the insufferably boring Gilbert, but have at it!

    • I agree with Mark Ridenour should be given the chair. Given the “softer and mello” approach that so many orchestra’s take (both in Europe and the US) – the move to rotary horns, deeper mouthpieces (and the Yamaha gold-alloy) – has taken the brilliance out of the trumpet section. This brilliance is the icing on the cake and needs to be heard. Herseth could play soft (i.e. the ppp opening of Mahler 1) and still be heard.

  • You read my mind, Rick. Scary. Sometimes, when Martin takes a week off, I’ll drift off at the concert and just get lost in the performance. I’ll then suddenly wake up when Riddenour plays, thinking for a second that Bud is back.

  • The grapevine tells me that Chris Martin wants more time with his family, i.e. a bit more time away from the orchestra, and NYP was willing to work with him, while CSO management said “no, the schedule is the schedule and your off-time is your own concern.” Recent Symphony Orchestra League stuff encourages orchestra management to treat the players like dolts or widgets. While organizations in the league of Chicago, New York, et al are less apt to do so, a look at the recent uproar in Louisville can be instructive. At one point, the board advertised on Craigs List for musicians.

    No animus intended for management or players here. I wish the best for Chris and the Orchestra, and hope they can come to some kind of understanding. The greybeards in the brass section so a lot to bring younger players in and get them up to speed in the “Chicago” approach to orchestral playing. I agree with an earlier poster that Chris is no Herseth, and I would not want him to be. Current directors are hearing groups like Candadian Brass, Empire Brass, Meridien Arts Ensemble, and like the less jarring, more refined approach to playing. Styles naturally evolve, just as orchestras do.

    Good luck to Chris in NY, and I do hope he returns to Chicago with some kind of amicable arrangement that lets him see his kids when they are awake, before they graduate college.

    • If orchestras now prefer the laid back playing of Chris Martin over what a Herseth played like, that might explain why orchestras are all so much more boring to listen to and indistinguishable from one another. They all sound the same and I don’t know any good arguments why that’s a good thing. Ridenour, thankfully, is closer to Herseth’s sound than Martin’s.

      I think orchestral musicians should someday realize what it’s like to work in most jobs in America where the worker has almost no say in what goes on and where you just suck it up and accept it.

  • Hustling is the name of the game–endless zeal for more and money—that is their “value” system in america –money/more–when that is the “value,” then they have NO values.
    A nation of hustlers and swindlers each sussing the other up for a buck and see how far they can ride each other. That’s why the country /corporation failed. Why few can even respect these classical conartists. Let them play to geriatrics and boomer/millenial rich trust funders and yes darlings to appear sophisticated. Clowns.

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