New York Phil nails principal trumpet

The tug of war is over.

Earlier this week, Christopher Martin asked the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for a year’s leave of absence to play with the New York Philharmonic.

Today the NY Phil press department (also known as the New York Times) has announced that he is their new principal trumpet.

Maestro Muti will not be pleased.

christopher martin

It looks like Mr Martin has been talking to New York’s incoming music director.

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  • Well,the concert pictured above was in 2012,when Mr.Martin premiered Christopher Rouse’s Trumpet concerto with the CSO under Mr.Van Zweden.Long before both of them thought of the NYPO…

  • – “It looks like Mr Martin has been talking to New York’s incoming music director.”

    …or not, if one reads the linked article:
    “Mr. Martin, who was offered the position by Alan Gilbert, […] will succeed Philip Smith, who retired in 2014 after 36 seasons with the orchestra.”

  • Sigh. Of course the Philharmonic is going to make such an announcement, and they’re not going to get into “Mr. Martin has taken leave from Chicago and will serve a 1-2 year probation period with the Philharmonic.” i.e. nothing is preventing him from going back to the CSO after a year, once his sabbatical from the CSO is done and he has to make a decision.

    Here’s the similar announcement on Stephen Williamson who, in case anyone isn’t aware, went back to the CSO after his year: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/new-york-philharmonic-names-principal-clarinetist/

    • Something like that happened in the past couple years between the Philadelphia Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic. It was reported in Philadelphia that the The Philadelphia’s principal trombone player was leaving and taking the same position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. After a season in L.A., he came back to Philly to resume his old position.

      • That is not quite what happened in Philadelphia. His sabatical expired and he received tenure with Los Angeles. After having the Philadelphia position filled with an interum player Philadelphia announced auditions for permanent placement. For personal reasons the former principal player came to the audition and won back his former position. It was not a case of returning at the end of his sabatical.

  • Mehta assembled the premier principal brass players in the world in New York during his reign. Over time, those principals assembled their sections. The principal trumpet, one of the best of all time, retired and it makes sense that they are looking for a unique player who fits in to what has been established there. Martin has a remarkable presence and sound that should fit in well in the NY Phil. His pedigree matches the trumpet section already there. I would guess that he is going with tenure and the leave of absence is for family reasons.

    • Huh? Just how does a principal player assemble a section? Every position is auditioned separately and when a principal arrives, the other players may have been there for a few years and will be there a bit longer. Or maybe a lot longer. Sure, stay around long enough and those around you will retire and you might have some (but not necessarily a lot of) influence over the selection of the replacement. But principal players don’t assemble sections, just as music directors generally don’t hire new players – the committees do. And in this day and age, with the standard of playing so high, it’s pretty hard NOT to assemble a great section.

      • The views of a highly respected principal player such as Phil Smith would be given a lot of weight by other audition committee members. Depending on who the music director is, even the music director might defer to the principal player in making the final choice of who plays in the section. In that sense, a player such as Phil Smith in NY or Adolph Herseth in Chicago could be said to have “assembled” their sections during their distinguished careers. They may not have made the choices unilaterally, but they would have had tremendous influence in who got hired and who got tenure.

    • Well, I don’t understand why the CSO extended the leave. Now its flexibility looks not only generous but a little foolish.

      • If by “extended” you mean “permitted”, I believe they are required to permit it under the conditions of the collective bargaining agreement they have with the musicians.

      • Likely because of the (probably a very small) chance they would get him back-ie if he doesn’t get tenure in NY. Not granting an extension (or even denying a leave, if allowable, and depending on the orchestra’s contract this may or may not be allowable in certain instances) may have forced a resignation of a truly fine player from one orchestra and then if that player doesn’t gain tenure in their new orchestra, they become a “free agent”–not contracted with anyone. And then the audition process starts all over.

        • This happens all the time, and not only in very big and world renowned orchestras. The reasons are well explained above. And even in the unlikely case when some tenured player asks for a leave whom the orchestra would not really mind to exchange, it might be smarter to grant the request. Otherwise that player might shy back from the move.

    • Huh? Chris Martin has nothing in his sound that distinguishes him from dozens of other players. He might be more accurate than a lot of them but is that really what we look for most in a player? He has a very boring sound compared to Herseth, Sachs, Rolfs, Schlueter, Kaderabek, Adelstein, Fischtal, etc. It seems he never even plays louder than mf.

  • There are two other Northwestern alums in the trumpet section, some other past ASO members in the brass section – and if NY offers better pay (slightly more expensive city though), it would be hard to turn down. I think the other two Northwestern alums were chosen under Phil Smith’s tenure (who himself had ties to Chicago). With Joe Alessi next door things will be super tight.

    The question is what people like Mark Gould think of this – none of the NYC trained trumpet players seem to be feeding the Philharmonic. I guess it’s like Phil Smith told Julie Landsman years ago – you have to leave NYC to get experience so that you’re qualified to come back.

    • Slightly more expensive city?
      You could also say NYC is slightly less hospitable city, especially for a young family. I’m hoping he comes back to Chicago, a much nicer place to live.

      • I can’t imagine Chris would take the gig without being granted tenure on the spot. That’s how it went when he moved to Chicago. He has nothing more to prove as a player. Chris is at the top of his game. He’s also a grounded, humble, and warm person. He will fill Phil’s shoes in more ways than one.

  • Is it just me or has the trumpet section since Phil left been less than par in terms of sound and discipline for a “top 5” orchestra? This new appointment couldn’t come soon enough to whip,the section back into shape worthy of the Philharmonic name…..

    • He’s nowhere near as bad as Clevenger was his last few years. In fact, I wouldn’t even call him bad now, just not quite as good as he was 20 years ago.

  • I’m going to have to bookmark this thread, to return to a year from now when the Times issues this article:

    Philharmonic Principal Trumpet to Return to Chicago Symphony:

    [yada yada yada]

    Said Martin: “I had a great time this year with the Philharmonic; they are an amazing orchestra and I learned so much. But I decided that the CSO is my home. I’m very grateful to Maestro Gilbert and the orchestra members for giving me this opportunity and I wish them all the best.”

    • That’s my hope too, for all the reasons Greg posted above. I honestly cannot imagine he’ll enjoy living in NYC.

    • Let’s hope not. If he stays in NY that means Ridenour might take over the CSO job (that would be AWESOME)

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