Death of a US music director

Death of a US music director


norman lebrecht

February 09, 2017

A student of Pierre Monteux, Sidney Rothstein was music director at several US orchestras.

He founded the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia and was its music director from 1964 to 1976.

From 1980 to 1984 he was with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and later with the Florida Symphony in Orlando, finally settling with the Ridgefield Connecticut Symphony Orchestra from 1996 to 2006.

Throughout, he led the Reading Symphony in Pennsylvania for 30 years.

Sidney Rothstein has died, aged 80.

Video report here.


  • MWnyc says:

    From the linked story: “Rothstein served as conductor and music director for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, later the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, from 1980 until 1984.”

    Key point: Not to be confused with the Holy City’s own Charleston Symphony Orchestra (more frequently mentioned at Slipped Disc), South Carolina’s largest performing arts organization. (And yes, considering that the Charleston Symphony’s mentions at Slipped Disc have mostly been about financial crises, that does say something about the condition of the arts in my home state.)

  • Rich C. says:

    He did a *real* Mahler 8th (by that I mean a full 1000 participants) in 1976 with his Orchestra Society of Philadelphia. He did it in a National Guard Armory near the University of Pennsylvania campus. It even made a brief mention on the national CBS Evening News. Oh, and he taught at my high school, Central High School for several years in the late ’60 and early ’70s.

    • Nick says:

      It seems you live in Philadelphia. Perhaps you can clear up a confusion for me. Ling Tung was another Philadelphia-based conductor who had a pick-up orchestra in the city. He features in one of NL’s books. Was this the same Orchestra Society of Philadelphia?

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        Here’s an answer: Ling Tung was a violinist in the Phila Orch who founded an excellent professional free-lance (pick-up) orchestra in the 1960s-70s originally called the Camden Symphony. The first concert featured Anna Moffo as soloist. He was also conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic for a period. Ling did guest conduct conduct OSOP frequently. He conducted at the Grand Teton Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he was also artistic director for a time.

        I was a founding member of OSOP and the principal clarinet for that Mahler 8 performance in 1976 (the first complete performance in Philadelphia since Stokowski in 1916! OSOP was basically a volunteer reading orchestra which met on Friday evenings, first at Thomas Jefferson University, then for many years at Drexel University. They NEVER gave concerts (founded in 1964 by Sidney Rothstein and hornist Morris Goldman) for the first few years of existence. It was founded as an alternative to the Symphony Club of Philadelphia and used the same resource for its performance materials: The Edwin A. Fleisher Collection of The Free Library of Philadelphia.

        Sidney had a charismatic personality with a musical vision very advanced for the time. He gave a performance of Mahler 3 at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia (a large discotheque in an old industrial space) that was a precursor of the theatrical presentations of symphonic works that we witness today. (Sound and light shows, informal dress for the audience, low ticket prices, etc). I saw Sid last in Reading in 2006 when attended a Curtis Orchestra concert at the Rajah Theater.

        RIP, Sid.

      • Rich C. says:

        Tung also had an orchestra in Philadelphia called the Philharmonia Orchestra. They played three concerts a year in the Academy of Music from around the early ’70s to about 1976.

        • Nick says:

          Thank you Robert and Rich for filling in the gaps. I believe Ling Tung changed the name of his Camden Symphony to the Philharmonia of Philadelphia when Walter Legge sold him the Philharmonia name after the original London Philharmonia went bankrupt. It must have been after some years as the New Philharmonia that the London orchestra arranged a buy-back of the name, part of that deal being Tung’s conducting in London. I imagine his rather good Rachmaninov Second was recorded immediately after that performance.

          Until I read NL’s book years ago, I had no idea anyone could copyright a name like Philharmonia! There must surely be hundreds of them around the world!

          • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

            Correct. The Camden Symphony morphed into the Philharmonia. Ling was connected to the Pitcairn family (of PPG fame and Bryn Athyn, PA) because of his wife, I believe. Ling died in 2011. Camden, of course, is not only the name of the city in New Jersey across the river from Philadelphia, but also the name of the second label of RCA classics. RCA headquarters used to be in Camden next to the Ben Franklin Bridge and their buildings proudly displayed “Nipper” the dog listening to a gramophone “his master’s voice.” Ling Tung had a knack for recreating the Ormandy sound featuring lush strings.

    • Gary Freedman says:

      I attended Central High School in Philadelphia (230), where Rothstein was the instrumental teacher in the late 60s. I played violin in the school orchestra. I still remember a concert we gave at Girls High in late March 1968: Brahms’ Tragic Overture, The Tchaikovsky 5th first movement, excerpts from Strauss’s Rosenkavalier, and the Mozart Requiem.

  • Ilio says:

    IIRC, Rothstein did the first performance of Mahler’s 10th in Honolulu.