New York wins battle for Chicago trumpet

New York wins battle for Chicago trumpet


norman lebrecht

February 17, 2017

The Chicago Symphony has announced that its principal trumpet since 2005, Christopher Martin, has resigned to join the New York Philharmonic.

It is believed he was heavily wooed by New York’s incoming music director, Jaap van Zweden.

The move has been on the cards since last May, when Martin took a year’s leave to play in New York and his ‘capture’ was proclaimed in the NY Times. But much has changed since then. The NY Phil has lost is president and two v-ps, is leaving its hall for three years and is failing to hold onto financial supporters. The NY Phil is an orchestra in crisis.

Chicago, on the other hand, has a popular music director, a strong ensemble and terrific public support.

This does not look like a totally smart move.


  • MacroV says:

    The Philharmonic will be fine. I’m still surprised, though, as usually one goes to try out the other orchestra for a year, then says he/she had a great time but his/her heart is really in the original orchestra.

    But now you have Eugene Izotov who left for SF, Mathieu Dufour who left for Berlin, David McGill who left to teach, and now Chris Martin leaving for New York. And the CSO still hasn’t hired anyone to replace Dale Clevenger; is a “CSO in Crisis” headline coming our way soon? Oh, an archive search shows that was covered 2 years ago:

    • Alexander Hall says:

      You could also have mentioned a former member of the CSO’s viola section, Yukiko Ogura, who left to become No. 2 and now Principal Viola of the Philharmonia Orchestra.

  • Jon H says:

    Also some attractive teaching positions to be had in NYC. The CSO basically has the challenges of everyone else – trying to find more generous donors – and they have to be extra good at it.

  • harold braun says:

    The usual self important blather by NL.The NYPO is not in a”crisis”because the management changes and he doesn’t like Mr.vanZweden.Natural changes.Mr.Martin has already a lucrative teaching job at Julliard,his wife found a job in NYC,so it’s a very smart move,from Mr.Martin’s vantage point.Both orchestras are out of this world,but the combination of opportunities in NYC is ideal.

  • C. Squarcialupi says:

    Why any brass player would leave the Chicago Symphony is beyond comprehension. Chicago has the best brass section in the world and the longest tradition of great brass playing. The New York Philharmonic has always been a bit of a hot mess in its brass. Unless this move is purely about money, it makes no sense.

    • Philip Smith says:

      “Why any brass player would leave the Chicago Symphony is beyond comprehension. Chicago has the best brass section in the world and the longest tradition of great brass playing. The New York Philharmonic has always been a bit of a hot mess in its brass. Unless this move is purely about money, it makes no sense.”
      I’m afraid that the only thing that makes no sense is this post! I played in the CSO. It was a great brass section and continues to be staffed by fine brass players. I left to go to the NYP for 36 years. It was a great brass section and will continue to be one. Yes it changed as all sections in an orchestra will change simply as personnel change over the years. However, at NO time were we ever in a hot mess!! You are entitled to a preference of concept and sound, but your quick quip lacks qualitative understanding. Signed…proud to have played in both orchestras with fine music directors, fantastic musicians and excellent staff, and very proud to have played principal trumpet with the NYP Brass for 36 years!!

      • Musician says:

        How refreshing to hear from someone who has actually played the job night after night, year after year, decade after decade, as opposed to the Monday morning quarterbacks around here. Unless you’ve been there under the hot lights, you really don’t have a clue as to what goes on in these orchestras.

      • Bob says:

        The talent is there in the NYP (it always will be). But when egos are involved and one section feels the need to compete with another section in terms of decibels of sound produced, the result is not pretty. I’ve seen concert after concert ruined by certain principal players absolutely playing too loud–to the point where not only intonation suffered but tone quality did as well. And the horn section has never been consistent. Thankfully, Mr Smith, your section was not apart of that ego trip and always played tastefully.

      • Mark Henriksen says:

        Thank you for all of the tremendous performances over the years. A beautiful brass section, for me the best!

  • Brad Heffran says:

    I go to a lot of CSO concerts each year, and Chris Martin has been magnificent as principal trumpet. So, this is sad news for Chicago but great for the NY Phil and its audiences. Hopefully the Chicago Symphony can find a worthy successor for the Adolph Herseth Principal Trumpet chair. The section will be in good hands with Mark Ridenour as acting principal. Beyond that, I hope the CSO management takes a hard look at how it’s working with the musicians, as far as compensation and other matters. When in its history has the orchestra lost so many players, especially principals?

  • Michael Martin says:


  • herrera says:

    The NY Phil has been coasting on its history for way too long … since Bernstein left. Rattle famously said he never conducted them because they’re a vipers nest.

    They don’t suffer disciplinarians long (Masur got canned and he publicly said it was against his will, poor guy he even moved to NY and bought a house), so we’ll see how long van Zweden will last.

    • MacroV says:

      Masur was MD for 10-11 years, so if he bought a house he got a decent amount of use out of it. As for Sir Simon, he supposedly saw them behave badly toward a guest conductor once; maybe there’s more to it than that, but if he were to conduct them today I’m sure they would welcome him with open arms.

  • Albert Boswell says:

    Oh, please, Norman, once again you’ve gone where you don’t know what you are talking about. You are correct that the NYP is in a state of chaos, seemingly due to the coming of Jap ZW and their exile from Lincoln Center for two years. Yes, Matt van Besien and other top execs have left. Yes, it’s a mess. But that does NOT apply to players. Chris Martin is protected by a very strong musicians’ union. And more important, an orchestra like the NYP needs star players in these key positions. The considerations for these star players is quite, quite different from senior staff administrative positions, even CEO. The more interesting question here is why Chris Martin would leave Chicago for NY. If you were to reveal the real reasons behind that, then you would have something to talk about. But it would probably not be surprising or scandalous, so it wouldn’t get clicks, so you might not be interested in writing about it. The likelihood is that Chris Martin will be in NY long after JVZ and the present crises of NYP administrative leadership and concert hall nomadism are past. So that’s a win for him, and for the Phil. And it also means that he thinks that what’s going on in Chicago with their current music director is not irresistible. So maybe you should take a look at that. You imply that leaving Muti and Chicago is a mistake. A star player doesn’t think so. Doesn’t that intrigue you?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Good comment, putting things in perspective.

      “NYP is in a state of chaos, seemingly due to the coming of Jap ZW and their exile from Lincoln Center for two years.” “Chaos” seems greatly exaggerated and the rest of the sentence entirely unfair to the incoming MD. JvZweden was chosen unanimously by the orchestra, especially the players wanted him. There will have been other reasons for staff members to seek other jobs and my suspicion is that it simply may be the perspective of a couple of difficult years ahead because of the hall refurbishment and the logistics resulting from playing at other venues and getting audiences to the concerts. All that will mean extra hard work for staff, especially marketing, and extra stress on top of the regular stresses that working in NY brings with it. Add to that the half-hostile attitude of local music journalists towards the symphony orchestra in general, who would want to have such ensemble be more compatible with skyscrapers aesthetics, and you see why staff, being a bit worn-down by experience, would seek more humane places. Van Zweden, in contrary, comes-in with fresh experience from other places and a strong reputation for building-up orchestras and strong roots in the European tradition.

  • herrera says:

    Fake News.

    The day Galway quit Berlin was the beginning of the end: Galway is now unemployed, Berlin is now in Baden Baden, and Karajan is now dead.

  • Bob says:

    The NYP would be a great brass section if they could get their principal horn and principal trombone to realize that blasting their brains out and playing as loud as possible every chance they get is not artistry. The CSO section of today is much more sublime and able to play much more tastefully. Martin clearly had motives outside of the quality of the orchestra for going to NY.