Mini Maestro move: Pittsburgh chooses Canadian baton

Mini Maestro move: Pittsburgh chooses Canadian baton


norman lebrecht

April 24, 2018

Earl Lee is the new associate conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony, replacing Francesco Lecce-Chong.

He is presently resident conductor of the Toronto Symphony and artistic director of its youth orchestra.



  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Wow. Doesn’t this say something about the state of affairs in Toronto? They’ve built hundreds of new apartment buildings and skyscrapers in Toronto, but they don’t have money or impetus to build a new and decent sounding concert hall? It’s become a strange place, in my opinion.

  • MacroV says:

    This says nothing about the state of affairs in Toronto; it’s about a young conductor getting a new and presumably better job.

    But I’ll bite: Roy Thompson Hall opened in 1982 and IIRC was renovated about 15 years ago, which to my knowledge probably improved it but not sufficiently, I gather. Still, it’s new enough that they’re unlikely to build a new one, no matter how terrible its acoustics might be. I actually kind of liked Massey Hall when I heard the TSO there (during the RTH renovation, I assume).

    • V.Lind says:

      Massey Hall has great acoustics. It is almost entirely wood (ref to Rob Macalear’s post below) — I always heard beautifully wherever I sat.

    • Anthony Kershaw says:

      Utter dreck. Even worse than RFH in London, if that’s possible?

      On both stages, you have to work twice as hard for half the quality. You come off drained, or not giving a crap, or both.

  • Rob McAlear says:

    I was working for Decca when Sir Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic came to Toronto back in the 1990s. The first time Solti walked onstage at Roy Thomson Hall, he looked around, shook his head and said, ” Een zis countrrree of trees zey build a hall of cement…”

  • msc says:

    While Roy Thomson is acoustically (and aesthetically) garbage, the TSO plays some concerts at Koerner Hall in the Royal Conservatory of Music, which seats almost 1200. I believe they also sometimes play at the George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, which seats a few more than 1000. They are both superb venues. Nonetheless, the TSO needs a new home, but such is the commitment from the arts mavens in Toronto to Roy Thomson I cannot imagine it being abandoned. It underwent expensive renovations in 2002. And if it were abandoned, they would have to sell the excellent Kney organ.

    • Anthony Kershaw says:

      When asked after the first few rehearsals about the acoustical qualities of RTH, the great concertmaster, Steven Staryk, said:

      ‘There’s only one way to fix it. Tepperman’s (local construction company) Wrecking Company’. lol

  • Arthur Kaptainis says:

    Much of the above commentary (original and quoted) disregards the 2002 renovation, undertaken by Artec Consultants, the company founded by the late Russell Johnson (and rolled into the engineering giant Arup in 2013). The main work was to reduce the volume of the interior with bulkheads. It worked. Post-2002 RTH is not a bad place (although there are various design problems related to entry and exit). Old notions die hard. Massey Hall was indeed wonderful but is now used only for pop acts (and will itself be renovated).

  • Nick2 says:

    I am reminded of the extremely poor acoustics in the Concert Hall of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, another city flush with cash. This was designed by the government’s Chief Architect who probably had never been in a concert hall in his life. So he copied the hall in Christchurch – and oval with a kink! – and brought in its acoustics chief, a Professor Marshall, to work with him. Like many halls it has louvres to open and close depending on the the type of music being performed. When Isaac Stern, Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Nobuko Imai performed three evenings of chamber music during the month-long opening festival in 1989, the louvres were closed. Stern walked in, looked around and called in a loud voice, “Bring me the acoustician!” When Marshall quickly arrived, Stern asked the purpose of the louvres and why they were closed. I am certain Stern knew perfectly well and was merely playing with Marshall! After being told, he basically said “Rubbish! Open them up!” And the acoustic for chamber music was better with them open than for a full symphony orchestra as designed.

    It makes me wonder how Jaap van Zweden can make the Hong Kong Philharmonic sound like a superb orchestra when it has to play in that dreadful Hall.

  • Anon says:

    How about we leave the senseless pissing match and Toronto-concert-hall bashing and maybe we could just celebrate and congratulate Earl on a job well done and best for the future. Let’s put on our adult pants today!

    We can also ignore Lebrecht’s ignorant and somewhat passive aggressive “mini maestro” jab…whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. Once again…adult pants.

    Congratulations Earl. All the very best!