Orchestra in remission loses its conductor

Orchestra in remission loses its conductor


norman lebrecht

May 15, 2019

Five years ago, the once-celebrated Rochester Philharmonic split down the middle over a Norwegian conductor, Arild Remmereit.

After firing Remmereit, the orchestra hired a local lad, Ward Stare, then 31, to heal the divisions.

He seemed inexperienced at the time.

Today, Stare announced he’d had enough.

Rochester was once a hub of adventure and premieres, tied into the Eastman School of Music. Today, it’s almost off the map.




  • drummerman says:

    Very strange. I knew several of the most senior people in the Philharmonic’s administration and they were extremely enthusiastic when they hired Maestro Stare. Wonder what the underlying reason is?

    • MWnyc says:

      He’ll have been there seven years. I think there’s a very good chance he has a more high-profile job in the pipeline.

  • Geoff says:

    He did the two concertos with Yuja Wang a couple of years . Did great for a young local boy. What is wrong now in Rochester?

  • daveferre says:

    David Zinman (RPO conductor 1974 to 1985, the Glory Years), don’t read this. Chris Seaman as well.

  • Debra says:

    So sorry about this ! I hope the Rochester Phil finds a worthy replacement . Rochester, NY needs a reputable symphony orchestra !

  • Dave says:

    Who? And, who?

  • Patrick says:

    The only other Stare I know. Corporal Stare, via Robert Graves.

    RPO “off the map” — naw. You knew them from recordings. By that standard the LSO is off the map.

  • Pauker says:

    He is a very fine conductor. RPO’s loss.

    • Patricia Yeiser says:

      Young conductors move around quickly. They are always looking for an orchestra that will give them more recognition…it seems like a life-long goal. And age doesn’t seem to ameliorate the compulsion. Look at how many adult conductors have more than one orchestra, often in different countries,at a time.Not to mention the “Guest Conductor” slots that are so popular. They spend much of their time in airports and strange hotel rooms. It doesn’t seem like much of a life….

  • Ben O. Valence says:

    Under Stare’s direction, the orchestra will shortly release a world-premiere recording later this month, and recently announced its 2019-2020 season “will highlight musical trailblazers and innovators, Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony and suffragist history, and accomplished women composers and performers”.

    This is Rochester, NY – not Rochester, MN.
    Plan a visit.

    • Patricia Yeiser says:

      The list of ‘accomplished women composers’ will be short. A few only come to mind – and they have been dead for decades. You have to consider how often the works of the accomplished women composers are performed anywhere.

  • fflambeau says:

    Your conclusion is “off the wall.” He will leave in 2021 after 7 years at the post; none of this is unusual.

    He has conducted the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony, the London Philharmonic, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (DSO) and many more distinguished groups. Along the way, he has picked up 2 conducting awards.

    At the age of 18 he played the trombone with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and has performed with the New York Philharmonic and others.

    Under the story you yourself linked to, there is no indication that this change is anything but a normal career move:

    “Under Stare’s direction, the orchestra will release a world-premiere recording later this month, and recently announced its 2019-2020 season, which, alongside traditional favorites from Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and others, will highlight musical trailblazers and innovators, Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony and suffragist history, and accomplished women composers and performers, the RPO stated.

    “Ward’s many new initiatives, including annual semi-staged operas, performances and recordings of world-premiere works, and a commitment to performing American music, further expanded the rich repertoire of the orchestra,” stated Wes Nance, Second Trumpet and Chairperson of the Orchestra Committee. “Ward’s successful efforts to reconnect the RPO with the greater community will have a lasting impact.”

    I’m sure that Stare and Rochester will both be fine despite this hit piece.

    • Straussian says:

      He also conducted the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Very well received. This Maestro is going places…

    • Patricia Yeiser says:

      Either he is leaving under his own steam or someone on the Board doesn’t like him. I am not fond of Boards of Directors.

  • Bone says:

    Some of those Mercury Living Presence recordings are truly awesome. Shame to read about their decline.

  • John Rook says:

    Politics is often at the core of all these problems. Competence and humanity probably don’t always get the chance to show themselves.

  • Shalom Rackovsky says:

    Norman’s characterization of the Rochester Philharmonic is somewhat removed from reality. [This is understandable, of course, since Norman is entirely removed from Rochester.] It is actually a very fine orchestra, which still enjoys very close ties to the Eastman School. Many members of the orchestra serve as faculty at Eastman, which remains one of the world’s great training schools for orchestral musicians. Rochester is no less a hub of adventure and premiers than it ever was, and a great deal more so than most cities of its size. This is the kind of offhand, misinformed remark which, released into the wild, can have unfortunate effects on public perception.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      THis is one of the mor ridiculous comments that have come our way for moderation. Of course NL is not in Rochester: in a small town he would never have been able to call it like it is. The orchestra went into nuclear meltdown five years ago. Its recovery is not complete. The conductor is leaving. End of.

      • EagleArts says:

        NL, you’re really ill informed. Rochester is not a small town but the 3rd largest city in NY state, with a population over 200k. If you’re gonna be so snarky at least have some facts right!


        • norman lebrecht says:

          200k is pretty small from where I sit

          • EagleArts says:

            You are still incorrect in calling it a small town……

          • Peter says:

            I never thought I’d say this, but I agree with NL – 200k is pretty small. For Brits, that’s half the size of Wolverhampton, or about the size of Norwich.

          • David says:

            The metro area of Rochester is about 1.1 million.

          • Bill says:

            The population here isn’t all jammed together into some tiny island. The state of NY is more than half the size of the entire U.K., yet contains a bit less than 1/3 the population. And Wolverhampton only weighs in at about 250,000. Do Norwich or Wolverhampton have any orchestras paying anything resembling a living wage, or notable music schools?

          • EagleArts says:

            Of course it’s small, but still a city. In comparison to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Detroit, St. Louis etc. are small.


          • David says:

            the city itself is smallish, but most of the orchestra’s supporters come from the suburbs — and the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) from which the RPO draws its audience and support, is just under 1.1 million.

        • joseph charles blanda says:

          any population less then 200,000 isnt considered a city by the USA census bureau..Rochester ,as a population center, is not…and political refuges are counted in the census, ; without the residents o0n the ‘lamb’,it isnt even a city,,,Howevger per capita, it ranks as the second highest per capita of murders,,,also, with out our hospital <Strong, Northside,,the number of homicides would be , in the hundreds,,,Get away from the south east side, and you are in 'danger zone',,,however the roads are sparch with cars, because 'nobody' drives through the city of Rochester,,

  • Robert Freeman says:

    Rochester, New York is the home of the Eastman School of Music, founded by George Eastman in 1921 and now considered by many the greatest music school in America. The Rochester Philharmonic has had a tenuous relationship to the Eastman School since the mid 1960s.

    • EagleArts says:

      “Considered by many the greatest music school in America.” This is big stretch as they end up somewhere in the top 10-15 US schools but are consistently outranked by Julliard, Curtis, New England, Indiana and others……

    • Patricia Yeiser says:

      It isn’t the greatest. At one time it was known as a “theory and composition” school. When I was studying music theory, we used the book written by a big-noise music theorist at Eastman.The head of our Music Theory program was an Eastman graduate and was a composer as well as a theorist. Boston has a number of good music schools of various kinds. It depends on what kind of training you want. I believe Boston is considered a big city.

  • William Smith says:

    It seems to me that the proclamation of “off the map” is several years late for this orchestra. Welcome to the party! This orchestra has been struggling for decades. Long gone are the 52 week seasons of the 1970s (those were also the prime years of Kodak incidentally). They still seem to be able to attract excellent musicians, some move on to bigger orchestras and some stay as the quality of life in Rochester can be excellent with low cost of living and good schools in the suburbs (the dark cold weather not withstanding). Ward Stare leaving after 7 years doesn’t seem that unusual. 7 years is on the low side of a US music director tenure but not horribly so. There is only so much the conductor can do. I imagine that Ward Stare is ambitious and would like to move upward in his career and it’s possible that he has decided to move on before his reputation is too tied to a struggling small city orchestra.

    • Patricia Yeiser says:

      Rochester, NY has become a terrible place to live. As with so many other American cities, most people who can live in the safer suburbs, do so. The schools are better and neighborhoods safer. People still go to the city to work, attend concerts, the theatre, museums,etc -but they go home to a safer place. (The drop-out rate for the Rochester public school system is, and has been, 75% for years. There has been talk of the State taking over that system – I wish someone would do something about it.

  • Musician says:

    GORF (guest of Renee Fleming) will be missed!

  • Jason says:

    This is a really irresponsible article about Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. I am wondering what kind of insight and evidences supported Mr. Norman Lebrecht to make such comment with full of criticism, because what he wrote was not true. I know the orchestra members put tremendous amount of effort to reach higher artistic level as well as keep the organization running well with so many challenges. This article simply shows no respect to the people who work or support the RPO.

  • almaviva says:

    Having worked recently with Ward, I can only attest to his musicianship and insight. Rochester’s loss, really…

  • Rochester Girl says:

    The RPO screwed the pooch when they let Arild go. The orchestra, which was the best I’d ever heard it under him, hasn’t been the same since. Cryin’ shame. The had a real artist with Remmereit.