Filed under: Commentary | Tags: Andrew Litton, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Gene Sobczak, Jerome Kern, Mary Kern
Monday morning, June 25, I attended the press conference held by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra to announce the appointment of Maestro Andrew Litton as the Artistic Advisor to the orchestra. Maestro Litton holds the title of Artistic Advisor because, at present, his position as Music Director with other orchestras precludes him from accepting the full-time Directorship of the CSO. Even so, it is an absolutely brilliant move on the part of the CSO board to make him a part of the administration. Maestro Litton has an absolutely unimpeachable reputation as conductor throughout the world. He has encouraged the orchestras under his directorship to expand their reputation by securing recording contracts, and by helping secure enough funds for those orchestras to go on tour.
Recording and touring. This is an exciting opportunity which is long overdue for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. As Litton pointed out at the press conference, the CSO is known to everyone in Colorado as a fine symphony orchestra. For a variety of reasons, the reputation of this orchestra has not spread beyond the state’s borders, and those reasons have nothing to do with the musician’s ability to perform or their quality,
Andrew Litton’s recognition of the superior quality of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra creates the artistic necessity to take them on tour, make recordings, and secure the money in order to accomplish it. And, ladies and gentlemen, how many years has it been since anyone in connection with the CSO administration (other than the recently appointed Jerome and Mary Kern and Gene Sobczak) has spoken highly of the orchestra musicians, rather than try to convince the public that they should be a part-time orchestra, and proselytize pay cuts for everyone?
We, in Denver, now have a Colorado Symphony Orchestra board and leadership who not only know how to treat the musicians and their ability, but who clearly want to reestablish this orchestra as an organization made of artist-performers – which they have been for some time – rather than a conglomerate of Friday night entertainers.
I have rearranged the order of paragraphs in the press release copy that I received from the CSO, but only to the extent that Andrew Litton’s bio statement is first:
“Andrew Litton guest conducts the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies and has a discography of over 100 recordings, including a Grammy® and other honors. In 2003, he became the first American Music Director appointed to Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic. He is also currently the Artistic Director of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest, and Conductor Laureate of Britain’s Bournemouth Symphony.
“Mr. Litton’s recordings include a Grammy®-winning Belshazzar’s Feast with the Bournemouth Symphony and baritone Bryn Terfel, a Grammy® nominated [performance of] Sweeney Todd with the New York Philharmonic and Patti Lupone, and numerous recordings in a dual role of pianist conducting from the keyboard. Mr. Litton’s Mendelssohn Symphony series with the Bergen Philharmonic won one of BBC Magazine’s coveted annual awards and special recognition in Gramophone and Classic FM magazines. Mr. Litton was Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony from 1988-1994, bringing it on its first American tour and producing 14 recordings, including the Grammy®-winning Belshazzar’s Feast. Music Director of the Dallas Symphony from 1994-2006, he hired over one third of the players, led the orchestra on three major European tours, appeared four times at Carnegie Hall, created a children’s television series broadcast nationally and in widespread use in school curricula, and produced 28 recordings. Mr. Litton’s Dallas Symphony Rachmaninov Piano Concerto recordings with Stephen Hough, widely hailed as the best since the composer’s own, won the Classical Brits/BBC Critics Award.
“A graduate of the Fieldston School, New York, Litton received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Juilliard in piano and conducting. The youngest-ever winner of the BBC International Conductors Competition, he served as Assistant Conductor at Teatro alla Scala and Exxon/Arts Endowment Assistant Conductor for the National Symphony under Rostropovich. His many honors include an honorary Doctorate from the University of Bournemouth, Yale University’s Sanford Medal, and the Elgar Society Medal.
“Litton previously served as Music Director for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra from 1994-2006 and is currently Music Director for the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway, a post he’s held since 2003. He joins the Colorado Symphony’s current artistic leadership staff, including Resident Conductor Scott O’Neil and Duain Wolfe, founder and director of the Colorado Symphony Chorus and director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Litton’s three-year appointment as Artistic Advisor begins Sept. 1, 2012.
“As Artistic Advisor, Litton will assume the full duties and responsibilities for the artistic leadership of the Colorado Symphony. President and CEO, Gene Sobczak, states, ‘Acknowledging the artistic excellence of the orchestra during this recent time of organizational change, Litton’s appointment as Artistic Advisor will advance the musicians’ ongoing development as one of the country’s finest professional symphony orchestras.’
“’Though I was not looking for a formal relationship with another orchestra at this time, my decision to assume the role of Artistic Advisor of the Colorado Symphony was made simple for me,’ states Litton. ‘It’s all about the relationship with the musicians. This is a very special group of players with an exceptional level of positive energy, dedication, and an intensity that I treasure. We enjoy a great relationship and a vital common vision to make the best possible music for the people of Denver and Colorado. While I can’t fulfill the obligations of another music directorship right now, the perfect compromise is to assume the role of Artistic Advisor and is my dream come true.’
“The role of Artistic Advisor is not uncommon among major professional orchestras. Peter Oundjian, former Colorado Symphony Principal Guest Conductor and current Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, acted as Artistic Advisor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. ‘This is fantastic news for the Colorado Symphony,’ states Oundjian. ‘Andrew is a brilliant conductor and musician, and he will infuse new energy into an already great orchestra. As Artistic Advisor, he will provide solid and inspired leadership in both programming and artistic excellence. I am personally thrilled for all the musicians and all music lovers.’ In addition, Leonard Slatkin, current Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Orchestre National de Lyon in France, held the post of Artistic Advisor of the Nashville Symphony from 2006 to 2009.
“Jerome H. Kern, Co-Chair of the Colorado Symphony Board of Trustees, says, ‘To have Andrew join the Colorado Symphony as an artistic leader comes at exactly the right moment in time with our orchestra playing at such an extraordinary level. The combination of his influence, inspiration and experience, with the talent and artistry of the orchestra, positions the Colorado Symphony for even further greatness.’
“The Colorado Symphony has been engaged in a music director search since the departure of Jeffrey Kahane at the end of the 2009-10 season. Kahane continues to guest conduct and perform with the Symphony.
“’I couldn’t be happier about our new relationship with Litton,’ states Scott O’Neil, Resident Conductor for the Colorado Symphony. ‘Having assisted all of the guest conductors we’ve had in the past several years, I believe that Andrew’s extensive experience and artistic acumen will be indispensable in this orchestra’s next phase of growth.’
“Bill Hill, Principal Timpani and Chair of the Colorado Symphony Music Director Search Committee, echoed O’Neil’s remarks. ‘We are extremely pleased and excited to have Andrew as our Artistic Advisor. He has always been a musician favorite as an inspiring conductor and a great person to work with – a combination that produces quite spectacular performances. His presence as our artistic leader immediately enhances the organization’s international stature,’ says Hill.
“Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper acknowledges Litton’s appointment, saying, ‘We’d like to congratulate the Colorado Symphony. The appointment of Andrew Litton will certainly contribute to the cultural impact the symphony has on our community. We are looking forward to their performances and the upcoming season.’
“’Enhancing Denver’s thriving arts and culture sector will ensure that we deliver world-class amenities for everyone who lives, works and plays in the city. This sector plays a key role in making Denver an exciting and vibrant epicenter for the arts,’ says Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. ‘With Andrew Litton at the helm of the Colorado Symphony as Artistic Advisor, I know this cultural institution will only improve its already enriching entertainment and build on a tradition of musical excellence.’”
Official high-resolution photos and a full-length biography of Andrew Litton can be found at www.andrewlitton.com/bio/index.html. For a PDF version of this press release, please visit www.coloradosymphony.org/info/press-releases/.
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