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NSO in a new state

The National Symphony Orchestra’s first American Residency of the Christoph Eschenbach era will be conducted by -- Hugh Wolff.

The orchestra announced today that its 21st residency, in February, 2011, will take it to the state of Kentucky. The exact schedule has yet to be announced, but the nine-day trip around the state will involve at least two orchestra concerts, plus a wide array of chamber concerts and outreach events.
(read more after the jump)

Planning these residencies is a formidable logistical task. Not every community that would like to host an NSO concert has a hall big enough to hold 100 musicians on stage. After the available halls have been identified and the orchestra’s main route planned, local coordinators solicit proposals from smaller venues that would like to interact with the musicians: anything from elementary schools to, in Arkansas in 2009, a local comedy improv troupe.

Meanwhile, the NSO’s musicians submit their own proposals, on a purely voluntary basis (they get an honorarium, but far less than the fee for an orchestral concert). About half of the orchestra’s musicians generally end up participating, some more than others, partly depending on the nature of the requests; after receiving proposals from musicians and venues, administrators try to match up ones that seem a good fit. In West Virginia this spring, the violinist Glenn Donnellan made 8 appearances at schools and community centers within a week, in addition to orchestral concerts. Not everything works out; last year, a harp group in Morgantown, West Virginia, put in a request, but the NSO didn’t happen to be traveling with a harpist for the program it was playing.

It’s a huge commitment for all the musicians involved, and with Christoph Eschenbach’s busy, planned-far-in-advance schedule, too much of one for him. Between February 17 and 25, while his new orchestra is moving between Frankfort and Lexington, Louisville and Paducah, he is scheduled to be on the other side of the pond, leading the Bamberger Symphoniker in performances of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis before going up to London for a Mahler program with the London Symphony Orchestra. In Hugh Wolff, though, a former associate conductor of the NSO under Rostropovich who has since gone on to a very respectable career, the NSO players have a fine partner who they also happen to like.

By Anne Midgette  |  August 4, 2010; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Washington , national , news  
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Hugh Wolff is a fine choice for the Kentucky residency. I have never understood why his standing in the United States was not such that he was the music director of a major orchestra. Although I never heard him conduct in Washington while he was associate conductor here, I have heard virtually every concert he has conducted here as a guest, and have never left the hall disappointed. The first time I heard him conduct was actually in Baltimore; he led the BSO in an excellent new work by Stephen Stuckey, a fine reading of a Mozart concerto with Jeffrey Kahane as the soloist, and as good a performance of the Nielsen Inextinguishable as I've ever heard. Moreover, his give and take with the audience in pre- and post-performance chats is wonderful. I am fortunate enough to have many hours of broadcast tapes of his performances with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and I was saddened when he took his talents to Europe to conduct in Frankfurt after his tenure in St. Paul. My understanding is that he wanted to spend more time with his young family, and the Frankfurt position afforded him more time to do so with fewer outside guest appearances. Now in his late 50s, I suspect that time is running out on the chance that he will get that major American appointment, even assuming he would want it. I envy the citizens of Kentucky who will hear Wolff conduct during the NSO's residency there.

Posted by: 74umgrad1 | August 4, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

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