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Haydn                      Symphony #95, last movement

William Kraft         Vintage Renaissance

Tchaikovsky           Symphony #5, finale

Carnegie Mellon University Philharmonic

Paul Polivnick, guest conductor

October 18, 2015


Do Music Directors Have to Leave?

Today I saw a post on Facebook about Music Directors leaving their posts after a few years and “nobody seems to care.” The days when Ormandy spent 40 years in Philadelphia,  Szell’s long tenure in Cleveland, Karajan’s in Berlin, etc.  appear to be over.  While these are amazing accomplishments, Ormandy and Szell were part of an autocratic era where their “rule”  could not be questioned. If their players got upset with them, they had to suppress their reactions or face termination. And in the case of Karajan, he insisted from his 1st contract that it be “for life” in order to make him completely immune to what ANYONE thought of him.

In today’s more humane conductor/orchestra era, if a Music Director wants to remain in good communication with his players and see the affinity grow over time, all concerned have to handle the “little” upsets and harmful acts that occur regularly as they happen, whether intentionally committed or not. If they are not addressed and the upsets regularly blown off, they will grow until affinity and communication seriously deteriorates. The 1st “solution” is for the MD to get out of town for a long enough period to let the upsets die down (one factor in why MDs like to guest conduct other orchestras!). Eventually it gets so bad that they simply “have to move on.”

Just like in any long term interpersonal relationship, if it began with high affinity, interest and communication–why does it degenerate over time? The answer is that it doesn’t have to. And the best guarantee that it won’t is to clean up the little upsets and harmful acts as they occur. Of course, for this to work there has to be a high level of trust between all concerned. There can be no fear of negative repercussion as a result of honesty.

The ideal scene is a for a Music Director and orchestra to start with a fine relationship and see that it grows from there on out.



William Kraft Timpani Concerto #2

I just received the master for a live recording I had the privilege of conducting of Bill Kraft’s 2nd Timpani Concerto, “The Grand Adventure.” The incredible soloist is David Herbert, Principal Timpanist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the wonderful orchestra is Symphony Silicon Valley in San Jose, California. Tom Johnson did a very fine job capturing it electronically!

Bill and I have been friends and colleagues since 1972. At that time I was the Conductor of the Debut Orchestra of the Young Musicians Foundation of Los Angeles. Bill was my advisor and our first encounter was when I was conducting a fiendishly difficult piece by Messiaen, “Couleurs de la Cite Celeste.” Ever since then I have been championing his music. So far I’ve recorded 8 works of his including his 1st Timpani Concerto with the marvelous Tom Akins and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra when I was its Music Director. So now with the release of the 2nd concerto, both of Bill’s fantastic pieces for the instrument can be widely heard.

The 1st concerto is for a standard set of timpani. The 2nd, however is for 15! There are 6 standard size timpani on the floor and 9 small timps suspended on a circular metal rack about 4-5 feet above the floor, surrounding the soloist. David had to not only execute a VERY difficult solo part but be in constant motion to get at the many instruments. This required him to p;lay the piece mostly from memory, another huge feat. Communicating with each other was harder than usual because we could catch each other’s eye only at certain moments. It’s astounding how good the ensemble is, especially considering that it was a live performance. David and I were really on the same page.

The orchestra was great. The players understood what they had to do very quickly and despite the complexities the rehearsal process went smoothly and efficiently. I’d like to give a special thanks to the percussion section which had so much of importance to do. At one point three players all play on a vibraphone with string bass bows. The 1st percussion had to find 32 tuned gongs for the week–and much more.

So bravo to one and all.  And another special thanks to Andrew Bales, the CEO and founder of the orchestra who recognized the value of the project and gave it his full support. It would not have happened otherwise.

Paul Polivnick
Contact Paul at 727-298-8182

Contact Paul at 727-298-8182

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