Stuff and Nonsense in Rochester

Former Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Arild Remmereit.(Photo: WXXI/Hamilton Productions)
Former Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Arild Remmereit.(Photo: WXXI/Hamilton Productions)

Rare it may be these days, but it’s always wonderful when your local symphony is in the news for its wonderful performances and contributions to the community. Not only on the arts pages, but page one, albeit below the fold.

The Rochester Philharmonic is much in the news, and not for good reasons. In November 2011 Arild Remmereit was terminated as the orchestra’s music director, one year into his contract. The RPO board states that he has “failed to work collaboratively” with the board and staff.

I’m not sure what that means. I do know that a public battle is raging up by the Finger Lakes. Remmereit is keeping quiet. Board members, musicians and patrons are not.  Some say he is an outstanding musician and personality who has revitalized the orchestra. Others imply he is rigid, inflexible and not a team player.

Don’t sneer at Rochester. The RPO was formed in 1922, and backed for years by Eastman-Kodak money. Stokowski, Jose Itrubi and Erich Leinsdorf have run this band. Christopher Seaman is conductor laureate. Two years ago, he led the Columbus Symphony in glorious performances of Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony. The Rochester Philharmonic is the real deal.

Here in Columbus we’ve been through a lot of musician/management/ticket buyer public conflict. The CSO was all over the papers, and not just in the Capital City. Conductors and managers were sacked and some went huffily to The New York Times.

If you’ve raised children, if you’ve supervised a bunch of three-year olds playing in the back yard, then you’ve had it much easier than coming between a warring orchestra.

I’ve never hard of Remmereit. He has an impressive resume, lots of admirers in and out of Rochester, and he comes across as articulate and charming. He’s good-looking,  and don’t think that doesn’t matter.

There are petitions and outraged audience members, there’s a serious effort to have him reinstated. There are also those who say he is no collaborator.

It seems to me that after all the trouble of hiring a music director its incumbent upon all parties to make it work for the first three-year contract. Unless the guy is a crook or a complete jerk, allowances need to be made as long as the music making is superb and the ticket buyers are happy and plentiful.  But I’m not there.

Public squabbling is fun for a day or two. After that people lose interest in the problem and even in the music making.

Orchestras exist to make music and to enrich the community. Abandoning an orchestra because you don’t like the board or you don’t like the music director is bad for the organization and bad for the community.

We had that divisiveness here. In our case, musicians took whopping pay cuts. There were no happy endings except continuing great performances. If Remmereit is not a collaborator than he needs to go. If his departure is more personal than that, if you don’t like him, grow up.

The next time I read about the Rochester Philharmonic,  hopefully it will be rave reviews.

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