A kludge by any other name…

The Seattle Times is impressed by the naming of of Maria Larionoff as concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony:

A long and sometimes discordant episode at Seattle Symphony came to a close Friday when the orchestra announced that Maria Larionoff had been named sole concertmaster.

Larionoff was one of four violinists appointed to share the leadership post in 2007 after an arduous three-year search for Ilkka Talvi’s successor.

That arrangement, based on a “European model,” according to a symphony statement, violated the terms of the musicians’ collective bargaining agreement, which doesn’t allow for part-time positions.

But it’s the New York Times that comes closest to what appears to have happened:

Last summer the orchestra’s music director, Gerard Schwarz, named a quartet of violinists, including Ms. Larionoff, to share the post, saying “it doesn’t make sense” to have one person, given the length of the season. On Friday Mr. Schwarz called the arrangement a “tremendous artistic success” but said Ms. Larionoff, the associate concertmaster since 1997, would take over. “The way she has embraced this new position speaks volumes about her remarkable talent and ability to lead the orchestra,” he said. Tom Philion, the executive director, said the other three players — Ani Kavafian, Emmanuelle Boisvert and Frank Almond — would continue to appear with the orchestra.

What’s not answered is the question of where Ms. Larionoff sits when one of the other three is present. If she moves to second chair (or even sits home on paid leave), then what really has changed?

And what about tenure? She was tenured as a member of the orchestra. But concertmasters in Seattle don’t have tenure; they are concertmaster so long as the music director wants them to be, and no longer. Did she give up job security in exchange for a title that doesn’t really change how things work?

There’s clearly more here than meets the eye, or at least the eye of the press. What is clear is that this doesn’t resolve the Seattle concertmaster situation. Instead, it looks more like a face-saving way to continue along the same screwy path that the SSO has embarked upon. Which, given the balance of power within the SSO, is not really a surprise.

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One Response to “A kludge by any other name…”

  1. More on Larionoff « The Gathering Note Says:

    […] 13, 2008 by Zach Carstensen Courtesy of The Poly Phonic Blog: What’s not answered is the question of where Ms. Larionoff sits when one of the other three is […]

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