New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
|New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO)|
|Music director||Jacques Lacombe|
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) is a symphony orchestra based in the state of New Jersey, United States. The NJSO is the state orchestra of New Jersey, performing concert series in six venues across the state; it is the resident orchestra of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, New Jersey. The Wall Street Journal has called the NJSO "a vital, artistically significant musical organization." The New York Times wrote, "It was an honor to be in the hall for the astonishing performance" the NJSO gave at Carnegie Hall in May 2012 as part of the Spring for Music festival.
Location and venues
Philip James founded the orchestra in 1922. During the 1940s, the orchestra performed at Newark Symphony Hall. Currently, the NJSO presents classical, pops and family concerts at venues in six cities around the state:
- Newark: New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC)
- Englewood: Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC)
- Red Bank: Count Basie Theatre
- Morristown: Mayo Performing Arts Center
- New Brunswick: State Theatre
- Princeton: Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University
The NJSO annually performs summer concerts at multiple venues across New Jersey. In June 2014, the NJSO plays free concerts at Pier A Park in Hoboken, Branch Brook Park in Newark, Mercer County Park in West Windsor and bergenPAC in Englewood, in addition to performing at festivals at Moorland Farm in Far Hills and Giralda Farms in Madison.
In March 2014, the NJSO presented #OrchestraYou at NJPAC. The orchestra invited audience members to bring their own instruments and perform alongside NJSO musicians in a post-concert session. NJSO Education & Community Engagement Conductor Jeffrey Grogan led nearly 80 NJSO concertgoers, professional musicians and students in a rehearsal and performance of the Toreador Song from Georges Bizet’s Carmen.
“And I have to say, people really put their hearts and souls into it. We wound up with this incredible mix of about 75 players, everyone from real professionals from the New Jersey Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as a bunch of students and young professional musicians, and a whole lot of amateurs. And they ranged in age from middle school kids and high school kids to older, rustier types like me …
“I cannot help but think of what this one 15-year-old bassoonist I met said to me after we wrapped up and he and I were chatting. And he said, you know, when you're surrounded by dozens of people, all of you working together to make the same music, you feel just euphoric. And I think that was exactly the right way of saying how the whole evening felt, not just for those couple of minutes that we played together.”
"Golden Age" string collection
In recent times, the NJSO became known for its purchase of 30 string instruments, including several made by Stradivari, for its string players, purchased from the collection of Herbert R. Axelrod in 2003. Lawrence Tamburri, then the orchestra's president and chief executive officer, speculated that this purchase would help make the orchestra more of a tourist attraction. Neeme Järvi has stated that this was one major reason that he chose to accept the NJSO music directorship. The orchestra named this collection the "Golden Age" string collection, and had hoped that this acquisition would enhance the prestige of the orchestra, and attract increased audiences and donations.
However, this purchase ran into controversy after doubts surfaced as to the actual value of the collection. Axelrod had claimed their value at USD $49 million, and sold it to the NJSO for USD $17 million. However, it turned out that the $17 million value was closer to the current market value. Furthermore, newsreporter investigations raised doubts as to the complete claimed authenticity of several of the instruments in the collection. The later criminal charge and guilty plea of Axelrod for an unrelated charge of federal tax fraud caused embarrassment to the NJSO on this transaction. In spite of the unfavourable publicity as a result of this controversy, the NJSO had planned to retain the violins and not sell them, as of July 2006.
In April 2004, Simon Woods became the NJSO's president, after Tamburri had left the NJSO for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Woods himself left the NJSO in July 2005 for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The investigation into the Golden Age collection had occurred during Woods' tenure. The appointment of Gremillet as the orchestra's next chief executive after Woods was in October 2006.
In March 2007, Gremillet and the NJSO stated that, faced with severe budgetary fiscal and deficit issues, they would try to sell the Golden Age instrument collection. The original agreement with Axelrod was that the orchestra would retain the instruments for at least 10 years, but Axelrod gave his assent to allow the orchestra to try to sell them. The intentions were to use the funds from the sale of the instruments to retire orchestra debt and to build up the orchestra's endowment fund. The orchestra had stated that their ideal scenario would be that the collection would be bought as a whole and then lent back to the orchestra, but commentators noted the difficulty of realizing such a plan.
In addition, a Vienna actress, Kyra Sator, had alleged that she was the proper owner of one of the instruments in this collection and threatened legal action against the orchestra in February 2007. Gremillet stated that the orchestra would "vigorously defend our title to this instrument" and noted that it was "extremely puzzling to receive such a letter four years after the deal". As well, the Newark newspaper The Star-Ledger had reported that Järvi might reconsider extending his contract with the NJSO in light of this planned sale of the instruments. When asked about this in 2007, he stated: "It's very possible, but I haven't thought about it yet."
In November 2007, the NJSO announced that they had sold the Golden Age instruments to the American investment bankers (and twin brothers) Seth Taube and Brook Taube, along with a group of other investors, for USD $20 million and a portion of the proceeds from any future sales of the instruments. Part of the agreement allowed the orchestra to retain playing rights to 28 of those instruments for a minimum of 5 years.
Other press comments have noted that in spite of the financial troubles and controversy over this instrument collection, the orchestra has improved artistically during Järvi's tenure. In October 2007, the NJSO announced that Järvi had extended his contract as music director through the 2008-2009 season, with a commitment to six weeks of subscription concerts. In February 2008, the orchestra confirmed the conclusion of Järvi's tenure as the NJSO's music director at the end of the 2008-2009 season. In March 2009, the NJSO indicated that Järvi had agreed to serve as the orchestra's artistic adviser after the conclusion of his contract as music director, and subsequently to take the title of conductor laureate. The orchestra also reduced its staff and the number of subscription concerts, from 70 to 61, scheduled for the 2009-2010 season.
The NJSO has had a series of radio broadcasts in the US since the 2006-2007 season. Gremillet announced in October 2007 that the radio broadcasts would continue. In addition, he stated the NJSO's accumulated debt is at USD $15 million as of October 2007. After the announcement of the November 2007 sale of the Golden Age instruments, Gremillet stated that their scheduled sale cost will allow the orchestra to retire its accumulated debt of USD $14.2 million, and restore USD $3.1 million used from the NJSO endowment used for the purchase of the instruments.
In November 2008, Jacques Lacombe guest-conducted the NJSO for the first time. In October 2009, the NJSO announced the appointment of Lacombe as its 13th music director, effective with the 2010-2011 season, with an initial contract of 3 years. Lacombe held the title of music director designate for the 2009-2010 season. In July 2012, the NJSO announced the extension of Lacombe's contract as music director through the 2015-2016 season.
Following the departure of Gremillet as NJSO president, the orchestra appointed Richard Dare as its next December 2012. Dare took up the post at the beginning of January 2013. On January 10, 2013, Dare resigned as NJSO president, following reports of a prior accusation of a sexual offense in 1996, and possible exaggerations of his business accomplishments. Controversy subsequently ensued on the question of how much information NJSO officials and board of trustees, and the search committee, knew of this situation during the source of the search for a new executive director. In June 2013, the NJSO announced the appointments of James Roe as its next president and chief executive officer (CEO) and of Susan Stucker as its chief operating officer (COO), effective July 1, 2013.
- Philip James: 1922-1929
- Rene Pollain: 1929-1939
- Frieder Weissmann: 1940-1947
- Samuel Antek: 1947-1958
- Matyas Abas: 1958-1960
- Kenneth Schermerhorn: 1962-1968
- Henry Lewis: 1968-1976
- Thomas Michalak: 1977-1983
- Hugh Wolff: 1985-1991
- Zdeněk Mácal: 1993-2002
- Neeme Järvi: 2005-2009
- Jacques Lacombe: 2010-present
- Scherer, Barrymore Laurence (10 September 2010). ""A New Sound in New Jersey"". The Wall Street Journal.
- Tommasini, Anthony. ""Blooming Far Beyond Where They're Planted: Spring for Music at Carnegie Hall"". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
- "NJSO performs summer concerts at venues statewide" (Press release). New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. 6 May 2014.
- Peggy McGlone, "New Jersey Symphony puts itself on a fiscal diet," The Star-Ledger, December 17, 2007. Retrieved January 6, 2008.
- Bradley Bambarger (13 February 2008). "New Jersey Symphony announces 2008-2009 season". Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
- Anastasia Tsioulcas, "In The First Violins — At Least For One Night," NPR, 20 March 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- “All Things Considered: In The First Violins — At Least For One Night,” (Transcript) NPR, 26 March 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- Mark Mueller, "NJSO's cautionary tale: Economic reality stirs string sell-off". The Star-Ledger, March 11, 2007.
- Peggy McGlone and Mark Mueller, "FBI probes symphony purchase of violins," The Star-Ledger, May 13, 2004. Retrieved January 6, 2008.
- Mark Mueller, "False Notes," The Star-Ledger, August 2, 2004. Retrieved January 6, 2008.
- Alix Kirsta, "Orchestral manoeuvres in the dark," The Guardian, June 11, 2005.
- Emily Quinn, "Axelrod Pleads Guilty in Tax Case, Avoids Charges Over Instrument Sale," Playbill, December 9, 2004.]
- Ronald Smothers (22 March 2005). "Violin Collector Known for Sale to Orchestra Is Sentenced to 18 Months in Tax Fraud". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
- Jonathan Miller (9 April 2006). "Struggling to Shake Off Its Past". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
- Daniel J. Wakin (19 July 2006). "Rare Instruments Purchase Causes Symphony's Deficit". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-12-08.
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- "New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Takes Action Toward Long-Term Financial Stability", NJSO Press Release, March 8, 2007.
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- Peggy McGlone, "NJSO's plan to sell rare collection has a string attached". The Star-Ledger, 1 April 2007.
- Mark Mueller, "With new allegation, violins' tale grows more tangled". The Star-Ledger, 1 April 2007.
- Peggy McGlone, "NJ Symphony sells its ill-fated strings to twin investment bankers," The Star-Ledger, November 23, 2007.
- Daniel J. Wakin (24 November 2007). "Symphony Will Sell a Collection in Dispute". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
- Bradley Bambarger, "Baroque riches at NJSO". The Star-Ledger, 13 March 2007.
- Bradley Bambarger, "NJSO plays it safe on opening night," The Star-Ledger, October 15, 2007. Retrieved January 6, 2008.
- Bradley Bambarger (4 March 2009). "New directions for the NJSO". Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
- Dan Wakin (20 March 2009). "State’s Top Orchestra Faces Changes". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
- Vivien Schweitzer (4 October 2006). "Neeme Järvi and New Jersey Symphony Sign Agreement for Nationwide Radio Broadcasts". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
- Matthew Westphal (15 October 2007). "Neeme Järvi Extends Contract as New Jersey SO Music Director by One Season". Playbill Arts. Retrieved 2007-10-16.
- Bradley Bambarger (9 October 2007). "Symphony chief singing an optimistic song" (PDF). The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2007-10-16.[dead link]
- Chanta Jackson (10 November 2008). "NJSO creates international harmony". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
- "The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Appoints Jacques Lacombe as Music Director" (Press release). New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
- Peggy McGlone (20 October 2009). "New Jersey Symphony Orchestra names Jacques Lacombe as conductor". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
- Ronni Reich (2012-07-10). "Jacques Lacombe will stay on as NJSO music director". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Peggy McGlone (2012-12-11). "N.J. Symphony Orchestra hires Brooklyn Phil's Richard Dare as new CEO". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Daniel J. Wakin (2013-01-11). "New Jersey Symphony President Quits After Questions on His Past". New York Times. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
- Ronni Reich & Peggy McGlone (2013-01-12). "New NJ Symphony president resigns after past controversies resurface". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-01-15.
- Peggy McGlone (2013-01-31). "N.J. Symphony officials say they were deceived by CEO during short tenure". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-02-05.
- "NJSO Appoints CEO And COO" (Press release). New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. 26 June 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
- Peggy McGlone (2013-06-26). "Interim CEO and musician to share leadership of N.J. Symphony Orchestra". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
- Leslie Kandell (21 January 2001). "New Jersey Symphony Begins to Consider Life Without Macal". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-28.