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The Music Scene Vol. 1 No. 1
Toronto Symphony Orchestra looks ahead to better days

by Stéphane Villemin Tuesday, October 22, 2002

According to Jacques Israelievitch, concertmaster of the TSO, the orchestra has now overcome transition problems and is looking forward to a bright future.

TMS: It''s ironic that eastern Canada''s two great orchestras are currently without a conductor. The circumstances are certainly different, but is it possible that they hide the fact that there are common causes?

Jacques Israelievitch: With the TSO there were actually a number of cumulative factors. After Saraste left, we were looking for a successor but the process was delayed by the financial crisis. The musicians had to agree to a salary cut in order to save the orchestra. All Canadian orchestras have a common problem: their pay policy. A musician''s salary here is on average half of what''s paid in the U.S. The cost of living in a big city like Toronto is a stumbling block that this policy doesn''t take into account. The TSO musicians also get less salary than similar players in Ottawa or Montreal.

TMS: What''s your opinion after a year with just guest conductors?

J.I. : Working with guest conductors is always an opportunity to network for the future. As for relations between a guest conductor and the orchestra, it usually takes about ten minutes to establish meaningful contact, so that subsequent rehearsals become exciting and full of discoveries. Then there''s the pleasure of the actual concert, for which the conductor should always keep in reserve an element of surprise. The ideal conductor is the one who not only makes rehearsals a great experience but who keeps back a dose of spontaneity for the concert. The TSO''s working methods haven''t changed. We have the same number of rehearsals and as many working hours as before.

TMS: What does the future hold?

J.I. : Sir Andrew Davies, who conducted the orchestra from 1975 to 1988, planned the 2002-03 season in his capacity as current artistic advisor to the TSO. The program emerged from talking with the guest conductors, also taking into account the orchestra''s obligations. For example, we have to have a certain percentage of Canadian music in our programs, according to the rules of the Canada Council for the Arts.

The good news, soon to be announced, is that the orchestra will have a permanent conductor for the 2003-04 season. The fundraising campaign produced the million dollars needed for financing. Season subscriptions have risen over 15%. The presence of young people is now guaranteed thanks to the TSOound Check promotion, which lets the under-27 group get into concerts for just $10. Then the new Roy Thomson Hall is opening in September, and its new acoustics will be an asset. The barometer says "fine weather" for the TSO.


[translation: Jane Brierly]

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