Sunday, January 09, 2000

Columbus Symphony to mark 50th with Carnegie debut

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For turning 50, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra will get Carnegie Hall.

        The symphony's golden anniversary year will peak on April 18, 2001, with a debut at the illustrious New York concert hall.

        Although the big date is not part of Carnegie Hall's season — the orchestra will rent the hall to the tune of $25,000 — it signals a new era for an ensemble that has struggled to dig itself out of artistic and financial crisis.

        “It is important that people understand the treasure we have in Columbus, Ohio,” says Alessandro Siciliani, music director since 1991.

        Founded in 1951, the Columbus Symphony has evolved from a part-time community band to a 51-member professional ensemble with a 46-week season. A few years ago, the orchestra, which has a budget of $8.3 million, nearly crumbled under the burden of a $2 million debt and a musicians strike.

        Lately it has generated press attention under the leadership of the charismatic Mr. Siciliani. The conductor's increasing renown has attracted soloists such as Mstislav Rostropovich, Lynn Harrell and Van Cliburn.

        The Columbus Symphony hopes its New York debut will cap an extended East Coast tour — its first ever.

        The orchestra had other good news in September, when musicians ratified a new, three-year contract. By the 2001-02 season, base pay will be $47,836 — still a long way from salaries at big-budget orchestras like the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, where the minimum salary the same year will be $86,190.

        Maestro Siciliani will make his CSO debut on April 7-8 in Music Hall.


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