Sunday, August 19, 2001

UC will archive Schippers' CSO collection

Agreement ends 24-year dilemma between orchestra and university

By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It has been sitting and collecting mold for more than 20 years, caught in limbo between the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the University of Cincinnati.

        The Thomas Schippers collection — 45 boxes loaded with musical scores, concert programs, tapes (reels and cassettes), books, LPs, letters, scrapbooks of clippings and photographs — now belongs to UC.

        Mr. Schippers, the charismatic former maestro of the CSO (1970-77) left his estate to the symphony when he died in 1977 at age 47 of lung cancer. That meant, along with money and a house on the Greek island of Corfu, the CSO received recordings and autographed scores.

        But where should it go? Was Thomas Schippers important enough to merit a memorial collection? No one could decide for two decades.

        The symphony gave it to the university 20 years ago, on the condition the CSO could ask for it back at any time.

        “The agreement was unworkable from a library perspective,” says Gerald L. Newman, UC assistant dean for collection development. “There's a tremendous amount of cost involved in processing each piece. ... We literally have had these things in boxes for over 20 years, in a storage facility, sitting and waiting. Some of them have been rendered useless.”

        Ten years ago, UC offered to process the collection — if the symphony would give it to them. Last spring, Mr. Newman began negotiations again with CSO president Steven Monder. As of May, the collection belongs to UC.

        The memorabilia recalls a musical golden era in Cincinnati, when Mr. Schippers' glamorous, international reputation caused CSO subscriptions to skyrocket by 60 percent.

        The conductor moved in heady circles. There are scores autographed by composers Ned Rorem and Gian Carlo Menotti, signed “To Tommy, in admiring friendship.” A score to The Siege of Corinth (Rossini) includes the 1974 recording schedule for the disc Mr. Schippers made with diva Beverly Sills.

        A beaten-up score to Mendelssohn's Elijah still has the cuts (marked with paper clips) that Mr. Schippers made when he performed it in Spoleto, Italy, in 1965. The notes he made when he conducted Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades at the Metropolitan Opera are still readable.

        Some pieces listed in a 1979 inventory have disappeared, such as signed scores and letters from Rossini, Puccini and Donizetti, says Mr. Newman.

        “I don't know who kept them. But at the time, somebody noted that these things, of considerable value, were not there.”

        There are reels of recordings with the CSO. They are performances, rehearsals or maybe recording sessions. No one knows for sure.

        “This is performance history we're preserving here,” Mr. Newman says.

        Soon, he'll meet with the librarian at the College-Conservatory of Music, to sift through boxes and decide what to do with them.

        “I don't know what the interest level is now,” he says. “And I'm not sure what we've got.”

        Starlings in China: The Starling Chamber Orchestra is on its way to the People's Republic of China, for the second time. The orchestra of young virtuosos (ages 12-18) are part of a unique training program at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. The group leaves today for a six-concert tour through Sept. 4. It's an encore to the three-week, 12-concert tour it took in March, 2000.

        “We were excited to be re-engaged so early after last year's tour,” says Kurt Sassmannshaus, director, reached in Aspen, Colo. earlier this week. “China has very young and enthusiastic audiences that come in great numbers. It makes us feel positive about the future of classical music.”

        The tour will start in Beijing, where the Starlings will be part of the Beijing Arts Festival of the 21st Century.

        Soloists with the 25-piece ensemble are Jessica Park, 17; Brittany Kotheimer, 23; and Yang Liu, 25.

        Their program includes a world premiere by Ping Gao, a Chinese composer and CCM graduate. Violinist Yang Liu will be soloist in the premiere of Concertino for Violin and Strings in Beijing.

        If it's like their last tour, they expect sold-out crowds and autograph hounds.

        “We get ambushed by large crowds. On the last tour, there were times when we had to stay almost an hour to give autographs,” Mr. Sassmannshaus says.

        Media blitz: Paavo Jarvi, incoming music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, is generating a large amount of press interest. At 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 9, he'll be featured on “A&E's Breakfast with the Arts,” on the A&E Channel. Mr. Jarvi will talk about his upcoming first season with the CSO. (Other topics that morning include Picasso and Paul McCartney's paintings.)

        Mr. Jarvi is interviewed with his brother, conductor Kristjan Jarvi, in the September issue of Symphony (the magazine of the American Symphony Orchestra League). And watch for feature stories in Gramophone (the October issue, out Sept. 6), BBC Music, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

        Mr. Jarvi will begin his debut season as music director Sept. 14-15. WCET Channel 48 will broadcast his concert live from Music Hall on Sept. 15.

        Tickets are still available: 381-3300 or

        Stepping In: Who you gonna call when your pianist for the intricate, difficult and rarely played Turangalila Symphonie has visa problems?

        When Florent Boffard could not get out of France in time to play at the Aspen Music Festival this month, conductor James Conlon called Cincinnati pianist Michael Chertock.

        That was a Monday (Aug. 6). On Tuesday, Mr. Chertock practiced the piece, and five days later (last Sunday) he performed it with the Aspen Festival Orchestra.

        This wasn't the first time the pianist has stepped in. He's played Rachmaninoff's Second and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue at the 11th hour with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Pops.

        It's been a noteworthy summer for Mr. Chertock. On Aug. 2, he made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut in a pops concert at Saratoga Springs, N.Y, performing under Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel. This week, he's at the Grand Tetons Music Festival in Wyoming playing with Minnesota Orchestra maestro Eiji Oue.

        Coming up: Mr. Chertock will perform Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 at 7 p.m. Sept. 3 (Labor Day) at the Ravinia Festival, outside of Chicago. Mr. Kunzel will conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Tickets: $30 pavilion; $10 lawn. 847-266-5100 or

        New Strings: The Oxford String Quartet at Miami University has a new cellist. Pansy Chang, who has been a member of the Oregon Symphony, will replace Steven Shumway.

        Mr. Shumway died in December after a three-month battle with cancer. He was 45.

        “She is happy to get back into teaching. She's also, in her own right, quite a soloist,” says Elizabeth Lane, founding member and former violinist in the quartet.

        For her audition, Ms. Chang played an unaccompanied contemporary work. “It was an incredible piece, very difficult and all over the fingerboard. She was so totally in command of her instrument; it just blew us away,” Ms. Lane says.

        “Losing Steve Shumway was traumatic for the whole music department. He was a prominent member of the faculty. So it's like a new lease on life,” she adds.

        The Oxford String Quartet was founded in 1946, and is one of the two oldest quartets in the United States (the other is the Juilliard Quartet).

        Million Dollar Club: The symphony is the hot ticket in Dayton, where the Dayton Philharmonic has reached $1 million in subscription sales for the coming season. Premium seats are sold out.

        One reason: A subscription will put one in line for the best seats in the house when the new Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center opens in 2003. Cesar Pelli is the architect and Christopher Jaffe (Jaffe Holden Acoustics, Inc.) is the acoustician. Stay tuned for more as it happens.

        Contact Janelle Gelfand at 768-8382; fax: 768-8330; e-mail:


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