Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Oregon Historical Quarterly aricle on Jacques Singer, former music director of the Oregon Symphony

The Spring 2008 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly has a fine article, written by Genevieve J. Long, about music director Jacques Singer, who directed the Oregon Symphony from 1962-1971. The article, entitled "Making 'Good Music'" contains many quotes from former members of the orchestra about Singer. Many of them describe Singer's volatile personality, which got in the way of his leadership and musical abilities, which then lead to clashes with orchestra members. Things came to a head in 1971 when Singer tried to cancel concertmaster Hugh Ewart's contract. Ewart responded by refusing to stand when Singer entered the stage for the first concert of the 1971-1972 season and the entire orchestra followed Ewart's lead. The turmoil between the orchestra and Singer affected the audience and the community at large, so the board of directors decided not to renew Singer's contract.

The article covers the upswing in audience attendance, financial matters, and the state of the orchestra in general during Singer's turbulent tenure. Near the end of the piece it mentions that Michael Foxman was hired as concertmaster in 1973, but it neglects to mention that Lawrence Leighton Smith, a hometown piano prodigy who won the Mitropoulos International Conducting Competition in 1964, took over the reins of the Oregon Symphony in 1973.

I know from having interviewed Norman Leyden, that Singer clashed with him over the pops program, which Leyden had created as part of the orchestra's season. Long's article does mention that in "1972, the symphony lost pops conductor Norman Leyden, who started a pops series. Fortunately, the Symphony got Leyden and his pops series back into the fold after Singer left.

On page 68 the article incorrectly states "Pacific University in Tacoma, Washington" when it probably meant Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.

All in all, it's great to get this glimpse into the history of the Oregon Symphony, and I hope that you get a chance to read Long's article.

1 comment:

dagney said...

I just read the article on the Jacques Singer .
Jacques Singer was a magnificent conductor.
In terms of excitement, the concerts were as
rousing as the concerts in New York I attended
with Leonard Bernstein conducting.
Jacques Singer's drama, nuance of line
and phrasing, as well as his amazing sweeping
musicality was always a joy and inspiration.
My family had Box seats, and I was fourteen,
and will never forget the Guarnica I heard maestro Singer perform.
Great article.