Author Topic: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO  (Read 823 times)

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Offline Sylph

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Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« on: January 08, 2010, 05:53:47 AM »
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Mathieu Dufour staying with Chicago Symphony Orchestra

by Andrew Patner

When Chicago Symphony Orchestra principal flute Mathieu Dufour takes the stage Thursday night as a soloist for the first of a month of CSO concerts saluting the upcoming 85th birthday of conductor emeritus Pierre Boulez, there should be even more than the usual cheers for the popular musician.

Just before a CSO rehearsal Tuesday morning, the internationally acclaimed Dufour, 37, who has been on leave playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic the last several months, told his CSO colleagues and Boulez that he would be remaining in Chicago.

“I missed Chicago — the players and the audience and the city itself — really a lot,” he told the Sun-Times on Tuesday. “I’m glad that I tried something else. But by doing so I realized even more what we have here.

“There are fine musicians in Los Angeles, but we have achieved a very strong common purpose and set of aims in Chicago that they do not have or do not yet have there.  They have no tradition there — no tradition of sound and no tradition of working together as a dedicated ensemble. Maybe they will have that someday in the future.”

In an e-mail Tuesday to CSO trustees, CSO Association President Deborah F. Rutter wrote, “When this news was shared with the orchestra this morning, there was a sustained warm and enthusiastic response (yes, cheering, stomping of feet, etc!). This is great news for all of us at the CSO!”

With the exception of some attention-hungry opera divas, the world of classical music is usually fairly civil, collegial and lacking in surprises. A contract is a contract. There’s little news until formal announcements are made. Players and singers from rival groups are courted, but never poached.

But in September, the L.A. Phil issued an unprecedented press release announcing that Dufour was leaving Chicago after 10 years to take up the first flute chair at Walt Disney Concert Hall under the Philharmonic’s new music director, the charismatic young Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel. The Philharmonic even posted a biography of Dufour on its Web site, claiming he had been appointed as principal back in 2008 by the orchestra’s former music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen.

There were a few problems with the Philharmonic’s statements, though. In the first place, they weren’t true.

“Everyone in the music business knows that these things are trial periods at first,” Dufour told the Sun-Times in September while in Lucerne, Switzerland, where the CSO was on a five-city, nine-concert European tour with its principal conductor Bernard Haitink.

CSO officials were barely given a courtesy heads-up from their Los Angeles colleagues before the press release went out, and they learned of it only as the CSO was taking the stage in Berlin for its first concert of the fall European tour.

“We can’t speak for another orchestra,” said CSO vice president for public relations Raechel Alexander in September. “But we don’t announce new appointments until a player’s existing ones elsewhere have been resolved. And Mathieu is the principal flute of the CSO and of no other orchestra, as far as we are aware.”

Without bothering to speak to Dufour himself, other news organizations in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago reported that he was moving out West.

Dufour played last season with the Philharmonic and Salonen on a lengthy Asian tour and at its Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall. He took an unpaid leave for a part of this season to try things out with Dudamel.

But he also played the CSO’s full Europe tour and Chicago dates with Haitink, is playing three weeks of programs with Boulez (including a tour this month to New York’s Carnegie Hall) and is still committed to the CSO’s all-Beethoven Festival, also with Haitink, in June. All of this is a much heavier schedule than usual for a departing musician.

The L.A. musicians, Dufour said, “will have some exciting concerts there for sure as they go along. But in every rehearsal I missed what makes up the Chicago sound: the sense that every member of the CSO knows that you cannot ever go halfway and that every subtle detail is important.” 

As it is, Dufour will not be returning to Los Angeles at all this season, using the time from February through May for shoulder surgery and recuperation.

“Mathieu has resigned for personal reasons,” said Los Angeles Philharmonic director of public relations Sophie Jefferies. “He had a one-year contract with us, and with his known Chicago concert date commitments and his medical leave, he has fulfilled that contract and has played his last concert here.

“We’re very sorry to see him go and wish him all the best. He is an amazing player.”

Andrew Patner is critic at large for WFMT-FM (98.7).

Offline Sylph

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2010, 11:58:47 AM »
You can find Dufour's apology to LA Phil musicians here, in which he "slams Chicago Sun-Times".

Offline MishaK

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2010, 12:00:55 PM »
Welcome to GMG, Sylph.

Interesting choice of first subject to post here. As a Chicago resident and CSO subscriber I am of course delighted that Dufour decided to stay here. He was sorely missed during his LA experiment. I will hear him play the Dalbavie concerto tomorrow.

Offline Sylph

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2010, 12:14:33 PM »
Welcome to GMG, Sylph.

Thank  you! :)

Interesting choice of first subject to post here. As a Chicago resident and CSO subscriber I am of course delighted that Dufour decided to stay here. He was sorely missed during his LA experiment. I will hear him play the Dalbavie concerto tomorrow.

Chicago Symphony is probably my favourite American orchestra. If not a global one. Even though I'm not Chicagoan, I am extremely interested in everything concerning this orchestra and follow it attentively and thoroughly. 8)

This "Dufour Affair" is a strange one, for sure. As one of the commentators on the LA Times' website said: there are no surgeons in LA? Why did he accept LA Phil's offer in the first place? Why did he accept the signing bonus (a sign of wanting to become a permanent member) and then withdraw?

I just hope that, as, again, one of the commentators says, this bad PR doesn't negatively affect his performance.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2010, 12:59:32 PM »
This "Dufour Affair" is a strange one, for sure. As one of the commentators on the LA Times' website said: there are no surgeons in LA? Why did he accept LA Phil's offer in the first place? Why did he accept the signing bonus (a sign of wanting to become a permanent member) and then withdraw?

I just hope that, as, again, one of the commentators says, this bad PR doesn't negatively affect his performance.

I think the papers and the LA Phil PR dept made it into more of an "affair" than it really was. It is not uncommon for principal players to try out another orchestra before committing and before completely quitting another. Indeed, the CSO's assistant principal bassoon also tried out the LA Phil during that same time and decided to stay in Chicago but nobody wrote a word about it. A bigger fuss was made about Dufour because he really is an exceptional player, second only to Pahud perhaps. The LA Phil went out on a limb last year in announcing they had hired Dufour, something that isn't normally done until after the trial period has been concluded, and Dufour at the time denied having quit Chicago. If they hadn't made that premature announcement the Chicago papers probably would not have written anything about the matter at all. It's the LA press release that set off this whole nonsense. From what I know through the grapevine, Dufour had perfectly good personal reasons for seriously considering LA to the point of taking unpaid leave from the CSO this season, and had again perfectly sound personal reasons for deciding in the end that staying in Chicago made more sense. Needless to say, Patner will probably find it harder getting interviews from Dufour in the future.

Offline Sylph

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2010, 01:28:25 PM »
I think the papers and the LA Phil PR dept made it into more of an "affair" than it really was. It is not uncommon for principal players to try out another orchestra before committing and before completely quitting another. Indeed, the CSO's assistant principal bassoon also tried out the LA Phil during that same time and decided to stay in Chicago but nobody wrote a word about it.

Yes. Precisely. Both the LA and Chicago media didn't handle this well: the first bragged about getting Dufour way before time and the Chicagoans retaliated, so to speak. It wasn't pretty at times and Chicago media should have restrained from I told ya's.

A bigger fuss was made about Dufour because he really is an exceptional player, second only to Pahud perhaps.

I agree with this assessment.

From what I know through the grapevine, Dufour had perfectly good personal reasons for seriously considering LA to the point of taking unpaid leave from the CSO this season, and had again perfectly sound personal reasons for deciding in the end that staying in Chicago made more sense. Needless to say, Patner will probably find it harder getting interviews from Dufour in the future.

I don't really have any trouble believing there were perfectly good reasons.

Still, he didn't make all the right steps, I guess: the whole flirtatious, vague, "misty" move to LA all of a sudden — I wonder how the fellow CSO players felt about that — and then the "rejection" of LA Phil — which certainly jeopardises Dufour's connections with that orchestra.

Patner declared he stands by his reporting.

So... I guess I'm still intrigued and many things are vague and fishy here. To me. :)


P. S. Will you post your thoughts/review of the concert somewhere? I'd like to read it if you do.

Offline MishaK

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2010, 03:54:47 PM »
Still, he didn't make all the right steps, I guess: the whole flirtatious, vague, "misty" move to LA all of a sudden — I wonder how the fellow CSO players felt about that — and then the "rejection" of LA Phil — which certainly jeopardises Dufour's connections with that orchestra.

Well, there is nothing fishy, vague or flirtatious about it, since others do it too, except it usually passes way below the press radar. I think his various colleagues in the CSO and LAPO can handle it just fine. If as a classical musician you can't deal with rejection you'd never survive an audition. ;)

P. S. Will you post your thoughts/review of the concert somewhere? I'd like to read it if you do.

Click on the globe under my avatar. Review will be there in due course.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2010, 04:31:15 PM by Mensch »

Offline jochanaan

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2010, 06:11:19 AM »
...Both the LA and Chicago media didn't handle this well...
So what else is new?! ;D
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline Sylph

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2010, 12:20:55 PM »
Well, there is nothing fishy, vague or flirtatious about it...

I disagree. The fact that others do it too doesn't really erase the mystery for me. 8)

Offline MishaK

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2010, 02:43:44 PM »
I disagree. The fact that others do it too doesn't really erase the mystery for me. 8)

It's the standard modus operandi. Some do it for a shorter period of time usually. E.g. the principal clarinet of Philly recently reportedly tried out the CSO for a little while (they have an opening for principal clarinet since Larry Combs retired) and decided against the CSO and returned to Philly. Nothing unusual, fishy or flirtatious at all. Often it's the orchestra that after a trial period decides that the candidate should not receive tenure. E.g., there was a dude, name escapes me now, who originally won the CSO principal trumpet audition when Bud Herseth retired and didn't last past the trial season, IIRC. Then the CSO got Chris Martin (who came from Atlanta).

What mysteries remain regarding Dufour are of a private nature and, again, nothing fishy except that the press butchered the story so it all sounds kinda weird.

Offline Sylph

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Re: Mathieu Dufour Staying With the CSO
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2010, 12:26:12 PM »
I know it's the modus operandi. :D

The bottom line is: I love it that he is staying! I am h-a-p-p-y! 8)

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