Robert Moir leaving Pittsburgh Symphony

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Robert Moir, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's senior vice president of artistic planning and audience engagement, is leaving the organization following 26 years at Heinz Hall. His position is a significant one – arguably the most important on the PSO's management side in shaping the artistic direction of the orchestra. It's another big staff change at the symphony, whose president/CEO Jim Wilkinson and senior vice president/COO Michael Bielski are retiring this summer.

Mr. Moir, who had been on sabbatical since December, was responsible for representing the PSO to the industry and spotting new talent – whether booking solo artists and conductors, arranging international tours or programming concerts. Much of that work happens years before a performance actually takes place.

In an interview Thursday, Mr. Moir said he traveled 100,000 miles from 2002-2008 in search of new artistic leadership for the orchestra. (Manfred Honeck became music director in 2008.) He also prided himself on having introduced fresh talent to the U.S., including Andris Nelsons, who conducted his first subscription concert on American soil with the PSO and is now music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Moir plans to recalibrate his work-life balance, focus on family, and put his industry knowledge to use as a consultant.

"I'm very satisfied with what I was able to do for the Pittsburgh Symphony, and I know that the organization will continue to thrive, and that is my fondest wish," he said.

Congratulations to Mr. Moir on his career at the symphony.

Mr. Wilkinson sent the organization an email, obtained by the Post-Gazette, that included Mr. Moir's announcement:

While my time as President is winding down, this is one of the most unfortunate emails I have been asked to send. While I certainly wish him well, his decision is our loss.

Jim Wilkinson

Dear friends and colleagues:

Last December I began a sabbatical which has been very beneficial for me and my family. It has been a wonderful time of reflection and contemplation. This process has allowed me to do a thorough re-evaluation of my priorities and plans.

As a result, I have decided to retire from the Pittsburgh Symphony. It has been my honor and privilege to work with Music Directors Lorin Maazel, Mariss Jansons, and Manfred Honeck. I have the utmost respect for Jim Wilkinson, Dick Simmons, Tom Todd, the Trustees of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and my colleagues on the staff present and past. I would specifically like to thank Jim Wilkinson, Katie McGuiness, Jesse Montgomery, Yonca Karakilic, Alison Bolton, and Shelly Fuerte for their steadfast support of me, and of the PSO's artistic excellence.

And to the gifted musicians of the PSO, please know how much I admire and respect you. The very best thing about working here has been listening to you play literally thousands of concerts over a quarter of a century, in Heinz Hall and around the world. These have given immeasurable joy. And I will look forward to listening to many more in the future.

The orchestra is the cultural crown jewel of Pittsburgh, and one of the great orchestras of the world. I am honored to have been a part of it for twenty-six years, and I will always wish for its continued success and prosperity.

Robert Moir
Senior Vice President of Artistic Planning and Audience Engagement


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Review: Soprano tells tales of love at Shadyside Presbyterian Church

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .


Post-Gazette editor and classical music lover Lillian Thomas attended the second concert of Shadyside Presbyterian Church's Music for Midsummer Nights series and has graciously written up an terrific review of the performance.

If you haven't been able to try out this new series, be sure to catch one of the final two concerts in the coming weeks. 

Now, from Lillian:

Kathy Linger proved to be an engaging guide for a musical tour through the vicissitudes of love Wednesday evening.

The clear-voiced lyric coloratura soprano – along with pianist Ellen Fast, clarinetist Ron Samuels and violinist Charlie Loh – filled the sanctuary of Shadyside Presbyterian with musical expressions of love that ranged from the silly to the sublime in the second installment of "Music for Midsummer Nights," a series of four midweek concerts. Ms. Linger has sung with many of Pittsburgh's early music ensembles but performs a great deal of 20th-century repertoire as well, having appeared in a variety of productions in Spoleto, Italy. She created the atmosphere of a living room concert, chatting with the audience between song groupings and looking directly into the eyes of her listeners as she sang. The song groupings moved from themes of emerging love to more melancholy meditations on longing and loss, ending with the highlight of the evening, Schubert's "The Shepherd on the Rock."

"Cupid, the Slyest Rogue Alive," Purcell's song of the winged love archer's reaction to a bee sting, fell into the silly category. Ms. Linger's singing of this and two other Purcell songs was clean and well-phrased.

The ornamentation in Handel's "Tornami a vagheggiar" gave her a little trouble, but she seemed to hit her stride in a motley selection of mostly 20th-century songs about the impact of love in full flower. Ms. Linger's coach at the University of Illinois, Eric Dallheim, introduced some of these pieces to her as vocal exercises, but they have remained meaningful to her, she told the audience.

The last in the group was Richard Robert Rossi's "A Red, Red Rose," a piece for soprano, piano and violin set to a Robert Burns poem. Twelve-year-old Charlie Loh, a CAPA student who studies with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra assistant concertmaster Hong-Guang Jia, took his place behind the piano and produced an even tone that strengthened as the piece progressed, ably matching and echoing Ms. Linger as she sang of enduring love: "And I will luve thee still, my Dear, Till a' the seas gang dry."

Ms. Linger then moved from those brighter songs to a grouping that evoked the sorrow of missing or lost love. She handled the complex, difficult selections from Richard Strauss's "Brentano Lieder" with assurance and phrasing that brought out the pathos of the songs.

Pianist Ellen Fast, who both sings with and serves as a rehearsal accompanist for the Mendelssohn Choir, was an expressive and skilled partner. In Poulenc's "Fleurs," she built tension and drama through the slow-stepping chords of her part.

Ms. Linger concluded with "The Shepherd on the Rock," Schubert's complex, shape-shifting Lied for soprano, piano and clarinet written at the end of his life for Pauline Anna Milder-Hauptmann, a singer and friend of the composer. Samuels, the PSO's second clarinetist, brought an exceptionally warm tone and thoughtful phrasing, paired with a seemingly effortless ability to leap between notes and styles. He and Ms. Linger echoed, countered and melded musical phrases throughout the song's many rhythmic, tempo and mood changes.


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Quick Hits – Pittsburgh Symphony edition

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

The latest edition of Quick Hits is hot off the press. Check out video interviews with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra principal oboist Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida and music director Manfred Honeck ahead of the symphony's season finale, featuring works by Alan Fletcher, Liszt and Mahler.

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Rzewski in Pittsburgh, and in Italy

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

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In April, when pianist-composer Frederic Rzewski concertized at Wholey's Fish Market in the Strip District, I asked him whether he had previously played "The People United Will Never Be Defeated" in other unusual venues.

Indeed, decades ago, Mr. Rzewski performed on the back of a truck at a communist festival in Italy. His son, Alexis Rzewski, who lives in Pittsburgh, just sent along a photograph from that performance.

"It was in the late 1970s, in a small hilltown in Tuscany called Montiano," Alexis said. "All these towns had their own Festa de l'Unità, which were organized by the local P.C.I. (Partito Comunista Italiano). In these festivals, people ate food, drank wine, saw entertainment, and purchased books, usually with political or social content. And yes, there were playing card competitions with the top prize being a cured ham ("prosciutto") and the usual 5K run around town."

Thanks to Alexis for sharing this!


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Make Music Pittsburgh -- call for artists/venues

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

The first-ever Make Music Pittsburgh is coming, and the organizers are looking for venues and artists to be part of a worldwide event showcasing a variety of music and bringing live performance to city neighborhoods. For those interested in being a performer or host, here is additional information from the organizer:

On June 21, 2015 Pittsburgh will launch its first annual Make Music Pittsburgh in all of the inner city neighborhoods. Make Music Pittsburgh is a festival designed to show off our local musical talent and inspire others to play music as well. Originally started in France in 1982, Pittsburgh will become one of over 700 cities globally to play music on June 21, 2015 as part of a global Make Music Day celebration of music which always takes place on the summer solstice. Whether it's hip hop in Lawrenceville, gospel in Highland Park, blue grass in Squirrel Hill, classical in the Hill District, or kids playing the harmonica in Bloomfield, Make Music Pittsburgh is about what we as a city decide to make it. Every musician has the power to choose where they are located and every location can match with their preferred style of music – just keep it outdoors so everyone can enjoy!

Open Call For Venues:

Venues are needed to sign up to get a musician to play out front of their locations. Venues include businesses, empty lots, and parks. This year Make Music Pittsburgh will focus on neighborhood business districts to help promote business, however venues outside of business districts are able to sign up.

Venues can sign up at and specify what style music they would like to have out front of their business. Once they sign up to the matching site, we will be able to pair them with an artist.

Open Call For Artists:

Artists of all types are welcome to play regardless of age, type of music, or level of ability. Street artists/buskers are not required to receive a permit for playing on the sidewalk in the city of Pittsburgh – as long as they do not block the sidewalk or street, and as long as no one complains about noise.

Therefore artists are welcome to play outside anywhere. Make Music Pittsburgh has provided a matching site as well if artists would like to schedule time in front of specific venues. Benefits of schedule through the matching program also include a concert listing on the website and app.

Videos of Make Music Day in other cities:

About Make Music New York:

Mass concert story on NPR:

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