Monday, October 15, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

Stefan Sanderling talks exit, return, future

ST. PETERSBURG — Stefan Sanderling expects to feel a little nervous tonight. "I've always been nervous on the night before a first rehearsal, but this time it is a very unusual situation for me," Sanderling said early this month. "It will be strange."

On Wednesday morning, Sanderling will be in front of the Florida Orchestra's musicians for the first time since the orchestra announced, last July, that he was stepping down as music director two years sooner than planned. At Mahaffey Theater, he will convene the first rehearsal for his only concerts with the orchestra this season, with Mahler's epic symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde as the centerpiece of the program.

Though he is billed as conductor emeritus and artistic adviser, Sanderling, 48, appointed music director in 2002, has had scant involvement with the orchestra this season until now. He is appearing essentially as a guest conductor.

"I'm in a situation which is very rare," he said. "As a music director, your task is not to make the next concert the greatest concert on earth. That's not why you're a music director. You have to accept that sometimes you have to have bad concerts, but in the long term you develop something with an orchestra. You have to take risks. You have to push people to the limit. You have to get on people's nerves. But as a guest conductor, all you have to do is shine for the week. You tell everybody how fantastic they are. You don't have to deal with the dark side.

"My situation now is I'm not the one and not the other. Whatever choice I make is inappropriate."

Sanderling's unorthodox — and mostly unexplained — departure could lead to some awkwardness. But concertmaster Jeffrey Multer thinks most musicians will be glad to see him.

"Stefan made a decision that was best for him," Multer said. "I don't think anyone can say he shouldn't have done what he wanted to do. The Mahler is a great piece, and it's right in his wheelhouse. I think the orchestra will really want to step it up for him."

In many ways, the orchestra has moved on post-Sanderling without missing a beat. A well-orchestrated search process for his successor is under way, with a series of guest conductors who are potential candidates as music director leading masterworks programs throughout this season, with more to come in 2013-14.

Sanderling has kept a residence in St. Petersburg. His wife, Isabelle Besancon, is a cellist with the Sarasota Orchestra. German pianist Peter Rosel stayed at their house when he was a soloist with the Florida Orchestra this month. The ex-music director has not attended any of his old orchestra's concerts this season, though he did make it to a Sarasota Orchestra performance led by Thomas Wilkins, the Florida Orchestra's former resident conductor.

"You can imagine this has not been an easy situation for me," Sanderling said. "For 10 years, you were Mr. Music, and then you're not. There was no transition. It was like the pope. You are either the pope or you are not. My papacy is over."

Sanderling, who was paid $256,486 a year by the Florida Orchestra, according to the nonprofit's most recent tax return available for public view, remains as music director of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra in Ohio, where he had a half-dozen classical programs on his schedule this season plus some additional events, such as the Mozart opera Don Giovanni. He mentioned a Beethoven Ninth that he conducted in Gera, Germany, but his late withdrawal from the Florida Orchestra engagements left his calendar unusually open, because most orchestras plan their seasons far in advance.

"All of a sudden, I have lots of time," said Sanderling, who in the past kept up a busy round of guest-conducting in between engagements in Florida and Ohio. He is scheduled to lead one more masterworks program with the Florida Orchestra next season.

Does he want to be music director with another orchestra?

"I've always been a music director," Sanderling said. "You only own what you have created over time. I hope that when someone adds things up that something positive came out of my contributions here. It's too soon to say. Yes, I would like to be music director again."

But he acknowledged that his abrupt departure could raise questions from orchestras looking to hire a music director.

"I hope not but I cannot rule it out," he said. "Sometimes I wish not to think about it. Anyway I can't change it. I am the person I am with beliefs and convictions. You cannot change your beliefs or convictions depending on other people. You are what you are. I'm not willing to change that."

In an interview, over his morning coffee and pastry, Sanderling declined to give specifics on his early exit. However, he previously had made it clear there were hard feelings between him and chief executive Michael Pastreich, who has been aggressive in trying to break the perennial cycle of costs exceeding income at the orchestra. He and the board made financial decisions that undoubtedly went against the music director's vision for the orchestra, such as cutting musicians' pay, though some of those losses were regained in a new contract last year.

Pastreich planned to be on vacation this week, but he denied that had anything to do with Sanderling's presence on the podium.

"I'm coming back from my vacation early for the Sunday performance," Pastreich said. "I can't believe anything but that this will be the most riveting concert we'll do all year. I think it's a chance for Stefan to come back and make a statement. I think the concert will be a stunner."

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Comments
Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda talks about guiding fans through grief, singing Chester Bennington’s vocals and more

Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda talks about guiding fans through grief, singing Chester Bennington’s vocals and more

There are songs Mike Shinoda can't sing. One More Light, for example.The ballad, from Linkin Park's 2017 album of the same name, was already deeply personal when Shinoda wrote it in tribute to a friend who died from cancer. But after last year's deat...
Published: 10/15/18
How Lady Gaga's real life mirrors - and doesn't mirror - her character in 'A Star Is Born'

How Lady Gaga's real life mirrors - and doesn't mirror - her character in 'A Star Is Born'

Maybe you watched the trailer for "A Star Is Born," and thought, huh, that's weird. We're supposed to believe that Lady Gaga lacks the confidence to sing her own songs, or that she is unattractive, and, therefore, she couldn't have a singing career? ...
Published: 10/13/18
Sun Dome no more: After years of struggle, can the new Yuengling Center find a soul?

Sun Dome no more: After years of struggle, can the new Yuengling Center find a soul?

TAMPA — Kelli Yeloushan slid the latest issue of VenuesNow magazine across her desk."We actually have a full-page ad that just came out today," she said.There on Page 55 of the concert industry trade mag was Yeloushan, director of events management a...
Published: 10/12/18
Updated: 10/13/18
Tampa comic Matt Fernandez releases stand-up special on Amazon Prime

Tampa comic Matt Fernandez releases stand-up special on Amazon Prime

The night Matt Fernandez filmed his first stand-up comedy special, things didn't get off to a calming start."The air conditioning was broken in the green room the night of the show," he said, "so I had to actually hang out at the bar and talk to peop...
Published: 10/12/18
Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter showcases 30 years of stellar songwriting at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater

Review: Mary Chapin Carpenter showcases 30 years of stellar songwriting at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater

Before Maren Morris, before Kacey Musgraves, before Kelsea Ballerini – literally, before any of today's country queens were even born – there was Mary Chapin Carpenter.For a while in the early '90s, she sat at the rarefied nexus of mass, ...
Published: 10/12/18
SoundBytes: Migos, Greta Van Fleet, Howie Day and more

SoundBytes: Migos, Greta Van Fleet, Howie Day and more

— Lots of people in Florida have been waiting for acclaimed young throwback rockers Greta Van Fleet to announce some tour dates here, and now we've finally got some. Unfortunately, the closest date is in Orlando. The budding Zeppelinites will p...
Published: 10/11/18
He was lost. A Chuck E. Cheese robot helped him find his way.

He was lost. A Chuck E. Cheese robot helped him find his way.

A Tampa man is living his dream, the dream of finding an obscure robot from Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre and making it sing again.
Published: 10/11/18
Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, back on the road solo, reflects on grief, healing and Chester Bennington

Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, back on the road solo, reflects on grief, healing and Chester Bennington

A year after the suicide of bandmate Chester Bennington, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda talks about grief, healing and the future of the band before his first solo show in Tampa.
Published: 10/11/18
Weekend music picks: Kid Rock, Romeo Santos, Latin and country festivals

Weekend music picks: Kid Rock, Romeo Santos, Latin and country festivals

Across Tampa Bay, it's a big week for rock (Kid Rock, the Struts), country (Brantley Gilbert, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Scotty McCreery), Latin music (Romeo Santos, Gente de Zona) and more.
Published: 10/10/18
What’s on stage this week: 'The Play That Goes Wrong,' Florida Orchestra does Harry Potter

What’s on stage this week: 'The Play That Goes Wrong,' Florida Orchestra does Harry Potter

In one play, everything goes wrong on purpose. Plus, the Florida Orchestra tackles Harry Potter, and Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson meet, defying the odds.
Published: 10/10/18