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A rift erupts at Pasadena Symphony over conductor's departure

May 24, 2010 |  8:21 pm

Mester

Musicians at the Pasadena Symphony aren't happy about the recent departure of conductor Jorge Mester and they're saying that the orchestra's top management isn't being honest about the reasons behind the shake-up.

Mester, who served 25 years as music director of the Pasadena Symphony, played his final concert on May 15. Paul Jan Zdunek, the organization's chief executive, said that Mester unilaterally announced his departure from the company a few days before the concert while in the midst of contract negotiations.

But a number of people close to the situation -- including musicians and Mester's representative -- said that Zdunek's official version of the incident is false and disingenuous.

The controversy comes in the midst of a difficult budgetary recovery for the Pasadena Symphony and Pops. The organization, which was created in 2007 following the merger of the two financially strapped companies, has seen massive staff cuts and other forms of restructuring in the past year or so.

Mester declined multiple requests for an interview, but his representative, Diane Saldick, said that the Pasadena Symphony terminated the conductor’s contract two years before it was set to expire, and that Mester’s repeated offers to take a pay cut were rejected.

Members of the orchestra are openly criticizing Zdunek's managerial style, saying that the budget cuts are harming the artistic quality of the organization. Zdunek was named to the position in late 2008 with the task of turning around the debt-plagued orchestra.

Read the full story on the Pasadena Symphony's latest woes.

-- David Ng

Photo: Jorge Mester bows after performing for the last time as music director of the Pasadena Symphony on May 15. Credit: Ann Johansson / For the Times

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