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Principal flutist Mathieu Dufour leaves L.A. Phil [updated]

January 6, 2010 | 11:32 am

Dufour Mathieu Dufour, who has served as principal flutist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic since the beginning of the current season, has abruptly left his post to return to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The news, which was confirmed by both orchestras, comes about halfway through Dufour's one-year trial period with the L.A. Phil. Like many musicians of his stature, Dufour was allowed to join the orchestra on a so-called probationary period during which he was allowed to retain his previous post as principal flutist with the CSO.

Sophie Jefferies, a spokeswoman for the L.A. Phil, said on Monday that Dufour's decision to leave was a result of "personal reasons, not musical reasons."

But a report published in the Chicago Sun-Times suggests that Dufour's departure from L.A. was less than amicable.

“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," he told the newspaper.

"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.”

[Updated on Jan. 8: Flutist Mathieu Dufour apologizes to L.A. Phil, slams Chicago Sun-Times article.]

[Updated at 12:14 p.m.: Jefferies, the L.A. Phil spokeswoman, said: "We're very puzzled by his perception as he was only here for a few months."

She said that Dufour had accepted a signing bonus when he joined the orchestra, which signified his intent to become a permanent member.]

The orchestra said Dufour is experiencing a medical condition that would have forced him to miss much of the remainder of the current season, and that it took that into consideration when granting him an early exit to his contract.

A spokeswoman for the CSO told Culture Monster that the medical condition is related to shoulder surgery that Dufour is scheduled to undergo, possibly in February.

Dufour, 36, has already left L.A. and is currently performing with the CSO. The flutist's contract with the L.A. Phil allowed him to take on extracurricular appearances with other organizations.

As Culture Monster reported in September, Dufour was appointed in 2008 by the L.A. Phil's previous music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen.

While it's not uncommon for musicians to fit in with one orchestra and not another, the departure of Dufour comes as a surprise since he reportedly got along well with members of the L.A. Phil.

Deborah Borda, the orchestra's president, told Culture Monster last year that the flutist had "formed a bond" with other musicians when he joined the orchestra's tour of Asia last season.

Moreover, Dufour sought out the position in L.A. and was chosen over a "large number" of competitors, according to Borda.

Born in France, Dufour is considered to be in the top ranks of flutists worldwide. At the age of 25, he was appointed principal flute of the CSO by Daniel Barenboim.

Times music critic Mark Swed called the flutist "sensational" and said that "everyone thought he was sure to stay in L.A."

The L.A. Phil said it will be looking for a new principal flutist, but no timetable or names have been announced.

-- David Ng

Photo: Flutist Mathieu Dufour. Credit: Chicago Symphony Orchestra