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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Passing the torch

It was a pleasure to hit upon the topic of classical music on today's Sunday morning television where most of the talking heads are typically politicians or political pundits.

Urban Update on WBZ-TV Channel 7 - a "multi-cultural program that examines news events and issues that have a broad impact on New England's minority communities." The program is hosted by Byron Barnett.

It was a rare opportunity to hear a clip from the world-premiere performance last September of an excerpt of "On Williows and Birches," - a new concerto written by composer John Williams for harpist Ann Hobson Pilot.

Hobson Pilot, who recently retired from the orchestra after a glorious 40-year stint, joined the BSO in 1969 (a few before I moved to Boston). In 1980 she was promoted to the position of principal harpist for the orchestra.

She was joined on Urban Update by her BSO colleagues Mark Volpe (Managing Director), Owen Young (Cellist), and her protege and successor Jessica Zhou (Harpist). Zhou, who was born in Beijing, joined the BSO at the beginning of the 2009/2010 season.

One of the things that struck me after attending a BSO concert last week was how the orchestra personnel has changed so completely over the years. Virtually every member of the orchestra has retired or moved on relative to the time when I was a regular and dedicated BSO patron in the early 1970s. Frank Epstein perhaps would be one of the exceptions, but oddly I did not see him on the stage with the percussion section in Elliott Carter's Flute Concerto last week. I did notice the new harpist Jessica Zhou, since she had a rather important part in Carter's new work.

It's a little bitter sweet that the distinguished Ann Hobson Pilot has passed the torch to Jessica Zhou, but we can rest assured that the BSO harp section (all one of her) seems to be in good hands.