Symphonic Fiction | Letters | Chicago Reader

Symphonic Fiction 

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To the editors:

It is interesting to see how repetition can turn fiction into fact. In Lewis Lazare's "Culture Club" column regarding the strike at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra [September 20], one of our musicians was quoted as saying that the Orchestra management had insufficient money to give the musicians an appropriate contract, but was willing to spend $200,000 of extra cost to take John Corigliano's symphony to Europe next spring. A recent letter to the editor in the Reader accepted this as gospel, and took off on an entire diatribe that rested entirely on this one "fact" [October 11].

The truth is, however, far different. John Corigliano's symphony requires three players in addition to those already scheduled for the European tour, and some extra percussion instruments. The entire extra cost for taking this piece to Europe amounts to under $20,000, less than one-tenth the amount indicated. Neither the musician who made the charge nor Mr. Lazare ever attempted to verify the original cost that was quoted in the article.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is extremely proud of having commissioned John Corigliano's symphony as part of our Centennial Celebration. This work has been reviewed ecstatically all over the United States and Europe, via the recording we made of it with Daniel Barenboim for Erato, and many critics have called it the finest American symphony written since World War II. Many other orchestras have already performed or are scheduled to perform this work, a rare achievement for a new piece, and the recording has been on Billboard's chart of best selling classical discs for 19 weeks, reaching the number three level. It is therefore with great pride indeed that we take this work to Europe only a few months after Mr. Corigliano's new opera becomes the first new work performed at the Metropolitan Opera in a quarter century. We believe that the investment of the modest sum of under $20,000 in this project is precisely the way we should be spending our money.

Henry Fogel

Executive Director

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Lewis Lazare replies:

Though I clearly indicated that the $200,000 figure was the musician's calculation, not Henry Fogel's, I appreciate Fogel's effort to set the record straight. Would that it had come sooner. I did seek management's response to musicians' statements made in the heated early days of the strike. But a CSO spokeswoman told me that Fogel would not be available for comment and that management would not answer questions about CSO expenditures and staff increases because they were issues in the negotiations.

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