I want to thank you for your groundbreaking article concerning the misappropriation of power in the Cleveland Orchestra ["Sour Notes
," February 21]. This has been an ever increasing and scandalous issue that has needed exposure for some time.
Mr. Rosenberg at The Plain Dealer
had been made aware of it, but failed to address it. A couple of years back, when he was curious about pursuing the matter, executives re-appropriated a portion of his music column to Ms. Salisbury. Apparently the paper wanted to avoid a scandal, and preferred to simply avert public focus. I believe that bringing community concerns to awareness is the implied responsibility of any news organization. I applaud you for tackling this issue and giving it the attention it deserves.
The power abuse within The Orchestra has been going on for some time, and actually you have only begun to graze the surface. Let me fill you in a little:
When Mr. Daniel Majeske passed untimely, his Concertmaster post was taken up by Mr. Martin Chalifour, who received the position of 'Acting' Concertmaster. Usually, this 'acting' precept is temporary (for one season, perhaps two at most), and the decision is made to either complete the promotion, or finalize auditions for someone fully capable. The management unfairly led on Mr. Chalifour for several seasons, never giving him his properly due and deserved title.
During this period Mr. Tom Morris, who was a close friend of Mr. Bill Preucil, allowed Bill to convince him of his competence and intent to step in and take over the position. This was done without proper process in a back-room maneuver. The post should have been awarded to the more talented Mr. Chalifour, who later left in disgust to become Concertmaster of The Los Angeles Philharmonic (a definite loss for Cleveland). The appointment was pre-determined in favor of Mr. Preucil, in spite of other fine alternatives. In fact, Mr. Andres Cardenas, Concertmaster of The Pittsburgh Symphony was another who was interested in auditioning, but was beaurocratically delayed until finally informed that the selection process period had already closed(!) Incidentally, Mr. Preucil played the Cleveland vs. Philadelphia Orchestra card against the Orchestra management when, in reality, Philadelphia was not so interested in him anyhow.
Once Mr. Preucil was appointed to his current post, he began to further his power plays. This led to the early/forced retirement of a number of musicians who questioned his musical ability and intent, as they were deemed a threat to his security. The saddest thing is that many of these members were the sole remaining sounds from the Szell/Maazel eras, and responsible for transferring that tonal lineage to the younger generation. Not to mention that they were not reserved to the string section, but any section where Mr. Preucil may have wanted to load the audition process with his family, friends, or romantic interests.
The general process of how this was done was that Mr. Preucil would bully Mr. Dochnanyi into humiliating the musicians by moving them to the back of their section, under the (false) pretense that they were no longer playing up to their proper level. Generally, this was a greater embarrassment for many of the players that they preferred to retire early with the dignity of holding their chairs.
Mr. Yarden Faden and the late Mr. Ed Ormond were sad examples of this political smear maneuver from the viola section. Mr. Stephen Majeske (Principal Second Violins) was on disability leave when his post was illegally given away and his contract prematurely terminated. Mr. Alvaro deGranda, the former Assistant Concertmaster, was forced into a private audition for the Conductor, supposedly in order to prove his skill and retain his chair. He was a strong principal player from the Szell era, and could not simply be moved. His personal audition for Dochnanyi (which is unheard of in the first place, since the Conductor should be able to make such a determination on his own -- the principal string players already sit directly under his nose) gave no indication of inadequacy, so he could not be coerced into losing his post.
However, he suffered much mental duress from the situation. He later stepped back on his own accord as a retaliatory act against the increasingly unfair back-room politics, thus saving his principal level income, reducing his responsibilities, and forcing the management to fill his empty seat with another player requiring higher principal salary.
At this point, Mr. Preucil tried to swing his family member Mr. Stephen Rose into the chair, however his audition level was undeniably far inferior. By process of elimination, the best player to audition was Mr. Lev Polyakin, which is how he was offered the seat (against Mr. Preucil's wishes, and the ultimate regret of Mr. Dochnanyi for harassing Mr. deGranda toward a move in the first place). Mr. Preucil then whispered into the ear of Tom Morris that he was questioning renewing the long term contract the Orchestra held for Maestro Dochnanyi, and suggested that perhaps a better option may be discovered. The management and Mr. Preucil began giving Mr. Dochnanyi a difficult time, until he eventually decided to quietly move on.
In fact, there were a number of highly competent and big name conductors calling on Cleveland (Simon Rattle being one, as well as Jajha Ling and Vladimir Ashkenazy, both of whom already had standing associations and are now curiously absent), but they would have threatened Mr. Preucil's stranglehold, so were deemed inappropriate. Mr. Preucil needed someone who could be manipulated from the beginning, someone talented but younger without an already established reputation (enter Mr. Franz Welsner Most). Interestingly, the person who helped Mr. Preucil's rise to power, Mr. Tom Morris, was later coerced out when he himself became an obstacle to Mr. Preucil's intentions. When Mr. Preucil decided that he wanted to take over the top violin post of the Cleveland Institute of Music, he succeeded in forcing Mr. Wallerstein into moving to Boston.
At this point, a portion of Mr. Preucil's power abuse is becoming public (thanks to your reporting!) and The Orchestra is highly polarized between those who acknowledge his abuse, and those too scared to speak out in fear of retaliation.
One interesting item of note is the difficult predicament of Ms. Ellen dePasquale. Recently Mr. Preucil was slated to perform the Adams Violin Concerto with the Orchestra, a highly technical and difficult piece. This is not in the normal collection of repertoire, and takes a good month to practice it to a performance level. One week before his scheduled performance, Mr. Preucil decided that he was no longer going to play the program, and handed the responsibility over to Ms. dePasquale, knowing that her odds of failure were statistically high. On the contrary (and with an exceptional level of musicianship far higher than Mr. Preucil himself!) she shone brilliantly at her performance. Mr. Preucil, not to be foiled, continued to harass her until she recently decided to resign at the end of the upcoming summer season (prior to your article's release).
On a similar note, in order to squeeze Mr. Polyakin out of his chair and back into the regular section, Mr. Preucil decided to open a new (unnecessary) position of First Associate Concertmaster within the center of the principal section, thus dissolving the last principal chair, coincidentally in which sits Mr. Polyakin. It will be interesting to see as events transpire if he can manage to follow through with this scam, with the pending resignation of Ms. dePasquale and the subsequent opening of her own chair now at hand.
Thanks to your article Mr. Preucil is now finding himself with unprecedented challenges in holding on to his influence. PLEASE DON'T STOP! We, the City of Cleveland, need to regain our illuminated Orchestra's level of quality and respect before it is fully usurped and lost. There are enough names listed here for you to network from. Hopefully you will not encounter too many hurdles, although some of the persons involved may not be able to discuss the matter freely, as they have already successfully sued the Orchestra for forcing their untimely retirement (yet another hidden secret!)
Thank you again for all that you are doing. It is a service to the continued tradition of Cleveland and its internationally reputed Orchestra.
-- received via email