By Andrew Patner/For Sun-Times Media
The flute will not fly, at least this coming season.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra administrators, musicians and patrons have been wondering for the past three months if the group’s coveted principal flute, the Paris-born and -trained Mathieu Dufour, would leave the CSO for the same position at the Berlin Philharmonic. Berlin, a peer ensemble with Chicago, announced on its website in May that Dufour had won the auditions for the spot there.
But on Tuesday a CSO spokeswoman confirmed a report in the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel that even if Dufour eventually goes to the German capital, he won’t do so until the autumn of 2015. The German-language paper revealed this in a profile Friday of the man Dufour would succeed, 45-year Philharmonic veteran flute soloist Andreas Blau. Blau will now play a 46th year there, as a retiree, the article said.
Dufour will play with Chicago at least for the 2014-2015 season, the CSO spokeswoman said. The musician himself could not be reached for comment.
With a major CSO European tour coming up in October and November — including the orchestra’s long-awaited debut in Warsaw and a full week of concerts at Vienna’s legendary Musikverein, home to one of the world’s highest praised orchestras, the Vienna Philharmonic — there was increasing anxiety at Orchestra Hall about who would fill the flute section’s first chair.
Dufour, in his early 40s, was appointed by former CSO music director Daniel Barenboim in 1999 and is considered one of the great orchestral flutists. He took a year’s leave to play principal with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the 2009-2010 season, but returned to the CSO after three months.
Recently CSO principal clarinet Stephen Williamson returned to Chicago after a year in that seat with the New York Philharmonic. Auditions are coming up in the fall for the CSO principal bassoon position after longtime first chair David McGill retired quite early to join the full-time music faculty at Northwestern University. The well-respected assistant principal, William Buchman, will serve as acting principal bassoon this year. To round out the wind section chairs, Chicago’s principal oboe Eugene Izotov played some concerts with the San Francisco Symphony this spring but has said he is “not going anywhere” now.