Boston's Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra Names Gisèle Ben-Dor Conductor Emerita
Departing Conductor Lavished with Praise at Farewell Concert
[Cambridge, MA] - Ryan Fleur, Executive Director of the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston has announced that Gisèle Ben-Dor has been voted conductor emerita by orchestra members. The announcement came at the conclusion of Ben-Dor's final concert with the orchestra on October 24, 1999. As conductor emerita, Ms. Ben-Dor will return to the Orchestra as a frequent guest conductor.
Ms. Ben-Dor was appointed Music Director of the cooperative orchestra by its musicians in 1991, following the death of the group's founder, Larry Hill (her title was later changed to Principal Conductor). For her farewell concert on October 24, she garnered the rave reviews that have become a mainstay of her eight years with the ensemble. T.J. Medrek of the Boston Herald asserted that "Ben-Dor led this fine group of players with energy, confidence, and the kind of musicality in which every note, every phrase means something. Nothing is just played - it's performed. That's how she made the 199-year-old Beethoven sound as new as the U.S. premiere of Almas Serkebayev's 'Shertpe Kuy.'" Ellen Pfeifer of the Boston Globe noted that "Ben-Dor performed an odd, quirky program that exemplified those qualities of exoticism, joy, and energy praised by her musician colleagues."
Ms. Ben-Dor's warm rapport with the musicians was in evidence to the end. Speaking with the Boston Globe, Concertmaster Kristina Nisson praised Ms. Ben-Dor's guidance and musicianship, remarking "She was a shining star in our midst. We were the beneficiaries of her terrific energy and her unique insights into music she loves. She brought deep knowledge and a profound love of music and sheer joy to rehearsals and performances." Audience reaction was similarly bittersweet, with shouts of "We love you!" streaming from the House as Ben-Dor exited the stage. In addition, Ms. Ben-Dor's accomplishments were acknowledged with proclamations from Governor Paul Cellucci of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts State Senate, and the City of Boston.
Under Ms. Ben-Dor's leadership the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra has achieved widespread critical acclaim and record-setting attendance, culminating last season in capacity audiences, including three sold-out concerts. The Orchestra has earned national recognition for its innovative programming and commitment to community outreach. Winner of the 1994 ASCAP award for its commitment to American music, the Orchestra is also one of 13 recipients to participate in the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's national orchestra program. In 1998, Ms. Ben-Dor led the Orchestra in its Tanglewood debut to critical acclaim, and also led the orchestra on its first regional tour throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland in 1992.
As Music Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony and an active guest conductor throughout North America, Latin America and Europe, Gisèle Ben-Dor's performances are receiving overwhelming critical acclaim. In March 1999, the Uruguayan-born conductor returned to the New York Philharmonic in dramatic fashion, conducting a program of Beethoven and Mahler without rehearsal, much as she did as a last-minute substitute for Kurt Masur in 1994. Ms. Ben-Dor conducted the Philharmonic on a number of other occasions, and in recent years has led such orchestras as the Boston Pops, Concert Soloists of Philadelphia, English Chamber Orchestra, Israel Chamber Orchestra and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
Other career highlights include her many acclaimed recordings of Latin American composers for BMG/Conifer and Koch, sharing the stage with mentor Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood and the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, and her professional conducting debut with the Israel Philharmonic in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring , televised worldwide by the BBC/London. This season finds Ms. Ben-Dor at the Gans Theatre de Geneve, Italy's "Suoni di Versi" Festival and making a return engagement with the Helsinki Philharmonic. In January 2000, she will lead a major Revueltas Festival in Santa Barbara, which will feature not only the composer's major orchestra works, but the long-unseen films that he scored and concerts of his chamber pieces and children's music.