With its fund-raising staff in transition for the second time in three months, the San Diego Symphony is going full speed ahead with ambitious plans to begin its residency at downtown's Fox Theatre in November. On Wednesday, music director David Atherton announced an intriguing first season of programming at the Fox, now being referred to as Symphony Hall.
The season features 25 weeks of concerts, including an unusual series of chamber opera, a "Great Composers Series," the return of stellar piano soloist Andre Watts, and three more works--including another world premiere--by composer-in-residence Bernard Rands.
All this was revealed in the wake of Monday's firing of Carl Ludlow, the La Jolla businessman who had been director of the symphony's capital gifts campaign only since October. Ludlow, 52, a one-time campaign manager for Mayor Roger Hedgecock and an unsuccessful county assessor candidate, had been at the center of the symphony's $6.5-million Fox Theatre fund-raising campaign after replacing development director Jerry Kleinman (who has moved on to the New York Philharmonic).
"I really don't know why I was let go. I felt I had done a superb job," Ludlow told The Times, but he also noted that he hadn't reached the symphony executive board's goal of raising $2 million by December. "When I walked into the job there was a list of some $980,000 in pledges, which I was able to verify out at $700,000. At the time, there were only two requests (for contributions) out. In 90 days, the pledge total was at about $1.5 million, and there are now many, many requests out. I think things should be fairly easy for my successor."
According to Richard Bass, the symphony's executive director who hired and fired Ludlow, that successor could be named "in a matter of days or even hours."
Bass acknowledged that whoever is named "is going to be under a lot of pressure, I suppose. But we have a very specific job to get done, and Carl wasn't doing it . . . He didn't have the organization, but I can't be more specific than that."
Ludlow had been a controversial choice, despite a background in hotel ownership, retail merchandising and some fund raising for other local organizations. His name had surfaced last year in grand jury testimony that led to the indictment of Hedgecock on conspiracy and perjury charges. According to the testimony of then-mayoral candidate Dick Carlson, Ludlow offered to supply Carlson with damaging information about Hedgecock in exchange for Carlson's support of Ludlow's bid to become county assessor. Ludlow also testified before the grand jury and denied Carlson's assertions.
"With respect to the sociopolitical aspect of Carl's background, it was my conclusion that none of that would affect his capability to do the job," said Bass. "We had just reached a point where Jerry (Kleinman) wasn't doing the job that had to be done. I had to make a decision and Carl seemed to have what was necessary, including position in the community and more fund-raising experience than any other candidates being considered."
As for the symphony's 1985-86 season, it will begin with a Nov. 2 Symphony Hall gala, the stars of which Atherton declined to reveal. But he declared that it will be "an evening San Diego is going to remember, with not just musical but extra-musical goings on." Beyond that, Atherton will conduct 18 weeks of concerts, the largest number of weeks he has committed to the orchestra since joining it in 1981.
The season will begin officially on Nov. 7, with the premiere of an as-yet-unnamed work by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rands. Other highlights include the return of pianist John Lill, who performed a cycle of all the Beethoven piano concertos here last season. Lill will perform Nov. 14-17 and Nov. 21-23, in an all-Beethoven program that will be the first of the five-week "Great Composers Series." Interspersed through the regular season but sold as a separate subscription event, the series will also focus on Berlioz, Stravinsky, Mozart and Dvorak.
Other soloists include violinist Cho-Liang Lin, performing Mozart's Violin Concerto in A major Nov. 29-Dec. 1; Andres Cardenes, the recently named new concertmaster of the symphony, who will make his solo bow with Bach's Violin Concerto No. 2 in E major on Dec. 5-8; Schlomo Mintz, performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor on Feb. 13 and 15, 1986, and cellist Ralph Kirshbaum, on April 25-27, 1986. Pianist Watts will perform Beethoven's "Emperor" concerto on May 15-17, 1986, in the final concerts of the season.
Atherton continues to indulge his bent for adventurous programming and 20th-Century music, with scheduled performances of Carl Weber's Bassoon Concerto in F major, and West Coast premieres of Richard Rodney Bennett's Double Bass Concerto, Roger Sessions' Concerto for Orchestra and Michael Tippett's Symphony No. 1.
The first of the four staged works will be a performance of Stravinsky's "A Soldier's Tale," featuring dancers and actors, on Jan. 23-25, 1986. Then, on April 17-20, 1986, Atherton will conduct three one-act chamber operas, Poulenc's "La Voix Humane," Weill's "Mahagonny" songspiel, and the first professional performance of Samuel Barber's "A Hand of Bridge." With the orchestra positioned in the Fox pit, Atherton noted, the operas will feature "only a handful of singers, and no chorus. In terms of costume and scenery, the productions will be modest indeed, but with the best production values possible."
Atherton also noted that all of the regular season's concerts will be performed at Symphony Hall, none at the East County Performing Arts Center in El Cajon, where the orchestra currently performs most of its Saturday night concerts.
"We've tried not only for balance in our programming, but also to include large numbers of popular pieces," Atherton said. "You'll find that on programs where there is a difficult piece, it's mitigated by a more popular element. Also, we've tried to encourage people to increase the number of tickets they buy, through discounts and incentives. We've devised a set-up where those subscribers who have taken only 10 concerts in the past can go up to 15, or from 15 to 20, or from five to 10. That's a good basis of increase."