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Symphony's Toeplitz quits

Managing director steps down, leaving top two PSO jobs open

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

By Andrew Druckenbrod, Post-Gazette Classical Music Critic

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, already looking for a music director, must now find a new managing director. At a board meeting yesterday, Gideon Toeplitz announced he will resign as managing director and executive vice president at the end of the season.

Gideon Toeplitz visits with members of the bass section during a PSO rehearsal last year at Heinz Hall. (Martha Rial, Post-Gazette)

"I have put so much of my energy into this orchestra, [but] I need a different environment," said Toeplitz, 58, from his Heinz Hall office. "This institution needs someone who is 40 years old, full of ideas and energy."

He said he has no immediate plans or professional prospects but insisted he was not retiring.

"I really want to take some time off, something I never could here. I could never disconnect myself from the PSO."

Toeplitz's resignation after 15 years in the job is set against the backdrop of serious financial difficulties. The orchestra expects to accumulate a deficit of as much as $1.5 million by May, the end of the season. It recently launched a public campaign to attract additional grants and individual donations, which have lagged in recent years, as have ticket sales. The volatile stock market also has taken a toll on the PSO's fiscal health, deflating its once-hefty endowment of $133 million two years ago to less than $100 million now.

Toeplitz, who is paid more than $300,000 a year, hinted in September that the Symphony might consider filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy -- a position the PSO board did not share.

Symphony board president Thomas Todd denied that Toeplitz was forced out due to the financial situation.

"He did well," Todd said. "I think we have reacted very well to the difficulties."

Likewise, Toeplitz said the money crunch had little bearing on his resignation.

"This decision has been in my head since August," he said. "There is never an ideal time to leave."

Hampton Mallory, PSO cellist and chairman of the orchestra committee, said the musicians appreciate what Toeplitz has done for the group but that change would be good.

"After a period of time, it is good to have fresh ideas. This is a time with many changes, and maybe it's time for someone else to work at them," he said.

Todd said the Symphony will form a search committee for a nationwide hunt for Toeplitz's replacement. A second search committee already is at work seeking candidates to replace music director Mariss Jansons, who is resigning at the end of the 2003-04 season.

The position of managing director is critical to the operation of an orchestra. The director has an active role in every aspect of its operations, and Toeplitz is known within the classical music industry for his work ethic.

"Toeplitz put his heart and soul into the job," said Mallory. "His workload is immense."

The Israeli-born Toeplitz joined the PSO in 1987, replacing Marshall Turkin, who had just lured conductor Lorin Maazel back to his hometown of Pittsburgh to succeed Andre Previn.

Prior to accepting the post in Pittsburgh, Toeplitz was executive director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra for six years and orchestra manager of the Boston Symphony, beginning in 1975. At the PSO, he hired Jansons as music director and Marvin Hamlisch as principal pops conductor.

Toeplitz also booked the orchestra on several prestigious international tours that enhanced the reputation of the PSO worldwide.

"I am extremely proud to have been part of the PSO [and to have worked with] Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons," he said. "We have had so many successes. There just comes a time in a person's life when you must move on."


Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at adruckenbrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750.

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