RPO conductor Arild Remmereit will not take the podium Jan. 24

08:58 PM, Jan 07, 2013

Arild Remmereit, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra's music director. Credit Kurt Pinter. Provided by RPO./

Written By Stuart Low | Staff writer

Arild Remmereit won’t be on the podium at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s next classical concerts — though community efforts to retain him as music director are gaining momentum.

The RPO announced Tuesday afternoon that Remmereit hadn’t confirmed that he’ll conduct local programs from Jan. 24 through Jan. 27.

So Yoav Talmi, principal guest conductor of the Israel Chamber Orchestra, has been hired to lead Philharmonic Series concerts in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre on Jan. 24 and 26, and at Smith Opera House in Geneva on Jan. 25. The concert will feature music composed by Mozart.

Andrew Constantine, music director of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, will conduct music by Mozart family members at Hochstein Performance Hall on Jan. 27.

But the embattled Remmereit hopes to keep his place in the public eye. At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, he’ll speak publicly for the first time about the RPO board’s Nov. 28 vote to terminate his contract two years early, when the season ends in August.

The press conference will be held in the Kate Gleason Auditorium at the downtown Central Library, 115 South Ave. It’s sponsored by 16 community supporters who have formed a group with a blog at rpocommunity.wordpress.com, Facebook page and Twitter account.

They include three newly resigned RPO board members — Gwen Sterns, Nannette Nocon and Kishan Pandya — and Rochester philanthropist Betty Strasenburgh, who withdrew a bequest to the RPO estimated at more than $1 million. All had strongly supported Remmereit and protested the board’s handling of him.

Arild will talk about all the conflicts he has had with the RPO administration,” said group spokesman Ray Grosswirth, 63, a retired City Hall administrator living in Henrietta. “The public hasn’t heard his side of the story yet. It is our hope that he can conduct the remaining concerts in his contract.”

Group members plan to discuss the RPO’s future and what it might hold for Remmereit and CEO Charles Owens. The two men clashed repeatedly on artistic and administrative issues during Remmereit’s first season.

We all feel strongly that Charlie stood in the way of Arild’s artistic vision,” Grosswirth said. “If Charlie stays, there always will be friction. High staff turnover was a very big issue during his administration.”

The RPO will be represented in the audience, said spokesman Mark Berry. He said the group “obviously cares about the RPO, and we do, too.”

Grosswirth and other group members acknowledge that Owens is supported by a sizable majority of the board. The group may attempt to organize an opposing slate of board candidates before the RPO’s annual meeting on Jan. 23.

That could take a suspension of RPO bylaws, which require all board candidates to be nominated by Oct. 31. That was a month before the board voted to dismiss Remmereit, group members point out.

Thomas Fink, a Rochester attorney, recently sent Owens and board chair Elizabeth Rice a request to adjourn the annual meeting so an opposing slate can be assembled.

If you do not take action, we will assume this to be a continuation of the failure to obtain community support for your actions,” he wrote.

At Thursday’s meeting, a guest of honor will be Liane Curtis, a resident scholar at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. who admires Remmereit’s advocacy of women composers. She organized an online petition with more than 1,000 signatures to keep Remmereit at the RPO, and recently started another to oust Owens for creating “a hostile climate in the RPO offices.”