being a Coloradan and saw this:


Walther leaving S.F. Symphony
- Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic
Tuesday, January 4, 2005

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Geraldine Walther, the San Francisco Symphony's principal violist and one of the orchestra's most valuable and beloved members for nearly 30 years, will leave the Symphony in August to join the Takács Quartet. Although she is taking a year's leave of absence, Walther said she expects the career change to be a permanent one.

"The door is open to coming back, but I'm planning on becoming a permanent member and doing this for many, many years," she said in a jubilant phone interview Monday. "I'm really happy about this."

In joining the Takács, Walther will hook up with one of the world's leading chamber ensembles, renowned especially for its interpretations of the Beethoven and Bartók string quartets. The quartet, founded in Budapest in 1975, is now in residence at the University of Boulder in Colorado.

For Walther, 54, the move will mean a radical change from the life of an orchestral musician.

"I've been playing the orchestral repertoire for 29 years," she said, "and I've gotten to explore all the concertos. Now I'll get to play the Beethoven and Bartók quartets and to learn them with one of the best quartets in the world -- I'm so lucky I can't believe it. I have to pinch myself.

"Playing with them is like hopping on a train and it goes around this corner and that corner and you just hang on for the ride."

Walther will replace Roger Tapping, who is leaving the ensemble after 10 years to relocate to the Boston area with his wife, cellist Natasha Brofsky.

The quartet began scouting for a replacement last summer, and Walther was one of nine candidates on a list that was soon narrowed to three finalists. What won the group over, according to first violinist Edward Dusinberre, was Walther's "warm and expressive" musical personality.

"There's a type of openness about her that draws the audience in and that's nice to play with. She's a marvelous instrumentalist and her enthusiasm is very striking.

"Also, she's got a delightful, wacky sense of humor, and sense of humor is one of the most important things in a quartet. We spend a lot of time together, and there's a danger when you do the same thing for a long time of taking yourself too seriously."

The Takács will release the third and final installment of its complete Beethoven recording cycle on Decca next week. On Feb. 6, the group -- which has been a frequent visitor to the Bay Area and tours four to five months out of the year -- begins a two-year cycle of Beethoven recitals at Cal Performances in Berkeley.

Since joining the Symphony in 1976, Walther has been one of its most important players, celebrated for her inviting robust string tone, her flawless technique and the depth and radiance of her interpretations.

In frequent solo appearances with the orchestra she has displayed an exploratory spirit, going beyond the standard viola concertos of Walton, Bartók and Hindemith to play lesser-known works by Walter Piston, Thea Musgrave, Alfred Schnittke and Krzysztof Penderecki. She also gave the U.S. premieres of music by Michael Tippett, Toru Takemitsu, Peter Lieberson and George Benjamin.

"It's a real feather in her cap to win a position like this," said the Symphony's executive director, Brent Assink. "Of course, we hope she comes back, and we will be staying in touch with her. But it's an extraordinary personal and professional growth opportunity for her."

"I'm going to miss the people in the orchestra so much," Walther said. "The men and women in the San Francisco Symphony are the best musicians in the world.

"I would never have left this job for another orchestra job, because there isn't a better one. I'm leaving a fabulous job, but I'm going to a fabulous job, so it's OK."

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