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 Posted:   Oct 12, 2018 - 12:41 AM   
 By:   Basil Wrathbone   (Member)

Some of my favorite film score re-recordings came from Varujan Kojian (d.1993) conducting the Utah Symphony, with production by George Korngold. Magnificent performances of The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, and the excellent Hitchcock album and several more. I've also drooled over the Kojian/Utah Symphonie Fantastique for decades. So count me EXTREMELY surprised to read of the internal problems and dissatisfactions relating to this team's work. I was looking for what I thought might be some positive articles and maybe discover some more of his recordings when I stumbled on the story below. Ancient history now, but it's the first time I've heard about it...

UPI Archives, from way back in 1982...

Symphony conductor loved more than music


SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Symphony conductor Varujan Kojian says he was fired because of his personal lifestyle -- including a love affair with a woman Mormon missionary -- but not for professional failings.

The symphony's board of directors has refused comment of Kojian's claims and is sticking by its summer statement that the conductor was dismissed due to 'a lack of leadership with the orchestra's musicians.'

The board moved against Kojian on July 7, voting to retain him for one more season and then terminate his contract which expires June 30, 1983. Reportedly the board vote was 33-7 against Kojian.

The native of Lebanon was an unpopular 1980 successor to Maurice Abravanel who conducted the orchestra for 32 years, building it to international acclaim.

Kojian, 37, had claimed many Utah Symphony musicians were not up to his professional standards and he attempted unsuccessfully to fire several of the members. The board had asked the musicians to rate Kojain, and less than 10 percent of the orchestra members said his work was satisfactory.

But Kojian says the real reason he was dumped was Symphony President Wendell Ashton's disapproval of his private life. The affair with the woman he later learned was a Mormon missionary figured prominently.

'I think that's 100 percent of the reason,' Kojian, who has finally decided to talk publicly about his dismissal, said. 'Everybody is talking about it. I'm getting calls all the way from Sweden.'

Ashton is publisher of the Deseret News, a former public relations director for the Mormon Church and the orchestra's chief fund-raiser. He has declined comment.

However, board member Kem Gardner says Kojian's lifestyle was 'not a consideration.' Gardner says Kojian was voted out because of his strained relationship with orchestra members, his 'lack of growth' as a conductor and a belief by Ashton that Kojian was hurting fund-raising efforts.

Gardner said Ashton personally raises about $1 million a year for the symphony. He said the publisher hinted, if the conductor didn't go, he would. So the choice was obvious.

'There are a lot of music directors in this country,' said Gardner, 'but only one Wendell.'

Kojian had been hired largely through Ashton's efforts. But he soon ran into trouble when he tried to dismiss seven musicians. Until a committee review procedure was set up almost, the firings almost caused the symphony's first strike.

Kojian said lack of support from the board led to more troubles with musicians -- including an accusation by a married female orchestra member that he had made sexual overtures during a European tour.

The conductor said he merely tendered an innocent dinner invitation. But the symphony executive board held a full-scale, closed-door investigation before deciding there had been a misunderstanding.

The board also looked into the liaison between Kojian and the woman who turned out to be a Mormon missionary.

The conductor said he met the woman after a concert. The woman had known some of Kojian's European friends. The two became friends and she visited his apartment several times, bearing gifts of home-baked pastries. Eventually there was an affair.

Kojian said the woman later confessed the incident to Mormon Church officials and was excommunicated. He said Ashton confronted him but concluded the girl was at fault because she initiated the visits.

UPDATE: This is odd – the story is dated 1982, but some of the Kojian/Utah recordings I mentioned above were recorded AFTER that year. For example, The Sea Hawk in 1987. So was he reinstated?

 Posted:   Oct 12, 2018 - 12:52 AM   
 By:   davefg   (Member)

"From 1981 to 1984 he led the Utah Symphony. He joined the Santa Barbara Symphony in 1985."

On the basis of the above information no, perhaps a guest conductor?

 Posted:   Oct 12, 2018 - 1:13 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

Maybe Varese and producer George Korngold asked for him back based upon their past recording successes.

 Posted:   Oct 12, 2018 - 4:48 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

Got to be very careful conducting those sexual overtures!

 Posted:   Oct 12, 2018 - 6:25 AM   
 By:   eriknelson   (Member)

This is reminiscent of André Previn's tenure with the Houston Symphony in the mid-1960s. Board members were not amused by his open liaison with Mia Farrow. Houston back then wasn't as tolerant as it is today.

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