A Busy Fall

Sorry to be off the site recently, but the months from May to now have flown by with concerts, family, and other work!

In May, I celebrated my 20th full season as Concertmaster of the Harrisburg Symphony with performances of Brahms violin concerto. What a completely satisfying piece to collaborate on with my colleagues there. I had hoped for a little time off to chase trout afterwards but got an unexpected call from the personel director of the National Arts Center Orchestra, who invited me at the request of Pinchas Zukerman to come up and lead second violins for a week of rehearsals/performances up there. What a pleasure it was to see how Mr. Zukerman works with an orchestra and to see so many old friends. We played Beethoven 9 and a world premiere by Malcom Forsythe , who was present for the concerts, but sadly passed shortly after.

July saw the return of the West Branch International Music Festival, where my dear and distinguished colleagues and I gave three concerts with programs featuring everything from lesser known duos and sonatas to quintets of Brahms and piano quartets by Schumann. Rohan De Silva joined me the second week for a recital- a reunion of sorts, as we last played together in 2001 at the Whitaker Center, if memory serves. He is always a pleasure to work with and Mozart 454, Beethoven 7, and a stack of showpieces were right up his alley!

After symphony work in September/October, I joined my friend Greg Woodbridge ( recently appointed assistant conductor at HSO and conductor of HYSO) down in York PA for a performance of Lalo Symphony Espagnole with the wonderful York Youth Symphony, a very gifted group of young players. Next day I packed feverishly and flew to Copenhagen, where I had a day off before beginning rehearsals with the Randers Chamber Orchestra on Vivaldi/Piazzolla Seasons. ( I played and conducted three concerts with them between Nov. 29th and Dec. 3) Some time before this trip, Den Eksklusiv Selskabsklub (DES) had contacted me with the wonderful news that they had selected me to receive the 2011 Culteral Prize in Copenhagen, immediately after my subscription debuts with Randers, so I returned to Copenhagen the morning of the 4th, tired but satisfied and on a mission to find foie gras with DES Chair France de Krassilnikof, before the ceremony on the 5th. But a sudden change moved the prize ceremony to the 4th, so France and I had to wait a day for the duck livers!! I finally returned home on the 6th of December, in time for HSO Christmas shows and the Nutcracker, followed by one of the most intense Holiday breaks ever, with last minute frantic shopping, drama, and all the joy that comes with it! Needless to say, all that caught up with me and the flu hit like a ton of bricks- NOT FUN!!!

Fast forward, January saw me joining the faculty at York College, where I now have 6 students and will accept 5 or 6 more. Masterworks 3 and Pops 2 concerts are under the belt, and we soon head into rehearsals for Bartok Divertimento ( an amazing work for strings) and Beethoven 5th Symphony, plus a concert piece for 4 horns by Schumann. Meanwhile, some other exciting news is on the horizon, with upcoming projects and concerts, so stay tuned! I wish you all the best !




Foundation and Festival Updates

The Else Borges Foundation for Arts Initiatives website is now live!  We are still adding content, but I hope you’ll all take a moment to visit (www.elseborges.org).  The Foundation in cooperation with West Branch International Music Festival & Academy is reaching out to cities throughout the US and Europe as we expand the funding base for scholarships to the Festival & Academy.  The outreaches include free masterclasses for gifted young string players in New York, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Copenhagen, and more.  There will also be two or three classes in the midstate. (Watch my calendar for details and dates.) We look to area corporations and philanthropists to support limited numbers of scholarships within their own communities for their young artists.  In addition, the Foundation works with those corporations, individuals, and recipients to create an unprecedented amount of social service by artists, through music ministry, education, and ambassadorship.  In the Capital region, we hope to raise enough annually to support 8-10 full scholarships for mid-state students.  2-4 scholarships will be raised in each of the other communities we bring masterclasses to, over the course of this Spring.  The hope is that this also will be a successful foray into a more national scene for the Foundation and its efforts.  Talks have also been initiated with the Danish Foreign Ministry, as this year’s West Branch programming features a large number of Danish and Scandinavian artists and music.  This constitutes one of the most significant cultural exchanges between Denmark and the US in recent years.  We hope to work with corporations on both sides of the Atlantic for meaningful partnerships that will make an ongoing exchange a reality.

If you would like to make a contribution to the noble causes the Else Borges Foundation supports, you may mail your tax deductible gift to:  The Else Borges Foundation for Arts Initiatives, PO Box 126637, Harrisburg, PA 17112.  The Foundation is proud to say that administrative costs are one of the lowest figures on our balance sheets.  I personally collect no salary and 100% of the Board contributes to the Foundation each year.   


Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra-Celebrating my 20th season as Concertmaster

It’s amazing to think that 20 years have passed since I was first contacted by Larry Newland to step in as concertmaster on short notice with the HSO.  At the end of that first season, national auditions were held and I was fortunate enough to officially win the concertmaster chair.  Two years later, I moved to Harrisburg, sensing both the HSO’s need for my physical presence in the community and a cultural scene that was rapidly redifining itself in positive ways.  I remember telling Ellen Hughes, in a “Desert Island Discs” interview, I had every hope of developing a string section and sound to rival those of leading American orchestras, with an emphasis on quality and attention to detail.  I’m very pleased at how incredibly far we’ve come towards those goals.  I am equally inspired to continue developing that sound and discipline to an even higher level in the next 20 years.  After all, the only way to reach new milestones is to constantly challenge oneself and the team.  As for the team, my colleagues are among the best musicians one could possibly hope for.  They are committed, enthusiastic, prepared, and professional, but what really sets this group apart is the sense of identity IT has developed as an orchestra.  The strength of that common thread has been the great fortune of any conductor lucky enough to stand on the podium.    

My love affair with Brahms has been a long one, spanning over 30 years, four symphonies, three sonatas, the fiddle concerto and numerous chamber music works.  For me, his music often represents one of the pinnacles of music in its organic combination of instrumental virtuosity and compositional content.  The concerto, much like the two piano concerti, is very symphonic in nature, requiring a wonderful orchestra and excellent collaboration from the podium, both of which we have here in Harrisburg.  I’ve often bragged to other orchestras and conductors of Stuart Malina’s uncanny abilities as a concerto collaborator and the orchestra’s ability to accompany with sensitivity and commitment.  I could not think of a better work with which to celebrate this, my 20th year, as Concertmaster.  We’ll perform it twice at The Forum in Harrisburg, PA on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 8pm and Sunday, May 15, 2011 at 3pm.  When I discovered that Brahms First Symphony would be on the program, I made the decision to sit concertmaster for the second half, despite my concerto appearance.  That happens to be another favorite of mine and the orchestra’s.  I remember a particulary excellent performance of the work in the 1990’s under the baton of Richard Westerfield.  It will be exciting to discover a new interpretation with Stuart.   


West Branch International Music Festival & Academy

Fifteen years ago this April, I founded and created Concertante.  I remember vividly the intensive planning, fund raising, selection and contracting of artists, press releases and other hive-producing responsibilities associated with its birth.  Remarkably though, when one is inspired by a vison that’s burning inside, all of these duties become less of a pain somehow.  But the vision and the dream must be there.  I enjoyed seven years of nurturing that group to success with two critically acclaimed albums and our series in New York, before moving on to other projects. 

 Now, a new creative vision, much larger in its artistic and educational scope has been tugging at my heart for the past 18 months.  Beginning last September, West Branch Internatinal Music Festival offered two consecutive weekends of chamber music at the outstanding West Branch Resort near Deposit and Hancock, New York, in the heart of the Catskill Mountains.  I created this festival as an enclave for artists to work close to the many mountains and trout streams I find so inspiring.  This year I have expanded the WBIMF to include an academy for gifted young artists from all over the world to study with and perform alongside some of today’s leading musicians.  We expanded the concert offerings to include eight programs, six of which are chamber music oriented, two of which are orchestral.  Over the course of two weeks the students will have private lessons, chamber music coachings, masterclasses, and chamber orchestra training with the wonderful, young Danish conductor, Christian Hoerbov-Meier.  The goal is to address technical, musical, physical, psychological, and social questions as they relate to the creative process.  Adding this significant educational program to the festival created several challenges.  We did not want to compromise the level of the public concerts, so the teaching load of each faculty member had to be limited and focused in a manner that would benefit students.  Students also had to be able to count on significant individual attention, proper preparation of works to be performed, and ample opportunity to do so.  The end result was a program with one of the lowest student to teacher ratios in the nation, which we feel will serve our artistic philosophies well.  In the coming months applicants will be submitting auditions on You Tube.  Many of the 37 applicants accepted will receive some form of scholarship assistance, thanks to the generosity of individual and corporate sponsors.  People that are interested in supporting scholarships will find a tab on the Festival website for doing so. 

 Some of the most satisfying things about expanding this festival right now are the economic impact of creating new jobs, enhancing tourism to the region and not waiting for a handout or permission to do so.  I am reminded again of my late mother quoting India’s first Prime Minister Nehru who said, “Success comes to those who dare and act, it seldom comes to the timid ones.”   

I would like to personally thank Beth Berdofe White (my publicist/manager), Michele Conrad (our Administrative Director), Dave Robertson (our webmaster), and my wife, Kimberly for distilling my whirlwind of vision and ideas into a workable program.  I could not have done any of this without them.    


Barnes & Noble Release Party for The Four Seasons (December 11, 2009)

I invite friends and fans to join me, some members of Pro Musicis Ensemble, our production crew and members of the press for a release party at the Camp Hill Store of Barnes & Noble on Friday Evening, December 11, 2009 from 7-9pm.  I will be signing cd’s and offering guests coffee and treats courtesy of the Barnes & Noble Cafe.  At about 8pm, I have been asked to perform and have chosen Tango-Etude #3 by legendary Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla.  Most of the time though is to celebrate the release of this album with family and friends.  I might add as a little plug, that The Four Seasons makes a great stocking stuffer!  I hope to see many of you there!

Also, after this holiday season you will no longer be able to purchase the downloadable live cd of French works from my website.  So, if you are interested, now is the time to purchase your downloads! 



West Branch International Music Festival (Sept. 13th and 20th, 2009)

I love to flyfish!  In fact, the passion borders on a sickness.  When I’m not practicing feverishly for the next upcoming date, I’m either fishing or thinking about fishing.  I suppose there could be worse vices, although my wife may not agree!

 Over the years, I’ve cultivated a close friendship with the Batschelet family, who own and run the West Branch Resort (www.westbranchresort.com) near Deposit, NY.  A few years back, I started to give impromptu performances for some of the guests up there.  The response was overwhelming and Matt Batschelet and I began discussing the possibility of formal concerts and a music school at the resort.  This September’s festival is a result of months and months of planning and a considerable investment on both of our parts. 

Joining us for this year’s inaugural concerts are colleagues of mine from around the world, including America, South America, and Israel.  The theme for this year’s concerts honors the bicentennial of the birth of Mendelssohn, although there are some other works included for variety’s sake. 

But the real thing that sets this festival apart is the ambiance of one of the most beautiful parts of the Catskill Mountains and the one-of-a-kind accomodations, food, and wine that the resort offers.  Weekend packages include lodgings, the concert, heavy hors d’oevres and wine tasting as well as the option of adding guided flyfishing or sporting clays to your weekend.  What a way to stretch out summer for two more weekends! The prices are so low, you’d normally have to spend more for the rooms alone.  If you only want to go to the concert, heavy hors d’oevres and wine tasting, the price is $40 per person.  Reservations are required for the concert and for weekend packages.  Relaxation guaranteed!

The musicians are world-class, the wines are from legendary Finger Lakes vintner, Constantine Frank and the excellent food, courtesy of Executive Chef John Cox.  All that’s missing is you.


I’m back…finally

Dear Friends,

 It’s been months and months since I have been able to find time to write an update to this blog.  Between editing and producing the Four Seasons disc (more about that later) and 13 solo appearances since the beginning of May, this has been one of the busiest summers to date.  May started with four performances of Carmen Fantasy with Stuart Malina and the Harrisburg Symphony, as well as two performances of Beethoven’s Romance in F.  As always, Stuart was an incredible partner, anticipating rather than following.  The newly aquired Nicolaus Andreas Bartle violin from the 1730’s aquitted itself well in the Carmen, better in the Beethoven and best of all in a movement in solo Bach I performed as an encore.  When I returned a little over a month later to play Carmen five more times with the Symphony, I decided to use the Calvarola.  I think I like it more for romantic repertoire as the fiddle can take a much more powerful approach to playing. 

 Kimberly and I had a much needed vacation for a week in July.  We went to an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas, something neither of us have ever done before.  What a restful, peaceful week!  After we returned, I had 10 days to re-learn Chausson Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet.  The Frye Street Quartet and Michael Sheppard are dear friends and it was a pleasure to tackle the work with them again.  Market Square’s summer concerts have become a regular calendar event for me, which I look forward to everytime.  I highly recommend supporting all of Market Square Concerts events, with your attendance.  A few days later, I was off to Wellsboro for the Endless Mountain Music Festival, collaborating as guest soloist with my dear friend and gifted conductor Stephen Gunzenhauser.  This year, we performed Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole and a Concerto Grosso by Peter Breiner based, if you can believe it, on Beatles tunes.  Then followed a week of sitting concertmaster for the Festival orchestra.  The highlight for me was the last performance of Brahms 1st Symphony in which Stephen gave a highly charged and personal interpretation.

I can’t wait to work with Stuart and the HSO again this season, which marks Stuart’s 10th anniversary as Music Director.  Since many of you have asked, this is my 19th season as concertmaster of this wonderful orchestra.  What tremendous artistic growth has happened over those years……


My latest blog

Today we finished our last pops concert for the season, a tough program for the orchestra but loads of fun.  I was grateful to Stuart for his professional leadership.  It’s very hard to put these programs together so quickly and the performances are a credit to his work and that of the orchestra.

 He also graciously made mention of my upcoming recital at The Forum on June 1st.  Beginning in May, you will find billboards and posters up all over Harrisburg and in major traffic veins leading in and out of the city.  Tickets are available through he Harrisburg Symphony office and the Foundation and I have decided to donate $6 per ticket purchased to the Harrisburg Symphony in consideration of their valuable help in managing ticket sales for the event.  Surprisingly, we have already sold a considerable number of the premium tickets and student tickets, so I encourage those of you who wish to join us to purchase your tickets sooner rather than later.  The premium tickets ($140) include a private reception on the third floor of The Firehouse Restaurant following the concert.  Donnie Brown and his wonderful staff will pull out all the stops and have a wonderful spread arranged for our guests.  $100 of the ticket price is also tax deductable.  There will also be a cash bar at the reception.  Many of my friends and fans have been asking to know a little bit more about the Foundation and in particular my mother.  So I have decided to share our mission statement and a brief bio in this blog.

Mission Statement
     The Else Borges Foundation for Artistic Initiatives is a Pennsylvania non-profit, 501(c)(3)  , founded by violinist Odin Rathnam in loving memory of his late mother , and is dedicated to making large discretionary grants to cornerstones of the Harrisburg arts diaspora for specific projects that are deemed daring, ambitious and capable of bringing national and international recognition to the artistic quality of the arts in Central Pennsylvania.  In addition, discretionary grants will be disbursed for quality musical education of under-privileged children from kindergarten through 12th grade based on intelligence, talent, and merit.  The board of directors shall choose and ratify disbursements to a maximum of four entities in a given fiscal year.  Of particular interest to the Foundation are projects such as ongoing, inner-city based music programs aimed at the highest level of artistic training, recordings for commercial release, media collaborations for national public radio and television performance, touring dates at major venues in large cities for Harrisburg based ensembles, and projects aimed at substantially raising the artistic level and recognition of organizations.  The Foundation will limit its disbursements to specific projects, otherwise deemed beyond the reach of the considered organizations’ existing budgets, wherein no more than 10 percent of the total disbursement can be used towards operating expenses. The axioms that govern Its objectives are those that governed Else Borges’ philanthropic efforts during her lifetime and are, as such, central to the mission of the Foundation.
Else Borges, a brief biography (1937-2007)
     Else Borges was born born in Aalborg, Denmark in 1937, the third of five children.  Her father, Neils was a butcher and her mother, Ida was a loving homemaker.  In 1958, while training in banking and accounting, Else left Denmark abruptly for the U.S. to become an au pair for a family living in New York.  Shortly thereafter, she was appointed to the Royal Danish Consulate as a locally employed diplomat, rising to the rank of Secretary of Archives and Union steward for the locally employed Foreign Ministry workers.  In 1963, she was married to James Rathnam, originally from India, who was a graduate student at Columbia University in International Affairs.  In 1965, they had their first and only child, Odin Rathnam.  During that time, Else’s philanthropic efforts were largely turned towards poor families in southern India, with an emphasis on education.
     In 1982, Else Borges remarried Robert Post Borges and moved to southern Portugal, where she resided until three months before her death.  During those years, her efforts were directed towards the education of her housekeeper’s children, sending one to England for studies.  She was also involved in arranging concerts that benefited the local church and bringing foreign artists, including Royal Danish Concertmaster Lars Bjornkjaer, pianist Rohan DeSilva, violist Rachel Shapiro, violinist Odin Rathnam and many others to the Algarve Music Festival and the Lagos Cultural Center. 
     Her philosphy was challenging however.  She believed in buying a fisherman a boat rather than paying his bills.  She believed environment and opportunity were key in the development of individuals, but never without ambition, commitment, and perseverence.  Two quotes summed up her attitude toward life, one by her favorite author and hero Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) who often said “Why not?” instead of “Why?”.  The second was Prime Minister Nehru’s sage words “Success comes to those who dare and act, it seldom comes to the timid ones…”. 
     In 1999, Else was diagnosed with breast cancer and was successfully treated here in Harrisburg.  During that period, which coincided with an orchestral search year, she facilitated multiple post concert receptions for musicians and staff members of the HSO, a quiet gift which was integral to the artistic and social morale of the orchestra.  She was also instrumental in providing both moral and financial support for the founding of Concertante Chamber Ensemble, now known as Concertante.  She and her family were always convinced that it was the music, the parties, and all the laughter that scared the cancer out of her body.
     Typical to her adventurous nature, Else Borges sold her estate in Portugal and returned to the United States with her sister, Bodil, in September 2007 to take residence in Harrisburg.  She wished to spend her golden years close to her son and his family, the orchestra and the community she had come to love so much.  The next three months were spent feverishly furnishing and painting her new apartment overlooking the Susquehanna River, and enjoying the closeness of her loved ones.  She was very excited about rekindling the friendships she had made in 1999 and the vision she hoped to bring to our community.  Those who knew her in Harrisburg used similar adjectives for her presence including “regal”, “larger than life”, “generous to a fault”, “outspoken”, and “the life of the party”.  On December 3rd, hours before she was scheduled to fly back to the Algarve, she suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and died two days later, with her loved ones at her side.  Bodil, who was Else’s closest sibling and who originally came to the U.S. to help raise Odin, was devastated at the passing of her sister.  Almost unable to cope with the loss, Bodil died of heart failure only five weeks later.
     Else never wished to be eulogized (she often requested a cocktail party upon her demise), her son Odin Rathnam resolved to create a foundation that honored the principles of her life, rather than the tragedy of her death. 
June 20th performance at Barshinger Center  ”The Four Seasons” and more, with Pro Musicis Ensemble and Stephen Gunzenhauser conducting
As many of you also know, I am recording Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Pro Musicis Ensemble with Stephen Gunzenhauser conducting.  Stephen has been a generous concerto collaborator for the past few seasons, not to mention a dear friend, and I look forward to this next project together, a small repayment for all of the opportunities he has afforded me.  I also got great news today that my dear old colleague and possibly the greatest harpsichordist I know, Gretchen Decker (formerly Elicker) is available for the rehearsals, concert, and recording that begin on June 18th, culminating in a concert on June 20th and recording on June 21st.  All of these events will take place at the Barshinger Center in Lancaster, PA.  Tickets are available through the link at the left of my home page, or you can go directly to www.acteva.com/go/pme.   

My first “real” blog

          On December 5th I lost my beloved mother Else Borges, who in so many ways guided me down this path of mine, both philosophically and as a musician. After the initial shock and pain, it became apparent to me that honoring her life and investing more of myself into everything I did as a musician and as a human being was the only way to keep her presence alive in my life.
          Her generosity to the arts and children was a thread which ran through her lifetime, so I decided to create a foundation for the arts that bears her name and that follows her beliefs. Towards that end, I have established the Else Borges Foundation for Arts Initiatives and will give an inaugural benefit concert on June 1st at the Forum at 3pm to help raise funds. The program traces the history of music for unaccompanied violin from Bach to Paganini, Ysaye and Piazzolla, including the Harrisburg premiere of 3 of the six Tango Etudes. There may also be surprises…..
          Mom often quoted India’s first prime-minister Nehru to me. ” Success comes to those who dare and act- it seldom comes to the timid ones” she would say, with a sort of sagatious smugness in her voice that, at once, was a call to action and questioned whether I understood the application of such a mantra. Well, I think I got it, as questioning the status quo and moving down unique artistic roads have indeed become a large part of who I am today.
          The Foundation shall not be dedicated to operating budgets of existing non-profit organizations, but to daring initiatives that bring real artistic excitement and cultural self- esteem to our community. Anything from sending the Harrisburg Symphony to Carnegie Hall to a live telecast of a Market Square Concersts performance would represent the types of initiatves our board would look seriously at. The board of directors will include artists and business leaders who fully understand and honor my mother’s philosophies on philanthropy and its place in the arts. The Foundation will also raise money for me to visit inner city schools and to arrange for the musical training of several under priviliged but talented children.
          In the next month or so, my publicists and I will hold a press conference in Harrisburg to announce officially the establishment of the Foundation and of two other entities, the Pro Musicis Ensemble (a string orchestra dedicated primarily to recording and some touring) and West Branch Records ( an internet - based music label), that will be the primary source of future recording projects.
          Fly Magazine has also decided to feature an interview with me concerning some of these projects for the April Issue, so keep your eyes out.
          As I write this, my wife is fervently typing entries into my calendar page, so friends and presenters can stay abreast of where I’ve been and where I’m headed so to speak. Several summer dates are being revised, changed or cancelled in anticipation of recording sessions scheduled for September, and more importantly, to allow for family affairs and a much needed sabbatical to practice! It is silly to plan things and then not carry them through with integrity, I think.
          That is all for now. Thanks for reading.

Welcome to the official website of Odin Rathnam

Thanks for visiting this site. Inside you will find various information concerning the career and activities of American violinist/violist Odin Rathnam. Concert calendar items will be uploaded in the coming weeks, as well as personal blogs by the artist, high resolution studio photos for presenters, additional concerto samples and some additional links. ENJOY!