Violinist Ilkka Talvi, who had been with the orchestra for 20 years, was not offered a contract for the 2004-05 season. Music direct Gerard Schwarz said in a statement that "a new leader [would] help us achieve our potential as one of the great orchestras of the world."
The concertmaster is appointed by the music director, and Talvi's contract had a provision stipulating he could not be removed from the position so long as Schwarz remained the at the head of the SSO.
Talvi declined any of the offers that would have allowed him to remain with the orchestra. The Seattle Symphony Players' Association, the musicians' union, filed a grievance with the orchestra, but when the request for arbitration was rejected, a suit was filed in Seattle federal court. At the end of March, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the symphony must agree to the arbitration, or else appeal the decision.
Executive director Paul Meecham said, "We do plan to go to arbitration. The process is in motion to determine an arbitrator. The arbitrator, once determined, will select an appropriate date."
The SSO is currently in search of a new concertmaster. Schwarz has invited 16 candidates to Seattle to play with the orchestra.