Young German Violinist Misses Philadelphia Orchestra Debut Due to Visa Delays

Classic Arts News   Young German Violinist Misses Philadelphia Orchestra Debut Due to Visa Delays
Erik Schumann, a rising 25-year-old violinist from Germany, had been expecting a career landmark last night. He was scheduled to make his Philadelphia Orchestra debut playing Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto at the second concert of the Orchestra's first residency at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

But it was not to be. Schumann's visa application was one of many caught in the notorious processing backlog at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; by Saturday (July 7), one day before the concert and the last possible day he could depart, he had not received his visa to perform in the U.S.

As The Philadelphia Inquirer's David Patrick Stearns put it in a report from the Colorado resort, "world-class violinists aren't as plentiful here as they are in the East," and the festival was potentially in a serious bind.

As it happens, though, the Philadelphia Orchestra's own concertmaster, David Kim, knows the Tchaikovsky Concerto well: he won sixth prize in the 1986 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow playing the work, and he had just performed it the previous weekend, at a July 1 concert with the Ocean City Pops in New Jersey. "It's the one piece where I feel most comfortable. I've played it more than any other concerto in the repertory," the violinist told Stearns. So Kim was able to step in on short notice — and got a standing, cheering ovation for his performance.

More stringent visa requirements and cumbersome application processes put into place in the past few years have caused repeated headaches for orchestras and fine arts presenters in this country, and Schumann is far from the first artist from abroad to miss a U.S. engagement due to visa delays. In the past year or so alone, the Önder Piano Duo, twin sisters from Turkey, had to cancel their appearance at the Deer Valley Music Festival in Utah; violinist Igor Oistrakh was forced to withdraw from both the season-opening gala concert of the Indianapolis Symphony and from the jury of last fall's International Violin Competition of Indianapolis; and Canadian baritone Russell Braun missed a planned duo recital with compatriot soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian in New York. Indeed, England's Hallé Orchestra abandoned altogether a planned 2007 tour of the U.S. because of the expense and difficulty of obtaining visas for all of its members.

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