Curtain falls on flutist's run at Carnegie Hall

— Carnegie Hall's top administrator announced his surprise resignation Tuesday after a stormy two-year tenure, leaving to take a similar position with the Berlin Philharmonic in his native Germany.

Franz Xaver Ohnesorg's resignation as executive and artistic director of the 109-year-old concert hall takes effect Aug. 31. A search for a successor will begin in January, according to a statement from Isaac Stern, Carnegie Hall president, and Sanford I. Weill, chairman.

Ohnesorg, 52, a flutist and former director of the Cologne Philharmonic in Germany, took over at Carnegie Hall in September 1999 following the death of his predecessor, Judith Arron, who held the position for about a dozen years.

During Ohnesorg's tenure, he has been leading a $65 million expansion to convert a former movie theater in the building into a third concert venue.

But there's also been turmoil in recent months. Four senior staff members have left, and a group of employees sent an anonymous letter to news organizations criticizing Ohnesorg for his heavy-handed management style. In October, a swastika was found in his concert box.

Despite the criticism, Stern praised Ohnesorg.

"Xaver Ohnesorg has brought tremendous artistic and creative energy and vaulting imagination to Carnegie Hall," the violinist said Tuesday. "He has maintained and lifted the extraordinary level of artistic presentations established during the hall's history. ...

"We at Carnegie, as well as his many friends in the music world everywhere, wish him well and thank him for his valiant efforts and his artistic legacy."

Ohnesorg starts in Berlin in September, a year before British conductor Sir Simon Rattle becomes the philharmonic's chief conductor.

Rattle succeeds Claudio Abbado, who took over in Berlin in 1989, after the death of Herbert von Karajan.

"Weighing carefully Carnegie Hall's future opportunities and the current needs of the Berlin Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall's generosity of spirit permits me to make my very personal decision to go back to Europe and serve at a very crucial time one of the most important orchestras in the world," he said.


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