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Cellist Janet Horvath

, Star Tribune

Cellist bids adieu due to hearing condition

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE
  • Star Tribune
  • October 24, 2012 - 1:05 PM

The whirlwind of news and noise surrounding the Minnesota Orchestra contract situation drowned out a notable departure at the end of September. Janet Horvath, the orchestra's associate principal cellist for 32 years, resigned for health reasons.

Horvath has a painful hearing condition that makes it impossible for her to play in large ensembles. She has been a leader in the area of musicians' health, and wrote the book "Playing (Less) Hurt: An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians."

Horvath suffered a serious injury in her left ear in 2006, caused when sound from a stage monitor hit her during a pops concert. She took off for three months and isolated herself from sound. Eventually, she returned to the orchestra, wearing an earplug, but she was unable to perform in amplified concerts.

Both ears began hurting and by 2010, Horvath said, she knew her days with the orchestra were numbered. She went on medical leave after the 2010 European tour, which included a performance of Beethoven's Ninth in front of 5,000 people at Royal Albert Hall in London.

"That was really it," she said in an interview. "I was hoping to try a few more months, but my doctor made it clear I was done."

The orchestra contract stipulates that an ill or injured player's job is held for two years, to allow musicians time to recover.

"We made it pretty clear that it was quite unlikely I would return," said Horvath, who became associate principal cellist in 1980.

Loud restaurants, shrill leaf blowers, jackhammers, construction noise and even movies became mine fields for her. It was only after visiting a hearing clinic in Portland, Ore., that she was fitted with technological devices that allow her to live a mostly normal life. She has returned to playing solos, duets and small chamber work.

"I've always wanted to have a salon society like they used to do in the 19th century," Horvath said. "I like doing home concerts with poetry and speakers."

Next Sunday, she will play a duet with piano at the American Swedish Institute to celebrate the 100th birthday of diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who is credited with saving Hungarian Jews during World War II. Horvath has played and produced several programs on Jewish themes, including her performances in Max Bruch's Kol Nidre at Temple Israel.

But her presence at the front of the Minnesota Orchestra is finished.

"I miss the feeling that I had something to contribute, not only by my playing but through speaking to audiences, patrons and board members," Horvath said. "And I miss the music, obviously, and the collegiality."

Horvath has not been back to hear the orchestra since she left in 2010 and she said her resignation was strictly related to her health, not the contract dispute.

"I'm still alive and I've reinvented myself as a chamber musician and a writer," she said. "I'm still very intent on advocating for music, the arts and for social justice."

Graydon Royce 612-673-7299 • Follow on Twitter: @GraydonRoyce

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