The first-ever photograph of Philharmonic Hall, Odessa - February 7th, 1899 The Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra and Hobart Earle in the great Hall of the St.Petersburg Philharmonic Society The Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra and Hobart Earle in Carnegie Hall,  New York
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"The New York Times"


A young American conductor and a nearly 60-year-old Ukrainian orchestra may seem an unlikely combination. But it was "love at first sight" Hobart Earle said of his conducting debut with the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra several years ago. He is now the orchestra's music director.
Under Mr. Earle's direction, the 101-member orchestra will play its first American tour this month. A concert tomorrow night at 8 in Princeton will have special significance, Mr. Earle said in a telephone interview from a hotel in Odessa, which he calls home for more than half the year. Mr. Earle's parents live in Princeton, and in 1983 Mr. Earle graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University.
The concert wilj be a benefit for the endowment fund of the Friends of Music at Princeton, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary year. The program, in Richardson Auditorium of Alexander Hall on the university campus, will include excerpts from Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" and Elgar's "Enigma" Variations.

Odessa, the principal maritime port of Ukraine, is famous for a long cultural tradition that has produced many virtuoso musicians, including the violinists David Oistrakh and Nathan Milstein and the pianists Emit Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter. Us first music school was founded in 1834, and by the end of the 19th century, Odessa was considered one of the most im portant cultural centers in Russia.
The Odessa Philharmonic Orches tra was founded in 1936. Mr. Earle was appointed principal guest conductor in 1991, and the next year he became the first American ever appointed as music director of an orchestra in the former Soviet Union.
In January of this year, the Ukrain ian Government awarded the orchestra federal status. "It's a status symbol," Mr. Earle said. "We are now funded by the Ministry of Culture in Kiev." The orchestra also receives some private financing.

Under Mr. Earle's direction, the orchestra has increased its touring - it had not been allowed to leave the country for 50 years - and attend-ance has expanded. "Culture in this part of the world is important," Mr. Earle said. "The orchestra is seen as an important cultural ambassador of the city of Odessa." He said several Odessa "industrial-ists and factories and seven members of the government at the local level" had supported the American tour. "They don't quite believe they are going," he said of the orchestra members, whose average age is 35. Mr. Earle, the son of American parents, was born in 1960 in Caracas, Venezuela, and grew up in the city, where his father was in the insurance business and his mother directed a church choir. In addition to his Princeton University education, Mr. Earle studied clarinet at Trinity College in London and conducting at the Academy of Music in Vienna and at Tanglewood.
He first encountered the Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra while conducting the American Music Ensemble Vienna, which he formed in 1987, on a tour that included Odessa. "It was the first orchestra from Vienna in Odessa since the Russian Revolution," he said.

He still maintains a residence in Vienna for several months a year. While in Odessa, he lives in a hotel across the street from the concert hall.
"Odessa is a very colorful city, but things are difficult," he said. "Living and working here is an experience which is hard to describe and share with people who haven't spent time in this part of the world. You would need a very wild imagination."
There is a "high level of enthusiasm" in the orchestra, Mr. Earle said. "What makes me so happy is making a really valid contribution to musical life here in the Ukraine," he said. "I'm not doing it for the salary."
Mr. Earle is now fluent in Russian, but he began conducting in Odessa without knowing the language at all. He spoke Spanish and communicated through a Cuban violist in the group, who acted as interpreter. Mr. Earle has also learned some Ukrainian.
Last year, the orchestra participated in an international festival of Jewish music in Odessa, and in 1994 the orchestra will join the festivities celebrating the 200th year of the city's founding.
"Odessa has a strong identity," Mr. Earle said. "People call themselves Odessites, and 99 percent of the orchestra graduated from the Odessa Conservatory of Music. Sixty percent were born there. Odessa has a chance to come back into its own as a cosmopolitan city."

There has been much interest in' the tour particularly among American residents who came from the former Soviet Union, Mr. Earle said. On a recent visit here, he met with many former members of the Odessa Philharmonic who now live in the United States and plan to attend con certs on the tour.
The orchestra will play in several American cities and will perform in New York City at Carnegie Hall on Nov. 30.
The Friends of Music at Princeton presents 40 concerts a year, generally open to the public without charge. Proceeds from the Odessa Philharmonic concert will benefit the Endowment Fund of the Friends, to assist the organization in continuing the free concerts.

Tickets to the Princeton concert are $15, $20 and $25. Student tickets are $1 Information: (609) 258-5000.