What project(s) are you working on now? I’m currently in residence at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, conducting Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the wonderful soprano Kelly Kaduce and Sibelius’ Symphony #2. In a little over a week, I head down to Mexico to conduct the Filarmonica de Jalisco in John Corigliano’s Clarinet Concerto and Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony. I’m in my first season as Artistic Director of Philadelphia’s Orchestra 2001, so I’m also busy planning future programs, writing grants and conducting concerts of contemporary music with them.
What are some words of advice you’d like to share with current conducting students? Spend as much time as possible watching great conductors rehearse. Which problems do they address? Did the problems get fixed? Which problems are they leaving alone, and trusting the musicians to fix on their own? The relationship between a conductor and an ensemble is all about trust, and a big part of that is knowing when not to say something.
Tell us about your most memorable musical experience. That’s a tough question! I was Assistant Conductor of The Cleveland Orchestra for three seasons, and in my final week on the job I had to step in on 4 hours notice to conduct the orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony #5. It was a piece I knew well, and I conducted it much differently from the way it was rehearsed throughout the week. The orchestra was incredibly focused, and with me every step of the way, and for 90 minutes I experienced a blend of exhilaration, fulfillment and terror. I felt more alive in that concert than I have in any other moment of my life.
Name your top three “desert island” pieces.
Sibelius—Symphony #7. It hits me emotionally in an inexplicable way, and it’s my favorite piece to conduct.
Stravinsky—The Rite of Spring. It still sounds like it could have been written yesterday, and it’s incredibly fun to conduct!
Strauss—An Alpine Symphony. All of life’s glory, pain, confusion, joy and vigor are painted by Strauss in under 60 minutes. I can’t wait to do this piece for the first time.