Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Richmond Symphony names music director finalists

The Richmond Symphony has named nine finalists from nearly 250 applicants to succeed Mark Russell Smith as the orchestra’s music director.

William H. Schwarzschild III, secretary of the symphony board and chairman of the 10-member conductor search committee, described the candidates as "competitive, accomplished, international in scope and full of connections to the wider musical world."

The candidates, dates of their Richmond appearances and selected career highlights:

* Mikhail Agrest (September 2008): A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Agrest joined the conducting staff of that city’s Mariinsky Theatre in 2001 and has toured internationally with the company. He also has conducted the English National Opera and BBC Symphony in Britain, as well as the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig in Germany, other orchestras in France, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Hungary and the United States, and opera companies in France, Sweden and Australia.

* Daniel Meyer (October 2008): Resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and music director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, Asheville (NC) Symphony and Erie (PA) Philharmonic, Meyer won the 2002 Aspen Conducting Prize at the Colorado music festival. He formerly was assistant conductor of the Knoxville (TN) Symphony and its Youth Sinfonia and was assistant conductor of the Vocal Arts Ensemble of Cincinnati. He has conducted the Cleveland Orchestra, Utah Symphony and other ensembles.

* Steven Smith (November 2008): Now in his seventh season as music director of the Santa Fe (NM) Symphony & Chorus, Smith also is music director of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, an ensemble specializing in contemporary music. He was assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra and music director of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, associate conductor of the Kansas City Symphony, assistant conductor of the Colorado Springs Symphony and concertmaster of the Grand Rapids (MI) Symphony. He has guest conducted orchestras in the U.S., Mexico, New Zealand and Asia.

* Marc Taddei (January 2009): Named last year as music director of the Vector Wellington Orchestra in New Zealand’s capital, Taddei formerly led the Christchurch Symphony in New Zealand. He also has conducted orchestras in the U.S., Australia and Hong Kong, and has led numerous recordings, including works of several New Zealand composers and the soundtrack of a British television film based on Wagner’s "Ring" cycle.

* Arthur Post (February 2009): Now in his sixth season as music director of the San Juan Symphony of Durango, CO, and Farmington, NM, Post was resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and New World Symphony in Florida and associate conductor of the Israel Philharmonic. He has conducted orchestras throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. His "Music on the Inside," an educational program in improvisation and composition, has been used in classrooms in four states.

* Dorian Wilson (March 2009): Music director of the Belgrade Philharmonic in Serbia since 2006, Wilson formerly was music director of the Theater Vorpommern opera company in Germany, second conductor of the Moscow Philharmonic and first guest conductor of the Russian National Orchestra. Winner of nine international conducting competitions between 1989 and 1996, he has conducted orchestras and opera companies in Russia, Germany, Sweden, France, Denmark and the Netherlands.

* Alastair Willis (September 2009): Formerly assistant conductor and resident conductor of the Seattle Symphony, assistant conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops and music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Youth Orchestra, Willis has performed with the Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony and other orchestras in the U.S., China, France and Austria.

* Christian Knapp (October 2009): Formerly associate conductor of the Seattle Symphony and Broomhill Opera in London, Knapp has led several contemporary music ensembles in the U.S. and Britain and has conducted orchestras in the U.S., Russia, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.

* Arthur Fagen (November 2009): Music director of the Dortmund Philharmonic and Dortmund Opera in Germany since 2002, Fagen has conducted at the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna State Opera and other opera companies in the U.S., Germany, France, Israel and Argentina, and orchestras in U.S., Europe, Israel and Japan.

Each finalist will conduct a program in the mainstage Masterwork series and another concert in classical, pops or outreach series. Programs for the first six candidates in 2008-09 season will be announced in several weeks.

The first six will perform in the church sanctuaries and other venues the symphony is now using, while the last three candidates are to appear after the scheduled reopening of the Carpenter Theatre of Richmond CenterStage, the orchestra’s renovated downtown venue.

The new music director, the symphony’s fifth since its founding in 1957, is expected to be named by the end of 2009, said David Fisk, the orchestra’s executive director and a member of the search committee.

The committee’s members, in addition to Schwarzschild and Fisk, are symphony board members O. Christian Bedrup Jr., Margaret W. Swartz and Mary Denny Wray and five orchestra musicians: flutist-piccolo player Ann Choomack, clarinetist Jared Davis, principal oboist Gustav Highstein, principal timpanist James Jacobson and cellist Ryan Lannan.