Friday, December 11, 2009

Symphony narrows search to three

The Richmond Symphony has narrowed the field of music-director candidates from nine to three: Alastair Willis, who conducted the opening program of the 2009-10 season, and Marc Taddei and Steven Smith, who conducted audition concerts last season.

"We are committed to doing the right thing in the right way," Joe Murillo, president of the symphony board, said in a statement. "To that end, it seems only fair, before the final decision is made, to offer the leading candidates from 2008-09 the same opportunity afforded to those who have appeared in 2009-10, to conduct the symphony in our new home," the Carpenter Theatre of Richmond CenterStage.

"Hearing the leading candidates in the new hall is crucial to the conclusion of this process," added David Fisk, the orchestra’s executive director and a member of the 10-member music-director search committee. According to Fisk, the searchers will focus on "the quality of performance a new music director will elicit from our musicians, and on [his] connection to our audience."

Taddei will return to conduct Jan. 16-17 Masterworks concerts, featuring the Mussorgsky-Ravel "Pictures at an Exhibition," Prokofiev’s "Lieutenant Kijé" Suite and Borodin’s "Polovtsian Dances." Smith will conduct the Feb. 27-28 Masterworks program, including Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, Berlioz’s “Le Corsaire” Overture and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with pianist Jon Nakamatsu. (The Shostakovich is a program change, taking the place of Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony.)

The new music director is now expected to be selected in time for him to conduct an April 24 gala featuring violinist Gil Shaham.

Erin Freeman, the orchestra’s associate conductor and interim artistic advisor, will conduct Masterworks programs of Feb. 6-7 and March 20-21. Jacques Houtmann, the symphony’s second music director (1971-87), will return to conduct the final Masterworks concerts of the season on May 16-17.