The Longwood Symphony Orchestra made public today the appointment of Ronald Feldman as its new Music Director. The LSO will celebrate its 30th anniversary during its 2012-2013 subscription season, which opens on October 13th at Jordan Hall. Ronald Feldman will lead all four concerts, which will continue on December 1, 2012; March 16, 2013; and May 11, 2013. BMInt heard yesterday from LSO Search Committee Co-Chair Dr. Stephen Wright about the enthusiastic choice of Feldman, and from Ronald Feldman himself about his optimistic vision for his tenure.
Stephen Wright: We are all very pleased that, after considering a field of very distinguished candidates, we made an offer to Ronny Feldman and that he has accepted the position as Longwood’s next Music Director. We had the satisfaction of working with him some years ago when he guest conducted us in a wonderful performance of Scheherazade. In his most recent performance with us, he again demonstrated that quintessential quality a conductor must possess in order to draw the best possible music out of amateur players: support. Under him, the performance is greater than the sum of its parts. He can inspire amateur players to reach a little further into themselves with gentle and supportive remarks, while always maintaining a posture of “we can do that even better.” His standards are high and the players respond. He is a warm person, listens well, and is present for the players. We certainly had the sense that he enjoyed working with us and that he is very supportive of our community benefits program, The Healing Art of Music. We are looking forward to a wonderful new collaboration with Ronny Feldman as he begins this new season with us.
R.F.: One of the fun parts of my new appointment is building programs. The soloists have already been engaged, so you can expect my programming to revolve around the concerti already planned for this season. The four concerto soloists, all coming from Young Concert Artists, are already in place. They are: October 13th with pianist Louis Schwizgebel in Mozart’s C Major KV. 467, December 1st with violinist Benjamin Beilman in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, March 16th with clarinetist Narek Arutyunian in Weber’s Clarinet Concerto in E-flat, and our final concert on May 11th with George Li, a young pianist well known to Boston audiences in Mendelssohn’s Concerto in G Minor.
It’s important to me and for every musical organization to offer music of living composers. Our programs will show a mix of music of living Americans as well as compositions form the core Symphonic repertory. Working with composers is something I have done through my whole career, both as cellist and as conductor. Commissioning new works has always been important to me. I hope to have Longwood commissions in the future. When I looked at LSO’s programming over the last ten years I was very impressed with the breadth of the repertoire. My predecessor, Jonathan McPhee, is to be commended for his explorations of repertoire not often played.
But looking through some of the repertoire that Longwood has done in the past, I found composers who were not often represented, for example, Ravel, Hindemith, and Prokofiev. They will have a place on our programs this year along with the works of Boston composers. There are so many American composers who deserve to be on symphony programs: Irving and Vivian Fine, Lukas Foss, Arthur Foote, David Baker, Leonard Bernstein, John Adams, John Corigliano, Alan Hovhaness, and Leon Kirchner. The list goes on and on.
Is an orchestra which considers performances as part of “The Healing Art of Music” subject to the same critical and audience expectations as one which plays the music for its own sake?
My expectation is that this orchestra is going to have a secure place in the Boston musical community. The great work they do for healing certainly stands out, but with the group of fine players we have in the orchestra, and with the quality of the programming and the playing of the orchestra, I’m confident we will have a secure place in the Boston musical community. My experience with them in the last concert which I conducted was incredibly special — a lot of trust grew. They demonstrated a fine professional attitude. The concert was a musically strong, professional concert. I’m looking forward to more of the same this year.
Do the busy professionals, nearly half of whom are doctors, have the time to rehearse as intensively as you and they would like?
We expect to have eight rehearsals for each concert over a time frame of seven weeks, with the dress rehearsal on the morning of the concert — that’s certainly sufficient. The Longwood musicians are consummate professionals who are used to getting their work done on time. During my recent stint, everything improved from rehearsal to rehearsal. Many of the members are fine instrumentalists who play well enough to be in any major orchestra — our concertmaster, Sherman Jia, and our principal oboe, Michael Barnett, to name just two. Many of the players at some point in their lives had to choose between music and medicine as a career.
The other night I was commenting to a friend about the excellent string players in this orchestra. We were trying to figure out why so many medical professionals play string instruments. No answer was forthcoming.
The LSO string section is quite large, and our concert in June [reviewed here in BMInt] was very string-centric. We played the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis and the Brahms Symphony No. 2 as well as Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. Our soloist, Narek Hakhnazaryan, was marvelous. The string sound in every piece was quite refined.
Strings are my Peeps, as you might say in the contemporary lingo. I enjoy working with string sections. I understand what information they require in order to play their best. Throughout the rehearsals the information was very well received and seemingly appreciated. The attitude in the orchestra was receptive and positive from the beginning to the end. We learned about each other and we learned from each other. It was very sensitive music making with a lot of great individual solos from each section. The concert was a joy for me.
I gather you’re also keeping your fine cello chops up. Will we ever see and hear you conduct with your bow?
I once played Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante from the cello section leader’s chair — a bit too much business, given how difficult it is to play the cello. I don’t expect to be conducting the LSO from my cello any time soon, but I want to be available, if needed, as cellist for the fundraising work that Longwood does. I’ll enlist my chamber music colleagues to help with these efforts whenever possible. As I told the LSO board, I am very happy to support such an incredible group in any way I can. I’m All In with the Longwood Symphony Orchestra.