Sunday, February 28, 2010

Any Day Now...

.. and the Richmond Symphony will choose its new music director. Steven Smith will conduct this afternoon's Masterworks concert as the last of three finalists, the others of whom are Alastair Willis and Marc Taddei.

Oddly, I liked Smith much better last night (here's my review) than last year at his first appearance, while Taddei impressed me more at his first appearance than his second in January. (I just realized I haven't linked to that review yet. On my to-do list.) Then, he struck me as essentially conservative and unlikely to take exploratory risks. Possibly he simply thought that's what the audience and Board expected of him.

Willis had the advantage in September of conducting a megahits program to a sold-out house at the first Richmond Symphony concert in the new Carpenter Theatre. He's young, handsome and charming, has an English accent, and did a good job conducting. Did he do an absolutely top-notch job? Well... but is that even the question?

The question, of course, is who of these three has the whole package--meaning musical vision, the ability to sense the needs of the market, the charisma to be an effective ambassador to new audiences, etc. etc. This is not cynicism; it's what a music director does. All nine of the candidates had these qualities in different porportions.

I have heard, although only as second-hand news, that many of the orchestra musicians are disgruntled that Arthur Fagen wasn't a finalist.

One thing I don't know is whether Smith, Taddei and Willis were the selection committee's first choices, or whether it extended a finalist spot to someone else who, for whatever reasons, turned it down. It's possible.

I do know, however, that once the selection is announced and once the maestro settles in next year, most everyone in the audience will soon forget these two years of transition.

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