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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cesky Krumlov 2006

In May of 2006, I had the great honor of conducting a concert to celebrate the anniversary of the end of World War II. This concert was especially rewarding for many reasons:
  • we performed in the beautiful castle of Cesky Krumlov,
  • the program was filled with extremely exciting music (Smetana - Overture to the Bartered Bride, Dvorak - Cello Concerto, Tchaikovsky - Symphony #5),
  • the soloist Jiri Barta was one of the best on the entire planet for this piece (!),
  • and most of all the South Bohemian Chamber Orchestra played on a world class level not only in the concert but also with care and intensity during the rehearsals!

Brno - Rite of Spring & Requiem 2005

Perhaps the biggest surprise in my career came one sunday morning in March of 2005. At 9 am, I received a phone call inviting me to replace a conductor on short notice in Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" with the Brno Philharmonic!

I had already been visiting Brno frequently to study Janacek's manuscripts, but I had never expected to receive such a challenging opportunity with this prestigious orchestra. Our program included Dvorak's "Wild Dove" and the "Variations on a Theme of Haydn" by Brahms.

Not only did the orchestra offer me a future concert, but they were also kind enough to offer their services with me in a benefit concert for victims of hurricanes Katrina & Rita. In November 2005, we performed Albinoni's Adagio and Mozart's Requiem with the Czech Philharmonic Chorus of Brno. All proceeds went to the Gulf Coast Orchestra Relief fund which aided musicians affected by the hurricanes.

Romania - Bartok, Italy - Verdi 2005

In the summer of 2005, I was one of the top 6 finalists out of more than 40 candidates in the Béla Bartók International Opera Conducting Competition in Romania.

Of all the competitions I have seen in the world, this one allowed the candidates the most amount of time for rehearsing!

In the first round, we were already given 40 minutes each to prepare scenes from Bizet’s Carmen and Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana with the entire cast and orchestra!

Even more time was given to us in the semi-finals with separate rehearsals for chorus, orchestra, sitz-probe, and then performance of one act from Puccini’s La Boheme and Verdi’s Rigoletto.

As a finalist, I rehearsed and conducted an entire performance of Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard's Castle. (This alone was a dream fulfilled for me!)
Later that year, I also conducted Verdi's La Traviata in a competition in Italy.

This is one of my favorite places in Venice, where there is a bust of Wagner (on the left) near a bust of Verdi (on the right).

Lausanne Switzerland 2005

In January 2004, I participated in a workshop with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne in Switzerland.

The repertoire included Beethoven's Egmont, Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin, and Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks.

For the concert, Maestro Jorma Panula selected me to conduct a performance of Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun".

This last photo is with guitarist Benjamin Bunch comparing batons.

Cadaques, Spain 2004 (&1998)

In 1998 and in 2004 I participated in the international conducting competitions in Cadaques and Girona, Spain (near Barcelona). It was the perfect combination of great beaches, seafood, and fantastic 20th century repertoire!

In 2000, I conducted Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, and in 1998 I was a semi-finalist and conducted Stravinsky's Pulcinella Suite and Soldier's Tale (among other pieces).
Salvador Dali lived in Cadaques, so there some great museums there with his works (also nearby in Figueras). The cliffs and scenery of the area clearly inspired his surealistic landscapes.

Spring 2004 San Diego & New Orleans

In the spring of 2004, I conducted the Rapides Symphony in Alexandria, Louisiana (no photos). During this time, I also visited San Diego where I saw a beautiful sunset on the rocky beach.

That month, I also accompanied soprano Pam Jones, in the French Quarter in New Orleans at my dear friend Marda Burton's place. We had worked together previously on Janacek's Osud in NYC.

Brno, Janacek festival 2004

January & February of 2004 was my first extended stay in Brno. It was the 150th anniversary of the birth of Leos Janacek, and there was an enormous festival which included performances of all nine Janacek operas.

Sir Charles Mackerras conducted "The Excursions of Mr. Broucek" and the "Glagolitic Mass". Here is a photo of him after the performance together with soloists Eva Garajova, Petr Straka, and Helena Kaupova.

NOCCA Alumni Concert 2004

In 2004, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts celebrated its 30th anniversary. In honor of this occasion, we organized an Alumni Concert which included both jazz and classical musicians who studied at NOCCA over the past 30 years. We found players young and old from all around the country to come back and join us in performing a chamber orchestra concert. Our program included classical music with jazz influences by Stravinksy, Hindemith, and Milhaud.

I am proud to be a NOCCA graduate, and I consider my studies there with Dr. Bert Braud to have been the greatest influence on my life!

The patron party for our alumni concert was held nearby at the residence of my dear friend Margarita Bergen. She writes about cultural and social events at We are pictured here with Marda Burton and one of my favorite local jazz singers Julia LaShae.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

NYC, Bard Music Festival 2003

In the summer of 2003, I was an assistant conductor on the American premiere of Janacek's Osud (Fate) at the Bard Music Festival. This was the 7th Janacek opera I had worked on in 8 years.
I had visited New York before, but this was an opportunity to really get to know the Big Apple over a few months. The best part of course was working in a festival dedicated entirely to the music of Janacek. We performed Taras Bulba, Sinfonietta, Ballad of Blanik, The Fiddlers Child, and I worked especially closely with the chorus on the preparation of Rikadla, Na Solani Cartak, and the Glagolitic Mass.

On one of my days off, I biked across the Brooklyn bridge all the way to Coney Island.

Janacek and Luhacovice 2003

In prearation for the Bard Music Festival, I studied Janacek's original manuscript of Osud at the archives in Brno. I also spent a weekend in Luhacovice where Janacek was first inspired to write this opera.

The photos here are from the Janacek archives, a statue of Janacek in Luhacovice, and a Moravian folk ensemble that was playing in a restaurant near Janacek's summer home in Luhacovice.

The experience that May in Brno and Luhacovice was so enchanting that it will leave a lasting impression on my memories of Osud. This was also one of the reasons I later decided to move to Brno, and now I have an apartment just down the street from the archives where Janacek's manuscripts are stored! :-)
In regard to these manuscripts, this is what Sir Charles Mackerras has said: "Janacek would go through the neatly-copied score, cross, rub and scratch things out, insert new things and generally revise it. But he often failed to notice mistakes made by his copyists, which is a major headache for every Janacek scholar. Sometimes the original autograph provides the answer by proving that it was the copyist who had got it wrong in the first place. Not surprising when you consider the atrociously badly-written originals."

Aspen, Colorado 2002

In the summer of 2002, I participated in the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen in Colorado.

I conducted in masterclasses with David Zinman (Wagner - Tristan & Isolde, Mahler - Symphony #2, Weill - Threepenny Opera), David Robertson (Bartok - Music for Strings Percussion & Celesta), and pictured here: James Conlon (Berlioz - Symphonie fantastique).

Inspired by Sir Charles Mackerras, I also conducted Janacek's 1st String Quartet in an arrangement for string orchestra.

It is always a pleasure to speak with the audience about the music, and as a part of David Zinman's conducting class, I helped script and perform a "Family Concert".

Hungary - Bartok 2002

In May of 2002, I participated in the Hungarian Television International Conducting Competition in Budapest. The first round, however, was held in Miskolc, and out of about 50 candidates they happened to draw my name out of the hat to go first!

I conducted Bela Bartok's "Dance Suite", and this was the perfect orchestra for that piece. In our hotel restaurant, every night there was a virtuosic ensemble of Hungarian folk musicians who played for us!