August 26, 2010

Christopher Seaman Talks About the RPO's 2010-11 Season

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2010-11 Season promises to be one for the history books, as we celebrate our Maestro, Christopher Seaman, in his final season as the RPO's Music Director.

We caught up with Christopher - who has been "Down Under" this summer, conducting and teaching in Australia -  to find out more about the upcoming Philharmonics and Symphony 101 Series concerts.

This year’s Philharmonics Series features some of your favorite pieces. Can you tell us about a few that have particular meaning for you, as you look back over your career?

Well, our opening concert features Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, affectionately known in the orchestral world as "Tchaik 4." This has always been one of my big favorites (Tchaikovsky himself once said it was his best), but the work gained a special significance for me because it was on the program for my trial concert for the job of Principal Timpanist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I was 22, very inexperienced, and felt a bit shaky at the rehearsal. But when the concert came I decided that as it would be the only time I would ever play with a great orchestra, I should enjoy myself, which I did. The next morning the General Manager called me and offered me the job, so I ended up spending four years with that wonderful orchestra during which I learned an enormous amount and played with some very great conductors, including Munch, Solti, Haitink, Boult, and Svetlanov.

We’ll be doing Vaughan Williams’ "London" Symphony, which I played with the renowned conductor Sir Adrian Boult, who knew Vaughan Williams. After I conducted the piece for a broadcast on the BBC, I had a letter from him saying I had got it "right." I also conducted it for a guest appearance with the Rochester Philharmonic in March 1997, and as a result was later asked to be the RPO’s Music Director. Many of the Orchestra members associate that piece with me, and particularly wanted me to do it.

And our closing Philharmonics concert features Brahms’ Second Symphony, which got me my first conducting job, four years after the London Phil, as assistant conductor for the BBC Scottish Symphony in Glasgow.

We have several guest artists returning for the occasion – including Olga Kern and Jon Nakamatsu, with whom you also have recorded. Can you share some stories about what it was like working with them?

I first met Olga Kern on stage the week we recorded the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto with her, back in 2003, and we very quickly developed a close musical relationship. I’m glad to have her coming back this season. Jon Nakamatsu has a long relationship with the RPO, since Al Davis first saw Jon perform during the Van Cliburn competition in 1997 and encouraged us to bring him to Rochester. For years now, we’ve been playing the piano that was donated in Jon’s honor, and so of course we wanted him on this season.

Several of the Orchestra musicians are featured on concerts this year. Can you tell us more about the pieces they will be performing?

It is always a big event when Juliana Athayde, our Concertmaster, appears as soloist with the Orchestra. Over the past few years she has had major triumphs with a whole range of concertos (including a world premiere last season). This season she plays the Glazunov Violin Concerto, a work which will show her brilliance, expressive power, and virtuosity to the full.

Stefan Reuss, our principal cellist, joined the RPO in 1988, and is well known in Rochester not only for his fine work with the orchestra but also for his very active participation in chamber music. Stefan's cello is a beautiful Guadagnini made in 1798, and on it he will play the much-loved first concerto by Saint-Saens.

Our Principal Clarinetist Kenny Grant will be joining us next May for Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, but he will be playing it on the basset clarinet, reaching a third lower than the usual clarinet. Mozart originally wrote this concerto for this instrument, so Kenny will be able to play it as Mozart intended, without having to transpose any notes. I conducted the first UK performance of this concerto on basset clarinet, with Alan Hacker—one of the clarinetists credited with the revival of the instrument—back in 1968.

What can patrons look forward to in the Symphony 101 and 201 concerts this season?

This year’s Symphony 101 concerts will feature music by some of the greatest composers, pieces that mark milestones in the history of music. For the first concert, in addition to playing music by Handel, Gluck, and Mozart, we will be playing something by Antonio Salieri. Many know Salieri as Mozart’s rival in the film Amadeus, and we will get to see how their music compares. One of the concerts will feature some of my own musical milestones, including works by Bach, Wagner, and Vaughan Williams. And our expanded Symphony 201 concert in Kodak Hall will go in-depth on Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.

What is one of your funniest or oddest RPO concert memories ...

So little has gone wrong. But there was one time, during a Symphony 101 concert, when there was a power outage and all the lights went out. I asked the audience, "Would you wave one hand in the air?" They did, and right after that the lights came back on and I said, "Confucius said, ‘Many hands make light work’."

What is your favorite restaurant in town?

There are so many and probably one or two I haven’t discovered yet—but Thali is a very nice Indian restaurant, and One is very good. I also like Virtu and Richardson’s Canal House. And I have been going to the Highland Park Diner ever since I started coming to Rochester and they all know me there.

Use this link for more information on the RPO 2010-11 Philharmonics Series.

Click here for more information on the Symphony 101 Series.

Tickets go on sale Monday, August 30 at 10:00 am! For just that one day only, there is a special ticket price of $20.10 for select Thursday Philharmonic performances in honor of Christopher Seaman’s final season as music director. Click here to buy online.

You can also become a season ticket holder now and save up to 20% off regular prices, plus have additional benefits such as the no-hassle ticket exchange and Subscriber Standby. For more information on subscribing, click here, or call 454-2100.

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