Friday, March 24, 2000

Pianist keys into a second ambition - conducting




BY JANELLE GELFAND
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        David Golub is known for his globe-trotting career as a solo pianist and chamber musician. His schedule includes playing with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. As the anchor of the Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, he tours and records annually.

        What most people don't know is that Mr. Golub is gaining respect on the podium as well, and his appearances frequently find him conducting from the keyboard.

        Mr. Golub, a candidate for the music director position at the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, will perform in both capacities this weekend.

        A native of Chicago, he grew up in Dallas, where he began playing piano at age 7. From the beginning, he was also interested in conducting, especially opera, and recalls listening to Metropolitan Opera broadcasts as a child. That may be the reason he lists among his influences the soprano Maria Callas, besides the pianists Artur Rubinstein and Vladimir Horowitz.

        Among his conducting mentors, he names James Conlon, May Festival music director and principal conductor of the Paris Opera, with whom he studied in the early '70s.

        “You can imagine, with my interest in opera and his interest and ability, it was a tremendous experience to watch him work,” he says.

        But like many artists who are torn between talents, he postponed his conducting career to concentrate on piano.

        “I was interested in exploring a large repertoire, not just as soloist, but chamber music and vocal as well,” the Juilliard-trained musician says.

        In the mid-80s, he began to be invited to perform in the dual role of maestro and pianist. That led to several recordings. His recording of Haydn's obscure opera, L'isola disabitata on the Arabesque label was one of BBC Music Magazine's Best CD's of 1999.

        The Enquirer is asking all music director candidates the same questions.

        Question: What is the most exciting thing to happen to you recently?

        Answer: I've been involved with a series of opera recordings. One is Haydn's L'isola disabitata (The Deserted Island), which was released a year ago. Last fall we recorded Haydn's La Fedelta Premiata (Faithfulness Rewarded)). I'm a great fan of Haydn, a respected but perhaps under-appreciated composer. He wrote a lot of operas, and they are never heard.

        As a result of that, I was asked to conduct Ippolito e Aricia (1759) by Thommaso Traetta, a Neapolitan composer, at a festival in Italy that specializes in operatic revivals. These operas are really first-rate. You're bringing to life music that hasn't been heard in more than 200 years.

        Q: In a city with a major orchestra like the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, how does the Chamber Orchestra fit into the musical scene?

        A: A chamber orchestra is sitting right between a chamber ensemble and large orchestra. It has the possibility to have the grand eloquence of a large orchestra, but also to have the intimacy of the smaller group.

        From the repertoire standpoint, you have smaller string forces, and you are concentrating mainly on 18th-century and 20th-century repertoire. A larger symphony orchestra is a creation of the 19th century, and reflects works written in the last half of the 19th century.

        Q: What programming ideas do you have?

A: I would like to study the programming for the Chamber Orchestra over the last few years, and get to know the orchestra, as well.

        Cincinnati has a rich musical tradition and a rich choral tradition. I would think there would be a lot of things that would appeal to an audience in Cincinnati.

        Q: If you were music director, would you sometimes conduct from the piano?

A: Certainly. Conducting from the piano encourages everybody to use chamber music skills to the maximum. That's one reason I'm doing it this week. It is part of the vision of what I'm doing.

        Q: What is the most important role of the music director?

        A: He is responsible for the musical direction of the orchestra, and he's also a member of the community and a liaison with the community. It's the responsibility of the music director to form an image for the orchestra and see how the orchestra can make itself most a part of the community.

        Q: Should the chamber orchestra have a responsibility to educate the public about classical music?

A: I think all arts organizations have the responsibility. It's education and exposure. It's the best way to involve people. It is a matter of trying to stay in tune with what will stimulate the community and not operate in a vacuum.

        Q: How do you impress your interpretation of the music on 32 fine musicians?

A: (Laughs.) I find that orchestras come with a very good attitude toward making music. There's certainly no trick about it; you feel strongly and hope that that will communicate to people.

        Q: Who are some of your favorite composers?

        A: The short list is Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. These people tower about the other people. Of course, there's Schubert, Brahms and Schumann, and I adore French music, Debussy and Faure.

        Being an opera lover, there are composers like Verdi, Wagner and Strauss. I'm very eclectic.

        The more that I study music, the more I see new things. You get the feeling that some composers are writing in collaboration with God. The depth and breadth and variety of interpretations can still be moving and convincing, no matter how many times you do a piece.

        Q: What would you like to see in the orchestra's future?

        A: I would be interested in seeing what kind of projects could be done in tandem with other artistic institutions, for instance, with a museum, or with the university.

        It can give people an overall cultural view that is different from approaching anything from the standpoint of one discipline.

        Perhaps we get a little bit stultified with what an orchestra can do. In art museums, you often see ideas that curators have for interesting shows, which influence the way people look at art in general. There's no reason why we can't do that with music, too. One thing can explain and illuminate the other.

IF YOU GO
        • What: Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, David Golub, conductor and pianist

        • When and where: 3 p.m. Sunday, Memorial Hall, Over-the-Rhine; 7:30 p.m. Monday, Rockdale Temple Auditorium, Amberley Village.

        • Preconcert: Preconcert lecture with Mr. Golub and Small Talk for children, one half hour before concert time.

        • The program: Beethoven, Egmont Overture; Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37; Faure, Pelleas et Melisande Suite; Dvorak, Czech Suite in D Major, Op. 39.

        • Tickets: $2-$18. 723-1182.

       



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