Music director Peter Oundjian announced the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s new associate conductor and composer this morning. Besides choosing these two people for their particular talents, aptitudes and open attitudes, Oundjian underlined how these appointments will help boost the careers of two local artists.
The new associate conductor, a position vacant since 1985, is former clarinettist Shalom Bard. In this role, Bard will attend most, if not all, rehearsals and be responsible for helping out as needed with the orchestra’s 100-plus concert season.
Bard will also conduct 20 concerts, the first one being an October 20th special performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto by Maxim Vegerov.
In addition to the associate conductor’s job, Bard also takes on the role of principal conductor of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, to replace Alain Trudel.
The new associate composer is North Yorker Kevin Lau. The busy composer, pianist and conductor’s responsibilities include fulfilling two commissions. The premiere of the first one has been scheduled for June 12 & 13, 2013, a programme that includes Chinese piano phenomenon Yuja Wang.
The positions are contracted for two full seasons, to June, 2014. Both are funded with the help of The Canada Council and the RBC Foundation’s Emerging Artists Programme.
Bard is likely to be a familiar face to Toronto Symphony regulars: He filled in as second clarinet for several seasons. He is also an alumnus of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra.
In a short post-announcement chat, Bard said he has already spent a small fortune ordering orchestral scores for next season. He will spend his summer getting a head start on next season’s music.
The McGill University grad only moved back to Toronto last week, having just completed a season as resident conductor of Symphony Nova Scotia in Halifax.
Bard emphasized how an associate conductor’s position is invaluable in helping a newbie get familiar with the repertoire. A conductor is, after all, the only musician who cannot take his instrument home to practise.
“To say this is a dream come true is an understatement,” said Bard, who only began to study conducting seriously four years ago.
“I’m still a student of this art,” Bard said. “And my teacher said one that you need to perform a score 12 times to really know how it sounds.”
Asked if it might be a handicap to not being a pianist when studying complex orchestral scores, Bard replied that the legendary conductor Eugene Ormandy had said it’s best to stay away from the piano, because then a conductor risks hearing the music pianistically, rather than orchestrally.
“The music is so much more than the notes,” Bard added, regarding finding the music’s shape and texture and proportion.
Bard was chosen from a field of approximately 40 candidates. The finalists had to perform with the orchestra, besides going through a battery of interviews.
The composer contingent was more like 20, according to TSO administrators. Oundjian said there were four very strong finalists, but Lau stood out for his excellent communication skills, as well as being able to establish strong emotional connections with his music.
Lau, still in a bit of a happy daze after the announcement, gets his Doctorate in composition from the University of Toronto tomorrow. (For more on Kevin Lau, click here.)
It will be very interesting to see how these two talents develop over the next two seasons — and to see how the orchestra can integrate them into their growing mix of educational and community outreach projects.