David Amado performed as guest conductor for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra on Thursday night, the last of three conductors auditioning for NHSO’s music director, a position William Boughton has held for the last 11 years.
The two other candidates auditioning to become the 11th New Haven Symphony Orchestra music director are Sun Valley Symphony Orchestra Music Director Alasdair Neale MUS ’85 and Associate Conductor of the Southbank Sinfonia Rebecca Miller. The orchestra’s board of directors will make a final decision this summer.
In his pre-show speech, Amado — who has served musical director for the Delaware Symphony Orchestra since 2003 — referred to himself as “bachelor number three,” and mentioned that since his stay in New Haven, he has eaten “a disproportionate amount of pizza.” Amado also explained the careful considerations a conductor undertakes when selecting compositions for a program.
“You want to do something which has musician appeal, has market appeal, is sufficiently engaging for everyone involved and is an exciting piece that you feel is going to show off your strengths in performance and in rehearsal,” Amado said.
The first audition performance took place on Feb. 15, conducted by Neale. His performance was followed by Miller’s on March 22 . Before the audition, each candidate participates in a city outreach tour, meeting with NHSO subscribers, citizens, city officials and local businesses and schools. The candidate’s involvement in the community is one of many factors that affects the final decision, said Burton Alter, former NHSO President and a board member.
“What we were looking for was to get a sense of musicianship, quality, their success as a music director, their ability to deal with various constituencies … and get an overall picture of this person,” Alter said.
The NHSO typically records community feedback electronically: Every audience member is asked to answer an online survey after each audition. According to NHSO Marketing Director Katie Bonner Russo, this has proved useful in judging each applicant.
“We’ve had really positive feedback from everyone for all three candidates so far,” Bonner Russo said.
The three auditions have attracted significant of attention, which has translated to high ticket sales, Bonner Russo said. She attributed the high level of ticket sales from Thursday night’s performance to Amado’s programs.
“Ticket sales are great,” Bonner Russo said. “The program is strong, so people are very excited about [Amado’s performance].”
Amado first performed George Tsontakis’s “Laconika.” What stood out in this piece was the fact that Tsontakis himself attended the performance. The piece was split up into five three-minute sections, starkly contrasting throughout — at times, violent; at times, calm. The Tsontakis piece was followed by Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G Major.” The piece featured Stewart Goodyear, who performed exceptionally at the piano. The intensity with which he played was apparent, and the dynamic between Goodyear and the rest of the orchestra resulted in an overwhelming range of emotions, from calm and peaceful to anxious and triumphant.
The performance concluded with the monstrous 50-minute Berlioz piece “Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 16.” Broken into five movements, the piece tells the story of an imaginative young musician who has intentionally overdosed on opium. His feelings and sensations are translated into music, which manifests in the composition.
Amado’s hilarious personality balanced out the maturity with which he conducted, making him a mesmerizing character at the head of the symphony. Tina Allocca, a musician in the audience, said that, despite the fact she had never heard the first two pieces, she thought the performance was great.
“For the [Ravel piece], the first movement really reminded me of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ so I wonder if there was influence there,” Allocca said.
The symphony’s music conductor search committee will make a recommendation to the board of directors, who will choose the 11th music director of the NHSO. According to Alter, the NHSO expects to announce the chosen candidate by the end of the summer.
“Any of the three finalists could be a success as music director,” Alter said. “It is a very difficult decision.”
The NHSO will celebrate its 125th anniversary next year. Morris Steinert and Horatio William Parker founded the orchestra in 1894.
Nick Tabio | firstname.lastname@example.org