Thursday, April 3, 2008
Talking with Gregory Vajda, resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony
Gregory Vajda, the resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony, has been a hot topic in the classical music circles lately, because is being considered for the head conducting position of three orchestras: The San Antonio Symphony, The Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and the Fairfax Symphony (Virginia).
I talked with him to get more of his impressions on the situation.
Congratulations on being short listed for three orchestras! You've hit a triple!
Vajda: Thanks! Hey, I’ve got to tell you that I’m also on the list to be considered for the music director position for the Music in the Mountains Festival.
The one in Colorado?
Vajda: No, this one is located in Grass Valley, California. It’s near Sacramento, and the longtime founder and music director, Paul Perry, is retiring after next year.
Is that a summer festival?
Vajda: It’s a hybrid festival, because it takes place for a week or so every fall, winter and spring. The Summer Fest lasts over a month. I’m scheduled to program and direct their spring festival next year, and then I’ll share the billing with the other conducting candidate, Stephen Prutsman, during the summer festival next summer.
There’s only two of you on the short list?
That’s makes your odds pretty good!
Vajda: We’ll see.
(At this point Vajda taps his forehead which I interpret at the Hungarian equivalent of our knock on wood expression.)
Since you’re on four lists, your chances are looking better than ever. This might be your big breakout year.
Vajda: I hope so!
(Tap to the forehead)
How do you get to be a candidate? Do these orchestras know you because you’ve conducted theme before?
Vajda: To get on the short list, you have to be recommended by someone. One of the orchestras sent a search committee member to watch me conduct before I was put on that orchestra’s short list. So, I’ll be conducting all of these orchestras for the first time, starting in February of next year.
So which orchestra comes first?
Vajda: I’ve got the San Antonio Symphony and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic in February. Then I’ll conduct Fairfax Symphony in March. As a guest I also conduct Toronto Symphony in April and the Symphony Silicon Valley in May.
We’re not going to see you much during those months. You’ll be racking up the air mileage.
Vajda: Sometimes you have to live out of a suitcase. That’s part of the job.
What will you be doing this summer?
Vajda: I’ll be conducting in June at the Round Top Festival in Texas for the fourth time. Then I’ll conduct at the Salzburg Festival in July.
What will you conduct at Salzburg?
Vajda: All Bartók: The Bluebeard’s Castle, Cantata Profana, and Four Orchestral Pieces.
With the Vienna Philharmonic?
Vajda: This Bartók production will be conducted by Peter Eötvös, who was one of my teachers. Well, during the run, he will travel to Glyndebourne where they are doing his latest opera Love and other Demons. So Peter asked me to fill in while he is away.
That’s going to be great!
Vajda: Yes, I’m looking forward to it!
Anything else on your schedule?
Vajda: I’ve got the Edmonton Symphony in October, and I’ll be directing La Cenerentola with the Atlanta Opera in November.
I think that that you’ve going to get one of those jobs. Maybe we should set up a betting pool!
Vajda: We’ll see. Whatever happens, I hope to keep strong ties with the Oregon Symphony. This is a wonderful place to work and a terrific orchestra.
Best of luck! Toi toi toi!
(Tap to the forehead)
Vajda conducts the Oregon Symphony in Salem on April 15th with Sharon Kam featured in the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. Also on the program are Bartok’s Music for strings, percussion and celesta and Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier Suite.
Vajda also conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 with the Oregon Symphony on Sunday, May 4th as part of its Inside the Score series.
Get the latest news on Vajda’s doings at his web site: vajdag.com.