Conductor Dennis Russell Davies has been named Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra (Brno, Czech Republic).
Davies’ contract starts with the 2018-19 season and runs through 2022. The timing coincides with the initiation of the construction phase of the Janáček Cultural Centre in Brno, a state-of-the-art concert hall with a seating capacity of 1,250, which will become the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra’s new home and is projected to open in 2020. For Davies, who has just concluded his 15th and final season as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Bruckner Orchestra Linz and Linz Opera, the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra appointment marks the continuation of 48 years during which Davies has held principal positions with orchestras, opera houses and festivals that have included the Basel Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bonn Opera and Beethovenhalle Orchestra, State Opera Stuttgart, American Composers Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Norwalk Symphony Orchestra, Cabrillo Music Festival and Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.
Philip Glass, the most famous and among the most-performed of living composers, turned 80 in January, and the year is being feted with “Glass@80” celebrations all over the world. And yet, Glass remains a maverick; much of his music remains little-known, and many serious music lovers are convinced they don’t like it. And few of those birthday celebrations are at the major cultural institutions in the country of his birth. The Kennedy Center? The National Symphony Orchestra? The Boston Symphony Orchestra or the New York Philharmonic? Look again.
“There’s a lot of people that think they don’t like that,” says the conductor Dennis Russell Davies, “without knowing what ‘that’ is.”
On Sunday afternoon, I heard a live performance of a piece I’d just reviewed a few months before: Igor Stravinsky’s four-hand piano version of his seminal “The Rite of Spring,” which caused a veritable riot at its world premiere as a ballet in Paris in 1913. It’s famous for its skewed, off-kilter rhythms and raw drive, and the piano version is made no easier by the fact that the two players have to jockey for room at the keyboard. On Sunday at the Phillips Collection, Dennis Russell Davies, the well-known conductor and pianist, took off his jacket before performing it with his wife, the pianist Maki Namekawa, and observed to the audience that people might want to watch them fighting over who gets to use the pedal.
After a 17-hour travel day – bus trip to Munich, flight to New York, bus ride to the hotel in the rush hour – all members of the Linz Bruckner Orchestra and the accompaniment have arrived well on the US east coast. And they met a good, old “acquaintance” in the hotel: As a surprise the former director Rainer Mennicken welcomed the musicians!