There’s a promise of music in the winter wind as the Breckenridge Music Festival (BMF) orchestra gears up for a 2014 summer festival unlike any in recent years. Not only will this year’s festival showcase the three finalists in the orchestra’s search for a new conductor, but it will also result in the selection of a leader to shape a new era for the professional orchestra that calls Breckenridge home.
The last time the BMF orchestra selected a new conductor was 1993, when maestro Gerhardt Zimmermann took the helm as conductor and music director, leading the orchestra through two decades of growth that included construction of the Riverwalk Center, where orchestral concerts and the Tuesday chamber series are now held.
After Zimmermann announced plans to pass the baton in August, the festival organization began a search for a new conductor, casting a wide net among some of the nation’s top talent. This resulted in a larger-than-expected field of 56 applicants for the position of conductor and music director for the five-week summer festival.
“We did a very pinpointed process to identify candidates,” said Marcia Kaufmann, BMF executive director. This included directly inviting conductors recommended by the music community, in addition to focused advertising. “We ended up with a good number of candidates, almost every single one highly qualified, so we were able to concentrate on the best fit for our festival.”
Candidates were evaluated first by a subcommittee of orchestra, staff and board members with music backgrounds, followed by a group of community and board members. Based on their recommendations, the full search committee then met to narrow the field down to seven candidates for formal interviews, from which three standouts were selected.
Rossen Milanov is a multilingual conductor based in New Jersey with an international career that spans Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and Africa. He is currently the music director for the Orquesta Sinfonica del Principado de Asturias in Spain, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra in Princeton, N.J., and Symphony in C, formerly the Haddonfield Symphony.
David Danzmayr is the Austrian-born music director for the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra in Chicago and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in Columbus, Ohio. Before his positions in the United States, he served as assistant conductor for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in Scotland.
Francesco Lecce-Chong is a native of Boulder, where he began conducting at age 16. He has worked with orchestras throughout the United States and internationally and is currently the associate conductor for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in Wisconsin.
“All three candidates are absolutely excellent — top notch in their fields,” Kaufmann said. “They are all wonderful conductors who will be able to put on music that the most refined tastes will be able to enjoy.”
At the same time, festival organizers sought fresh new talent that could appeal to larger audiences and grow the orchestra’s attendance. Among the criteria considered were the candidates’ ability to connect and communicate with audiences and to think outside the box on programming and concepts.
“These three guys hit the nail on the head for us,” Kaufmann said. They come with new ideas, not only on “how to produce music of the standard fare in a more interesting way,” but also on “how you present music,” with interesting combinations that go beyond “just sitting in the seat and listening passively.” She also lauded the three candidates on their “ideas for nonstandard music and nontraditional styles.”
All three are “great communicators — fun to talk to, fun to listen to” and “good at communicating what it is about the music that is exciting,” she said. “Audiences will definitely respond to them.”
Ultimately, the goal was to find someone who could help the orchestra build upon its finely tuned talent while changing with the times to develop “a new face and a new spirit.” On that front, all three fit the bill as “new thinkers,” Kaufmann said, capable of guiding the BMF Orchestra through a dynamic and modern new era. Now it is simply a matter of choosing which candidate is the best fit for Breckenridge.
Landmark summer festival
As a part of the final selection, the 2014 season will feature each of the three candidates conducting one week of the five-week summer festival, for a total of two concerts each, starting in mid-July.
Each had input into the programming of their concerts, which is currently being finalized.
“This gives them a chance to meet the orchestra and gives the orhestra a chance to check out the conductors. It also gives the audience a chance to see each conductor in action,” Kaufmann said, adding that the public is invited to attend open rehearsals at the Riverwalk Center in addition to concerts. Community members are invited to take part in the selection process, as audience polls will be taken into account when the final selection is made.
The remaining two weeks will be no less exciting, as outgoing conductor Zimmerman will take up the baton to direct the orchestra once more, including the final week for the festival’s finale.
With such a landmark summer in store for 2014, organizers recommend purchasing discounted ticket packages (six-concert, 10-concert or four-packs) in late March or early April, when the summer schedule is released.
“I am personally very excited for the upcoming summer season,” Kaufmann said. “I have high hopes that it will be a very difficult choice to pick just one of these guests for our next music director.”
Erica Marciniec is a paid writer with the Breckenridge Music Festival.
“All three candidates are absolutely excellent — top notch in their fields. They are all wonderful conductors who will be able to put on music that the most refined tastes will be able to enjoy.”
BMF executive director