BMF orchestra secures rising star
Special to the Daily
After a summer-long series featuring prospective conductors, the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra has found a new leader in David Danzmayr, the Austrian conductor who has been at the helm of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra for the past two years. He is widely considered a rising star — a rock star, if you will — among lovers of classical music.
The adventurous young conductor hails from Salzburg, Austria, where he studied at the University Mozarteum before cutting his teeth as assistant conductor with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He also serves as music director for the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in Columbus, Ohio. He is widely sought after for guest appearances at venues around the world, including Croatia, Iceland, Scotland, Netherlands and Germany in 2015.
“Danzmayr has clearly imbued the Illinois Philharmonic with a renewed spark,” writes Lawrence A. Johnson of the Chicago Classical Review, applauding “the strides the Austrian conductor has made in upgrading the quality of the southwest suburban ensemble in just two years.”
Danzmayr was selected by a committee to lead the Breckenridge Music Festival Orchestra following this summer’s five-week festival, which featured visits from three finalists, each of whom programmed and conducted two concerts. He will take up the baton from emeritus conductor Gerhardt Zimmermann, who led the orchestra for the past two decades.
“Gerhardt has been absolutely critical in building the quality of orchestra,” said Marcia Kaufmann, executive director of the Breckenridge Music Festival, “but just like anything else — you learn different things from different teachers. To be able to bring in a new artistic personality on the podium will be an opportunity for the orchestra to grow and learn in new ways.”
Danzmayr’s musical interests range from the Austrian composers of his homeland to “populist” revolutionaries like Astor Piazzolla, creator of the libertango. He has also proven to be a champion of American music in Illinois, where he vowed to feature at least one piece by an American composer on every program.
“We have played close to 20 pieces by American composers in the last three seasons,” he said. “I’m sure pieces of American music will find their way to the Breckenridge Music Festival too.” He is currently working with festival organizers to plan the 2015 repertoire.
“David Danzmayr is a young conductor who is absolutely on the rise,” Kaufmann said. “He knew from a very young age he wanted to be a conductor, and he has had excellent training. He has a gift for orchestral music, and he knows how to communicate it to the musicians and the audience. It’s training, it’s focus, but in the end — it’s a gift.”
“The orchestra is very good,” Danzmayr said of the BMF Orchestra, pointing out how difficult it can be to play at high altitude. “They are doing a great job. I really honor that.” He looks forward to “making good music together,” and also to conducting the joint concert with the National Repertory Orchestra.
“On the one hand the young musicians of the NRO may be playing some pieces for the first time in their lives, so there’s a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “On the other hand you have the well-played, professional musicians of the BMF. The groups, side-by-side, can only end in an energetic performance.”
Along with the leadership change, the Breckenridge Music Festival will institute a new “artistic partner” model this year, comparable to that pioneered by the full-time St. Paul Chamber Orchestra but adapted to fit the five-week summer program. In it, as the Festival Orchestra’s artistic advisor, Danzmayr will shepherd the artistic team on the entire orchestral program, while concentrating on the classical component. He will conduct the opening two weeks of the Summer 2015 Festival, then bring in guest conductors to lead specialized programs for the remaining two classical concerts.
With his help, the BMF will identify nationally recognized specialists, called “artistic partners,” to direct the pops and chamber music components of the orchestra’s programming, starting with pops in 2015.
“This will be the first time the Breckenridge Music Festival has had an artistic advisor, not a music director,” Danzmayr said. “The music director led almost all the concerts, so it really shaped its own picture. I will have a different role. I will come for two weeks, and I will really enjoy conducting the orchestra. I will advise on personnel, guest conductors and programming,” he said. “If it works well it means more self-governance for the orchestra.”
The model is a perfect fit for the Breckenridge Music Festival, Kaufmann said, because it allows for greater flexibility and diversity in the Festival’s programming. “This differs from the guest conductor model in that the artistic partners are more invested,” she said. “It allows us to get to know a number of top conductors in their fields.”
“Sometimes it is nice to have different conductors conducting different concerts,” Danzmayr said. “You get different views, different input. Every conductor has a different approach and personality — so that can be good if it works out as planned.”
“David is very much at the forefront of a new generation of music-making,” Kaufmann said. “We are absolutely thrilled to have him, and we eagerly anticipate where his leadership will take us in the coming seasons.”
Erica Marciniec is a paid writer with the Breckenridge Music Festival.
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