A rising star among conductors visits Vail | VailDaily.com

A rising star among conductors visits Vail

Special to the Daily | Dallas Symphony Orchestra

VAIL, Colorado – When Leonard Bernstein says you have potential, you should listen to him.

That’s the lesson that Jaap van Zweden learned years ago. And it certainly has paid dividends for van Zweden, who has just finished his first year as music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

Vail will host van Zweden and his orchestra starting Wednesday as the kickoff of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

For years, the Dutch-born van Zweden was a precociously talented violinist, having joined the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as concertmaster at age 19.

“It was actually a little accident that I started to conduct,” Van Zweden said as he took a break from rehearsals in Dallas last week. “Bernstein asked me to do some conducting while he was going into the hall to listen to the orchestra. And I was very surprised because I never conducted, and I told him that. And he said, ‘Yes, but I want to you do it.’ It was very difficult to say ‘no’ to Lenny. So I tried and thought it was really bad – and that’s what he said also, by the way. But he said, ‘Look, you know, I saw something, and you have to take it seriously.’ So I took it seriously.”

He began conducting full-time in 1997, and has barely touched the violin since. He has found that conducting is his true calling, he said.

After stints with the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra and the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague, he began as music director at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra last year. He continues to hold positions as music director with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and the Kamer Filharmonie.

He has guest-conducted with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, and many more.

“He is such a force of nature,” said Eugenia Zukerman, artistic director for the Bravo! festival. “He’s a brilliant musician. He’s a great communicator. He’s a very powerful presence on the podium, and the synergy between him and the orchestra is very intense.”

The Bravo! festival prides itself on featuring musicians who are emerging, and van Zweden fits that mold, Zuckerman said.

“I think the Vail public is going to really be galvanized by Jaap van Zweden,” she said.

Van Zweden said he was drawn to Dallas not only by the quality of the orchestra but by the quality of its venue, the Meyerson Symphony Center.

“It has been a dream first season,” van Zweden said. “There was a great click from the first day I was here. The love affair became stronger and stronger during the season. People in the orchestra know what I want, and I know what they want, so now it’s a fantastic marriage.”

The critics seem to agree, saying van Zweden has taken the orchestra to a new level.

“Jaap van Zweden has been working miracles,” wrote Dallas Morning News critic Scott Cantrell. “The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s new music director has tightened and polished the ensemble and stretched its pianissimos as well as fortissimos. One performance after another has compelled with elegance as well as sheer intensity.”

When asked about how he has put his stamp on the ensemble, van Zweden talks not about style or sensitivity or energy, but simply discipline.

“I believe enormously in discipline,” van Zweden said. “After discipline, you can search for freedom. That is how we work the whole season. The responsiblity for the quality is not just for a few players but every player in the orchestra. And that’s how it’s been for the whole season. And that works very nicely for us.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

All three of these performances begin at 6 p.m. at the Ford Amphitheater in Vail.

• Wednesday

Orion Weiss, piano.

Tchaikovsky: Capriccio Italien.

Mozart: Concerto No. 27 for Piano and Orchestra.

Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98.

• Sunday

Orli Shaham, piano.

Wagenaar: Cyrano de Bergerac Overture.

Saint-Saens: Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 22.

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E Minor.

• July 8.

Gary Hoffman, cello.

Haydn: Concerto No. 2, for Cello and Orchestra.

Mahler: Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor.

Visit http://www.vailmusicfestival.org for more information.

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