Concerto Soloists Promote Solzhenitsyn He's Now Chief Conductor. Mostovoy Remains As Music Director.

Posted: January 06, 1999

At one-third of a century, the Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra is taking a new turn. Ignat Solzhenitsyn has been promoted to principal conductor as founder and music director Marc Mostovoy moves away from podium duties, and the new season has taken on new colors.

Now 25, Solzhenitsyn calls this ``an exciting time. We've been trying to move in certain directions during the last couple of years, and now I'm trying to program more varied repertoire and to explore the whole notion of programming.''

The showiest change is the addition this year of a multimedia series offering three oratorios, each performed twice and illustrated with projected artworks and supertitles, by singers from the Academy of Vocal Arts and the Philadelphia Singers. The oratorios complement the return of the ensemble's Four Seasons, combining the Vivaldi Concertos and new works on the seasons by David Saturen, Jonathan Holland, Eric Sessler and Luis Prado.

Mostovoy will make his sole podium appearance with Four Seasons, May 16 and 18. Christofer Macatsoris conducted Haydn's Creation in November; David Hayes will conduct Handel's Israel in Egypt Jan. 24 and 27; and Solzhenitsyn will lead Bach's St. John Passion March 28 and April 2, all at Haverford School's Centennial Hall.

It's a different way to look at the repertoire,'' the conductor says. ``I'm sure some people won't like it. We're not saying this is the only way to go, but I feel comfortable with the idea. . . . Using the text on screens is a good idea. We'll see how it works; it's still experimental.''

Solzhenitsyn will have conducted three of the four masterworks concerts, giving the fourth - in May - to Kenneth Schermerhorn, music director of the Nashville Symphony. Guest conductors have not been frequent with the ensemble, and Solzhenitsyn argues for the value of guests with special interests and broad experience.

Solzhenitsyn has often been piano soloist, conducting Mozart and Beethoven concertos from the keyboard. He'll continue his survey of the Mozart repertoire Feb. 24 with Concerto No. 24. He broke with his tradition at the season opener in October, when he conducted and Byron Janis was soloist.

Solzhenitsyn has been chafing at the ensemble's traditional programming, which often seemed as if works had been chosen for their brevity, blandness, and limited instrumentation. Last year, the conductor tested the scant stage space at the Convention Center recital hall when he programmed music by Bartok and large-scale Beethoven concertos. However, his programs will be limited by stage size and the ensemble's inability to rehearse in the hall.

``We are all looking forward to the new Regional Performing Arts Center,'' he says. ``. . . We would have rehearsal space and a home. Then we could find the audiences we feel we lost by moving from hall to hall over the last few years.''

Solzhenitsyn continues to tour as a pianist, performing with orchestras and chamber groups and playing recitals. With violinist Ida Levin and cellist Peter Stumpf, he'll play trios by Beethoven and Shostakovich, and solo works by both composers Jan. 19 at the Convention Center. That concert will follow his tour of Finland and Russia.

``I want to get people excited by this chamber orchestra,'' he says. ``I don't like sports analogies, but if you do get a winning team, then people want to be there. Then we can show our vision and our mission. I have good relations with the musicians, and I'm pleased to be a part of it.''

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