For the past couple of years, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s Yuriy Bekker has been filling the role of both concertmaster and acting artistic director, but that period is drawing to a close. After a long search, the symphony has identified six candidates for the position of Music Director out of more than 200 applicants, and they’re conducting the candidates’ final interviews in a unique way: by inviting each to conduct a Masterworks concert. “This will allow people a chance to see them live, and we’ll have lots of opportunities for the community to meet and talk with them,” says Cindy Hartley, vice president of the CSO’s Board of Directors. “To me, the CSO is really the orchestra for the larger community here. Our musicians are in our schools, and they play a lot of venues around town. It’s important to us that the community have a chance to weigh in.”
The six candidates and the concerts they’ll be leading are Perry So, Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7; Christopher Wilkins, Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2; Sean Newhouse, Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique; Lawrence Loh, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6; Ken Lam, Stravinsky’s Firebird; and finally Michael Butterman, Saint-Saëns’ “Organ” Symphony.
Each candidate chose his particular Masterwork, while the CSO filled out each program with concertos and soloists. “At the end of the day, it really is about the music, isn’t it?” Hartley says. “We want to see them in action, and see what kind of music they make.” The candidates’ visits are scheduled throughout the season, from October through April, so the decision process will be several more months in the making. But the CSO is determined to make sure that they select the very best person for the job. “We’re not going to hire someone unless they’re the absolute right fit,” Hartley says. “We’ll probably have a finalist, but it could be a longer process if need be.”
In addition to the Masterworks concerts, each candidate will participate in a Charleston Symphony Orchestra League “Coffee with the Maestro” event, all of which are open to the public. The public can also weigh in through a feedback form that will be available on the CSO website.
See the CSO’s full season on their website at charlestonsymphony.org.