The final audition
Bernard Rubenstein sings a tune that would gladden the heart of the most stolid advocate of the Protestant work ethic. "In other orchestras that I've worked with, even youth orchestras and groups, hard work gives a sense of unity and a se...
Bernard Rubenstein sings a tune that would gladden the heart of the most stolid advocate of the Protestant work ethic.
"In other orchestras that I've worked with, even youth orchestras and groups, hard work gives a sense of unity and a sense or purpose," he says. "It shows results after a time."
Not that he's a slave-driver. "I'm very intense, I hope not in a negative sense," he says.
Rubenstein, 65, will conduct the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony this weekend. He is the fifth and final candidate seeking to replace former symphony music director Joel Revzen.
He will conduct the orchestra in Berlioz's "Overture to Beatrice and Benedict"; Shostakovich's cello concerto No. 1, opus 107, featuring a solo by guest artist cellist Thomas Carroll; and Sibelius's symphony No. 2, opus 32, D major.
Rubenstein is one of two candidates who have previously appeared with the local orchestra. He conducted a program of new music for the orchestra's Pizza Pop Concert a year ago. The first candidate to audition here, Clotilde Otranto, was a guest conductor about six years ago, symphony executive director Bill Law says.
Rubenstein has held a number of conducting posts. He was music director of the Tulsa (Okla.) Philharmonic and associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He currently lives in Santa Fe, N.M., where he has worked as music director for two Santa Fe Opera productions.
Santa Fe Opera officials say Rubenstein is easy to work with.
Joyce Idema, the opera's director of press and public relations, says Rubenstein last worked there on a production of "The Beggar's Opera" a couple seasons ago.
"It was absolutely wonderful," Idema says. "He has done a lot of other things for the opera. He has been a lecturer for us, really committed, and he's a terrific guy."
Idema calls Rubenstein "a wonderful musical thinker. He cares a lot about music in ways that are really interesting. He's concerned about having people be attracted to classical music in different ways."
Rubenstein has wide international experience as well. The U.S. State Department chose him as a cultural specialist and he was sent to Mongolia to guest-conduct the first all-Asian performances of Gershwin's opera "Porgy and Bess." He served as music director of the San Juan (Puerto Rico) Symphony and has guest conducted around the world. He is scheduled to visit several cities in Cuba next month.
He currently has no regular conducting job, but "I don't think of myself as semi-retired," he says.
He says that relative lack of other commitments will enable him to devote much of his energy to the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony.
The orchestra's musicians show "a definite commitment," he says. "They love the music, they love to play. There are many fine leaders within the orchestra." It also has strong community support, a well-run board and a good staff, he says.
That means that if he gets the job, "My focus would be just on the musical questions," Rubenstein says, "the need just to strengthen the basic technical and musical qualities of the orchestra -- rhythm, ensemble, tone production."
Those are not issues specific to the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony, he says. "These are the things that any music director coming here would want to focus on."
Such an approach has been successful for him in other places, Rubenstein says. For example, in Tulsa he developed a cohesive group over 12 years, he says.
Law says after Rubenstein's week here, the orchestra's musicians and board will be surveyed about their choices for the job and responses to symphony patron surveys will be tallied.
The board should make its decision by April 1, with an eye toward having Revzen's replacement on board by June 1.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Pantera at (701) 241-5541
If you go
What: Bernard Rubenstein conducts the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony with guest artist cellist Thomas Carroll
When: 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: NDSU's Festival Concert Hall
Tickets: $14, $18 and $24, available through Ticketmaster by calling (701) 235-7171, online at www.ticketmaster.com or at the door
Information: (218) 233-8397