The New Century Chamber Orchestra performs Jan. 24 in Wright Auditorium as part of the S. Rudolf Alexander Performing Arts Series.
By NATALIE SAYEWICH
Friday, January 18, 2013
Based in San Francisco, the string ensemble is one of a handful of conductorless ensembles in the world and will be performing at 8 p.m. Thursday at East Carolina University’s Wright Auditorium. The program, which is part of the S. Rudolph Alexander Performing Arts Series, will consist of Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No. 10 in B minor, William Bolcom’s “Romanza” for Violin and String Orchestra, Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5” and Richard Strauss’ “Metamorphosen.”
Renowned violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenburg is the musical director and one of 19 musicians that make up the orchestra. Though she leads the group through its performances, planning the programs during rehearsals entails considering opinions from everyone in the group.
“I think that we show a lot more bipartisanship than the government,” Salerno-Sonnenburg said. “The rehearsal process is democratic in that there is no conductor. It is my decision as the music director, but I wanted every member to have an equal say in how we play the piece, how we fix the problems and how we create the interpretation that we want.”
Differences in opinion can arise with 19 advanced musicians sharing the same stage. Salerno-Sonnenburg, now in her fifth year as the musical director, said the group has learned how to get through disagreements to make its performances stronger.
“The whole rehearsal process can get quite heated, but we handle it,” she said. “We know each others’ personalities by now. We know who are the talkers, who are a little bit more quiet. We know the ins and outs of each one of us. We’re like a family now. We handle these rehearsals like that. We rehearse and get it concert ready. At that point, it’s up to me to lead everything that we’ve decided on.”
The absence of a conductor has resulted in more invested, dedicated musicians that feel a greater sense of ownership of their ensemble.
“This orchestra is far more responsible than any other orchestra because they have to be,” Salerno-Sonnenburg said. “They’re responsible for their part. They can’t really rely on the conductor. All they rely on is me emotionally to take them through the performance, but we’re talking about a heightened sense of musicianship because it has to be so.
“The communication you’ll see on stage is constant and it’s with everyone. It’s a pretty amazing thing to witness. It’s definitely an orchestra that needs to be seen as well as heard.”
In addition to working with the orchestra, Salerno-Sonnenburg is a soloist of more than 30 years.
“This job was a huge undertaking,” she said. “For me, it was like an unexpected child that comes into your life and you realize this is going to be a huge thing, but you don’t really know what you’re really taking on until you get into it. Then, once you’re into it, your love is already there and you’re committed 100 percent.
“It’s very demanding of your time and energy, but completely gratifying.”
The most challenging aspect of her job as musical director, she said, is to lead the group while still blending into it, which contrasts to her background as a solo musician.
“That’s hard,” she said. “I’m a very strong player and I’m a natural leader, but I cannot be sticking out as a player because I am also a member of the first violin section. So that’s been the challenge to me, but it’s been fun learning that and implementing that.”
Contact Natalie Sayewich at 252-329-9596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
via The Daily Reflector.