Jean-Marie Zeitouni Redux

I'm looking forward to working again with conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni, who will be leading us November 7 and 8 in Dvorak's 9th symphony (New World), Beethoven Fidelio Overture and Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto with Barry Douglas as soloist.

As some of you may remember, I raved about Zeitouni the last time he was here (which was his first time to Columbus). In fact, I wrote about him 3 times in three days: A general article about him March 13 afternoon, again after the concert March 13, and March 14. You can follow the linked text to see those posts if you wish.

With Rolland Valliere on board as President and CEO of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, I hope we can move along from our recent dark history to brighter sailing. One huge missing link however is the still empty position of Music Director. I've been told that a Music Director won't save us, and I agree, no one can single-handedly convert a dire financial climate into a rosy one, let alone a Music Director. But you have to admit, dear readers, that we are a musical organization, and that, with a musical/artistic vision we will have that much more direction and clarity.

I chatted a bit with Maestro Herbig when he was here a few weeks ago conducting Beethoven's 9th. He asked me how the search was going, and I told him what I know, which is mostly what I've said here at one time or another. He said that, considering the penchant our new CEO/President Rolland Valliere has for new technology and younger audiences, perhaps we should choose a young and energetic Music Director, someone comfortable with newer technology.

I am now "friends" with Jean-Marie Zeitouni on Facebook, where a friend is often more of a professional connection these days. (I am friends with dozens of clarinetists around the world, and though I don't actually "know" many of them, it's fun to keep up with their careers via the friendly interface of Facebook.) I have 288 of those friends on FB. Jean-Marie has over 1,700! That's a sociable musician! He keeps up with friends in several languages, English (in which he is absolutely fluid) is his third. French is his first (he is French Canadian). Arabic is his second.

Since I was afforded this unusual contact with a respected and experienced conductor, I thought I'd ask about his schedule since last we saw him in March. In general, he is full of fresh ideas, very versatile, creative, innovative, and has endless energy. This is his response, edited down to give you a gist:

...right after Columbus I was in Boston with the Handel and Haydn society performing a mostly french baroque Program (one of my secret gardens). [...]The main work was Jean-Féry Rebel's "Les Élémens". I recommend it to you greatly. I consider the first mvt (Cahos) to be the real first symphonic Poem.

In April I was at the Honolulu Symphony for a wonderful gala with Sumi Jo followed by a memorable Carmina Burana with the whole crew there, including local boy Quinn Kelsey, a significant talent. It's really touching to see a group of people that hasn't been paid for weeks or months playing (and singing) with such passion. Really humbling.

Right after, in Québec city, with the Chamber orchestra with which I developed a very close relationship over the past 8 years (Les Violons du Roy), we played Transfigured Night, Ravel's Introduction and Allegro and my arrangement of the String Quartet, a set of french songs that I orchestrated, a gala concert with one of my personal idols, Jazz Pianist Oliver Jones (a dream come true)...as well as recording a whole Britten Cd....... Whew!

Then off to St-Louis to work with the Opera and the Symphony on one of Mozart youth works "Il Re Pastore" with a cast of rising young American opera stars. (and i played golf every morning at 5h30 am.... which was a blast).

After St-Louis (stayed there 7 weeks) I was off to Texas, to participate in a young musician festival. It's rare that I feel old... but being next to these 20 year old...... at 34, I'm an ancestor! We had a great Beethoven 7th and a good first Concerto for Orchestra, overall.

After another redeye, I arrived in Montreal for two programs at the Festival Internationnal de Lanaudière (our Canadian Tanglewood or Hollywood bowl if you will). The first program was the audacious and almost never performed Messa per Rossini (a requiem mass for Rossini in which Verdi AND 12 OTHERS ITALIAN COMPOSERS participated by writing one movement. The thing is HUGE ! (2 hours long) five soloists, big orchestra (winds of 3 and 4 parts) and a chorus of 200. It was a great experience.

The next day, same festival, another huge program with Rach 3, Dvorak Carneval and "the Map" a piece by Tan Dun for amplified cello, orchestra and videos of traditional Chinese musicians...a really challenge to follow those live on film.... but we had a blast !!!!

End of July, I was in Ottawa with the National Art Center Orchestra, doing an opera under the stars program, and then I finished my year with a Fiddling show (kind of a pops concert with the same orchestra). The Star was Natalie MacMaster.

In September I was with the Montreal Symphony (Mozart, Mahler, Brahms, Lehar, J. Strauss & Richard Strauss) the National Art Center Orchestra (our national symphony in Canada) (all Mozart) and with Les Violons du Roy (chamber orchestra in Québec city) (Piazzolla and Golijov).

Early October, I gave a few lectures on leadership and team building (my "sideline" if I may say) and had a very nice week working with the San Antonio Symphony (Richard Strauss, Beethoven, Dvorak 8), This week again with Violons du Roy (Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Sibelius, Respighi) before heading to Columbus, Winnipeg, Edmonton and finally Toronto to finish the year.

I know conductors can be busy, but I doubt many are THAT busy. It's nice to get the "inside scoop": his creative, innovative insights, his secret passions and sidelines, his personal exuberance for everything he does. JM Zeitouni's personable and accessible temperament appeals to me, and I can imagine it would also appeal to younger audiences in Columbus.

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2 comments for “Jean-Marie Zeitouni Redux

  1. Ann Hurd
    November 2, 2009 at

    Thanks for sharing this insight of an amazing conductor. Good luck with your Nov concerts. I'll stay posted for a follow-up.

    • November 2, 2009 at

      Thanks Ann. Let's hope he fares well here.

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