‘An element of joy’: Conductor Thakar joins Concertmaster Reagin in transcendent Saturday CSO set

Roxana Pop | Staff Photographer
A Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra violinist performs at a concert earlier this season in the Amphitheater.

Markand Thakar transcends his sense of self when he conducts a piece of music.

“The process of making music, for me personally, actually transcends the emotion [of the music],” Thakar said. “It’s not about joy — there’s something that goes even further. I absorb the sounds, if they come to me in the right way and I’m open to them. … They wash over me. I take them in [and] I lose myself in the sounds — I lose that sense of distinction between me and the sounds. In that conscious act, I become the sounds.”

Thakar will conduct the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. Saturday night in the Amphitheater. The CSO will perform Suite No. 2 from the ballet “The Three-Cornered Hat” by Manuel de Falla, Symphony No. 2, Op. 61 in C major, by Robert Schumann and Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Violin Concerto, Op. 48, which will feature CSO principal violinist and concertmaster Brian Reagin.

Sometimes musicians miss their cues and play the wrong notes, or the audience becomes distracted and talks during a piece. Despite these realities of live performance, Thakar strives to focus the orchestra’s sounds. He said his role is to coordinate those sounds into a moving, musical experience for the audience.

“It’s not my job to give [the musicians] some emotion to channel and for them to unfold my vision,” Thakar said. “They make the sound, I respond to the sounds that they make — and together we come to this musical experience.”

Music is not equivalent to verbal language, and explaining how music makes someone feel can be linguistically murky, Thakar said. The human consciousness cannot be explained scientifically because it happens in the space between thoughts and brain waves.

“There’s a danger that the more scientists study music, they miss an essential element,” Thakar said. “The essential element is [human] consciousness, and art takes place in that consciousness.”

Although Thakar does not focus on a piece’s emotional content when he conducts, he does hear the emotions in the music.

“[The “Three-Cornered Hat” Suite] is kind of a slapstick comedy,” Thakar said. “I think these pieces are sparkling and fun. [And] the Schumann symphony is really a profoundly beautiful, moving piece of music. There’s definitely an element of joy that pervades the movements.”

Thakar looks forward to conducting the Kabalevsky violin concerto — his first time doing so — and collaborating with Reagin, figuring out the best way to interpret a piece that isn’t well known.

Thakar’s conducting process involves figuring out how the music gets from “Point A to Point B to Point C” in terms of structure and style, he said. The Kabalevsky concerto has a clear logic that dictates the musical progression, but Thakar said it’s still a challenging work.

“It’s not often that I come to a piece, in this point in my career, for the first time,” Thakar said. “It’s a virtuoso work. It’s not an easy piece by any means.”

Although the concerto is new to Thakar, Reagin performed it several times with the North Carolina Symphony last October. He also performed it in a recital with piano this past February to keep the music fresh in his ears and fingers.

“I’m still learning it [in the sense of] what I want to do with the notes,” Reagin said. “[The concerto] is just real playful and energetic. It’s so flashy and it’s fun to play.”