Season’s end gives way to new beginning for CSO

Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of guest conductor and music director candidate Cristian Macelaru, performs Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring: Suite” July 17 in the Amphitheater.

The 2014 Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra season is officially one of 86 in the history books.

Now, the Music Director Search Committee, which is staffed by members of the community, the CSO and Chautauqua Institution leadership, is faced with the task of choosing a favorite out of the eight guest conductors who auditioned for the position throughout the summer.

The eight finalists for the ninth tenured head of the CSO are: Marcelo Lehninger, Rossen Milanov, Cristian Macelaru, Roberto Minczuk, Bruce Hangen, Maximiano Valdés, Christof Perick and Daniel Boico.

Associate Director of Programming Deborah Sunya Moore said she believes the audition process led by the committee served its purpose of providing a clear set of information for the nine members to sift through.

Each candidate had the opportunity to go through a formal interview session with the committee, informal interaction with Chautauqua’s music community, and at least one concert cycle with the CSO.

“It’s becoming clear which type of candidate we’re going for,” Moore said. “It’s become absolutely clear that they first and foremost must have the skill to be a principal conductor and leader. We want somebody who will push us forward toward our greatest possible level of artistic excellence.”

Moore and Vice President and Director of Programming Marty Merkley agreed that they anticipate “three or four” of the eight candidates will be considered favorites as the committee begins deliberations later this week.

The committee’s mission is to come up with a recommendation of which conductor the Institution, led by Merkley, should pursue for hire.

The duo has noted this as the “fourth and final” year of the search for a permanent music director, but Merkley conceded the minute possibility of the process going into overtime.

“We’re hoping to finish it, but we won’t know until we get down to brass tacks,” he said. “We reserve the right — if we really need to — to have a competition of sorts next season. We really don’t want to have that happen.”

Neither he nor Moore chose to reveal any names or venture a guess as to a pecking order, but they anticipate the committee having to go through each candidate’s file with a fine-toothed comb.

“It’s going to be like splitting hairs,” Merkley said. “We won’t really have an idea of what everyone thinks until we begin those final meetings. It’s like deciding to paint a room white; which shade of white do you want?”

Assuming a choice is made and the hiring process completed, there figures to be a high level of intrigue as the new maestro begins his tenure with the CSO.

How much of a presence he has will be determined in part by his prior commitments during the 2015 season, according to Moore. She said she’s confident that the new man’s hands will “still shape the season, regardless.”

“As with any new face in town, it will pique a lot of interest from the community,” she said. “They’ll have an impact on everything from the repertoire, guest artists. … The change that will happen will come in bits and pieces, though. Relationships have to develop over time.”