Timothy Muffitt’s not running the 4×4 relay, but he’s passing the baton this evening — his conducting baton, that is. It will fall into the grasp of conducting fellow Dean Whiteside for the first time tonight.
“He is quite good,” Whiteside said of Muffitt, the Music School Festival Orchestra music director and conductor. “It was a fascinating week, seeing him conducting and seeing him in rehearsal. But at the same time, you want to be doing it yourself.”
Whiteside, 2015 David Effron Conducting Fellow, will join Muffitt in leading the MSFO at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater. The program consists of three pieces: Franz von Suppé’s “Dichter und Bauer” (“Poet and Peasant”), Henri Dutilleux’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra “Tout un monde lointain,” and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, Op. 88 in G Major. Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra’s principal cellist Jolyon Pegis will appear as a soloist.
Muffitt, as well as the MSFO, was highly recommended by friends, colleagues and past conducting fellows, Whiteside said. He said he had only heard great things prior to his arrival in Chautauqua Institution this summer.
“I was very impressed by how enormously well prepared he was,” Whiteside said. “The experience and professionalism — he knows what he wants and how to get it. What I didn’t expect was the way he was challenging the orchestra — trying to get the musicians to play together and have an autonomous sense of musicianship.”
Chelsea Nelson, a horn player in the MSFO, said Whiteside will face some challenges in his leadership of the orchestra.
“I think for him, as the new conductor, the big challenge is always where you fit amongst people who are your peers, especially when you’re standing in front of the orchestra,” Nelson said.
Regardless of the impending bumps along the way, Whiteside said he’s excited.
“It’s not a high-stress situation,” Whiteside said. “Beautiful place, lovely people — no reason to be nervous now.”