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Harvard and NEC: Conducting expressivity

Aram Demirjian '08 conducts the NEC Lab Orchestra under the incisive eye of Hugh Wolff '75. Photo: Andrew Hurlbut

Harvard conductors are pioneering the orchestral conducting program at New England Conservatory. With the vision of Maestro Hugh Wolff, NEC’s Director of Orchestras, the orchestral conducting program at NEC has taken on new form and new life with a highly selective, two-year graduate curriculum that is polishing the artistic leadership and musical character of talented young conductor, Aram Demirjian (Harvard ’08, NEC MM ’11). Aram is in the first class of conductors with only one other student, Joshua Weilerstein.

Photo: Andrew Hurlbut

Along with course work in score reading, instrumentation, orchestration, and performance practice, seminars and private lessons, Aram’s conducting skills are being developed to the fullest and will be on display 8:30 p.m. Friday, December 10 (tonight) at NEC’s Brown Hall in a concert free and open to the public, featuring Beethoven’s Overture to Leonore No. 3, Op. 72, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture (1870), and Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 38, Spring. See Harvard’s own Aram Demirjian in action on the podium — with his focused expressivity achieved by economy of gesture that I remember even from his days conducting my chamber group in Music 93r in ’07-’08 — conducting the NEC Lab Orchestra in its culminating concert of the semester.

Continuing my series of conversations about music with Hugh Wolff, today’s post presents Maestro Wolff’s views about Harvard composers, John Adams ’69, MA ’72, and John Harbison ’60, who help to shape the future of music as composers, critics, and intellectual American voices.

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Hear Maestro Wolff’s insights into the music scene and orchestral concert audiences in Frankfurt, Germany compared to those in North America. Maestro Wolff propounds that John Adams has worldwide appeal, known to international audiences, and compares this to North American audiences’ reception of new music. Maestro Wolff shares his ethos of programming new music, earning the trust of your orchestra, and feeling that new music should be a part of the mainstream of what an orchestra does — completely integrated into the concert subscription series.YouTube Preview Image

And in February 2011, join again in celebrating Harvard-educated musical might at NEC, when the NEC Philharmonia performs under the direction of Maestro Wolff at Sanders Theatre, featuring a concerto played by a member of the Harvard/NEC dual degree program. In advance of the concert, I will bring you Maestro Wolff’s dreams for NEC’s orchestras and his reflections on returning to the stage of Harvard’s Sanders Theatre in the final segments of our conversation.

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