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Interview:
New DSO artistic director excited for new season, challanges
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

» See more SOUND CHECK

It's probably not the way Jader Bignamini envisioned starting his tenure as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's 18th Musical Director.



For a normal classical season's opening night he'd be standing on the podium in front of the full orchestra, with a full house behind him and anxious to see what the new guy has to offer. But the COVID-19 pandemic has ensured this is not a normal season.



Instead Bignamini starts off this week Thursday and Friday, Sept. 10-11 conducting pieces by Copland, Gabrieli, Strauss, Herbert and Morricone in Orchestra Hall but with a reduced-sized orchestra (no more than 30 musicians at a time) and nobody in seats. Instead, the concerts like all of the DSO's programs through at least the end of the year will be streamed and ticketed, meaning the ovations will be implied for the time being.



Nevertheless, Bignamini, 44, is nothing but excited to begin what he calls "my new artistic journey.



"I can't wait to start," he says by phone from quarantine after arriving in Detroit from Cremona, Italy, where he resides with his wife and two teenage children. "Music is the food of the soul, and I think in this historical period people will need it more than ever. I'm looking forward to being able to give the community some peace, serenity and artistic reflection."







That said, Bignamini acknowledges that performing without an audience "will not be easy."



"I and our musicians need the audience. We need the energy of the public," he says. "But I'm sure we'll be able to feel the audience close to us. I know the DSO is very special and they love a new season and new programs, so we are giving that. It will still be a special relationship. I think it will be a great opening season."



Bignamini was named to the DSO post in January, succeeding Leonard Slatkin. He first conducted the DSO during the spring of 2018, substituting for an ailing Slatkin to lead the orchestra through Puccini's Turnadot and proclaiming "a feeling of ... love at first sight" at Orchestra Hall. He also conducted DSO performances of Mahler's Fourth Symphony last October.



A native of Crema, Italy, Bignamini has been playing music since he was 9 years old, starting with woodwinds. He studied at the Piacenza Music Conservatory and has conducted orchestras in Dallas, Houston, Toronto, Vienna, Tokyo and more. A jazz aficionado and amateur chef, he was in Canada to conduct the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Opera Canada when pandemic shutdowns began and performances were canceled.



Because Italy was locked down, Bignamini remained in Toronto and was joined by his family for two months before returning home. Since then, he's conducted three open-air concerts in Italy. "It was incredible, the feeling with the audience," he recalls. "I felt immediately that audiences need live music and the joy of the audience and the joy of the musicians to share music with everyone was incredible, especially during the pandemic."



After this week's concerts, Bignamini remains in Detroit to conduct pieces by Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings on Sept. 17 and works by Saint-George, Walker and Still on Sept. 18. He returns Dec. 10-11, with the second night dedicated to Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, "Eroica."



"This will be an opportunity to explore new pieces, new repertoire you can't usually find in the main symphonic season of the bigger orchestras," Bignamini says of working with the smaller ensembles. "I'm sure we will work very closely together and get to know each other very well, and deeply.



"I'm sure we will find our way to make a special sound. Because we're social distancing on stage and there are not a lot of people, I'm sure the musicians will give a lot of energy, maybe 200 percent more, and I have to give my musicians 200 percent more from me. I think we will grow even more from this."



>b?FACE THE MUSIC

Detroit Symphony Orchestra 2020-21 Classical Season



Opening at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10-11 from Orchestra Hall



All concerts will be without audiences and streamed via dso.org



Individual concert tickets and subscriptions are available



313-576-5111 or dso.org

Web Site: www.dso.org

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