Morihiko Nakahara has only been in Columbia, S.C., for half a season. But Friday night in Lexington, he showed he’s already getting the hang of SEC cities.
Complimenting the Lexington Philharmonic Orchesrtra, which he was in the middle of conducting, he said it was holding up well for being in the middle of a conductor search.
“Having a new conductor every cycle is like your basketball team having a new coach every game,” Nakahara said to the audience in the Singletary Center for the Arts. He also threw in a knock against Florida for good measure, assuring the audience he would be long gone by the time the UK Wildcats play the University of South Carolina Gamecocks next (Jan. 31).
Friday night though, he was the man in the hot seat, the eighth conductor to step onto the podium and audition to succeed George Zack as the Lexington Philharmonic’s music director.
Before the concert, the sign outside the President’s Room at the Singletary Center said “Concert Preview,” but it felt more like Nakahara and moderator Joe Tackett’s floor show.
Fielding Tackett’s regular question as to when the maestro might program a bass concerto, Nakahara said, “I have done a tap dance concerto . . . never going to do that again. I wasn’t planning on a bass concerto, but there’s always a price.”
He also had a little fun with LOVE, the name of the viola ensemble that played in the lobby before the concert. Told the name was an acronym for Lexington’s Original Viola Ensemble, Nakahara asked, “There are unoriginal viola ensembles? It sounds like there’s some competition in this town.” (LOVE, by the way, played an appropriately love-ly pre-show set.)
It was a night for the chocolate of instruments (Joe!) and Nakahara talked about how the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola, played by concertmaster Daniel Mason and UK viola professor Deborah Lander, spotlighted the viola section in addition to the viola soloist. He also talked about an underlying theme of dance in the concert, which included Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6 and opened with Ballata Sinfonica by Japanese composer Akira Ifukube.
The Ifukube, by the way, seemed to be a big hit with the audience.
“That was awesome,” the woman sitting next to me said. “I was not prepared for how wonderful it was.”
Others, during intermission, commented on being pleasantly surprised by the piece by Ifukube, best known for scoring Godzilla movies.
On stage, Nakahara was the first of seven male conductor candidates thus far to break from the traditional white tie and tails ensemble. He opted for a tuxedo jacket and open-collar shirt, which made him look very comfortable.
~ Loren Tice’s review (including a Mamma Mia! reference.)