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Hungarian conductor András Keller set to lead the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in a program of Russian music

The Royal Conservatory Orchestra is set to perform its final concert of the season on Friday, April 26th at 8:00pm, As is its custom, the orchestra will be led by a renowned visiting conductor who spends a week with the students of the Glenn Gould School, the pre-professional arm of the Royal Conservatory. For this concert, the Hungarian conductor, violinist and renowned pedagogue, András Keller will lead the orchestra in a challenging program of Russian music. Keller arrived at the school on Monday for daily rehearsals leading to Friday evening’s concert. The program will include Tchaikovsky’s seldom heard Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102, and Stravinsky’s masterpiece The Rite of Spring.

Orin Laursen is the concert masters for the orchestra for the Rite of Spring. He had the good fortune to meet and work with Keller earlier this month at the International Musicians Seminar in Prussia Cove, England. Laursen, originally from North Carolina spent six years at the New England Conservatory in Boston before coming to the Glenn Gould School for the Artist Diploma Program. He will graduate this spring and is hoping to stay in Canada permanently because of the mentorship of people like Associate Dean Barry Shiffman and Faculty member Steven Dann among others. He says that although the Rite of Spring can sound very chaotic with its complex metres and rhythms, the orchestra itself must be very stable with a unified energy. He has been excited to find the many levels of meaning in the music. Although there may not be riots during the performance as there were during its première in Paris, there will undoubtedly be a rare level of energy emanating from the stage. 

Guest Conductor András Keller; Photo credit: Royal Conservatory of Music

​​Review by David Richards
oronto ON April 24th 2019

Violinist Orin Laursen, Concert Master for the Rite of Spring
Photo credit: Sendai International Music Competition

Royal Conservatory Orchestra 

Pianist Linda Ruan; Photo credit: Tom McKenzie

I had a chance to sit down with James Anagnoson, Dean of the Glenn Gould School as well as two students involved in this week’s concert, violinist Orin Laursen and piano soloist Linda Ruan. Anagnoson told me that before meeting the orchestra, Keller asked for additional rehearsal time because of the challenges in the music, especially the Stravinsky. However, following Monday’s first rehearsal, Keller told him “They are prepared!” Laursen told me that in seven years of playing in conservatory orchestras, mostly at the New England Conservatory where he earned his master’s degree, he had never been part of such a committed orchestra.

This wasn’t always the case. In the early days of the school, it was difficult finding conductors who would commit to a week like this. It took years of building the reputation and quality of the orchestra to the point that conductors are now willing to set aside time in their busy calendars. Keller was found on the recommendation of another renowned and much-loved conductor, Gábor Tákacs-Nagy, who has been a regular guest of the orchestra for several years. Keller, one of the most respected conductors in Hungary, currently teaches at the Guildhall School in London and conducts the Concerto Budapest Symphony Orchestra.

Anagnoson beamed with pride as he talked about the development of the Glenn Gould School, its faculty of outstanding artists, the select student body of just one hundred and twenty-five carefully selected student musicians and the drive of the Conservatory’s President and CEO Peter Simon who had the vision of building the finest professional training institution in the country. A key part of the vision was to have a concert hall with the finest acoustics and aesthetics possible. Koerner Hall, home of the RC Orchestra is now ten years old and has become one of the finest halls on the continent. In twenty-two years, the Glenn Gould School has surpassed the dreams of Anagnoson and Simon. Friday’s concert will be a celebration of the growth in the school.

Pianist Linda Ruan, in her final year of the Bachelor of Music and Performance Diploma program won the right to perform with the orchestra at the school’s annual concerto competition. She will be heading to the Juilliard School of Music in September for a master’s degree. She has been a recipient of many awards in national and international competitions. In 2017 she was named by the CBC to the list of “30 hot musicians under 30”. She speaks with confidence about her preparation with the conductor and orchestra this week. She appreciates Keller’s serious and straight-forward approach to rehearsal and his supportiveness in spending time with her during a break. She has known the concerto since performing it a few years ago and is now adjusting to the sound and feeling of the orchestra. Ruan enjoys the light-hearted nature of the concerto with the humour imbedded within it.