At last, Lockington gets to conduct for adults at the Meyerhoff

May 07, 1993|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Music Critic

There won't be incessant talking and giggling in the audience tonight in Meyerhoff Symphony Hall when David Lockington conducts the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. There won't be any crying and there won't be any parents tearing out of their seats, with 3-year-old infants clutched under their arms, on emergency trips to the bathroom.

That's what Lockington faced last Saturday morning at a BSO children's concert -- and what he faces on the approximately 60 occasions each year when he conducts the orchestra at children's concerts. The BSO's 36-year-old assistant conductor, who was selected out of 150 candidates for the job last spring, finally gets to conduct his first subscription concerts this weekend.

He may be the "other" David -- as opposed to the one that everybody knows, the BSO's music director, David Zinman -- but Lockington's the conductor that more Baltimoreans actually get to see and hear. He's the guy who conducts the grub concerts -- the concerts for children, the less glamorous run-outs to towns that most residents of Baltimore and its environs know of only as places on the map or as the destinations of day-trips.

When Lockington's in Meyerhoff Hall on the night of important concerts, he's there to understudy the main attraction -- to take over in case disaster strikes.

"The way I was raised was that it didn't matter where you played, you had to give your best," Lockington says. The conductor says he actually likes conducting concerts for children and when this young Englishman -- so evidently sincere and so unself-consciously charming -- says something, it's impossible not to believe him.

"When you look into their [children's] faces -- so lively, optimistic and expectant -- and see them light up, you really get a charge," says the conductor, who has three children of his own.

Lockington has been significantly successful at what is usually a thankless job. Orchestral musicians traditionally dislike their assistant conductors because they're the ones who are associated with the concerts that they usually do not like to give. Lockington's musicianship and attitude, however, have impressed the BSO's musicians -- most of whom rate him as the best assistant conductor the orchestra has had.

Lockington was trained as a cellist in his native land and came to the United States in 1978 to study at Yale University with Aldo Parisot. But he had been bitten by the conducting bug before going to Yale, when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge University. And he spent an extra year at Yale to study conducting with Otto Werner-Mueller, perhaps the most successful guru to young conductors since the late Pierre Monteux.

By the time Lockington went off to take a job in the Denver Symphony in 1981 as assistant principal cellist, he knew he did not want a career as a cellist.

"The cello repertory was too limited, the life of a chamber musician was too hard and I loved being involved with a community," he says. "That's what drew me to conducting."

Being a member of an orchestra wasn't being a member of a community?

Lockington laughs.

"The problem was that I always looked at the conductor and always thought 'that's not the way I'd do it,' " he says.

In Denver, he became the assistant conductor of the orchestra, founded his own chamber orchestra and conducted the Colorado Opera. He also met his future wife, the extravagantly gifted young American violinist Dylana Jenson, whom he has accompanied as a conductor with the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Symphony and with whom he will presumably give concerts when he takes over next year as the music director of the Ohio Chamber Orchestra.

His Ohio job will take him out of Baltimore for only three pairs of concerts a year, leaving him with the job of preparing children's concerts and understudying the concerts of Zinman and others. This involves an enormous amount of work -- because Lockington must not only carry his own programs in his head, but also those of other conductors.

"I have no idea of how many hours I spend studying," he says. "With three children at home, study time is the hardest thing to find. But let's put it this way: I find the time."

BSO CONCERT

What: David Lockington conducts the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in works of Vaughan Williams, Haydn, Bach and Weber, with Stephen Prutsman as piano soloist.

Where: Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

When: 8:15 tonight and tomorrow; 3 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $15-$40.

Call: (410) 783-8000.

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