Veteran conductor is set to take turn at podium

November 20, 1997|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When conductor David Effron arrived in Annapolis last Sunday, his phone began ringing off the hook.

And why not? So many talented graduates of the Eastman School of Music are musicians in the Baltimore-Washington area and relish the prospect of greeting the teacher-conductor with whom they loved working back at their prestigious alma mater in Rochester, N.Y.

Indeed, Effron, who comes to Maryland Hall this weekend to conduct music by Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn and Schwantner as the second entrant in this season's Annapolis Symphony Orchestra conductor's derby, is one of America's foremost maestros of academia.

Born in Cincinnati, Effron grew up in a gifted musical family (his father was concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony) and went on to earn degrees from Indiana University and the University of Michigan.

Gravitating toward music education, he became the principal conductor of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and also served as music director of the Youngstown (Ohio) Symphony.

As a guest conductor, he has visited the orchestras of Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Denver, Buffalo and Rochester. He also has appeared regularly on the podiums of America's finest opera houses, the San Francisco and New York City operas among them.

Lasting affiliation

But it is at Eastman that he has established a lasting affiliation with his Philharmonia student ensemble that can, on any given day, outplay many a professional orchestra.

"They're all there to make music," he says of his young players. "Sometimes that ability is impaired by the pressures and problems of the real musical world."

This weekend, Effron will lead the orchestra in Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony, Joseph Schwantner's "A Sudden Rainbow" and the songful Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, to be played with soloist Alexander Kerr, the American Wunderkind recently named concertmaster of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw Orchestra at the age of 27.

Effron's fellow aspirants for the ASO post are young conductors on the way up, striving to carve out careers in a dauntingly competitive field. But, at 59, Effron is not young, hungry or on the way up.

"My career is what it is," he says with the candor of a seasoned pro. "I'm successful where I teach, I have a summer festival that I run [in Brevard, N.C.], and I'm not seeking to go up a level. I want a new orchestra because I need challenges constantly in my life, not because I'm trying to build my career."

Idealistic educator

Asked what he feels he can add to the musical life of Annapolis, Effron sounds more like an idealistic educator with reverence for his calling than a grizzled veteran of the conducting wars.

"This job offers a chance to bring to the Annapolis organization what I feel music needs in this day and age," he says. "And that's education and outreach, which are so important in today's world."

Effron said he always has "dreamed of having a near-ideal relationship with an orchestra where everyone is all together on the same wavelength making music. I would want that here."

The orchestra performs Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts on Greenfield Street in Annapolis.

Information: 410-269-1132.

Pub Date: 11/20/97

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