Peruvian maestro began his career in modest positions at opera house Miguel Harth-Bedoya is final entrant in ASO's search for conductor

March 05, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

These days, conducting careers are conceived amid the glitter and glamour of international competitions and high-priced recording contracts. But there was a time when nearly all the great ones got their start toiling in the opera houses of Europe.

Arturo Toscanini, Herbert von Karajan, Sir Georg Solti and Bruno Walter are but a few names on that list.

The career of Miguel Harth-Bedoya, the 29-year-old Peruvian maestro who will conduct the Annapolis Symphony this weekend as the final entrant in this season's conductor search, renews that once-important connection between the concert hall and the opera house.

In his second season as conductor of the Eugene Symphony in Oregon, Harth-Bedoya began his career as a member of the stage crew of the National Opera of Peru in his native city, Lima. Inspired by what he heard there, he put his pianistic talents to work as an accompanist for the company. His decision to pursue a conducting career can be traced directly to those experiences.

A graduate of the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School, Harth-Bedoya has collaborated with such distinguished artists as Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern and Joshua Bell, and continues to prepare orchestras for Kurt Masur, conductor of the New York Philharmonic.

At Maryland Hall this weekend, he will conduct "Estancia" by the Argentine master Alberto Ginastera, the sonorous Cello Concerto of Robert Schumann and the 5th Symphony of Prokofiev.

Soloist in the Schumann will be Martha Babcock, assistant principal cellist of the Boston Symphony and first-chair cellist of the ever-popular Boston Pops Orchestra.

"The Ginastera is a colorful and different sort of piece," said the conductor, "while the Prokofiev is so uplifting, despite its tragic, sorrowful adagio. The Schumann is the song in between."

From his earnest, unassuming words, Harth-Bedoya would seem the essence of thoughtful collegiality as he discusses his approach to charting an orchestra's future.

Harth-Bedoya began a Mahler cycle with his Oregon orchestra last season only after consulting with his musicians to find out whether Mahler was the way they wanted to go.

"Programming isn't just what I want to do," he said. "It can take a while to figure out what an orchestra wants to accomplish with its programs. I picked the Prokofiev for this weekend partly to show what I can do with it, but also because it's not been done here. It's important to study what an orchestra has already played to assess what it might grow into."

Miguel Harth-Bedoya's assessment of what could become his new orchestra will begin at Maryland Hall at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday.

Information: 410-269-1132.

Pub Date: 3/05/98

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