Pasadena Symphony: Michael Stern takes baton for ailing DePreist
James DePreist, artistic advisor of the Pasadena Symphony, is recovering from heart bypass surgery and won’t be able to conduct its April 28 program at the Ambassador Auditorium, the orchestra announced Thursday.
Michael Stern, music director of the Kansas City Symphony -– and son of the late Isaac Stern -– will replace DePreist on the podium for the day’s two performances of Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, the “Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” sequence from Richard Wagner’s “Gotterdammerung,” and Richard Strauss’s “Four Last Songs,” featuring soprano Christine Brewer.
Stern has received good notices in past Southern California pinch-hitting appearances.
In 2010, substituting for an ailing Jeffrey Kahane, his performance with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra prompted Times critic Mark Swed to observe that Stern “is someone we should be seeing more of.”
He won a rave –- “stylish, unified, purposeful, balanced, transparent, nuanced and, in a word, musical”— from The Times while stepping in with the Pacific Symphony in 2001 for a Mostly Mozart program whose scheduled conductor, Jean-Jacques Kantorow, had visa problems.
After parting unamicably with longtime music director Jorge Mester in 2010, the orchestra hired DePreist, who is a 2005 recipient of the National Medal of Arts and director emeritus of the Juilliard School’s conducting and orchestral studies program, to help chart its artistic path, including planning musical programs led by a rotation of guest conductors.
The April 28 concerts end the second classical season under this arrangement. Zdunek said the orchestra will continue to rely on guest conductors for the time being, and that opting for variety over constancy hasn’t hurt donations or attendance.
“We’re expecting to come up with a leader in the next few years,” he said. “It’s an indefinite date, and we’re taking our time. We’d been with one person for 25 years, and I think the orchestra is seeing some really great people come through and is enjoying the chance to see some more.”
-- Mike Boehm
Photos: At top, Michael Stern conducting Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in 2010; James DePreist. Credit: Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times (Stern); Wendy Leher (DePreist).