Winston-Salem Symphony Names New Music Director
After an exhaustive search through more than 120 candidates, the Winston-Salem Symphony is announcing new leadership. Beginning this fall, British conductor Timothy Redmond will replace the orchestra’s longtime Music Director Robert Moody.
Redmond currently conducts opera and orchestral concerts throughout the U.S. and in Europe. He’s Music Director of the Cambridge Philharmonic, a regular guest conductor with the London Symphony and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras, and Professor of Conducting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Winston-Salem Symphony was established in 1946 as a civic orchestra on the Salem College campus, incorporating six years later and hiring its first full-time conductor in 1955. Since that inception, four permanent music directors have led the WSS: James Lerch (1946-1949), John Iuele (1952-1978), Peter Perret (1979-2004), and Robert Moody (2005-2018).
Redmond’s debut as the Winston-Salem Symphony’s fifth Music Director takes place in October for the Classics Series season-opening concert. That performance will feature Igor Stravinsky’s groundbreaking Rite of Spring.
On Thursday morning, Redmond spoke with WFDD’s David Ford from his studio in London.
On Redmond’s strengths as a conductor:
It’s all about people and understanding how to make the best of a group of people and how to read them — not just those on stage, but those in the audience as well. And those are skills that only come through time. And it's one of the great advantages in our profession that as you get older, you're sort of more in demand. It's the other way around through a lot of life maybe.
But yes, I think that is the thing that one works on the whole time. I do a lot of — if you like — post-match analysis, just thinking about, ‘OK, well, what worked, what didn't work so well, and why do I think that this particular thing was successful today?’ And it changes of course from day to day, hour to hour, and indeed minute to minute, but it's also to do with the different groups of people that you're working with. And you're sensing the whole time how they are making music and how you as a leader of those people can help them best, to do their best really — I suppose that's the ultimate definition of what one's trying to do — is enable everybody to give of their best, and to do that you have to be listening and really considering what everybody else is doing as well as what you think things should be like.
On Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring:
I think the extraordinary thing about that piece which is now over 100 years old is it's never lost its ability to shock. It's raw, it's passionate, it's powerful, it's thrilling, and it never gets any easier — or at least it shouldn't— because if it feels easy, you're doing something wrong. The whole point about that piece is Stravinsky is disrupting what you're expecting. He's always just removing a beat or adding a beat where you weren't expecting it. And in that he creates this unbelievable drama and danger. It's really interesting when you look at the Rite of Spring — if you look for its antecedents — it's almost impossible to find anything you can say directly influences it, because it's one of those rare works that really does stand alone. I mean, Stravinsky is borrowing from folk music and he's building on the devices that he's worked at in The Firebird a little bit and certainly in Petrouchka, but by the time you get to The Rite of Spring, he's created this whole new world and nobody can copy it either because it's so instantly recognizable.
But what he did was give composers permission, if you like, to celebrate the rhythmic over the melodic and the harmonic — not that there aren't melodies, not that there aren't fantastic harmonies — but that primitivism, that excitement, that absolute raw power that The Rite of Spring has is second to none.
On Redmond’s hopes for his tenure as Winston-Salem Symphony Music Director:
Well, one of the things that drew me to Winston-Salem was this idea of being open to new challenges, new adventures, [and] new programming. I think it's a fantastic organization and the Education Department of the Winston-Salem Symphony is really inspirational. And of course, education is something that I've been involved with a lot. That's not just school-age musicians, but that's the whole community. And I think one of the things that excites me is the possibility of involving ever greater numbers of people joining the symphony as performers actually, you know, with choirs and community involvement and young people. I've done a lot of that all around the world, but particularly with the London Symphony Orchestra. And I've seen the huge benefits that the organization reaps. And also, the increased relevance that we then have to a wider community, because if you've performed with the symphony then it's part of your life, and it's part of your memories, and it's part of your education, and it's part of your future. And so, I would guess my plans for the symphony are going to involve as many people as possible in as many ways as possible. And we don't need to reinvent the wheel. I mean there are fantastic concert series already, but I look forward to making collaborations with new organizations both in the town and outside throughout the whole U.S. as well as in North Carolina. And I just want to fly the flag for Winston-Salem, the symphony, and the amazing work that the symphony does.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.