Conductor Gregory Vajda makes Cleveland debut with CityMusic

Conductor Gregory Vajda has had a couple of busy weeks. Just back from vacation in Hungary where he was visiting family, he hardly had time last week to catch his breath before being called to rehearse the Oregon Symphony when guest conductor Pinchas Zuckerman's flight was delayed. Two days later he flew to Cleveland to prepare for his debut with CityMusic Cleveland.

Born in Budapest, the 36-year-old conductor came to the U.S. in 2002 to take an assistant conducting post with the Milwaukee Symphony. His star has been on the rise ever since. In 2005 he was appointed resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony. In 2009 he was named artistic director of California's Music in the Mountains festival. In March he made his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Vajda says he's looking forward to the CityMusic concerts, partly because the ensemble performs its programs several times, in different neighborhood venues. "It's good to move around," he says. "I think a new business model we should be discovering is to be more mobile and flexible, to play more different venues."

He's also enthusiastic about the program, which opens with Sibelius' Rakastava, a piece he's never conducted before and hasn't heard live. Vajda says Sibelius has lots of great works that aren't often performed. The program closes with Beethoven's Symphony No. 8. In between, there's a Mozart flute concerto — featuring CityMusic principal flutist Heidi Ruby Kushious — which he says is a welcome break from the piano- and violin-dominated concerto repertoire. "Woodwind concertos in general aren't played enough," says Vajda, a clarinetist.

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