Monday, May 21, 2012

Maestro Christian Baldini on life since UB...

We recently tracked down University at Buffalo alumnus Christian Baldini and asked him to fill us in on his career since completing his doctorate in music composition here in 2009. Christian is currently on faculty at UC Davis and serves as the Music Director of the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, and keeps up a busy schedule fulfilling invitations to guest conduct with ensembles and orchestras around the world. We asked Christian about what he’s been up to since leaving UB, his main interests as a composer and a conductor, and what projects he has on the horizon.

Christian Baldini

“I was very fortunate to be offered a tenure-track position at a really wonderful university, right before I left UB. So I spent the summer traveling to two really great music festivals in Europe, the S. Magnus Festival, which is run by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and conductor Martyn Brabbins, who was for me a great mentor. And then I was off to the course that Peter Eötvös runs in Germany, where I got to work with the Ensemble Modern and I had a performance of a chamber work of mine. After that, I arrived in California, where I have been now for three years the Music Director of the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra.

“I have just returned from Salzburg, where I guest conducted a concert with the Munich Radio Orchestra. Before then I was also in Spain where I took my orchestra from California on tour. We performed four concerts in Madrid, Granada, Valencia and Barcelona. It was a phenomenal experience for everyone involved, and we had the luxury of performing in some of the world's most beautiful venues. It was a great learning experience to have to adjust our performances of several works for many concert venues with completely different acoustic realities. They were all excellent, but the sound behaved differently in each of them. Our last concert was sold out (2,000 people) at the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona. I will never forget this concert.

“One of the things that I care the most about is to collaborate with living composers. I find it fundamental for the future of music that we as performers take on the responsibility of securing excellent performances of works by our contemporaries. Over the last 15 years, ever since I started conducting, I have been fortunate to collaborate closely with some excellent composers, and have conducted first performances of dozens of works. I also have a wide range of interests, and I think it is important to find a good balance between innovation and tradition. I don't consider myself a specialist in only one field, but rather a curious musician who feels equally at home conducting Brian Ferneyhough or Brahms or Sibelius. I also enjoy very much conducting opera and symphonic repertoire, as well as music for ensembles. As a composer, I feel close to a language that is never settled and secure, but rather always looking for new horizons. I believe in a constant exploration of the materials and their envelopes and vehicles. I admire composers who have developed their language up to their very last days.

“There are always projects coming up. I will be traveling to South Africa this summer to conduct three concerts with the South African National Youth Orchestra. I will also be conducting a CD recording in England with the English Chamber Orchestra. And there are a few more things in the melting pot, which are exciting and I always look forward to continue collaborations with musicians across different continents.

“UB was truly a wonderful experience for me. I had the privilege to study with a wonderful composer who is also really an extraordinary teacher. David Felder was a great mentor, and he was someone who opened my ears to many different worlds, and somebody who taught me in a very natural way to be even more self-critical. I will be always very grateful to UB for all of the opportunities that I received while I was there. I arrived as a Ph.D. composition student, and shortly afterwards I was hired as a lecturer in the Music Department, and was assigned to serve as the music director of the UB Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Contemporary Ensemble, while I was also teaching a course in conducting.  All of this made me grow a lot as a young professional, and the work that I did conducting concerts and recordings with the Slee Sinfonietta was also invaluable for me. I loved working with the faculty members, who were always very supportive. We performed together with many faculty performers, and I was also given the opportunity to conduct works by all three composers on the faculty, as well as many graduate students works. I could not think of a better place to have pursued graduate studies and to have started my career.”

Below is a video of a concert with Christian Baldini conducting the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and giving a breathtaking performance of Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 7.

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