Today we meet Christian Baldini, the one of four finalist contenders vying for the North State Symphony’s Music Director opening left by Kyle Wiley Pickett.
Q: Welcome, Christian Baldini, to aNewsCafe.com. I know you are a busy guy, so we are especially grateful to you for taking a few minutes to chat. You are the first of four finalist conductors to embark on the North State’s Symphony’s quest for a new Music Director. How do you feel about going first?
Somebody’s got to get the new season going! It’s actually a very exciting year for the orchestra. They had a great artistic leader for over a decade, and it will be excellent for them (and for the communities in Chico and Redding) to become familiar with different conductors. To me it’s a pleasure to be here this week. We had rehearsals yesterday, and the orchestra has a great work ethic, and we got lots of good work done.
Q: I’ve read a few articles about you, and have noticed that other than words that describe your talent, and your highly impressive musical career and accomplishments, terms like “youthful” and “young” are prevalent. What are the advantages to being on the younger end of the spectrum?
I don’t even think about this anymore. I started conducting at a very early age, so I have “frequent flyer” miles on the podium, so to say. My main priority is always the music; to really help as much as I can to inspire the musicians in front of me to give their very best. So anything concerning age or gender seems irrelevant.
Q: I see your point. OK, moving along. You are rather continental. Can you tell us a bit about your background and journey that brought you to California?
Yes, of course! I feel privileged to have a very international background. My family is originally from Italy (my father was born in Florence and came to Argentina as a teenager). I was born and raised in Argentina, so my mother language is Spanish, though I also speak Italian and German. And of course, English!
I came to the US twelve years ago for graduate school in conducting in the East coast. If things don’t seem international enough, I married a beautiful English woman. And we have two American sons. Long story short: I have been living in California for six years, where I am the Music Director of the UC Davis Symphony and the Camellia Symphony, in Sacramento.
Q: When did you decide that you wanted to be a conductor?
I started playing the piano when I was 4. I also played the viola, and I started composing form a very young age (which I still do).
Q: If you weren’t conducting, what would have been your runner-up career choice?
If I wasn’t doing music, I would have probably gone into literature, though I did entertain myself for some time with the idea of becoming an engineer, since I liked physics and maths so much.
Q: Do you have a philosophy that guides you as a conductor, both in terms of the music, as well as working with musicians?
This is a profession, like so many others, where there are no shortcuts. A lot of preparation work is needed to do justice to the music. One needs to come to rehearsals with a very clear idea of how one wants a piece of music to sound.
I believe in a collaborative approach with the musicians, really making them involved in the process of rehearsing a piece of music. This is respectful to the music and also to those wonderful individuals who are putting so much work into bringing it into life.
Q: A good part of the time you’re conducting your back is to the audience. Tell me how you see your relationship to the audience and community in general.
This is very true. The back is what they see mostly during concerts, but the commitment and incessant hard work that comes with the position of being a Music Director is also with the audience all the time. You are planning a season specifically tailored to each community. One cannot put together programs simply doing “what one likes” or what seems easy and “worry free”.
Seasons are put together in such a way that many things are taken into account: the history of each orchestra, its past programming, the musicians in the orchestra, the local communities, the audience, partnerships with other local organizations, and most of all: to continue developing the orchestra to help it raise its artistic standards.
Q: Tell us about your selections for this week’s Redding and Chico concerts.
It’s a great and very exciting program. We will start with Bernstein’s Candide Overture. It’s very short, quick, flashy and fun music. We will continue with the three Figaro arias from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. These are full of humor and beautiful details. We have a wonderful soloist lined up, Ryan Kuster, and I am looking forward to working with him.
The crown a beautiful concert, we finish with Brahms’s Symphony No. 1. This is one of the masterworks of the orchestral literature. It took Brahms over twenty years to finish this piece, and it absolutely established him as Beethoven’s heir as a great symphonist. It has got one of the most exciting finales ever written, and I look forward to sharing with the audiences my passion for this beautiful repertoire.
Q: What’s your impression of the area we call the north state?
It’s a beautiful area which has many magnificent natural resources. From Lake Shasta to the Lassen Volcanic National Park, it’s amazing to have all these places nearby.
It’s also impressive to see the modern bridge designed by Calatrava in Turtle Bay. The North State Symphony is an invaluable cultural resource for the entire region, and I see that there is already some great support for it.
With commitment, energy, and an excellent artistic plan in place, I am confident that many new friends for the orchestra can be made throughout the region.
Q: What do you for fun and entertainment, other than music?
I love exercising, reading, cooking, and wine-tasting.
Q: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Maestro Baldini. I wish you the best for both concerts.
Thank you, Doni, for the great questions. I hope to meet you in person at one of the concerts!
Q: I’ll do my best, Christian. Here’s information about the Chico and Redding North State Symphony concerts this week where north staters can attend a free concert, see you, and hear your work.
Chico: Wednesday, Sept. 17, 4 p.m. CSU, Chico Performing Arts Center, Room 134, Chico. (This is the room where pre-concert talks are held.) Admission is free.
Redding: Thursday, Sept. 18, 4 p.m; Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2850 Foothill Blvd., Redding. Admission is free.