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Bernhardt: Bat To Baton

May 05, 1985|MARC SHULGOLD

Even though music--particularly conducting--was Robert Bernhardt's first love for much of his life, there was a little something he just had to get out of his system after he graduated from college.


Now 33, Bernhardt, who leads the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in a Baroque program this week, is in the midst of his fourth season as associate conductor of the Louisville Symphony.

If not for a bright rookie named George Brett, his future after college might have been different.

"I was an academic All-American at Union College (in Schenectady, N.Y.) when I graduated," Bernhardt says during a conversation from his home in Louisville. "I played third base. After I left school, I knew baseball was something I had to try. So I spent a week of spring training with the Kansas City Royals in 1974."

The coaches took him aside and asked, "Have you considered a career in music?"

"Of course, that was also the year Brett came up," Bernhardt recalls, "and he sort of nailed down the third-base job."

Now, the stick he waves is smaller, lighter and, he says, more to his liking. "I just didn't want to be 33 and find myself wondering why I didn't at least try baseball."

The Baroque program Bernhardt will lead five times this week beginning Wednesday at Ambassador Auditorium is not exactly out of his league, even though, as the conductor points out, the Louisville Orchestra has developed an international reputation for supporting new music, largely through its lengthy series of "First Edition" recordings.

"I've conducted chamber orchestras in a guest capacity for many years," he says. "In fact, after I got my master's with Daniel Lewis at USC, I found my first podium leading the chamber orchestra at Mount St. Mary's in West Los Angeles. So I've done a lot of Baroque."

The program Bernhardt has chosen with the L.A. Chamber is built around a pair of soloists: recorder player Michala Petri and violinist Ilkka Talvi (a member of the orchestra).

"In a Baroque program, of course, there is the danger of sameness," he notes. "So I've chosen pieces on the basis of variety of instrumentation, though the ensemble will be all strings."

Orchestral works by Handel and Pergolesi ("or Wassenaer, or whoever wrote it," Bernhardt jokes) will be sandwiched between concertos by Sammartini, Vivaldi and Tartini (the latter's Violin Concerto in D minor will pinch-hit for the previously announced concerto by Nardini).

Does Bernhardt, now well-settled in a music career, ever wonder what would have happened if he had pursued only baseball? "Who knows?" he says with a laugh. "I might still have wound up as a conductor--for Amtrak."

BARYSHNIKOV DANCES . . . IN LONDON: American Ballet Theatre artistic director (and occasional premier danseur ) Mikhail Baryshnikov will appear as a guest artist with the Royal Ballet during the company's summer season at Covent Garden. A few surprises--and curiosities: First, Baryshnikov will dance Ashton's "A Month in the Country," created for Anthony Dowell. And the role of Baryshnikov's love interest? No less than Antoinette Sibley, a former partner of Dowell's, appearing as a guest artist. What of Dowell, you ask? He's in the third cast.

Another stalwart of ABT, Fernando Bujones, will also dance with the Royal Ballet in London this summer, appearing in "La Bayadere." Speaking of Dowell and ABT, the noted dancer will not dance with Natalia Makarova and Ballet Theatre in New York this season, as had been reported in these pages.

ANOTHER BICENTENNIAL: The Philadelphia Orchestra has chosen six composers who represent "a range of generations as well as the stylistic diversity that exists in the United States today" to create works to honor the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution in 1987.

The composers--Pulitzer Prize-winner Milton Babbitt, Christopher Rouse, Ralph Shapey, Steven Stucky, Nicholas Thorne and Stanley Walden--will write in a variety of forms: a work for string orchestra, two works for a full symphony orchestra, an overture, one work for a chamber orchestra and one for winds, brass and percussion.

The original compositions will be played publicly for the first time at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia during the bicentennial year.

PEOPLE: Witold Lutoslawski was recently presented the first Grawemeyer Award for composition by the University of Louisville for his Symphony No. 3. The work received its world premiere by the Chicago Symphony in 1983, and its West Coast premiere at concerts by the Los Angeles Philharmonic last November. The Polish composer, who was awarded a cash sum of $150,000, was one of 204 applicants from around the world.

Composer-conductor John Williams will take his Boston Pops on the road in July for a 15-city, 16-concert tour celebrating the orchestra's 100th anniversary. One of the tour stops is a concert in Hollywood Bowl, July 31.

As a result of a $200,000 bequest by the late composer Remi Gassman, UC Irvine will establish a facility for the study and composition of electronic music. Gassman, who died in 1982, assembled the score for Balanchine's 1961 work "Electronics," for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo's "Billy Sunday" and for Alfred Hitchcock's film, "The Birds."

Thomas Philion, a former general manager of Pennsylvania Ballet, has been named executive director of that organization.

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