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Robert Duerr: Timing Is Right At The 12th Hour

June 15, 1986|MARC SHULGOLD

Robert Duerr is understandably pleased about his appointment as associate conductor of the fledgling Music Center Opera (MCO). For one thing, it saves him the cost of a round-trip ticket to Europe.

"I was all set to move there for the summer, so I could work on developing my opera conducting," said Duerr, music director of the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra. "Peter (Hemmings, artistic director of MCO) literally called me at the 12th hour." Hemmings, Duerr noted, had seen the two USC Opera productions he led last year and had known of Duerr's desire to work in opera.

This new post makes Duerr admittedly a low man on the MCO totem pole--which fazes him hardly at all. "I'll be at every rehearsal, working with the conductors, listening for proper balances in the hall, accompanying if need be--just doing what has to be done. But just think what I'm going to learn from some of these people."

Who are "some of these people"? No less than Placido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Rosalind Plowright, principal singers in the Music Center Opera's opening production of "Otello," set for October. Duerr explained that, in the absence of conductor Lawrence Foster, he'll be leading the first week of "Otello" rehearsals.

Though the next few months will be spent learning opera scores, Duerr won't be neglecting his activities as music director of the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra, which closes its season Tuesday at Ambassador Auditorium.

Plans for next season include four commissioned works in six concerts: a piano concerto by French composer Jean Guillou, who will also serve as soloist; a piece by Paul Melzer, a graduate student from Redlands, with Jon Robertson conducting; a new work by Rand Steiger currently being written in Italy as part of his Prix de Rome, and a major choral work by composer-in-residence Donald Crockett. Incidentally, Crockett's "Tenth Muse" for soprano (Juliana Gondek) and orchestra will receive its premiere at the Tuesday concert.

Such major attention to new music has not gone unnoticed: Recently, Duerr and the orchestra received their sixth creative programming award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). "I've been told, 'You win two or more ASCAP awards and watch out--the orchestra will die.'

"I've also been told I could sell more tickets by just offering warhorses, but I'm sorry. . . ."

WINNERS: Top honors at the 40th annual Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition, completed recently at Caltech, went to the Juilliard-based Cassatt Quartet (winning $3,000 plus performance dates this summer in Texas), the New England Conservatory Honors Woodwind Quintet ($3,000), the Rochester-based Cavani Quartet ($1,800) and the Manhattan Wind Quintet ($1,000).

In the 14th annual Zachary Society Opera Awards National Auditions, held last month at Ambassador Auditorium, soprano DeLaine Morrow of New York won first prize, worth $3,000 and a round-trip ticket to Europe for auditioning purposes. Tenor Michael Sylvester of New Jersey also won a European trip plus $2,500.

The 1986 Naumburg Chamber award has been presented to the Mannes Trio, comprised of faculty members at the Mannes College of Music in New York. The award includes a concert at Alice Tully Hall in 1987 and a commissioned work for the trio.

PEOPLE: Isaiah Jackson has been named principal conductor of the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, by the company's director-designate, Anthony Dowell. The Virginia-born musician had conducted at performances in Covent Garden by Dance Theatre of Harlem (in 1981) and Royal Ballet (in 1985). Known more as a pops conductor (he appears this summer in that capacity with the San Diego Symphony), Jackson will lead eight Royal Ballet performances in London and three in Birmingham next season.

Akira Endo has been named director of orchestras and the string program at Cal State Long Beach, effective in the fall. Endo, born in Japan and raised in Long Beach, served as music director of the Long Beach Symphony from 1966-69, and was a conductor with American Ballet Theatre for 10 years through 1979. He replaces Ruben Gurevich, who resigned.

Andre Previn and the Los Angeles Philharmonic recently finished their first recording sessions together, committing to tape a pair of symphonies by Prokofiev--Nos. 1 and 5--and a collection of shorter crowd-pleasers--"Russlan and Ludmilla" Overture, "Night on Bald Mountain," "The Moldau" and Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet." The sessions, for Philips Classics, were held at Royce Hall, UCLA.

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