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Miller For Grown-ups

January 18, 1987|MARC SHULGOLD

David Alan Miller is not only bicoastal in his musical activities--he's bi-generational. The 25-year-old musician has served for five years as music director of the New York Youth Symphony (the Big Apple's version of the American Youth Symphony here), while this season in Los Angeles he has been entrusted with the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Symphonies-for-Youth programs.

"In New York, I conduct (an ensemble of) kids for grown-ups, and in Los Angeles I conduct grown-ups for kids," Miller said with a chuckle during a conversation from his New York home. But that's not all. This week in Los Angeles, he will conduct grown-ups for grown-ups.

At the Philharmonic New Music Group program Monday at the Japan America Theatre, Miller will be on the podium for two works receiving local premieres: Steven Stucky's "Boston Fancies" and Gyorgy Kurtag's "Messages From the Late R. V. Troussova" (with soprano Susan Narucki, who sang the song cycle in Ojai last year, again serving as soloist). Chamber pieces by Berg and Frank Campo complete the agenda.

How did a young conductor manage to make the leap to such heady repertory? Miller admits that his 1985-86 stint as a conducting fellow with the Philharmonic Institute at Hollywood Bowl helped him get the attention of orchestra officials, but the key factor, he explained, was a novel aspect of his programs with his youthful New York ensemble. "We have a thing called 'First Music,' in which we commission a short piece by a young American composer each season. (Philharmonic composer-in-residence) John Harbison heard a couple of those tapes and invited me to conduct."

With his valuable new-music experience, Miller noted, "I'm beginning to feel like a contemporary specialist. I'm starting to plug into a lot of trends."

Nonetheless, the former San Fernando Valley resident--he studied here with Fritz Zweig and later received degrees at UC Berkeley and Juilliard--noted that youth concerts remain his central activity in Los Angeles. Another in the always-sold-out Philharmonic series occurs Saturday morning at the Music Center, when TV weatherman George Fischbeck helps out in a program titled "Stormy Weather."

Philharmonic management, said Miller, has been "open to anything I'd do to attract young people's attention. I love that flexibiliaty."

Ideally, he added, he hopes to maintain a permanent East Coast/West Coast life style. No problem switching from young players (East) to older players (West), he pointed out: "There's not that much difference. Both groups are equally serious about wanting to make good music, about wanting to be inspired by their conductor."

AT THE PHILHARMONIC: David Atherton, music director of the mothballed San Diego Symphony, actually gets to work with an orchestra this week, leading the Philharmonic in concerts Thursday through Sunday afternoon at the Music Center. The program lists the West Coast premiere of Joan Tower's "Island Rhythms," Mozart's D-minor Piano Concerto (with Richard Goode as soloist) and Stravinsky's complete "Petrushka."

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