Conductor Nicholas McGegan (Randi Lynn Beach, For The…)
Among the many guest conductors who pass regularly through Southern California armed with fat music scores and frequent-flier miles, Nicholas McGegan is certainly one of the more recognizable faces.
In the past 10 years, McGegan has become a presence with' the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducting frequently at the Hollywood Bowl and at Walt Disney Concert Hall. He has led nearly 30 performances with the orchestra since 2001.
This month the British conductor will make his debut with another local group, the Pasadena Symphony, in two concerts at the Ambassador Auditorium. "I've done the L.A. Philharmonic every year, so this will be a nice change," McGegan said by phone.
The conductor will lead two concerts in Pasadena on March 31 featuring Mendelssohn's "The Fair Melusina" overture, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 and Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony. The Mendelssohn is seldom performed in Southern California.
"It's one of the lesser-known overtures of Mendelssohn's," said McGegan. "It also happens that I do it rather often."
The conductor said selecting programs for guest appearances is usually a simple matter. "I have an agent who sorts everything out," he explained. "I usually ask [the orchestra], 'Which pieces haven't you done recently?'"
McGegan has served as the music director of San Francisco's Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra for 26 years. He lives in Berkeley but keeps an apartment in Glasgow, Scotland.
"When my mother died, I inherited a lot of fragile stuff that I didn't want to bring to America," he said. "Works of art. Drawings. My mother was a painter and collected art. I get back there whenever I can — but I am there at the worst times of year, weather-wise.
"That's why whiskey was invented."
The conductor, 62, spends a good part of the year traveling and was speaking from Kuala Lumpur where he was conducting the Malaysia Philharmonic.
"It's 100 degrees and 100% humidity. There are orchids in every room," he said.
McGegan has specialized in Baroque music for much of his career, but his repertoire is diverse, encompassing composers from all forms of classical music.
There are some composers that he has never conducted, such as Anton Bruckner or most Russian composers.
"I'm not sure I would contribute very much to them," he explained. "It's like acting — you know there are certain roles for which you would not feel quite right."
He said the appeal of Baroque music lies in its simplicity and its accessibility. But there is another reason for its lasting popularity.
"Baroque music makes great radio — the pieces are nice and short," McGegan said. "They have a nice beat. You can drive to it if you want to."