When Robert Moody reached out to his friend Timothy Myers about guest conducting the Portland Symphony Orchestra, he had one important caveat: Myers had to choose the musical program, too.
“It was back in the spring when we were in touch about it,” Myers said in a phone interview. “At that point, Bob knew he would not conduct the program. They had some rough repertoire sketched out. One thing already confirmed was the Strauss horn concerto with (guest musician) Jeff (Nelsen).
“Bob asked, ‘What else do you want to do?’ So I ended up doing a lot of research, looking at all the programming they have done in the last three to five years so you know you are not repeating anything too soon, and looking to see if maybe there were some holes to fill.”
When Myers leads the symphony at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Merrill Auditorium, the program he chose will be highlighted by Strauss and Stravinsky. Also on the docket is music by French composer Claude Debussy and C.M. von Weber, a German composer.
It’s a traditional classical program featuring European music. But it’s not necessarily a predictable program, said Myers.
For instance, the Stravinsky piece, a suite from the ballet “Firebird,” is the 1945 version. Stravinsky wrote the full-length ballet in the early 1900s, and later arranged three shorter suites, including one from 1919. The 1919 suite was later published in 1945 in a longer, more musical format.
Under Myers’ direction, the PSO will perform the 1945 suite.
“Most people play the 1919 suite. The reasons for this, the 1919 suite is in the public domain. You can play it for free. But to perform the 1945 version, you must pay the copyright. I was ecstatic the orchestra agreed to do so,” Myers said.
The 1945 version is about five minutes longer and more muscular in a musical sense than the earlier version. It will anchor the second half of Sunday’s program.
The first half will consist of von Weber’s Euryathane Overture, Debussy’s “Printemps” and the Strauss Horn Concerto No. 1.
“The von Weber overture is a nice, energetic opener,” Myers said. “It’s very rhythmic, and comes across easily. Debussy is one of the most well-known French composers, but this piece is not played very often. It’s an interesting piece, and has been through a lot of iterations. It’s very colorful and more substantive orchestrally than some of his other things.”
The Strauss horn concerto will feature Nelsen, who is best-known for his stint with the Canadian Brass. As a horn soloist, he has performed with the New York Philharmonic; the Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Houston, and National symphonies; the Philadelphia and Minnesota orchestras; and the Canadian and New York City opera companies. He is also an educator, writer and coach.
In addition, Nelsen has held positions in the Montreal, Vancouver, and Winnipeg symphony orchestras, performed on Broadway, and toured with Michael Bolton and Barry Manilow.
Myers has an impressive resume himself.
At 37, he is one of the youngest artistic leaders in American opera. He is artistic director and principal conductor of the North Carolina Opera, and has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Opera and the London BBC Symphony, and was the principal guest conductor and artistic advisor of the Palm Beach Symphony.
These days, he spends much of his time traveling as a guest conductor. He recently returned from Malaysia, and will conduct in Atlanta and Houston, among other cities, this season.
Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or: