Eugene Weekly : Music : 11.20.08

Magnificent, Incredible — and Ours
Symphony reveals new music director
By Suzi Steffen

First there were 300; then there were three; now there’s one. And that one’s a humdinger.

The Eugene Symphony announced in a press conference on Nov. 19 that its new music director will be Danail Rachev. Rachev, 38, has been assistant conductor in Dallas and Philadelphia and was one of three finalists who gave free public concerts with the Eugene Symphony in September.

Danail Rachev with the Eugene Symphony

Roger Saydack, chair of the search committee, said, “I think he’s going to be magnificent.”

Saydack has chaired four music director search committees, and he has also seen hundreds of aspiring conductors in his work with the League of American Symphony Orchestras. “This level of talent that Danail has is very rare,” he said.

Rachev said in a phone interview from Philadelphia that he was “impressed with the way the Eugene Symphony musicians are dedicated to playing great music, to playing an exciting performance.” He added, “The time of the absolute dominators of a performance is past, and the most important thing for me is that it’s a collaboration between a conductor and an orchestra.”

“The musicians are ecstatic,” said Lydia Van Dreel, a horn player who served on the search committee. Their preference seemed clear at the concert Rachev conducted Sept. 12 at the Hult Center, when the orchestra clapped, clattered bowstrings and stamped their feet for the candidate, giving him a solo bow. Concertmaster Kathryn Lucktenberg said Rachev was a consummate musician’s musician, whose intensity and love for the music inspired the orchestra to do better work.

Saydack witnessed the players’ enthu-siasm days before the concert. “During the second rehearsal, I had musicians coming to me at break saying, ‘Get out the contract; close the airport; don’t let him leave town! This is our guy.’”

When current Music Director Gian-carlo Guerrero announced last fall that he was leaving to become the music director for the Nashville Symphony, the search process began. The committee received more than 300 applications and winnowed them to three finalists, in an intensive process that one committee member estimates took more than 200 hours per person. Van Dreel said, “We talked to lots of musicians that had worked with [Rachev], and across the board, the reaction from them was that he’s an incredible musician.”

Symphony Executive Director Paul Winberg agreed. “I’m thrilled. He’s one of the most intriguing musicians I have met.” He added, “For the next phase in the musical development of the orchestra, Danail will have the capacity to do something interesting and profound.”

A longer version of this story and a short Q&A with the candidate will be up at on Friday, Nov. 22.