Eugene Weekly : Music : 9.11.08

Speed Dating at the Symphony
Second candidate comes to town
by Suzi Steffen

A mere week after the Eugene Symphony’s whirlwind courtship with Nir Kabaretti, the second of three candidates for the music director job arrived in town with a plan and a challenging program for the Symphony. Danail Rachev, originally from Bulgaria, spent three years with the Dallas Symphony as assistant conductor before moving this fall to Philadelphia, also as assistant conductor. 

Rachev, like the other two candidates, will conduct the first movement of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony and one movement of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. For his concert at 8 pm Friday, Sept.12, he also chose Schubert’s Overture to Rosamunde and Alexander Borodin’s Symphony No. 2 in B Minor. 

EW chatted with Rachev about music, programming and Eugene’s glorious summer weather.

I heard that when you visited Eugene for an earlier interview, you liked it because it reminded you of Bulgaria.

Yeah. Yeah, I always like green, and also, the weather is nice. After three years in Dallas, I feel like there is more air here. The smells of trees are different. I like it here. It’s a beautiful town, and the wine I had yesterday was great. The people are nice, and the weather is fantastic.

I know you started playing piano at age 5. Tell me how you got interested in music and in conducting.

It was my father, basically. We didn’t have a piano at the beginning, and I had to go practice at some neighbors’ [house]. I was never a prodigy, never, even though the playing was good and I started to play bigger music, sonatas and concertos. Then I started going to concerts, especially pianists, and then I started feeling other music is great besides piano music. I decided to apply to the conservatory in Sofia. Afterwards, I was working in Germany with choirs of Bulgarians and Russians. Then I came to study here [at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore]. And everything started after that.

How does assistant conducting help your development?

Assistant conducting, it’s a difficult thing because you are not the music director, and yet you conduct almost as much as the music director does. And the type of music you have to conduct — children’s concerts, family concerts. But I was lucky because [Dallas] gave me a lot of other concerts to conduct. For instance, the summer season, they gave to me. But assistant conductor is great because you can try things, and most importantly, you conduct a first-level orchestra. That’s a different feeling.

Yes. So why Eugene?

I heard about the Eugene Symphony a long time ago, actually, in connection with Marin Alsop, and then I got to know [former Eugene Symphony Music Director] Miguel [Harth-Bedoya] and [current Eugene Symphony Music Director] Giancarlo [Guerrero]. Giancarlo, I met in Dallas when he came to work with the Dallas Symphony three years ago, and Miguel is in Fort Worth. And I really liked them both. Then the job appeared, and with conductors, you can’t wait until the job in New York is going to open; it doesn’t work that way.

Explain your Eugene program. Why more Schubert? Why Borodin?

When I saw theSchubert first movement, I was like, I really want not to leave it there with Schubert. I think this movement is incredibly powerful by itself, but I thought, why don’t I find a piece that can have the full range. This symphony is so dramatic, really incredibly sad music in a way, and that’s something that Schubert does, but there is the other side of Schubert, the sunny, beautiful, light side. So I thought of this overture [to Rosamunde], which is bright, the other Schubert. 

Borodin, I was like, what should I do since there is part of a Russian piece? I like to show the contrasts between things. I thought, why don’t I move to another Russian piece, so I can really do the two styles with early German Romantic music and Russian music. I’m sure [the Borodin] hasn’t been done here for a long time, and it will be interesting for the audience to hear it, and it is an absolutely great piece. 

Tix at the Hult Center Box Office, or 682-5000. A longer version of this interview, along with information about the other candidates and reports on rehearsals and concerts, is online at The final conductor candidate, Tito Muñoz, conducts the Eugene Symphony in a free concert Thursday, Sept. 25.



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