The Toledo Symphony Orchestra’s (TSO) May 19 season finale featured Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 9 in E Minor,” music that brought Maestro Stefan Sanderling full circle.
The Dvorak piece was the first Sanderling conducted with TSO in his 2002 debut, and it closed the 2012 season on his 10th anniversary with the orchestra.
Sanderling said he has felt welcomed in Toledo since his arrival.
“When I arrived at the Toledo Express Airport, I walked off the airplane into the arrival hall, and there was a picture saying something like, ‘Toledo Symphony Orchestra welcomes you to Toledo.’ I thought, ‘This is a great place. This is the place I want to be,’” Sanderling said.
Kathy Carroll, TSO president and CEO, said Sanderling has brought a unique insight to the orchestra, allowing musicians to achieve their personal best and display that.
“It isn’t enough to just have people who are really good at what they do, but real leadership comes from making the best of that when you pull it all together. It takes a lot of balancing, insight and knowledge,” Carroll said.
Sanderling said the musicians he has conducted have progressed tremendously, with a great desire to improve.
“The orchestra wants to be better, and wants to achieve more. That is why we have such a wonderful relationship,” he said. “It is not just one side that pushes with the other side having resistance; both conductor and orchestra want the same thing, and that is to have a world-class orchestra in Toledo.”
Renewing the vows
Sanderling conducted Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 9,” better known as the “New World Symphony” in 2002.
“I looked at the program and I thought, ‘Isn’t it time for me, after 10 years, to repeat the Dvorak symphony?’ I love the symphony very much so its’ like renewing the vows. I think this was a good idea, and it worked out very nicely,” Sanderling said.
A standing ovation echoed through the Toledo Museum of Art’s Peristyle Theater following the performance, which also featured Tianwa Yang on violin.
“All of those people in the theater are experiencing something together and there is a power that happens when great music is performed at a high level. It is hugely impactful to bring a whole crowd of people to the same conclusion,” Carroll said.
Music at an early age
Sanderling, a native of the former East Germany, was born to Kurt and Barbara Sanderling in 1964. With parents whose occupations were conductor and musician respectively, Stefan was exposed to music at an early age.
After obtaining a degree from the University of Southern California, Sanderling returned to Germany, gaining accreditation as one of Germany’s youngest chief conductors.
He then returned to the United States to serve as the music director of the Florida Orchestra and later accepted his current position as principal conductor of the TSO.
Sanderling celebrates his 10th anniversary one year after the orchestra’s debut at Carnegie Hall in New York. An estimated 1,400 people traveled from the Toledo area to New York City to hear the TSO make its debut.
“The Carnegie Hall appearance was much more a consequence of our direction, our way, our path than it was a moment. We worked very hard the nine years before that and as a result we were are able to compete and sustain our high level of quality in Carnegie Hall,” Sanderling said.
Sanderling said the question is not in finding the relevancy of classical music, but rather how to show that, in fact, it is relevant.
“Classical music simply is relevant, and I am very grateful to Toledo, and the patrons of the TSO that they actually see this. Toledo is on the threshold of becoming an arts hub, and that is something wonderful. I am very excited to be part of it,” Sanderling said.
The Carnegie trip could be considered Sanderling’s highlight with TSO, but he said there have been several memorable experiences and every concert he conducts is a highlight.
“The beauty of being music director is that I only conduct what I really love, and really believe in. I have the right and the duty to look forward to every single program I conduct,” Sanderling said.
The TSO’s 69th season will commence this September and will feature several new scores and a trip to China. Sanderling said he plans to collaborate with local arts organizations to emphasize the symphony’s strengths.
A full schedule of the upcoming season can be found at www.toledosymphony.com.