gregory vajda tackles 10 questions (again!)

maestro gregory vajda is in da’ house – but not for too much longer 😦  after 7 years, the band’s resident conductor is heading south to focus on directing the huntsville symphony orchestra.  even though the beaver throttled him with *10 questions last season, i couldn’t resist doing it again one last time:

you’ll be leading the band in the Beethoven #4 this saturday and monday ~ what sets it apart from his other symphonies?

None of the others have this number in the title.  Jokes aside, I think the whole “mythical theory” about odd- and even-numbered Beethoven symphonies is just a waste of time.  Indeed #4 is lighter in character than #3 or #5.  So what?  Beethoven was a living, breathing human being; he was a complex genius.  He was not always like the Beethoven bust we keep on the piano – he had good days, sometimes even good weeks.  During a period like that he must have written Symphony #4.

so, i’ve been slightly obsessed with benjamin britten for the past year and notice he kicks off the upcoming program… what 3 words describe this composer?

Personal.  Virtuoso.  English.

and following uncle benny’s piece, stefan jackiw and his fiddle will take the stage ~ have you worked with this guy before?

I have not had the opportunity yet to work with Stefan.  I have only heard wonderful things about him and his playing.  The Scottish Fantasy is a fun piece and I am really looking forward to do it with him.

well, sad to say, this is your final season ~ what are you most proud of after seven years?

My greatest achievement is that there are still musicians in the orchestra – luckily quite a few – who are sorry to see me leave.  And I am being serious now.

seems like a solid achievement to me!  oh man, what was it like to work with herbie hancock back in november?

Working with such a genius gives you a big boost that lasts for months. Realizing you are able to be an active participant of an unlikely “orchestra based” jam session with H.H. and you actually do well is an amazing feeling.

sweetness!  so maestro, what does it mean for someone to be a great orchestrator… and who do you consider the best?

Probably Stravinsky is on the top of my list but there are many giants in that department… Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Messiaen, Eötvös.  Their orchestration is an integral part of their writing and not just a well executed exercise.  Since it is hard to describe this (I am no musicologist) I suggest you put on The Firebird tonight and listen to how rhythm turns into sound color and vice versa.  If you still have no idea what I am talking about we’ll get together and listen to it with the score in front of us.

you’ve got a deal!  is it too soon to ask for a huntsville restaurant recommendation?

It’s never too soon.  My favorite so far: *Cotton Row.

mmm, the swordfish looks good.  hey, what’s so great about hearing classical music live?

What’s so great about being at a football game versus watching it on TV? What’s so great about actually being with your family for Christmas and not just calling them on Skype?  What’s so great about playing poker with your friends at a table with conversation and drinks?  Why don’t we all just do it on-line?  I could come up with many other rhetorical questions and some of them won’t be approved for all audiences.  I think you get my point.

i do indeed ~ thanks for your passion!  let’s see… um, do you have one specific baton you use to conduct or just use what the band has available?

I don’t think any conductor likes to use anybody else’s baton, let alone a “communal” one.  For years now I have been using batons made by Alan Pierce, former bass-trombonist of the Oregon Symphony.  Great batons.  You can check them out *here.

darn, final question already: besides the band (of course), what will you miss most about portland?


fair enough.  maestro, everyone here at the cb home office wishes you all the best: congrats on your new gig down south and thanks for helping the oregon symphony be the best band in the land.  [mwah!]  faithful readers, be sure to catch gregory on saturday or monday for his last scheduled concerts here in p-town… and of course, remember to bring your bull-roarer!


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