Asheville Symphony‘s second Masterworks concert in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium transported the audience on a journey-themed adventure which included a festival (Dvořák’s “Carnival Overture,” Op. 92), then venturing to a crossroads where East meets West (Dinuk Wijeratne‘s Concerto for Tabla and Orchestra with soloist Sandeep Das), and finally to Russia (Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64). Directing the orchestra was guest conductor Rei Hotoda, the first of six finalists to audition during this season for the position of the orchestra’s next music director. Jason Posnock served as concertmaster.
There has been a plethora of publicity about ASO’s search for a new conductor and the six individuals who’ve made it this far, so the atmosphere in the hall was understandably brimming with excitement. Hotoda, the only female finalist, is an impressive conductor – elegant, poised, emotionally charged, vastly experienced, and technically adroit. Her physical gestures – cueing, and interpreting – never encroached or distracted from the music. When she addressed the audience, her face beamed with the joy of doing what she’s trained so hard to do – lead fine orchestras to play great music. She has said in interviews that she is not afraid of taking risks by choosing new or experimental music, and for many of us in the audience, Wijeratne’s tabla concerto was an entirely new musical experience. If Hotoda is eventually chosen to be the ASO’s new music director, Asheville is in for a real treat.