Get to know Eckart Preu.
The music director-designate of the Long Beach Symphony, who will assume the mantle of music director in the fall, was in a relaxed good mood when we sat down for an interview in the symphony offices this week.
He had just flown in from snowy Spokane, where he makes his home with his wife and two daughters and leads the Spokane Symphony. In addition to that orchestra and the LBSO, he has also recently been appointed the music director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
How does he juggle his responsibilities? Cincinnati is a summer festival. Spokane has roughly twice as long a season as Long Beach does, so dates must be coordinated, along with various guest conducting invitations.
He said he was attracted to Long Beach because of the excellent pool of musicians in Southern California, the health of the organization, and because he feels that the organization would like to stretch and grow. He said he also likes that Spokane and Long Beach are in the same time zone; his former orchestra was in Stamford, Conn.
He has an affinity with contemporary music, but doesn’t want to frighten anybody. At the same time, he likes to expose his audience to new or forgotten repertoire once he gains their trust. (The 2017 season has examples of both, along with familiar audience favorites.) He likes encores and extras, and his contract calls for one POPS! concert a year.
He wants his orchestra to be “artistically tight” and to “play with heart.” He hopes each program will make an impact; which is why he wants his audience to experience new things; how far he can go in any direction depends on the reception. In any event, he programs for the audience, not himself. There is a lot of competition for the arts dollar, and he wants the LBSO to establish its own identity.
When asked what kind of sound he likes from an orchestra, he says he wants a sound that “always sings.” He likes a big, juicy, Romantic sound, depending on the repertoire. He has ideas about orchestra placement, but will get to know the hall and his players before making any changes.
I mentioned what I thought was his very active stick the last time we saw him, and he said that’s how he was to taught in East Germany — to always be assertive and to constantly communicate with his players. Orchestras these days can play much of the repertoire on their own, “so the conductor has to have a reason he’s there. Hopefully they play better.”
The fun begins this October.