A Masterworks concert of “Prodigies” featuring Ken-David Masur with the Omaha Symphony

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April 7th, 2017

“I think that a piece of music, in our minds, one that we know very well, is like a house that we live in. So, the more pieces of music you have, the more homes you feel you are inhabiting. It’s in your memory….


You know the rooms, the turn here, there’s an architecture. The comfort of a piece of music which is from beginning to end, bottom to top, there is this perfect structure. Music helps us feel like there is nothing missing there” – Masur (photo by wmac.org)

This Omaha symphony will be led by German-American conductor, Ken David Masur this weekend, in a masterworks series, highlighting “Prodigies”. Masur found his passion for conducting gave him something that ties all of the things he loves together; literature, the sound of the orchestra and story telling. The highlight will be conducting Mendelssohn’s “Scottish” symphony and he loves telling stories of Mendelssohn.

MASUR:“ One story that I like to tell about Mendelssohn , he attended a concert of Franz Liszt and Franz Liszt concerts were always very posh and very showy. And he would always end his concerts with an improvisation on the piano, ten to fifteen minutes. He’d ask the audience for a theme, so he would just go on this major fantasy improvisation for then or fifteen minutes. He finishes the concert, which was like three or four hours long and says, ‘Ladies and Gentleman, I would like to let you know that we have the privilege of having an attendance of a very dear maestro, Felix Mendelssohn. And Mendelssohn, was very humbled and he did not want to take the spot like. Liszt invited him on stage to share his talent and gifts, and asked him to ‘Please, play something.’ So, Mendelssohn sits down at the piano and he starts playing back exactly what Liszt has just improvised note, for note.”

Born in Germany, and the assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he explained what it’s like meeting symphonies and artists from Europe, Asia and the US.

Masur: “I think it’s exciting for me, especially the first rehearsal, it’s getting to know them period. It’s like going on a first date, but not anymore for me. I think it’s great to see the diff cultures and how people approach their craft. The orchestras I get to work with, including the Omaha symphony, are highly professional. For me what’s always interesting, what I always look for is, “What are the musicians of the orchestra, all of whom have had such a long training background and experience, what are their ideas?”
He is excited to work with the symphony in their first performance of a piece by Richard Strauss.
Masur: “What is their understanding of what we are doing even if it’s just for the first time, in this case in the program we are doing Richard Strauss, “Macbeth” and I was told the orchestra has not played that before. So, what do they understand about the piece, how do they shape it? What is the character that they are bringing and that is always interesting to me.

Masur had other ideas of what he would become before he realized he couldn’t escape the orchestra.

MASUR “I actually started conducting quite late, and nowadays conductors start early. The conductor programs are becoming more and more popular, more and more students that want to become conductors. The best example is Gustavo Dudamel, he was already given a baton when he was in his teens to conduct orchestras. At that time, I was trying to get away from it, and find other things. Then I realized, late in my teens, I cannot live without classical music. When I was looking in other fields, biology, literature, I realized it gives me something that ties all of the things together that I love. I love all kinds of music but the point is that it connects people. So, with all the different backgrounds that I’ve had and studied different things, I think I did that because my father told me, “You’re really just a teacher up there”.

Guest conductor, Ken David Masur will lead the Omaha Symphony this weekend, in the Masterworks Series, “Prodigies” featuring Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony. The performances take place this Friday and Saturday evening at 7:30 at the Holland Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available at omahasymphony.org or by calling ticket Omaha at 402.345.0606.

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