Symphony Preview: Norwegian conductor finds fame as a fill-in
Share with others:
Opportunity has not only knocked at conductor Arild Remmereit's door this year, it has rapped the four Beethovenian blows of fate. By substituting for four prominent conductors since January, the 43-year-old Norwegian is making his name worldwide.
"It seems to be the hand of destiny for me," Remmereit says in the guest conductor's suite of Heinz Hall, where he is to fill in for an ill Christoph von Dohnanyi this weekend. "Had I been [booked] these weeks, I could not have done the [substitutions]. I have the feeling that I had the hand of guidance on me."
Stepping in at the last minute for one prominent conductor at a major orchestra can launch a career -- witness Leonard Bernstein or Semyon Bychkov. Stepping in for four in a matter of months? That's almost unheard of. "You could call me the Jolly Jumper," the tall, blond-haired conductor says, jokingly referring to the sidekick horse of the French cartoon cowboy Lucky Luke. Frankly, Remmereit could be nicknamed either these days.
In January, Remmereit substituted for an ailing Antonio Pappano at the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, making his debut there. The result? One critic said he "dazzle[d] with a demanding program," and another, "It is to be assumed that it will not have been the last time for the Norwegian conductor, highly acclaimed by the audience, to appear [here]."
He had just caught his breath when Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos fell ill, and Remmereit found himself in Vienna's famed Musikverein conducting the Vienna Symphony. "[He] has passed the test in the 'Golden Hall' brilliantly," wrote Die Presse, while the Wiener Zeitung's headline announced, "The substitute as the sensation."
In an orchestra concert early this month, Remmereit touched down in the unstable environment of La Scala to fill in for Riccardo Muti, who abruptly resigned. "I noticed all the time tension in the house, [but] I didn't involve myself with that at all," he says. "I was told there might be some difficulties with the orchestra, but it went smoothly."
But luck is mostly made, not found. Remmereit has prepared by years of studying the core repertoire. He graduated from the Norwegian Conservatory of Music in Oslo, studying piano, voice and composition (he also is an accomplished jazz pianist).
He attended the conducting seminar in Aspen, Colo., but got to know the field in depth studying with Bernstein, Myung Chung and Mariss Jansons. He was artistic director of the Ukrainian State Opera (1992-95), but he has been primarily guest conducting (although not much in the United States) and learning music while awaiting his big break. This year may be just that for him.
"It has never been a question of making a career but of making music," says Remmereit with a wink. "But if I get a career out of it, I don't mind." One thing is certain: Wherever he goes, communication won't be an issue. He speaks 10 languages and is learning another from his Japanese wife, whom he married in December. "She is very understanding," he says of his busy schedule since the wedding.
Remmereit is finding the same helpful attitude with the Pittsburgh Symphony that he has in other last-minute situations. He knows the music -- Schumann's Symphony No. 4, Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 and Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" -- but would normally have spent more time preparing it. "You are met with a certain positivity since everyone wants to get you through it."
Arild Remmereit: Stepping in for the ill Christoph von Dohnanyi.
With: Arild Remmereit, conductor; Garrick Ohlsson, piano.
Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown.
When: 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $17-$69; 412-392-4900.
First Published April 14, 2005 12:00 am