ISO’s maestro-possibilities parade begins

IBJ reporter Kathleen McLaughlin takes over the blog for this post.

If you’re following the Indianapolis
Symphony Orchestra’s conductor search, you might want to check out this weekend’s concerts led by Juanjo Mena.
(The concerts feature work by Mendelssohn, including the popular Violin Concerto with the ISO’s Principal Guest Concertmaster
Alexander Kerr.)

Mena is one of several guest conductors filling the slots left open by Mario Venzago. Although
he was unknown to the players until recently, he made a big impression during his last visit in June.

“He’s
a very expressive conductor,” contrabassist Gregory Dugan said. “He’s very extroverted in his conducting
style and his rehearsal style.”

Dugan said Mena reinvigorated the ISO’s performance of a repertoire
piece, “Pictures at an Exhibition.” “It gets to be a little bit on the routine side. He really brought
some new ideas to it. I think it was one of our best performances of that piece, ever.”

Mena is also scheduled
to appear May 21 and 22. (Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony with the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir.)

It’s
not clear whether his presence indicates an interest in the music director position, or an abundance of openings on his own
schedule. He could not be reached for comment.

Another name worth noting: Jun Markl, who will conduct on May 7
and 8. (Saint-Saëns’ “Africa,” Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.
2 with guest artist Marc-André Hamelin.) During the ISO’s last music director search, now seven years ago,
Markl was one of the musicians’ top choices. Dugan, who was on the search committee at the time, said he wasn’t
sure that Markl had ever been formally offered the job. Again, we’re not sure whether Markl is interested in the
job here, but Dugan and others said they’re looking forward to his appearance.

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