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Atheneum Helps Inspire New HSO Director's Debut Program

Donna Larcen

March 15, 2011

A stroll through the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art back in January sparked an idea for the first program that Carolyn Kuan, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra's new music director, will conduct this week.

"I was in town to be presented to the board, and it was supposed to be a surprise for them, so I was hanging out there,"' Kuan said last week from Tacoma, Wash., where she was preparing to conduct Leonard Bernstein's opera "Trouble in Tahiti" and Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci."

"I was so impressed with the Atheneum, and it helped me choose my program."

Kuan, the first woman music director in the HSO's 68-year-history, will conduct Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" in four concerts Thursday through Sunday. The shorter pieces "The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra)" by John Adams and Wolfgang Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 4 (featuring HSO principal horn player Barbara Hill) round out Kuan's first program.

Mussorgsky was inspired by drawings and watercolors by his friend Viktor Hartmann, who died suddenly at age 39. His composition, in 10 movements, is an audio tour through the exhibit.

"About half of those pieces are lost to us," Kuan says. "We're trying to work out using images of the known Hartmann pieces and some from the Atheneum to project while the orchestra plays."

It's a sign of the new conductor's philosophy of reaching out to the community. "What better way to get started than to feature the fantastic Atheneum," she says. Kuan will officially take over in September, when Edward Cummings leaves. She will conduct two of the summer Talcott Mountain concerts.

Adams' work, which was composed in 1985, is also inspired by a painting. "It comes from Adams' opera and imagines a portrait of Chairman Mao that comes to life and foxtrots with Madame Mao."

Kuan says playing less familiar works by a living composer is "always a bit of a risk. But we'll see."

The 33-year-old conductor caught a red-eye flight from Washington Sunday night in time for rehearsals in Hartford Monday.

"I had a busy January, February and March," Kuan says, "all booked before the Hartford job. But that's okay. I'll be ready."

CAROLYN KUAN conducts the Hartford Symphony Orchestra Thursday, March 17, at 7:30; Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19, at 8 p. m.; and Sunday, March 20 at 3 p.m. at the Bushhnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Kuan gives a preconcert talk one hour before each performance. Tickets are $33.50 to $68.50, $20 for patrons younger than 40 on for Saturday's concert. Information: 860-244-2999 or hartfordsymphony.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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