Annapolis Symphony Orchestra's José-Luis Novo destined for life in music

E.B. Furgurson III
Contact Reporterpfurgurson@capgaznews.com

The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra kicks off the meat of its 2017 season Friday and Saturday night, the 12th season under the guidance of musical director and conductor José-Luis Novo.

The program, featuring guest artist violinist Vadim Gluzman and the works of Kodaly, Shostakovich and Dvorak, is repeated both nights as all of the ASO’s Masterworks concerts are.

“We repeat the program. But the performances are never identical,” Novo said in an interview hours before a pre-opening night rehearsal Thursday. “In fact, we have subscribers who actually enjoy coming to both of them because they like noticing what is different one day from the other.”

He said that keeps the musicians more engaged and creative.

“A performance on auto pilot on consecutive nights, that would be boring for both us and the audience,” said Novo, who spent years as an orchestral violinist before moving into conducting.

He explained the potential differences from one night to another noting musical notation is not a science. “It’s just a decoding process of the thoughts of the composer. There is a lot of room for subjectivity and finessing of concepts.

He said the differences can be based on many things: “the energy in the space, the tempo, any minimal detail makes a big difference.”

The maestro’s keen ear for those variations and so much more comes naturally, though hard work honed the skill set. His earliest memories are of this father, a concert pianist, playing in their home in Valladolid, a city of about 300,000 in central Spain.

“Every day he would play a different Beethoven piano sonata according to the day of the month,” Novo recalled. “If it was March 4, he would play Beethoven’s fourth sonata.

“As you may know, Beethoven had 32 pianos sonatas, but my father never played No. 32. So I don’t know it,” he added with a chuckle.

Novo came to play the violin by accident. He wanted to play piano like his father and asked if he would teach him the instrument.

But as dads might do, he kept putting his son off saying how complicated it is, how difficult to master.

“I got tired of the excuses and told him to sign me up for the conservatory. He did sign me up.” But when he was ready to sign up for instrument classes, the piano class was full.

“So rather than losing another year, I decided to sign up for violin. It was a great decision, but had nothing to do with anything but fate,” he said.

Asked if there was an eureka moment when he realized he could indeed become a musician, Novo said he always knew he could do it.

“I was so in love with the beauty of music; for me it was not a quest if I were able to do it or not. It was when, how soon,” he said.

“This is where my soul is, life is not the same without music. Working in music is not working. It is doing my life.”

He realizes how lucky he is, that the “work” of art is rewarding on so many levels.

Part of his time at ASO is working to expand the audience and the question of bringing younger people to keep the orchestra viable into the future.

“I think that is the million-dollar question,” Novo said. “A lot of that has to do with educating people in music from an early age. I don’t think you can attract younger audiences just by playing great symphonic concerts.”

That is why the ASO works on programs to bring music into the schools to expose young people to symphonic music, chamber music and classical music in general.

“To expose them to musical instruments when they are young, most of them develop a spontaneous liking of the instrument,” he said.

The maestro thinks some will dedicate themselves to become professional musicians, but so many others will continue to play for themselves, enriching their cultural background through life.

“We need to get younger audiences more familiar with the music, more ready to attend concerts on a normal basis, which is today not the case,” he said.

Novo said the ASO has been working on a new major expansion of its educational program that is due to be unveiled in the coming months.

In the meantime, the season featuring five major concerts plus other performances like Concert in the Park at Quiet Waters Park (performed Sept. 3), Holiday Pops Holiday Swing on Dec. 15 and the annual Family Concert coming in May.

For information about tickets, performances and educational opportunities at ASO, visit www.annapolissymphony.org or call 410-269-1132. Reach the ticket office directly at 410-262-0907.

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