British born conductor Michael Lankester was the music director of the Hartford Symphony from 1985 to 2000. During his tenure the orchestra flourished with a combination of exciting guest artists, like Yo Yo Ma and Marvin Hamlisch, and programs that mixed traditional works with more challenging avant-garde pieces.
But Lankester will probably be best remembered for his "Classical Conversations" series - a behind the scene look at composers, their music, and the world they lived in. Lankester says he's always been fascinated with the stories behind the music. "When it was composed, when it was first performed, ehat the composer was doing at the time, what the historical/political situation was at the time, a piece of music is unfortunately too often seen in total isolation," says Lankester.
This is homecoming weekend for Lankester, who will lead the HSO in Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations and Anton Bruckner's 3rd Symphony. The performances take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon at the Bushnell's Belding Theater. Lankester will give a pre-concert chat one hour prior to each performance.
In this lengthy conversation, Maestro Lankester reflects on his tenure with the HSO, what it's like to be back in Hartford, and why it's better to be a guest conductor rather than a music director.