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Published: Thursday, 11/13/2008

Noted conductor Botstein leads Jerusalem Symphony at BGSU

BY SALLY VALLONGO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Leon Botstein and the Jersualem Symphony perform Saturday at Bowling Green State University. Leon Botstein and the Jersualem Symphony perform Saturday at Bowling Green State University.
HANDOUT NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

BOWLING GREEN Many in the music world call Leon Botstein a maverick a long-time college president, scholar, musicologist, and historian who also maintains a busy international career as an orchestral conductor with both the American and the Jerusalem symphonies.

But you ll never catch Botstein using that politically abused term. No, the 62-year-old says he is just doing what comes naturally.

I ve been balancing music and scholarship all my life, he told a University of Arizona reporter recently. I don t take vacations. I have no hobbies. I love what I do, and I believe being a musician requires that one be in the public sphere and contribute to society.

After all, as longtime president of Bard College in upstate New York, Botstein has managed to meld music and scholarship in a venerable and respected summer music festival there since 1989.

Friendly and open although unable to chat with The Blade during this tour he ignores critics and those who would push him into one category or another.

I don t believe that being an artist permits you to be detached from social responsibility. I was brought up in the 1960s when being an artist and holding a position of responsibility in society were not incompatible, Botstein continued.

This weekend, northwest Ohio music lovers will have their first opportunity to watch him at work as a conductor at 8 p.m. Saturday in Kobacker Hall, during the second concert in the Bowling Green State University Festival Series.

Touring the United States with the Jerusalem Symphony, Botstein will conduct music by Aaron Copland and Ernst Toch. With violin soloist Robert MacDuffie, he and the JS also will perform Miklosz Rozsa s Violin Concerto No. 24 in Kobacker Hall of the Moore Musical Arts Center.

Born in 1946 in Zurich, Switzerland, Botstein moved with his physician parents to Poland and then, in 1948, to the United States He studied violin as a child.

Earlier this year, he told a former colleague now writing for the Los Angeles Times that music gained power over his life early on.

I stuttered as a child. I never commanded any ordinary language well. My English is limited. I have shortcomings in my German and Russian. And I speak Polish the way Tonto speaks English in The Lone Ranger.

Botstein s passion for music translated into conducting, which he approached with the same intellectual rigor and personal energy he has applied to all other parts of his life. In 1992, the American Symphony Orchestra founded in 1962 by Leopold Stokowski called on him to rescue it from the musical doldrums.

He has worked with the ASO ever since and also conducts the Hudson River Valley Chamber Orchestra, as well as doing guest conducting spots around the world.

In 2003 he was called by the Jerusalem Symphony, founded by the British some 70 years ago as the Palestine Broadcasting Authority studio orchestra, now the Israel Broadcasting Authority. His charge was to set the JS apart from its more well-known counterpart, the Israel Philharmonic.

Leon Botstein will conduct the Jerusalem Symphony at 8 p.m. Saturday in Kobacker Hall, the second concert in the Bowling Green State University Festival Series; it is the Lois M. Nitschke Memorial Concert. Tickets are $18 to $30 in advance or $21 to $33 the day of the concert. For tickets and information call 419-372-8171 or go to www.bgsu.edu.

Contact Sally Vallongo at:svallongo@theblade.com.



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