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Orchestra leader to bid farewell at concert May 17

Dante Anzolini, the longtime music director of the MIT Symphony Orchestra, will conduct his farewell concert at Kresge Auditorium this evening at 8.
Dante Anzolini, the longtime music director of the MIT Symphony Orchestra, will conduct his farewell concert at Kresge Auditorium this evening at 8.
Photo / Thomas Maxisch

Dante Anzolini, music director of the MIT Symphony Orchestra (MITSO) since 1998, will conduct his farewell concert tonight, leading the symphony in a performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 7.

The 8 p.m. concert in Kresge Auditorium will be followed by a post-concert reception in the lobby of Kresge. Admission is $5 at the door.

Anzolini, who is also music director of the Teatro Argentina Orchestra, is renowned in the United States and Europe, where he has toured extensively. During his years here, he has maintained an active conducting schedule outside of MIT, to critical acclaim.

Institute Professor John Harbison praised Anzolini, noting, "It has been a privilege for us in music and theater arts to acquaint our students with Dante's high level of musicianship." Harbison also said that MIT students could not have played for a "more articulate, perfectly prepared and musically acute conductor" than Anzolini.

Anzolini's students sang their own songs of praise for their teacher and conductor, citing both his remarkable musical abilities and his high standards on their behalf.

Daryush Mehta, a doctoral candidate in health sciences and technology and MITSO clarinetist for three years, recalled Anzolini's astuteness and candor as a conductor: At the end of a long rehearsal, Anzolini observed that Mehta had played a single incorrect note earlier in the evening.

"From that moment on, I knew Dante was special. He could hear a pin drop in the middle of a snowstorm from a mile away -- and then he would tell you if it were flat or sharp," said Mehta.

Violist Andrew McPherson (S.B. 2004, music and electrical engineering; M.Eng. 2005), also remembers being impressed, if not intimidated, by Anzolini's musical ear. "Dante once remarked to his conducting class that if someone throws a cat on the piano keyboard, we should be able to transcribe the notes it plays. I'm convinced he could do this."

McPherson credits the MIT music section and, most importantly, Anzolini himself in shaping his decision to continue in the Ph.D. program in music composition at the University of Pennsylvania. Anzolini "treated us as professionals ... and constantly challenged us with difficult and complex repertoire," McPherson said.

That repertoire included large orchestral works by Bartok, Stravinsky, Copland and Ives, compositions by MIT faculty and student composers, and pieces more familiar to American audiences such as

Georges Bizet's "Carmen Suite" and symphonic dances from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story."

Pieces by Mahler are prominent on the list of works Anzolini has conducted at MIT, including Symphonies No. 1, No. 6 and No. 9. MITSO recorded Mahler's Fifth Symphony on its first European tour in May 2000 and the Adagietto movement was played in Killian Court on Sept. 12, 2001, during the community response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Mehta said, "My mouth watered almost each time our repertoire list would come out. Dante knows how to choose a wide range of energetic and level-raising repertoire. He has the ear, the heart and the soul of a great orchestra conductor."

Anzolini's next performance outside MIT will take place on Sunday, May 21, when he will lead the Choral Arts Society of Washington, D.C., in a performance at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in celebration of its 40th anniversary.

An interim conductor will lead MITSO next year while a search is launched for a new director.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 17, 2006 (download PDF).

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