ProMusica concerts extol co-founder, 'maestro' Russell

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ProMusica Chamber Orchestra music director and co-founder Timothy Russell will lead his final subscription concerts Saturday and Sunday, April 20 and 21, at the Southern Theatre. Tickets are $10-$49.

Timothy Russell is admittedly "not big on goodbyes," and besides, this is only his last subscription concert (he will lead ProMusica's Soiree with Ricky Skaggs and a family concert yet this season) and he's not retiring from conducting or making music.

He'll even return over the next couple of seasons as a guest conductor, so all things considered, let's not make a big deal about this weekend's ProMusica concerts.


ProMusica will fete Russell's 34 years of leadership with the "Bravo, Maestro!" concerts. Russell told The Beat that, while he's certain folks will have some complimentary things to say about him, he intends to remain "dignified and humble." He then immediately backed this up with, "It's always been about the people, about the members of the orchestra and our audiences, and the people I've met and worked with."

Russell co-founded the chamber orchestra in the late 1970s with both artistic and civic goals in mind. From a civic standpoint, Russell explained that having a chamber orchestra in addition to a standard symphony orchestra is one of the marks of a "truly world-class city."

"Columbus at the time was working to establish itself, and we hoped (ProMusica) would be a part of Columbus becoming a major American city."

Artistically, the idea of a contemporary chamber orchestra was just emerging, Russell said. Programming, for ProMusica, was primarily about two things: the presentation of historical works in their original instrumentation and the fostering of new orchestral repertoire.

"Orchestras have two roles. I like to say they serve as a symphonic museum, but also as browsing galleries of contemporary music," Russell explained.

"We've done that in a way where we meld the two together."

Not surprisingly, that approach extends to these, Russell's final subscription concerts. The program, in his own words:

• "As often as possible, you try to conduct pieces you love. Obviously, Mozart is one of my favorites, and the (Overture from The Impresario) is a favorite of mine. Plus, it has that added sense of leading an orchestra."

• "I was a cellist, and our first season we had a guest cellist to end the season. And with Josh Roman, you also have that ProMusica idea of 'catch a rising star.' And, since our first concert, we've always commissioned and premiered new works. I'm deeply honored to premiere a piece by Aaron Jay Kernis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer." (The piece, Dreamsongs, is dedicated to Russell and his tenure with ProMusica.)

• "ProMusica and I have a long-standing relationship with (Beethoven's Symphony No. 7). It's an outstanding work, and performing it with our instrumentation speaks to the essence of what we do in presenting things in a way so audiences hear these works not in the same way you may have heard them before."

Directed back to the subject of the end of his long tenure with an organization he co-founded, Russell confessed, "It's hard not to get a little wistful."

"But we've always tried to do the right things for the right reasons. I'm at peace personally and confident we have laid a foundation for success -- and everyone is excited about (music director designate) David Danzmayr."

Russell also mentioned something he and co-founder Richard Early considered in the orchestra's early days.

"I don't know whether we were naive or arrogant, but one of our missions was we hoped to create an arts institution, one that would live beyond both of us."

Naive or arrogant? How about just accurate?