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New direction

Pauline McLean | 15:00 UK time, Monday, 31 January 2011

There's an almost life-sized cardboard cutout in the foyer of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall of the RSNO's music director Stéphane Denève.

With his big bubbly personality, and ever bigger, bubblier hair, he has been an important figurehead for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra since his appointment over five years ago.

His enthusiasm for music is genuinely infectious, whether on the podium at concerts, or offstage with members of the public.

And there's little he won't do to promote music in his adopted homeland - from interactive events, social occasions and even that Scottish rite of passage, a cameo in a comic strip of the Broons.

So filling his shoes on his departure after the 2011/2012 season was always going to be a challenge.

But it sounds like the RSNO may have found a worthy successor. Peter Oundjian is currently the Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra - a post he's held since 2004 and will continue to hold, since he'll remain in post there, in parallel with his new job with the RSNO, which he'll take up next season..

Peter Oundjian is the new musical director of the RSNO - picture by Sian Richards

Born in Toronto, he was raised in London, studied in New York and first came to prominence as a musician, playing first violin in the Tokyo String Quartet, who as well as playing a string of high profile dates, were equally celebrated on the children's show Sesame Street.

Dystonia forced him out of playing music but opened up a successful new career as a conductor, taking him to a string of orchestras in North America and Europe.

Since he arrived in Toronto in 2004, he's been credited with turning the orchestra around, increasing subscriptions as well as younger audiences and playing a prominent and very visible role in the Toronto cultural scene.

Not unlike Maestro Denève, indeed.

And for those who believe Monsieur Denève still has the upper hand on all things quirky, here's one more little detail.

His first cousin is Eric Idle - leading to his collaboration on Not The Messiah (he's a Very naughty boy) - a comedic oratorio based on Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Could there be more in the pipeline in his new post? We'll just have to see.

Some audiences will already be familiar with Mr Oundjian, who has previously conducted the RSNO on several occasions.

He re-joins the orchestra in April 2011 for three concerts and a programme comprising Christopher Rouse's Rapture, Grieg's Piano Concerto with Stephen Hough, and Brahms' Symphony No3.

He's also be back in the 2011-12 season - due to be announced in a few weeks time - conducting performances of Martinů's Fantasies Symphoniques and Mozart's Requiem


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