Love is the theme for RSO

The Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra will welcome to the podium a very special returning guest on Saturday evening, Feb. 13: former assistant conductor Petko Dimitrov.

“When we learned that Maestro Steichen couldn’t join us on Feb. 13 due to a scheduling conflict, we turned to a fantastic musician and friend of the RSO, former assistant conductor Petko Dimitrov,” said Larry Kopp, Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra’s executive director. “He is known and loved by both orchestra and audiences. His passionate conducting style is the perfect fit with our program of works with the theme of love on Valentine’s Day weekend.”

This is a “double” homecoming in that Dimitrov was the former music director of the Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra and nine members of the WCYO will be joining the orchestra in the concert’s opening selection, Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman Overture. Their participation is part of an ongoing partnership where graduating seniors perform with the RSO on a regular subscription performance.

In addition to the Wagner overture, the concert program includes Robert Schumann’s Second Symphony and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, an audience favorite.

Reflecting on his years as the symphony’s assistant conductor, Dimitrov described those as years “during which I learned and grew as a musician. I owe so much to this orchestra and the people, who play and work for it. The patrons and volunteers as well. They all made me feel welcome and incredibly appreciated. I will have a special place in my heart for the orchestra, with which I made my first steps in the professional world of music.”

Since leaving Ridgefield, Dimitrov, a native of Bulgaria, has maintained an active conducting schedule in the United States and Europe, in addition to work with several youth orchestras and teaching at the collegiate level.

“In Bulgaria, I am music director of the New Symphony Orchestra, which was founded 25 years ago,” said Dimitrov. “In 2016, I am looking forward to my guest conducting appearances with the Jenaer Philharmonie in Germany and RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra. Also, I will be working on a big recording project with well known French pop artist Pat O'May.”

But the biggest news for Dimitrov and his wife, RSO Principal Second Violinist Dora Dimitrova, was the birth of their first child in autumn 2015.

“Our son Marco was born on Oct. 9 and he drastically changed Dora's and my life in the best possible direction,” said Dimitrov. “Having a child is a great lesson. I learned that sometimes intense difficulty, great responsibility, and constant care can be the best thing that ever happened to you.”

He is well known for his passionate and dramatic conducting and musical interpretations, a style well-suited to a program containing works with the subject of love on Valentine’s Day weekend.

Wagner’s Flying Dutchman tells the story of a mariner cursed to sail the seas for all eternity until he was saved, and redeemed, by the love of a woman. The story of Scheherazade is well known, the heroine saving her life, and ultimately winning the Sultan’s heart, through the Tales of 1,001 Nights. Finally, the life of Robert and Clara Schumann is a real-life love story, complete with a starving artist, a courtship against all odds, eloping lovers, and finally, a loving spouse caring for her husband through sickness and an early death.

“Classical music is a love story itself,” said Dimitrov. “The biggest discovery for me in this program is Schumann's Second Symphony. “

Reflecting on his preparations for conducting the Feb. 13 concert, he added, “It made me think about how underplayed and under-appreciated Robert Schumann's symphonic music is. I would like to paraphrase Twain here and say, that the reports of Schumann's lack of orchestration skills are greatly exaggerated. The music itself is beautiful and sparkling of joy, fresh, vibrant, unique. With Wagner and Korsakov, the program is absolutely wonderful!”

The RSO’s Redemption Through Love concert on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 8 p.m. in Ridgefield High School’s Anne S. Richardson Auditorium, 700 North Salem Road (Route 116). Tickets start at $25, $20 for seniors and $15 for students, and are available online at the RSO’s website, Or call the RSO box office at 203-438-3889 to order.