© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Classical 101

Columbus Symphony: What’s Rossen Milanov Going to Do?

Rossen Milanov
Courtesy of artist

Last Saturday night a woman next to me in the Ohio Theater whispered about the conductor, What do you know about this guy?

Nice people always choose the most poignant moment in the music to start nudging and whispering, so I pointed to his bio in the program, and put my finger to my lips. When the lights went up and the cheers ended, she said Well?

I told her a bit about his background. I said he was clearly a very gifted conductor.

We had just heard a performance of Brahms Third Symphony that was well-played, well-balanced, and gorgeous without being mawkish. No boggy over emphatic tempi here.

The lady wasn’t satisfied. What’s with the Nehru-type jacket and the tight pants. I replied I wasn’t looking at his pants and didn’t care what he wore. Did she enjoy the music? She did. I guess.


The conductor’s pulchritude thus established, let’s realize that so far Milanov has constructed concert programs with more color and variety than we have had heretofore.

Last weekend, the concert opened with the Brahms Third Symphony. Brahms was always music that was supposed to be good for you, until you listened. Then it was easy to revel in his force and his melody.

After intermission, Colin Currie joined the orchestra for a wild ride with the Percussion Concerto by Einojuhani Rautavaara. It was a hit with the crowd. This was no bang on a can. The piece had a wide variety of rhythms, and you bet a melody can be written for percussion. The closing? Ravel’s Bolero.

It’s cocktail party-cool to sigh and consider this overplayed. Milanov and the Columbus symphony played with such care and such control, it was like hearing new music.

What else? We’ve heard a fair bit of new music recently. Rautavaara last week. Mason Bates a few weeks before. We’ve heard Duke Ellington’s sublime symphonic poem The Three Black Kings; Elvis lived in Michael Daugherty’s Dead Elvis. Musica Celestis by Aaron Jay Kernis took us to heaven. George Antheil’s Jazz Symphony reminded me of an intriguing musician and musical character.

Here’s what’s happening. Our new music director, Milanov, is taking the Columbus symphony out of the museum. He’s creating an orchestra composers what to write for, and in so doing is expanding an audience ready to listen. “Call me Rossen, don’t call me Maestro.”

The man is opening his arms to Columbus, Ohio. You can talk front, you can talk back, you can have a beer, go ahead and make out in the balcony if you want to (it’s been done, don’t ask me how I know), Rossen can wear anything he wants and shake anything he wants. I love his vision, I admire his taste and with a superb orchestra already here, the world is ours.

Agree? Good. Buy tickets.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.