Local Lifestyle

Saturday, Nov 17 2012 09:29 PM

Conductor's legacy fills the air when youth play classics

BY SUSAN SCAFFIDI Contributing writer

When students in the Bakersfield Youth Symphony perform on Tuesday evening, they will be doing so with the help of an incredible legacy left to them by the late conductor Richard Rintoul, whose talent, like theirs, was discovered and nurtured in Kern County classrooms.

The orchestra's opening fall concert is just five days short of the first anniversary of Rintoul's death at age 56 from a heart attack.

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The Bakersfield Youth Symphony begins its season Tuesday evening with an older, wiser ensemble.

Conducted by Maxim Eshkenazy, the orchestra will perform the Suite from Aram Khatchaturian's ballet "Gayene," the "Danse Russe" from Tchaikovsky's ballet "Swan Lake," the Concertino for Clarinet by Carl Maria von Weber, and the Overture to "Lohengrin," by Richard Wagner.

While the ballet "Gayene" is rarely performed, music from the suite is well-known. Movie fans will recognize the Adagio as part of the famous soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," and the "Sabre Dance" has been used for decades as accompaniment for everything from plate spinners to videogames.

Along with his concertos, von Weber's Concertino for Clarinet ranks as one of the important works for clarinetists. Since its invention in the early 18th century, composers have found the clarinet an attractive solo instrument because of its range, flexibility and similarity to the human voice.

Wagner's "Lohengrin" -- one of his most popular operas -- is the story of the son of Parsifal, a knight of the Holy Grail. The opera's famous Bridal Chorus has become a mainstay at weddings.

Student violinist Le Cheng Tang will perform the solo in the "Danse Russe," which begins with an intricate violin cadenza before the orchestra joins in. Student clarinetist Michael Ko will perform the von Weber.

Tang and Ko are two of the five students who won the BYSO's annual concerto competition. Orchestra manager Alex Navarro said nine students auditioned in the spring for the opportunity to perform a solo with the orchestra.

"Out of these we pick the top three and they get to do a concerto," Navarro said. "The runners-up also get a solo."

Navarro said the students perform a 15-minute excerpt from the concerto they would like to perform in concert. A panel of judges ranks the competitors on many criteria, not just playing ability.

"Everything is taken into consideration," Navarro said. "Are we going to be able to find the music, are they really capable of carrying it off?"

Navarro said students are also judged on their temperament -- their ability to keep their cool while performing in front of an audience -- as well as whether they're able to play over an orchestra, and other considerations.

Other winners this year include Brian Liu, who will perform the first movement from the Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Major by Tchaikovsky in the April concert. Violinist Kara McCoy will perform the "Havanaise" by Camille Saint-Saens, and cellist Anna McCoy will perform the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 1, also by Saint-Saens in the June concert.

Navarro said the orchestra is a bit smaller -- 55 to 60 students -- because the audition committee was more selective.

"This year we have a much stronger group, but we're missing about five to six players," said Navarro, who noted that all of the students must audition each year to continue in the orchestra. The overall level of performance was so much stronger than in previous years, he said, that the committee was able to establish a new, higher cutting-off point, meaning that while some students played well, they still fell short.

"I think the kids are just growing up," Navarro said. "Most of the kids have been in for six years, five years."

"When they started, most of them were in seventh grade," Navarro said. "Now they're juniors and seniors in high school."

-- Susan Scaffidi

Bakersfield Youth Symphony concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Dore Theatre at Cal State Bakersfield, 9001 Stockdale Highway

Admission: $10; $5, students. Tickets available at the door.


A preview of the Bakersfield Youth Symphony concert, D6

Though much of Rintoul's career as a conductor and acclaimed violist was spent in Southern California, his loyalty and affection for his hometown never wavered.

"The high schools in Bakersfield were his first professional gig," said his wife, Lynette Rintoul. "He traveled to four high schools in town to teach."

And so when the time came for Mrs. Rintoul to find a beneficiary of her husband's remarkable and extensive library of orchestral scores, she ultimately selected the Bakersfield Youth Symphony.

"There were a number of considerations," she said. "One is obviously Richard grew up in Bakersfield."

Mrs. Rintoul said her husband's childhood experience taught him that Bakersfield music students often lack the same resources and opportunities that students in the Los Angeles area have.

"He was always trying to give kids a leg up," she said.

Rintoul's library -- which includes works by Debussy, Bach, Brahms, Shostakovich, Wagner, Weber and Beethoven -- takes up 27 file drawers and two giant storage bins, according to BYSO board president Karen Blockley, who estimates there are nearly 700 scores, and most of them include complete orchestra parts. Three out of the four scores to be performed at Tuesday's concert come from Rintoul's library.

"This is the most amazing collection," Blockley said. "It's really a wide-reaching repertoire."

And with the library comes two additional benefits: The orchestra will save money by renting or buying fewer scores, and less preparation time will be required.

Blockley said board members -- all performing musicians -- normally spend weeks preparing the parts, especially writing in directions for bowings for the string instruments. But the parts in the library have already been marked -- by Rintoul himself.

"This saves us weeks in preparation time," Blockley said. "When the students finish their concert on Tuesday and turn in their folders, they will already be able to get their folders for the next concert.

"Richard was a very, very fine violist. We looked at his markings and said, 'We can't do any better than this.'"

Varied career

Born in 1955, Rintoul was raised in Bakersfield, the son of Dave and Mary Rintoul, and attended Highland High School.

After high school, Rintoul began his music studies at Cal State Northridge, focusing on the violin. His teacher, frustrated with his progress, told him to either give up or switch to the viola.

Rintoul took his teacher's advice, and made the viola his primary instrument. Finishing his undergraduate studies at Cal Arts, Rintoul also became interested in conducting, and studied with Daniel Lewis, Michael Tilson Thomas, Erich Leinsdorf, Morton Gould, Herbert Blomstedt, Christopher Hogwood and Leonard Bernstein.

For more than two decades, Rintoul had been active as both conductor and violist and devoted himself to teaching in Southern California. He was founder and musical director of the Orchestra da Camera at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, the Thousand Oaks Philharmonic, the UCSB and CSU Long Beach orchestras, among many others, led several youth orchestras and was guest conductor for many more ensembles.

He also played with several Los Angeles-area chamber groups and orchestras, was an in-demand recording artist for the film industry, and served several area churches as a musician.

In more recent years, Rintoul returned to conduct the Kern County honor orchestras at the annual Grand Night for Music concerts.

"Those were always really meaningful events for him," Mrs. Rintoul said. "It was always a real homecoming feel for him coming back to Bakersfield."

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