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By Sarah Bryan Miller
By now, Ward Stare is a familiar figure with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, conducting its Youth Orchestra, young people's concerts, special events and other performances. He's the orchestra's regular "cover" conductor.
Last season, Stare made news when he stepped in on three hours' notice at Carnegie Hall as conductor, in place of music director David Robertson — as Robertson stepped in for a missing soloist.
Next weekend, Stare will hit another milestone, when he conducts the SLSO in a pair of regular subscription concerts at Powell Hall. This time, he'll have a cover instead of being one.
The program's anchoring work is Antonin Dvorak's beloved Symphony No. 9, the "New World," to fill the second half. To open, Stare says, he wanted to do Samuel Barber's "Essay No. 2," "because it's a piece that I love." It's also the piece he conducted when he made his debut with the Cleveland Orchestra in 2007.
Prokofiev's ballet music for "Romeo and Juliet" is familiar, but this version won't be. In planning the program with Robertson, Stare says, he wanted something with "a literary thread to link to Barber's 'Essay.'"
Stare mentioned "Romeo and Juliet" as a possibility, "and it was David's idea that I make my own suite. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity."
Instead of plucking excerpts out of context, this new suite tells the story in order, from beginning to end.
Stare and the players know each other pretty well after a year. The biggest difference between a subscription week and other concerts is rehearsal time.
Stare usually gets two rehearsals.
"Our adventure at Carnegie Hall was an extraordinary situation since I actually had no rehearsal with the orchestra prior to going on stage," he says.
This week, they'll have four rehearsals together, "during which the orchestra and I will have the opportunity to craft our own collective interpretation (of) each piece," Stare says.
When it comes to great works like the Dvorak 9, the SLSO has a long performance tradition, "their own way of doing it. And I have my own interpretation as well. The magic happens when these two views converge, and we create a performance of the piece which is fresh, exciting and totally unique."