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Next ISO candidate Yaniv Dinur conducts American composers and a virtuosic Prokofiev concerto

A man in a suit with an open collared shirt sits outdoors on a concrete staircase, gazing to the right of the camera
Yaniv Dinur is the second of four candidates vying for the top job at the Illinois Symphony Orchestra.

The next candidate for the Illinois Symphony Orchestra's open music directorship visits Bloomington-Normal and Springfield this weekend.

Israeli conductor Yaniv Dinur keeps a home base in Milwaukee, where he concluded a long stint as resident conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony. He recently renewed his contract as music director of the New Bedford Symphony in Massachusetts.

“It’s very common that conductors hold more than one position,” he said. His goal is to toggle between New Bedford and central Illinois if he is hired as the orchestra’s next music director.

“I also guest conduct with different orchestras; I also play piano,” said Dinur, who has a particular fondness for chamber music.

Dinur has followed the ISO for over a decade. He immigrated to the United States as a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, where former ISO director Kenneth Kiesler is a professor.

“When the position opened up, I said, 'Wow, this is like the natural opportunity for me to apply,'” he said.

Dinur is reserving forming a specific vision for the orchestra until after he meets the musicians, but said he’s “very much about the connection with the community and the role the orchestra can play in a community.”

On the program

Saturday’s program (repeated Sunday in Springfield) features works by three American composers: Adolphus Hailstork, Howard Hanson and John Williams.

Hanson is not the most familiar of household names, but his influence is widely felt. The ISO will play his second symphony — the “Romantic” — that inspired the evening’s closer: Williams’ “Flying Theme” from “E.T.”

“It’s like its name,” Dinur said. “It’s very romantic music, very exciting music.”

The prolific composer did much to promote American music. During his long tenure as director of the Eastman School of Music, he famously turned down Bela Bartok for the school’s piano faculty to maintain a balance of American and European instructors.

Hailstork, a living composer, studied with conductor Nadia Boulanger in France, but learned composition in the United States. His sound — a bit jazzy and resembling that of George Gershwin — is epitomized in “An American Port of Call,” which the ISO plays for the first time on Saturday.

“He wanted to create the atmosphere of a busy port — the hustle and bustle, the noise,” Dinur said. “It’s a very engaging piece and a very exciting opening. I also like that this program opens with American music and ends with American music.”

Mid-century Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev is sandwiched between, with revered Georgian pianist Alexander Korsantia playing his blithe and virtuosic third concerto.

“Because I’m a pianist myself, I don’t like many pianists,” Dinur said. “I’m very protective of the instrument.”

Korsantia was Dinur’s recommendation.

“Korsantia is a pianist I’ve known since high school,” he said. Dinur took a master class during one of Korsantia’s several trips to Israel and more recently got a chance to work with him in a conductor-soloist relationship.

“That was really a dream come true,” Dinur said. “Every time he plays the piano, I’m in awe. It’s like he’s making it new; he’s making it so fresh and original. He’s really something special.”

The Illinois Symphony led by music director candidate Yaniv Dinur plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Center for Performing Arts, 400 W. Beaufort St., Normal. Tickets are $21-$67 at (309) 438-2535 and ilsymphony.org. Supplementary programming includes concert comments at 6:30 p.m. and an after party in the College of Business atrium, 410 S. University St.

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Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.
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