When conductor Ruth Reinhardt was growing up, she sang in a children’s choir, studied the violin and learned the oboe. Looking back now, she thinks she was in search of her musical passion.
“I loved music, but I didn’t love a single instrument,” said Reinhardt, 33, who will lead the San Diego Symphony Orchestra at the Rady Shell in Jacobs Park next Friday and Saturday.
“I was fascinated by so many parts: I was composing when I was 12 years old. In high school, I had a few sheet music that I loved to look at and understand why certain parts feel amazing to you. I had an analytical interest that you must have as a conductor.
“I was in chamber music quartets and was interested in how you bring the ideas of four different personalities together into one whole, rather than four interpretations. Conducting never crossed my mind until at age 15 – by total accident – I was asked to. When I conducted for the first time, I immediately thought: “I to have to do this!’ Management combines all these interests.
After graduating from high school, Reinhardt left his hometown of Saarbrücken, Germany to attend the University of the Arts in Zurich. She then went to the Juilliard School in New York and was assistant conductor with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra from 2016 to 2018.
The 2019-20 season was his first as a touring guest conductor. But Reinhardt’s busy schedule was abruptly cut short by pandemic restrictions.
In fact, when she and pianist Gabriela Martinez perform here at concerts next weekend, it won’t be the first time they’ve rehearsed. But this will be their first performance together.
“Gabriela and I had a rehearsal of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” Reinhardt said. “It was in March 2020, and everything closed after this rehearsal. I rented a car and drove to Detroit. I didn’t want to risk missing the plane (return to Germany).
“But we had a great rehearsal. Gabriela is wonderful and awesome.
Venezuelan-born Martinez, who was 11 when she and her family moved to the United States, will perform Grieg’s Piano Concerto here. It is one of the composer’s most appreciated works.
Reinhardt is looking forward to directing the play with Martinez taking center stage.
“I love accompanying a soloist,” Reinhardt said. “I try to adapt to the vision of the soloist, that’s my job. But there are times when I can initiate, and they pick up or suggest something. It can be spontaneous and so much fun.
Another piece on next week’s program was written by the late Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz, who was also a respected pianist, concertmaster and conductor. Reinhardt, who no longer composes, laments that the talented Bacewicz – who died in 1969 – did not have as many opportunities as some of her male counterparts.
The final piece for the Symphony’s May 6 and 7 concerts at The Shell is Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s popular “Scheherazade,” inspired by “One Thousand and One Nights.” To save her life, Scheherazade tells her husband a story every night for 1,001 nights.
“It’s all in the story,” Reinhardt said. “You really have to bring out the characters.”
During the COVID-19 restrictions, Reinhardt returned to Saarbrücken, which she left for her studies as a teenager. Now that her guest management has returned to pre-pandemic levels, she won’t be home often.
The dedicated chef worked during the autumn season almost exclusively in Europe. This spring, she will conduct in the United States. It’s coincidence, not design, but she’s glad it worked out that way.
“We’re trying to align my US commitments because it’s more environmentally friendly,” Reinhardt explained. “I’m not a hardcore environmentalist, but I try to be aware, if possible.”
Although she first conducted the San Diego Symphony Orchestra in 2018, this will be Reinhardt’s Shell debut. After the chaotic ever-changing schedule of the past two seasons, she can’t wait to travel across the United States.
“It’s funny because this series of concerts coming up for me now, a lot of them were supposed to be in 2020,” Reinhardt said. “It’s great that this season has returned to normal.”
San Diego Symphony Jacobs Masterworks Concert: Grieg Piano Concerto and “Scheherazade”
When: 7 p.m. Friday, May 6; 5 p.m. Saturday May 7
Or: Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, 200 Marina Park Way, Downtown
Call: (619) 235-0804
In line: sandiegosymphony.org
Wood is a freelance writer.