A 34-year-old Danish conductor has been hired as the Victoria Symphony’s new music director.
Copenhagen’s Christian Kluxen, who has signed a four-year contract, will take over in the 2017-18 season from conductor Tania Miller. When she steps down in August 2017, Miller will have served 14 years as the Victoria Symphony’s music director and conductor.
“It’s very overwhelming. Of course I am excited,” said Kluxen, interviewed Thursday at the orchestra’s offices.
The new conductor was selected from more than 100 applicants. Over the past season, a series of short-listed candidates — including Kluxen — have guest conducted the Victoria Symphony.
Kluxen distinguished himself the first time he conducted here last spring, said Kathryn Laurin, the Victoria Symphony’s executive director.
“The orchestra responded to his incredible musicianship, his interpretation. He was very easy. The musicians said: ‘We knew exactly what he wanted,’ ” she said.
“He’s quite dynamic and he has an infectious energy.”
Kluxen held the post of Dudamel Fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra during the 2014-15 season. In 2013, he completed a three-year assistant conductorship with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He has conducted the London Philharmonic and the Strasbourg Philharmonic and recently conducted Madama Butterfly for a Danish National Opera tour.
Kluxen was born in Copenhagen to Danish-German parents, now both deceased. His father helped found the Danish arm of Aldi, the global supermarket chain. His mother was a military officer who was “also in the secret service,” he said.
On Monday, Kluxen will conduct the Victoria Symphony for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 at the Royal Theatre. It will be his third time at the Victoria Symphony podium. He first conducted the orchestra in April and then again last Sunday.
The Victoria Symphony position is his first as music director, aside from his time with a youth orchestra in Copenhagen. Kluxen said the positive attitude of the Victoria Symphony musicians makes the post especially attractive.
“They are very, very open. They want to do things. There is never resistance, really. Then you can go a long way. There’s really no limit,” he said.
Kluxen credited Miller for having established a healthy working environment within the orchestra.
“It makes no sense to me, if something works, to just go in and change it immediately just because that’s your way,” he said.
“I have to say, quite many thing are already good [with the Victoria Symphony]. For me, it’s how a good dish can be better.”
Kluxen said what distinguishes him as a conductor is a plain-spoken and honest way of communicating. He also believes he’s good at reading what an orchestra requires from its conductor, whether it be “strong leadership” or a freer approach.
“If they want freedom to play, to make music, that’s what I really like to do the most. And that’s what I experienced here [with the Victoria Symphony]. They want this kind of freedom and that ‘lift’ in that sense.”
Laurin said Kluxen will lead the orchestra in new directions.
“He gets the orchestra to play in a way, quite frankly, it’s a bit different. It’s bringing them artistically to a different place,” said Laurin, who has a graduate degree in conducting from Indiana University.
Kluxen, who has a girlfriend in Denmark, said he will likely retain residences in both Copenhagen and Victoria.
One of his most recent projects was starting Gadens Symfoni (Symphony of the Street), a classical-music series for the homeless. Kluxen persuades his musical friends to offer chamber-music concerts in a homeless shelter in Copenhagen.
He first got the idea last Christmas after volunteering at the homeless shelter. On Christmas day, Kluxen ended up cooking a traditional Danish meal — roast duck, red cabbage, potatoes and gravy — for 40 street people.
“When I volunteered, I said: ‘Who’s cooking?’ The leader said: ‘You are,’ ” he recalled with a laugh.