Loh to debut here as West Virginia Symphony Orchestra conductor

Lawrence Loh has been named the new musical director and conductor for the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and will be making his first appearance in Parkersburg at 3 p.m. Sunday at Blennerhassett School, which serves as the symphony’s second home. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — The new musical director and conductor of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra will be making his debut this weekend with performances in Charleston and Parkersburg on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Lawrence Loh was named to the position in May to succeed Grant Cooper, who served for 16 years with the WVSO and its second home in Parkersburg.

Loh and the symphony will kick off the 30th anniversary season of WVSO-Parkersburg on Sunday with a concert at 3 p.m. at Blennerhassett School.

Tickets are $22 for adults and $10 for students by calling 304-485-4200 or online at www.wvsop.org.

The concert will feature the music of American composers Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Aaron Copland. Special guest soloist Alexandre Moutouzkine will join Loh and the WVSO in the performance.

Alexandre Moutouzkine will be the guest soloist Sunday when the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra-Parkersburg performs at Blennerhassett School to kick off the 2017-2018 concert season. (Photo Provided)

Moutouzkine is a master on the keys. Since winning Astral Artists 2009 National Audition, he has won top prizes in more than 20 international competitions, including those in Naumburg, Cleveland, Montreal, Maria Canals (Barcelona) and Arthur Rubinstein (Tel-Aviv).

Other music for the opening concert includes Bernstein’s Overture to Candide and Copland’s Symphony No, 3.

The Blennerhassett School concert is made possible by the support of Highmark WV and the BB&T WV Foundation.

For a deeper understanding of the music to be performed during the opening concert, the WVSO will present a lecture on insights and stories about three of America’s greatest composers and their music at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The program is free and will be held in one of the classrooms at the school. Loh said he intends to invite Moutouzkine to participate in the lecture.

Born in California and raised in Carlisle, Pa., Loh has been serving as musical director of Symphoria in Syracuse, N.Y., and also worked with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 2005-2015 as musical director. He was serving in that capacity when Cooper announced his retirement that year and Loh was immediately interested based on what he knew of the WVSO.

“There were a lot of things the orchestra was doing in a really positive way that was really getting the attention of people like me,” he said.

Loh thought about 167 people applied for the position, which was reduced to about 25 for interviews. A final six candidates were chosen and during the 2016-2017 season, each worked with the WVSO and conducted one of its concerts.

Loh was in Parkersburg on Wednesday to tour Blennerhassett School in preparation for Sunday’s concert.

“I’m very excited because it’s my opening weekend as music director with the orchestra and the fact that I’m doing it here and in Charleston is really special, just because I know how significant the part of my position is here,” he said.

Looking ahead, Loh said he wants to continue Cooper’s legacy with the orchestra and also wants to bring his own ear and sensibilities to the position.

“I hope that I can continue to expand the orchestra’s repertoire. I have some different ideas about educational programs and reaching new audiences. I hope to be able to implement that across the board with the orchestra,” he said.

Since this is his first year as musical director, Loh said, some things are still in transition and he will not be conducting all of the performances this season due to prior commitments.

In December, Cooper will return to lead the orchestra for the “Home for the Holidays” performances in Charleston and Parkersburg and a couple of the other performances will feature guest conducting by friends or proteges.