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Classical Music

Notes from Round Top: Yaniv Dinur

Conductor Yaniv Dinur offers sounds and insights from the Round Top Music Festival.

  • Conductor Yaniv Dinur (Photo Credit: Jennifer Brindley)
    Conductor Yaniv Dinur (Photo Credit: Jennifer Brindley)
  • 2018 Round Top Music Festival banner, announcing Saturday concerts June 9 - July 14 (Photo Credit: Round Top Festival Institute Facebook page)
    2018 Round Top Music Festival banner, announcing Saturday concerts June 9 - July 14 (Photo Credit: Round Top Festival Institute Facebook page)
  • Festival Concert Hall at the Round Top Music Festival (Photo Credit: Sergio Lozano)
    Festival Concert Hall at the Round Top Music Festival (Photo Credit: Sergio Lozano)
  • Festival Concert Hall interior (Photo Credit: Round Top Festival Institute Facebook page)
    Festival Concert Hall interior (Photo Credit: Round Top Festival Institute Facebook page)
  • Parsley the Round Top Cat (Photo Credit: Amanda Braud)
    Parsley the Round Top Cat (Photo Credit: Amanda Braud)

The Round Top Music Festival is a long-time Texas classical music tradition. Founded in 1971 by concert pianist James Dick, the summer institute is a training ground for exceptional young musicians from universities and conservatories around the world.

The annual six-week festival has become known for its orchestral concerts, chamber music recitals, and masterclasses, as well as for its 210-acre campus in the Texas Hill Country filled with historic architecture, fountains, gardens, herb collections, and cats.

In this series, Notes from Round Top, we'll feature concert recordings and interviews with conductors of the 2018 Round Top Music Festival, which takes place June 3 – July 15.

Born and raised in Jerusalem, Yaniv Dinur is Associate Conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts.

Listen to the 2017 Texas Festival Orchestra conducted by Yaniv Dinur, performing the 4th movement of Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World," below. Recorded in Festival Concert Hall on July 1, 2017; Andy Bradley, recording engineer:


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Yaniv Dinur will conduct the 2018 Texas Festival Orchestra in a concert on Saturday, June 16. This summer's orchestra is made of up approximately 90 artists chosen from more than 500 applicants.

Learn more about the Maestro, his 2018 Round Top program, and his life as a conductor, below:


How did you fall in love with classical music, and specifically with conducting?

I didn't "fall in love" because I grew up with it. We had a piano at home. My mother is a musicologist, and my aunt was my first piano teacher. So music was a natural part of life. I started taking conducting lessons when I was 16 and loved it immediately. I loved the fact that I could be a part of symphonic music, even though I didn't play an orchestral instrument.


What does the art of conducting mean to you?

It's about leadership and bringing the best out of people. But for me it's also complicated. I get to be a part of a process of creating amazing music and working with incredible musicians, and that's wonderful. But at the same time, I don't actually play the music, which is frustrating. This is why it's important to me to still play the piano.


How long have you been coming to the Round Top Music Festival?

This will be my second time.


At Round Top, you are a mentor as well as a conductor. What do you hope to impart to these young musicians during your week with them?

That being able to play well in an orchestra can be a model for how to live your life. Playing in a big group means listening to one another, making room for different opinions, knowing when to express yourself and when to step back and support someone else. It's a mutual effort – many people coming together to create something bigger than themselves.


What do you end up learning from these young musicians? How does this Festival enrich you as an artist?

When I work with young musicians, I find myself thinking more deeply about things. I ask myself: "OK, I do this, but why do I do it this way? And how do I explain this in the clearest way?" There's a sense of a bigger responsibility, and it makes me a more alert and conscious musician.


Does the scenic location and the Texas landscape of Round Top inspire you in any way?

Round Top is one of the most beautiful and unique places I've ever been. Last summer, I found myself at the end of my week there not only inspired but also reinvigorated. It's the ideal place for artists of any age (including myself) to focus on and develop their craft.


I have heard that the food is great at Round Top! Do you have a favorite local dish, or Texas specialty, that you look forward to when you come to the Festival?

I heard that the chef used to cook for Frank Sinatra. I don't know if it's true, but I wouldn't be surprised. I look forward to everything they will serve me there. And I also discovered a secret espresso machine in the kitchen. I'm planning to sneak in there at the end of every meal.


Is there a theme to the program you're presenting on June 16?

No. But it works perfectly together. Two Russian pieces that are very different from one another (Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 and Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2), and a stormy and tragic opener (Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes) that relates very well to the stormy and tragic ender (Tchaikovsky).


How would you describe the "Four Sea Interludes” from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten? They are entitled Dawn, Sunday Morning, Moonlight, and Storm. Do you, by chance, have any personal connection to the sea or sea-life, yourself?

The sea is very special to me because I grew up in Jerusalem, where there is no sea, so it's like a wonder. But Britten’s piece is not really about the sea. It's about the different moods and states of the human soul.


How does Prokofiev's "Violin Concerto No. 2" speak to you?

It's a very lyrical piece mixed with a bad boy attitude. Perfectly suitable for Regis.


Ha, that’s great! You’re referring to violinist Regis Pasquier, who will be the soloist in the Prokofiev concerto. Have you worked with him before? What do you enjoy about performing with him?

Regis and I performed Brahms' Violin Concerto together last summer at Round Top, and we clicked immediately. I was fascinated by his numerous stories about the musical giants he has worked with. He's a phenomenal musician, and yet incredibly modest and personable. He kept surprising me with new, spontaneous musical ideas in every rehearsal and performance.


Do you remember the first time that you heard, or conducted, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6? What were your impressions of the work then, and how has your appreciation of the work deepened over time?

I was 17 or 18 and had to prepare it for conducting class. I couldn't stop listening to the development section of the first movement. It starts in such a startling way after a very beautiful and quiet section, as if all hell breaks loose. It's still my favorite part of the piece.


What is the funniest or most unusual thing that has ever happened to you, or that you have witnessed, on stage during a concert?

A few years ago, I conducted Brahms' First Symphony in Italy. A phone rang on stage. It was one of the players in the second violins. He got up, walked off stage, and took the call. A few minutes later he came back and continued playing. I remember the performance was quite good.

Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Senior Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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