British teenager picks up baton at Seattle Symphony

Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:28pm EST
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - British teenager Alexander Prior, who dislikes being tagged a musical prodigy, has taken up the baton at the Seattle Symphony and been named assistant to guest conductors from January to July this year.

This is the first professional appointment for 17-year-old Prior, a conductor and composer, who made his British conducting debut with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in March 2007 and has conducted major orchestras in Europe.

"Serving on the conducting staff of a major orchestra is a key professional development opportunity for young conductors, although most are not given the opportunity at such a young age," the Seattle Symphony said in a statement.

British-born Prior, who is the great-great-grandson of the famous Russian actor and theater director Constantin Stanislavski, started playing the piano aged three, was composing by eight, and has just completed his fourth year at the St Petersburg Conservatory.

He has been selected as one of 12 participants in the International Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition in Bamberg, Germany, in February which is the same competition in which Gustavo Dudamel first came to international attention.

"We are thrilled to have such a promising young conductor as Alex Prior joining our conducting team. His work will be an asset to us, and we look forward to nurturing his artistic development," said Leslie Jackson Chihuly, chairman of the Seattle Symphony's board.

Prior is known to television audiences in Britain after appearing as a judge in a three-part TV series, "The World's Greatest Musical Prodigies," to find the world's most talented young musicians that was broadcast last year.

As a composer, Prior has written more than 40 works including symphonies, operas and a requiem. In 2008, the official premiere of his ballet "Mowgli," based on Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," was held at the Kremlin in Moscow.

However not everybody is impressed with Prior.

"We should forgive this young conductor his overblown ideas -- but if he doesn't grow up soon he could end up just another infant phenomenon," wrote Tom Service, a music critic with The Guardian newspaper.

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

 
<p>Prodigy conductor and composer Alexander Prior, 15, rehearses with the New Opera Orchestra one day before performing his ballet "Jungle Book: Mowgli" in the Kremlin in Moscow, February 2, 2008. REUTERS/Thomas Peter</p>