Rossen Milanov believes in keeping busy. Within the space of a few weeks, the Bulgarian-born maestro will lead three of the four orchestras for which he's music director, conduct an opera and squeeze in a few guest podium assignments, including one with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
For the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, where he became music director in 2014, Milanov will preside over the Russian Winter Festival on Jan. 7-8 and Jan. 21-23. Between those dates, he will conduct the Civic Orchestra of Chicago in a program titled Resistance and Defiance featuring Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 and Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Something for the Dark, an ode to hope and resilience, with performances Jan. 16 at the South Shore Cultural Center and Jan. 18 at Orchestra Hall.
Then Milanov jets off to Ljubljana, where he’s music director of the RTV Slovenia Symphony Orchestra, for a concert Feb. 17 of music by Rachmaninov and Wagner. Next up are concerts March 5-6 with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, another of his music directorships (the fourth is the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, a summer-only post).
The variety suits him. “I recharge and refine my process by collaborating with different artists, looking for inspiration in other art forms.”
But he’s especially fond of Ohio. “I love the openness of the people I meet here in Columbus. The city is young, and you can feel it on the streets and in the vibrant social and cultural spaces we share,” he said in a recent post on the site Arts Columbus. “There is a fantastic energy everywhere. Columbus’ arts scene is quite cosmopolitan. I love the fact that here one can find the complete spectrum of artistic experiences, from fringe to classical and from pop to high art.
“There is an encouraging sense of working together toward a common goal among the arts organizations and that makes the Columbus arts community unique. I find a vast space for making an artistic and social impact here.”
Since arriving in Columbus, Milanov has put his stamp on the orchestra, in part by hiring 30 percent of the ensemble’s current roster. “I was able to establish my artistic vision and standard,” he said in a recent interview with the Columbus Dispatch.
With his orchestras, he has maintained a commitment to new music by conducting world premieres of works by composers such as Derek Bermel, Mason Bates, Caroline Shaw, Richard Danielpour, Nicolas Maw and Gabriel Prokofiev, among others. So he's looking forward to leading the Civic in Something for the Dark, commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The title comes from a poem by Detroit-born Philip Levine, known for his works dedicated to the working class. In her program note, Snider writes, “The last two lines of his poem For Fran struck me as an apt motto for his many clear-eyed reflections on endurance: Out of whatever we have been/We will make something for the dark.”