LACO Music Director Designate Jaime Martín | Photo by Alexander Lindström

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A few eyebrows were raised when the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO) named world-renowned flute player turned conductor Jaime Martín as its sixth music director late last month. For one thing, he’s only been a full-time podium presence for the past five years, conducting primarily in Scandinavia and his native Spain. For another, the search process started in 2014, and Martin only made his debut as a LACO guest conductor in September 2017. “I thought I had arrived too late to be considered for the post,” he recently admitted.

But romance was in the air on both sides of the podium. Martín felt a special connection with the orchestra from the opening bars of the first piece they rehearsed, the Serenade No. 1 by Johannes Brahms. “You can tell by the way they react to a new conductor, the flexibility, the speed with which they respond. If I suggested something, the orchestra immediately changed its phrasing, or its sound.”

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Music Director Designate Jaimie Martín conducts the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra at a special community performance at the Valley Performing Arts Center on January 12, 2018 | Photos by Jamie Pham

Of course, that flexibility is in LACO’s DNA; by day, most of the players are busy studio musicians. Martín can relate: “In London, I used to play lots of movie soundtracks with the click-track in my ear. It’s very strict. You have to sight-read on the spot—the music was often composed ten minutes before. But when they come to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, they can relax. It’s more about poetry, the music itself.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Music Director Designate Jaime Martín with Executive Director Scott Harrison at a reception welcoming Jaime on March 2, 2018 | Photo by Michael Mancillas

Jaime Martín says he’s happy he waited to begin his full-time conducting career in his mid 40’s; as principal flute of such orchestras as the London Philharmonic, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, he learned a great deal working with conductors like Carlo Maria Giulini, Zubin Mehta, Claudio Abbado, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and especially Sir Neville Marriner, LACO’s founding music director, who first suggested Martín take up the baton. Posthumously, in a way, Marriner gave a benediction to his protégé: “I visited Neville’s widow, Molly Marriner, last month to talk about the LACO appointment,” says Martin. “She said there was a gift for me in Neville’s studio. On his desk I found a beautiful light-brown leather case. It contained his batons. She said he would be very happy to know I would use them to conduct the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.”

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