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Vol. LXII, No. 3
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
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After Watershed Year, Road for Laycock Leads to Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie

Nancy Plum

“Life comes at you fast.” — at least that’s what the insurance commercial tells us. Perhaps no one knows this better this year than Mark Laycock, whose musical life at the end of 2007 bore little resemblance to his professional activities at the beginning of that year. In January of 2007, Mr. Laycock was enjoying his 21st year as Music Director of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra while guest conducting throughout the world. Eight months later his tenure with the ensemble was over, and September found him both looking for new opportunities and reflecting on his legacy. Add a new marriage and turning fifty, and 2007 was truly a “watershed” year.

Looking back over the past 21 years, Mr. Laycock considers his greatest accomplishment with the Princeton Symphony the developing of “a flexible symphonic ensemble that communicated in a very intimate way—very uncommon for an orchestra.” Having taken over the ensemble when it was very small and community based, Mr. Laycock grew with it, building on the numbers and quality of players, noting that each musical experience brought them “to a new level of deeper understanding and connection with the Princeton community.” Mr. Laycock is especially proud “that the Princeton Symphony was so much more than just a symphony orchestra; it had a life, soul and a personal attachment to the audience.”

Mark Laycock returns to the Princeton stage this Friday to conduct the Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie in a concert honoring the 94th birthday of scholar and philanthropist William Scheide. Friday night’s Richardson Auditorium concert will feature the Kammerphilharmonie and German violinist Sarah Christian in their only U.S. performance this season.

The program, as one would expect from a concert in honor of Mr. Scheide, includes two substantial Bach works—the Violin Concerto in E Major and the “Chaconne” from the Partita in d minor for solo violin. Mr. Laycock will also conduct Schubert’s Overture in B-flat, Mozart’s Symphony #41, and Peter Heidrich’s Happy Birthday Variations.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit Isles, Inc., a Trenton-based community development organization with which Mr. Scheide has been involved for many years. Mr. Laycock’s relationship with Mr. Scheide grew from a trip Mr. Scheide put together to see the Sequoias in California. The two musicians now spend time almost every week listening to music together, and Mr. Laycock refers to his listening partner as a “great example and a true friend,” whose friendship has become “one of the highest” of his life.

As 2008 gets underway, Mr. Laycock is, as the current vernacular puts it, “in a good place,” commenting that he is “the happiest he has ever been.” He is especially enjoying time spent with his 11-year old son. New wife Nancy Laufer-Laycock, one of the world’s foremost concert classical accordionists, has inspired Mr. Laycock to dust off his composing pencils and write a passacaglia and variations for the accordion. He expressed hope that as a result he will be able to bring more depth and human insight into the works of the composers when he returns to full-time concertizing. While Mr. Laycock is looking for a permanent conducting post, agents based in Stuttgart, Paris and Seoul keep the guest conducting appearances flowing, including next year’s performance with the Stavanger Philharmonic in Norway.

There is plenty of music to make in the world, but for now, it’s dinnertime in the Laycock household, and the Maestro is cooking salmon.


Mark Laycock will conduct the Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie, with guest violinist Sarah Christian, on Friday January 18 at 8 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium. Ticket information can be obtained by calling the Richardson box office at (609) 258-5000 or the Frist Campus Center at (609) 258-9220.

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