Sunday, December 21, 2014

Married with children, with dual batons

Christian Baldini and his wife Matilda Hofman enjoy an outing at the Davis Farmers Market with their sons, Dante, who will be 4 in November, and Lorenzo, who turned 2 in August. The couple juggle the competing needs of parenthood and careers as orchestra conductors and university professors. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

From page A4 | October 05, 2012 |

Christian Baldini and Matilda Hofman are conductors. They study musical scores, rehearse with subtantial groups of musicians, stand in front of large audiences and lead performances.

What’s more, Hofman and Baldini each conduct more than one group. Baldini is going into his fourth season with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, and he recently began his first season with the Camellia Symphony Orchestra, a community group based in Sacramento.

For several years, Hofman worked with the Empyrean Ensemble, a UCD-based new music group, and she is about to begin her first season with the Diablo Symphony Orchestra, based in Walnut Creek. They also both have teaching duties at UCD.

Baldini and Hofman are married, making them a rare “two-conductor couple,” and they have two young and energetic sons: Dante, who will be 4 in November, and Lorenzo, who turned 2 in August.

At times, their lives can get pretty busy.

“For instance, we both have orchestras that rehearse on Monday nights,” Hofman said.

And even when they’re not rehearsing, there are other things to do. A goodly portion of a conductor’s job is solitary, learning the music and considering how to interpret it. With multiple ensembles and kids, when do they find time to study scores?

“That is a very good question,” Baldini acknowledged. “When the academic year starts, being a full-time faculty member at UC Davis means lots of committees and meetings. I’m also coordinating chamber music. But one manages to squeeze an hour here, and an hour there.”

Hofman added, “It is important to make (study) a priority and find some time to switch off the computer and say ‘I’m going to be working on music.’ ”

Baldini continued, “Study is a very solitary activity. People think of conducting as a sociable profession. But in order to do that, you have to be very well prepared, so you can communicate what you want.”

Hofman picked up, “And when you’re working on something difficult, it can help to talk to other conductors. One can get into ruts and habits, it can be good to think about a piece from different angles.”

Baldini: “Performing a piece of music can involve such opposite interpretations” coming from different conductors.

Hofman: “And both can be incredibly convincing. Christian and I have quite different conducting styles and different artistic sensibilities. That can be interesting. But we both understand the challenges of the profession.”

Baldini: “We are both keen on opera and contemporary music … and we have different approaches.”

Hofman: “We can talk about music and have different opinions. We bounce ideas off each other.”

Sometimes, the dates on their calendar almost bounce off each other, too. This week is an example: On Saturday, Baldini will conduct a Camellia Symphony concert at 4 p.m., in the recently modernized Performing Arts Center at Sacramento City College in Sacramento. Then at 8 p.m., he’ll be at the Mondavi Center, conducting the second half of the “Rising Stars of Opera” concert, leading the UCD Symphony Orchestra as it accompanies several Adler Fellows from the San Francisco Opera.

There’s another busy weekend in November. Hofman has an Empyrean Ensemble concert at 7 p.m. Nov. 17 in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre at Mondavi. Then she will conduct the Diablo Symphony at 2 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. Baldini has a UCD Symphony Orchestra concert at 7 p.m. that evening in Mondavi’s Jackson Hall.

For their sons, growing up in a household in which both Mom and Dad use a baton has led to an interesting assumption.

“When Dante was just starting to talk, one of the first questions he asked me was whether my parents also conduct,” Baldini recalled. “He was very surprised when we told him that his grandparents are not conductors.”

Hofman observed that their children, being almost constantly exposed to music, began “recognizing the sound of different instruments” at an early age.

Baldini added, “Dante has been asking about mutes for brass instruments, things that can make a ‘wa-wa’ sound. Now he wants to play the trumpet.”

Hofman added, “It’s important that the boys have time with both of us, on a regular basis.” And that, too, is part of the intricate family schedule. You’ll see the whole family riding bicycles together, or in a park or shopping at the Davis Farmers Market.

“A lot of people, when they meet a couple where both (partners) do the same thing, they ask, ‘Is there a competition?’ ” Baldini said. “I see it from another perspective. You are in good company. The other person knows what you are up against. There can be a lot of understanding.”

— Reach Jeff Hudson at or 530-747-8055.



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