Peter Rubhardt says Shostakovich's great Cello Concerto No. 1 is an anchor point for both orchestra and audience in the varied program he's been handed for the concerts he'll conduct this weekend around the valley.

Peter Rubardt says Shostakovich's great Cello Concerto No. 1 is an anchor point for both orchestra and audience in the varied program he's been handed for the concerts he'll conduct this weekend around the valley.

Rubardt, one of five conductors competing to become the music director of the Rogue Valley Symphony, will lead the orchestra in Hayden's Symphony No. 27, the Shostkovich concerto with guest artist and cellist Rhonda Rider, and Dvořák's Symphony No 9, "From the New World" during concerts in Ashland, Medford and Grants Pass.

"It's a nice mix," he says in a telephone interview. "The Shostakovich is a powerhouse piece. It starts at the beginning and does not let go."

Rubardt, the fourth guest conductor to lead the RVSO in what it's calling The Year of the Search, is in his 13th season as music director of the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra in Florida. There, he added pops, chamber orchestra and family concerts to the program.

He says such innovations arise out of the interests and needs of a community and don't necessarily translate directly to a different home.

"After two days in the Rogue Valley, I'd be wary of saying I'm going to do this and this," he says.

"But I have a lot of ideas," he adds.

Rubardt served four seasons as the associate conductor of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, three seasons as resident conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and seven seasons as music director of the Rutgers Symphony. He has taught at the State University of New York and at The Juilliard School.

If there's a surprise on the program, it's the Haydn Symphony. Each concert in the search year has included one relatively obscure piece from very early in the classical period.

Haydn (1732-1809) is known as the father of the symphony, an acknowledgement that it was he, more than any other composer, who summed up the aims and achievements of the Classical era. In hundreds of sonatas, string quartets and symphonies, he broke new ground and provided durable models. He was a friend to the young Mozart and a teacher of Beethoven, as well as a major influence on Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms.

Dmitry Shostakovich (1906-1975) studied at the Petrograd Conservatory in the difficult years of the civil war in Russia and the early Soviet regime. He wrote his Cello Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Opus 107, in 1959, for the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.

He described the concerto as a "four-movement concerto divided into two large parts." It's often thought of as full of Russian character, with much stoic grief and strength of will.

In addition to being a celebrated soloist, guest cellist Rhonda Rider plays in an award-winning chamber music ensemble and teaches cello at Boston University and at The Boston Conservatory. She performs about 60 concerts a year in such venues as the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Center, the American Academy in Rome and the Moscow Conservatory.

Rubardt has not performed with Riger before, but they've e-mailed, and he says he's looking forward to sharing the stage with her.

The final offering of the evening will be Dvorák's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World," one of the most popular symphonies. The Ninth Symphony was completed, early in 1893, after Dvorák's sojourn in the United States. Dvorák (1841-1904) in it expressed his response to the America's and his longing for the familiar but uncomfortably remote "old world" of Europe and his native Czechoslovakia.

RVSO will present Rubardt at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, the Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall in an interview with Pat Daly. He also will give pre-concert talks an hour before each show.