Hugh Wolff conducted Beethoven's Leonore Overturn No. 3 on Saturday night in Lisner Auditorium, and in so doing, won himself the assignment of assistant conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra for the coming season.
Wolff, 26, brings on stage a bright, shiny head of carrot-red hair, and a highly volatile manner of conducting that include some very elaborate gestures, one of which often finds his head well below his waist. But the young Harvard graduate, who was born of American parents in France, was, according to Mstislav Rostropovich, chosen "completely in unison by the members of the orchestra and the orchestr committee and myself."
Wolff won out over a field of 14 contestants who auditioned for three days last week. Five of them led the orchestra in Saturday night's public concert at Lisner. Wolff's previous experience has seen him conduct the Harvard Bach Society, the Peabody Conservatory Summer Symphony and Preparatory Orchestra, and as an apprentice to French conductor Charles Bruck on a tour of the Soviet Union.
In his duties with the National Symphony Wolff will lead all Young People's Concerts and Family Concerts, work in the orchestra's education program, and attend all rehearsals and performances by the orchestra.
The other finalists on Saturday were Carl Roskott of Guilford, N.C., Clark Suttle of Richmond, Va., William McGlaughlin of St. Paul, Minn., and John Miner, a native of Bethesda, now working in San Francisco. While the judging committee and members of the orchestra may have agreed on Wolff, there were shouts of wild enthusiasm from the audience for several of the other contestants. It would be interesting to hear some of them again before long.