Times Music Writer

One month after describing herself as “a bridge” between former Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra leader Gerard Schwarz and the next music director, Iona Brown was named to that post on Wednesday.

The English violinist and conductor has been serving as the orchestra’s music adviser during its 1986-87 season, while a search continued for a successor to Schwarz, who had led the orchestra from 1978 to 1985. Schwarz resigned in June, 1985, and now leads the Seattle Symphony. Brown was one of the candidates for the LACO job.

The third music director in the chamber orchestra’s 18-year history, Brown, director of the London-based Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, becomes one of a handful of women at the helm of North American orchestras.

The 46-year-old British musician said Wednesday that she was “thrilled to bits” by the appointment. Neville Marriner, Brown’s mentor at the Academy, and also a violinist-turned-conductor, was the founding conductor of LACO in 1969.


Brown has signed a three-year contract with the orchestra, one requiring her to conduct LACO six to eight weeks a year, in three to four visits. But she said she and the orchestra management were talking about extending the contract into 1991, “because of the Mozart year.” The 200th anniversary of of Mozart’s death will be celebrated in 1991.

While accepting the California job, Brown said she would keep her other positions, as director of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London and the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra in Oslo, as well as guest director of the City of Birmingham Symphony, Simon Rattle’s orchestra in England.

Being chosen as leader of LACO, Brown said, “is very exciting to me because it is a fantastic group of musicians, a great orchestra that still has enormous potential to go further. And we seem to have a marvelous working relationship.

“Of course, it is the artistic side that gives us satisfaction, and there is a lot of work to do. But this wonderful crowd of musicians works very fast--it is one of the quickest ensembles I know.”


Brown confirmed that, in addition to the 17th- and 18th-Century works she has been associated with, she has “a real interest in new and recent music.”

“The first priority, of course, is to achieve the highest possible artistic standard. Then to build quite a wide repertoire.” She said she was interested “not only in American composers, but women composers as well. Of course, one can’t always do everything, but we can try to keep a broad outlook.

“Our main concern is our performances and, one hopes, recordings.”