The conductor cavalcade is about to begin again at the California Symphony, which has been artistically rudderless since the ouster of founding music director Barry Jekowsky two years ago. Opening the Walnut Creek-based orchestra's 26th season in the Lesher Center on Sept. 30 is young conductor Robert Moody, who will be the first of seven to take the podium as an official tryout for the permanent job of music director.

Moody, who has been conductor of the Winston-Salem Symphony in North Carolina since 2005 and took on the same position at the Portland Symphony in Maine in 2008, has at least half a leg up on much of his competition. He garnered hot-as-embers reviews when he appeared with the California Symphony in January, leading the group through Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony, Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" and, with soloist Joshua Roman, the Elgar Cello Concerto.

This time, he takes up the baton for Arturo Marquez's Danzon No. 2, Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 and, with acclaimed East Bay keyboardist Gregory Taboloff as soloist, the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. Concert time is 4 p.m., and tickets, at $35 to $65, are available at 925-943-7469 or www.lesherartscenter.org.

The California Symphony, which is dubbing 2012-13 its "Music Director Search Season" has expanded its concert schedule by three programs for a total of seven. The other half-dozen who will be auditioning for the post are David Commanday (Oct. 18), Michael Butterman (Dec. 23), Sean Newhouse (Jan. 20), Alastair Willis (Feb. 12), Donato Cabrera (March 3) and Robert Trevino (May 4). Read more about them at www.californiasymphony.org.


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OPERA ON THE TUBE: This past Saturday's "Rigoletto" simulcast at the AT&T Park in San Francisco was far from the only freebie that San Francisco Opera will be dangling before us this season. Tonight is the first of four consecutive Thursday night KQED-TV broadcasts, hosted by the Bay Area's beloved (and apparently only semiretired) mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, of previous S.F. Opera productions recorded live in high definition at the War Memorial Opera House.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "The Magic Flute" is first up at 8 p.m. (repeated at 2 a.m. Friday if you want to set your DVRs), a fall 2007 production that starred tenor Piotr Beczala, sopranos Dina Kuznetsova and Erika Miklosa, baritone Christopher Maltman and a bunch of whimsically fantastical animal hybrids created by artist Gerald Scarfe.

Also in the lineup, on Sept. 27, Oct. 4 and Oct. 11 respectively, are Richard Strauss' "Salome" (a fall 2009 production starring soprano Nadja Michael and bass-baritone Greer Grimsley), Puccini's three one-act operas "Il Trittico" (all starring fab soprano Patricia Racette from the fall 2009 production) and Verdi's "Otello" (another fall 2009 production, starring tenor Johan Botha, soprano Zvetelina Vassileva and baritone Marco Vratogna.) All broadcasts are at 8 p.m., with repeats at 2 a.m. Fridays.

HOMETOWN GIRL MAKES GOOD: Violinist Juliana Athayde, an Orinda native and member of the East Bay's well-known Athayde family of musicians and educators, was the youngest concertmaster ever appointed to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in New York at the age of 24. Seven years later, she comes back to her hometown to help the Gold Coast Chamber Players open its 14th season with an 8 p.m. Friday concert in the auditorium of the Orinda Library, 26 Orinda Way. The concert repeats at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Gold Coast's regular venue, the Community Hall of the Lafayette Library, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Athayde will join violinist Rebecca Jackson, violist Pamela Freund-Striplin and cellists Amos Yang and Angela Lee in performance of Schubert's String Quintet in C major and Glazunov's String Quintet in A minor. Tickets, at $10 to $35, are available at 925-283-3728 or www.gcplayers.org.

MANNA FROM ALL OVER THE PLACE: There is much rejoicing in the offices of UC Berkeley-based Cal Performances, where director Matias Tarnopolsky last week announced four new grants totaling $1.3 million. Two of them came from well-known Bay Area arts philanthropist couples. Ann and Gordon Getty, of San Francisco, and Clos Pegase vintner Jan Shrem and his new wife, Maria Manetti Shrem, have donated $250,000 each for a total of $500,000 in support of two high-profile orchestral visits -- Esa-Pekka Salonen's Nov. 9-11 concerts with the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra and Gustavo Dudamel's Nov. 26-30 residency with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, meanwhile, has made a $760,000 commitment over five years to further integrate Cal Performances programs into the academic life on the Berkeley campus. A National Endowment for the Arts grant of $75,000 will support the Oct. 26-28 West Coast premiere of Philip Glass' opera "Einstein on the Beach."

Contact Sue Gilmore at sgilmore@bayareanewsgroup.com.