Vladimir Jurowski’s 2012/13 season highlights

The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Vladimir Jurowksi, introduces his concert highlights for September – December 2012.

Vladimir Jurowski conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra on 26 September, and 29 September at Royal Festival Hall.

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London Philharmonic Orchestra introduces new works by four young composers

On Tuesday 12 June, 7.30pm at Queen Elizabeth Hall, members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Foyle Future Firsts perform new works by current members of the LPO Leverhulme Young Composers programme – Mark David Boden, Laura Jayne Bowler, David Curington & Hollie Harding.

Here the young composers talk about their works:

The concert also features Tristan Murail’s masterpiece Les Courants de l’espace and Per Nørgård’s cult classic, Voyage into the Golden Screen.

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Listen to our Classical music blog for May Highlights

In this month’s podcast members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment discuss working with Sir Simon Rattle, and Vladimir Ashkenazy gives his personal perspective on Shostakovich’s Babi Yar Symphony. Plus a member of Spira mirabilis talks about the ensemble’s unique approach to Beethoven’s music.

Colin Currie and Kalevi Aho in conversation

Read an interview with Colin Currie (CC) and Kalevi Aho (KA) about the new percussion concerto written for him by Aho in what is one of the most eagerly-anticipated premieres of the season .

CC Kalevi Aho – your new “Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra”, entitled  “Sieidi”, represents a colossal milestone within the Solo Percussion with Large Symphony Orchestra genre. This work is vast in scope and depth, as well as having a highly developed poetic and dramaturgical sense. Did indeed the project of percussion and orchestra present to you a near-optimum canvas to unleash the full power of your music, both its lyricism and explosiveness?

KA I cannot say which is for me the most optimum canvas to unleash my musical visions. If you write a concerto, every instrument has its own unique possibilities, which you only must find out. But the percussion world is exceptionally rich and gives such opportunity towards a very many-sided and rich musical expression, from the most silent and lyrical nuances to wild rhythmical drive and musical explosiveness.

CC The percussionist has a bold and commanding role in this work, playing a variety of instruments. I’m delighted with the inclusion of two ‘ethnic’ hand-drums in the work too, djembe and darabuka. Can you tell of your interest and study of these drums?

KH In the middle of the 90s I began to ponder, which elements of the music I should use in a richer way in the future. One element was the rhythm and the percussion instrumentation of the orchestral works. I was a little bit tired also with the western drum-set instruments, which dominate especially pop and light music. That time I began to study non-western classical music cultures, and heard a lot of Arabian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and African music. I noticed that the rhythm in the western music is quite primitive compared especially with the Arabian and African rhythms. At the same time I found the djembe and darabuka, which I used for the first time in my Symphony No. 11 (1997-98), written for six percussionists and orchestra (the solo group in its premiere was the Swedish Kroumata percussion ensemble). I liked the sound of those instruments a lot; it is not as hard as the sound of the drums, which you play with sticks. You can get from the djembe and darabuka very many nuances. Especially the darabuka is also a quite difficult instrument if you use by playing the finger technics, as the Arabian and Persian percussion virtuosos do. I would like to use in my works sometimes also the Indian tablas, but almost no western percussionist can really play the tablas, and the Indian masters cannot read notes. In my many orchestral pieces and concertos, written after the 11th Symphony, you can hear a lot of influences especially from the complicated Arabian and African rhythms.

CC  Indeed – and I feel that the very keenly developed rhythmic language you use in the work will be thrilling in live performance. Seldom can influences from far-flung continents be integrated safely and effectively into our westernised compositional world, but here we see a highly compelling result.Could you tell us something about the very evocative title of the work, ‘Sieidi’?

KA The Percussion concerto has three commissioners, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Luosto Classic Music Festival and the Gothenburg Symphony orchestra. The concert on 12 August at Luosto, in Finnish Lapland (with the BBC Philharmonic) is a very special happening, because it is an outdoors concert on the slope of the mountain Luosto. Some hundred years ago the sami people lived in that area. They had many cult places, which they called ‘Sieidi’. Sieidi is a Northern Sami word meaning `cult images’, and referred to objects such as strange, big rocks, cliffs or entire mountains situated at strategic locations for the hunter, fisherman or reindeer herder. It is well possible that the mountain Luosto was for them a ‘sieidiŽ, too. The drumming of the djembe and darabuka at the beginning and the end of the concerto is quite shamanistic; you could imagine that it is a drumming of a shaman at a ‘sieidi’.

CC Very magical imagery, and as such then, the work has at least one specific reference to Finnish folk culture. This concerto, and indeed your whole output as a composer is part of the overwhelmingly valuable contribution to classical music in general made by Finland, a staggering and inspiring piece of recent history. Can I ask you more broadly for some comments on the culture for classical music in Finland and the legacy of the music of Jean Sibelius?

KA Sibelius was the leading musical personality in Finland in his time, and his works still dominate the repertoire of the Finnish orchestras. However, his style has had in Finland no imitators because he didn’t teach a lot, and his music is so original. It is difficult to find any influences of Sibelius also in my music; I have worked from other starting points. The situation of the classical music in Finland is probably one of the best ones in the world. The state and the cities financially support the orchestras. The Finnish concert programmes are very many-sided – it is typical that the orchestras like to combine contemporary and classical music in the same concert. The composers have a lot of commissions, and the state and the foundations give grants for the artists. For many composers from abroad Finland seems to be almost like a paradise to live in.

CC All in all, it is a great honour for me to be a part of this scene, and to give the premiere of this landmark in percussion repertoire. I look forward very much to taking ‘Sieidi’ home to the mountains of Lapland this summer, and seeing you in April in London for the premiere!

Colin Currie premieres ‘Sieidi’ with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on Wednesday 18 April at Royal Festival Hall.

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Listen to our classical music podcast for April highlights

Colin Currie premieres a powerful and imaginative new Percussion Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, John Wilson conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in a performance Gilbert & Sulivan’s finest operetta The Yeomen of the Guard, and meet a player-piano who is the star of this year’s Nancarrow festival.

Getting to know conductor Thomas Blunt

Conductor Thomas Blunt is one of the current participants in the International Conductors’ Academy of the Allianz Cultural Foundation, which culminates in a concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall on 13 April 2012. Alongside the other two young conductors, Domingo Hindoyan and Ward Stare, Thomas will conduct the Orchestra in Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D.

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What’s your earliest musical memory?
Sitting at the piano at home when I was about four years old.

What was it that first attracted you to the conducting profession?
As a boy I sang in Worcester Cathedral Choir, and was lucky to sing in many concerts with large orchestras as part of the Three Choirs Festival. I found the sheer clamour of the orchestra completely thrilling, and seeing one person in front of it all – I just thought that must be the most exciting thing one can do in music.

For you, who are the most exciting conductors working today? Who has inspired you the most?
There are many conductors whose work I admire today – Vladimir Jurowski, Bernard Haitink, Claudio Abbado, Ivan Fischer, Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Sir Simon Rattle being a few. I particularly enjoy listening to and watching recordings of conductors of the past – Carlos Kleiber, Yevgeny Mravinsky, Charles Munch and Günter Wand are amongst my favourites. I was lucky enough to take part in masterclasses with Haitink when I was studying at the Royal College of Music – he is a truly inspirational man, conductor, and musician.

How have you benefited from working with orchestras such as the London Philharmonic?
One of the great things about LPO is that they are wonderfully responsive. This puts the spotlight on everything you say and do, as it can all have an immediate effect. At the same time though it gives you a freedom knowing you have that support and that the musical possibilities in front of you are so huge. It’s an incredibly exciting situation to be in, and can only benefit your own artistic and technical development as a conductor.

Do conductors put in ‘practice time’ like orchestral players? How do you prepare for concerts?
This is the great problem for conductors in that it is impossible to practise. The only real way to improve your conducting is to just do it, so for me ‘practice’ is really studying the score, working out techincal issues as to how I’ll conduct it, and reading around the context of the music’s composition as best as I can. This is important so that when you stand up in front of the orchestra you present a clear vision and journey. Conducting is an aerobic activity in one sense, so before concerts and rehearsals I do stretches and yoga, with some meditation thrown in to help get me in the zone.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
Conducting a run of Verdi’s Falstaff for Glyndebourne on Tour in 2009. It’s a very challenging opera to conduct, but I was lucky to have also assisted Vladimir Jurowski on the same production during the preceding Glyndebourne Festival. By the end of the run the opera really felt like a part of me, and I have never had so much fun conducting anything.

Which aspect of conducting do you find the most challenging?
Getting the right balance between leading and allowing.

What advice would you give to aspiring conductors?
There is no set path to making it as a conductor, and I think really one has to find one’s own way. Initially it’s essential to get to a high standard on an instrument or two so one can experience music-making from the inside. Following this some postgraduate conducting study is an option. Opera is often a useful route and has been for me; many conductors also start out as repetiteurs. Assisting conductors is a great way to learn, and can put you in touch with all sorts of people in the business. Winning a competition can accelerate things, but really everything is down to determination, luck, and being ready when your time comes.

Aside from conducting, what do you do in your spare time?
I’m a passionate Aston Villa fan, so have spent quite a lot of time feeling depressed about that of late! Apart from that I like cycling, galleries, yoga, novels, papers, politics, and going to the cinema and theatre. Lately I’ve been reading a few books about espionage during and after the Second World War (I’m distantly related to Anthony Blunt). Outside of classical music I love funk, soul, and electronica.

Do you get a lot of fan mail?
That’s one area of my career I need to improve on!

What’s your favourite film? (and film score?)
So many to choose from but I love the Alfred Hitckcock/Bernard Herrmann combination. North by Northwest is just brilliant.

If you could have a conversation with any composer from history, who would you choose?
Mozart probably. Apart from all the usual reasons I just think he would be great company.

Getting to know conductor Domingo Hindoyan

Conductor Domingo Hindoyan is one of the current participants in the International Conductors’ Academy of the Allianz Cultural Foundation, which culminates in a concert with the London Philharmonic Orchestra on 13 April 2012 at Royal Festival Hall. Alongside the other two young conductors, Thomas Blunt and Ward Stare, Domingo will conduct the Orchestra in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2, with soloist John Lill, and Julian Anderson’s Past Hymns.

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What’s your earliest musical memory?
My father was a violin player and the executive director of the Orquesta Sinfonica Venezuela in the 80s. I used to attend my father’s concerts every Sunday and these experiences are certainly among since my earliest musical memories.
 
What was it that first attracted you to the conducting profession?
During these same concerts, I have been told that as a 4-year-old I would stand in the aisle of the concert hall and imitate the conductor during the concert as I was fascinated by this role. Later on, as an orchestral player, my initial fascination and curiosity about this profession increased enormously.

For you, who are the most exciting conductors working today? Who has inspired you the most?
For me Daniel Barenboim has been very important and inspiring, also Claudio Abbado whom I met in Venezuela, and Bernard Haitink.
 
How have you benefited from working with orchestras such as the London Philharmonic?

First class orchestras are sophisticated, sensitive, with a lot of personality; at the same time very flexible and responsive, therefore for a conductor it is very demanding. It is like a good Stradivarius or a Ferrari, you need to know how to play them or drive them, being precise, knowing how to impose yourself or just letting them play. It is very complex. I am trying to achieve that.

Do conductors put in ‘practice time’ like orchestral players? How do you prepare for concerts?
I spend a lot of time studying my scores. This is how I prepare for concerts: studying, analyzing, discovering, searching for reasons, asking questions, trying to find the most truthful answers. I also prepare the rehearsals and anticipate potential problems as much as I can, but it is impossible without the orchestra.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
When I did a three hour rehearsal on Alban Berg’s Lulu Suite, with Claudio Abbado sitting next to me with the score. The rehearsal was very useful.

Which aspect of conducting do you find the most challenging?

The perfect relation, coherence and harmony between conception, gesture and the final sound.

What advice would you give to aspiring conductors?

Attend rehearsals of experienced conductors and at the same time try to build their own identity.

Aside from conducting, what do you do in your spare time?

I love watching football, I am a Real Madrid fan, and this winter I picked up skiing while I was working on an opera in Austria. I find the peacefulness and pure beauty of the mountains very inspiring.

Do you get a lot of fan mail?
After concerts I receive some on Facebook. It is quite fun!

What’s your favourite film? (and film score?)
Cinema Paradiso.  
 
If you could have a conversation with any composer from history, who would you choose?
It is quite recent, but I would love to meet Leonard Bernstein.