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Mariss Jansons Interview

Mariss Jansons has been at the podium of the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest of Amsterdam for a year now, after leaving the Pittsburgh Symphony. The group has recently been in residence at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland. Jansons must be doing something right, since Edward Seckerson's review of the Concertgebouworkest's recent performance at the Proms (The Independent, September 6) was pretty much a rave:

There isn't much that Mariss Jansons and this orchestra cannot convey in the way they play, phrase and colour. Over two memorable nights they said most of what needed to be said about the three big works on their programmes. The flighty melodrama of Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra is full of folk song, flash and flamboyance. Bartók is an inspiring presence, nowhere more so than in the nocturnal scurryings of the virtuosic middle movement. In another life this buzzy moto perpetuo might have assumed the identity of Rimsky-Korsakov's proverbial bumble bee. Add to this the rhetoric of the outer movements with their Stravinskian ostinatos and brassy chorales and there isn't much left to call Lutoslawski. The real Lutoslawski had yet to stand up and be counted. But Jansons and the orchestra played this piece for all it was worth.
When Jansons was in Lucerne, Jean-Louis Validire published an interview (Mariss Jansons : «Une lune de miel», September 1) in Le Figaro. Here's an excerpt (my translation):
Was it a deliberate choice to record only live concerts on disc?

The Concertgebouw has its own brand sound, and we decide ourselves what works of the repertoire we want to record. This is not in response to any commercial demand. If we feel that what we have played is worth being kept, we do it. This opens up a very broad choice of repertoire, which is not imposed by recording companies. It's not about business; we believe that it's our duty to leave a document for the future. I know that some people are obsessed with the technical perfection of recordings, but that's not necessarily what matters. Furtwängler's recordings have lots of mistakes, but no one cares about them. Nothing in life is perfect...

In 2006, the Concertgebouw will give homage to Shostakovich for the 100th anniversary of his birth. What's your point of view on his music?

Years ago, I began a complete recording of his 14 symphonies, with eight different orchestras. The results will be available in a complete set next year. I no longer play much Russian music, but I have continued to conduct Shostakovich. I think he is a musical genius of the 20th century. He is one of the greatest; he belongs to the group of the most inspired composers of all music history.

You are going to conduct his opera Lady Macbeth of Mzensk. Do you miss not conducting it more often?

I grew up in an opera house. My mother was a singer, and my father was a conductor. I adore opera, but I have rarely had the opportunity to conduct it because I was directing two orchestras. And when I decided to devote myself to it, I had a heart attack during the rehearsals for La Bohème in Oslo... But now, opera is part of my contract in Amsterdam...
I have already noted that production of Lady Macbeth in my Opera Preview, with De Nederlandse Opera in June. Hmm, Amsterdam could be a nice starting-off point for an Ionarts European opera junket.

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