On the Podium Captivating Audiences Without Borders
A well-rounded, multilingual, globetrotting young conductor from a rich cultural background, how common is this portrait in classical music?
I can say it’s quite common. We have to deal with distinctive personalities in every orchestra. Also, conductors need to be able to read a full orchestral score in a number of languages. This way we want to learn about different cultures, so that can we feel and interpret the music better. A good conductor also digs to find out as much information as possible about compositions of various eras and places. It helps understanding your musicians better, too. What else could you possibly talk about during rehearsal?!
What is the secret to connecting with musicians and audiences everywhere?
The ESSENCE is the same: all people are hungry for wonderful music - producers, behind the scenes staff, stage people, orchestras, audience members— no matter if you are in Finland, Sweden, Germany, Austria or Iran. THE AIM IS THE SAME EVERYWHERE!
The secret is also trying to understand people’s heritage - what is their language, traditions, and history. A big part of preparing properly for a concert…Greeting orchestra members in their own language sometimes does wonders.
And in the end, music connects us all, naturally.
What are some of your favorite repertoire pieces?
My biggest aim for a repertoire is to link the past with the future: working with living composers is as essential for me as performing wonderful works by Brahms, Mozart or Tchaikovsky. I love to take my audience on journeys of new music and also give young composers a chance. But a well balanced menu serving a variety of favorite and new flavors works best. Musicians are entertainers, after all! Personally, I feel at home within the contemporary genre as well as the “Viennese Classics” (Mozart) and the Russian repertoire, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, etc). Probably because of my studies in Scandinavia, I am also very drawn to Sibelius.
What can you share with us about Mozart, The Russians, and their relevance nowadays?
I think Mozart would still rock the houses - he was a CELEBRITY - and still is. Back in the day, there was no pop, or rock or jazz… Mozart was so innovative - he ruled and sometimes shocked. One of my teachers said: - for sex, drugs, and rock & roll, see “Don Giovanni! Today Mozart would probably be big on experimental music with video screens and online streaming…. It would definitely be something that would last more than 400 years of humanity, serving the greater good and bringing joy to the people!
And what I love about Russian culture: it is so direct, so intense, so pure, coming with such heavy impact- it really moves you, even if you are not an emotional person. It also comes from the Russian language, so titillating and rich. The equivalent of what The Russian repertoire in classical music? Hmm, probably comparable to R&B? haha..I don´t know…
How competitive is the classical music field? Is it easy for new talent to break into the classical music scene in Europe?
All the competitive hype is about new obstacles and disadvantages. Classical music is VERY competitive. Unfortunately! I wonder if it is worse within classical music than other genres. Sometimes, maybe it is better to look plain to be taken more seriously. There is prejudice against good looking people in classical music. Not kidding. Some wonder if there is a negative impact on practice time if a classical musician looks good. Although this is changing: nowadays, with the focus on six packs, and not voices of the cast of “Don Giovanni’s”…it’s also bad…
There is enough space for everyone: every musician is so unique - that is why we have different conductors with the same orchestra. And that is why orchestras like guest conductors: Variatio Delectat!
As for Europe, yes, there are open spots to newcomers. Though it is easy to detect differences between South and North. North feels more open and inviting to new situations. Go North for an experimental music scene. That is why I left for Scandinavia during my initial years of study.
What is the relationship between classical music with politics and social issues?
Music - no matter what genre - should NEVER be exclusive!! It is like publishing a book but only allowing a certain kind of social class to purchase it…The initial spark pushing someone to become an artist has to do with adding to the beauty of this world, making people forget about their worries - also opening their eyes! Art is the world´s most international language! Classical music can be mesmerizing even if it includes words in a foreign language! The problem is many feel classical music is still too detached from everyday life. It should be the norm for anybody to have classical music as well as Beyonce on their playlists. A Beethoven symphony will get a teenager’s blood pumping as much as s anything else out there. Yes, classical music is a great tool for getting the right attention to a good cause.
Money matters, classical music, and modern audiences, what’s the connection among them?
Well – We all need money to survive here on planet earth, right? I do think, that buying a concert ticket to a classical concert is really affordable anywhere in the world. Going to the movies sometimes might be more expensive. It is a myth that classical music is not affordable. Audiences have been shrinking, but maybe this is changing for the better. Classical music education should be as essential as learning how to swim, for instance.
What are some of your most memorable music making experiences, so far?
Well- there are so many- but I would like to mention two:
My conducting debut in Tehran is one of the most exhilarating experiences. The hall was sold out. At first, they wanted to cancel the concert- I fought for my orchestra- they were well prepared- why should they not perform after all the hard work that was put into it?! The authorities were afraid that it would ignite a riot: a woman, a pregnant woman, conducting.
But, at the night of the concert, the hall was packed, they had to bring in extra seats. Vahdat Hall seats only 900 seats, but around 1000 people came to hear the Tehran Symphony Orchestra that I conducted that day. It was magical! We had to play three or four encores — unforgettable…I know some ladies form the orchestra who found the courage to go abroad to study conducting. It made me so proud…what a great orchestra!
The second is more recent: with Norrköping Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 2014: we had a huge program to tackle. Insecurities were flying high. Most of the musicians did not know me. A few members of the orchestra were meeting me again after 10 years- apparently they had seen me conduct while I was still a student in Stockholm. A famous musician, Mats Rondin, had recently passed away, and some musicians were weeping for him when we spontaneously prepared a new piece as a tribute to him. My little girl, only 5 months old, my husband and 4 year old son, were also there. I was still breastfeeding…it was all so stressful!! The orchestra could not relax; so much tension in the air!! Just a day before the concert, a newspaper ran an interview with me, it was about my upbringing, my education etc… Suddenly the orchestra was so friendly and welcoming!
My biggest dream came true as a huge surprise to me. We finished the concert on a high note performing Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgski. I took a bow. The audience was clapping. I took a second bow. Suddenly I see my husband with both of our kids, on stage, bringing me a wonderful bouquet of long stem, red roses. He was not allowed to come on stage, but he sneaked in, with both kids, and apparently it was no problem after all. Behind me the orchestra was inhaling the applause of about 700 people in the hall… Suddenly I looked at the audience… They started getting up one by one, giving us a standing ovation!! A standing ovation by a Swedish audience who is considered very reserved and not overly emotional!!!
This was really a dream come true — the orchestra really performed the Mussorgski so beautifully, and we received the highest appreciation from the audience - what a delight…