2017/08/25 | Ticket Information

Lucerne Festival Orchestra Tour in Japan 2017 ---- Interview with Maestro Riccardo Chailly

---Last summer, you conducted the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (LFO) for the first time, but what was your first impression? This performance was particularly special because it was the only Mahler Maestro Abbado could not complete in the cycle. Through this program and experience, what did you discover about the characteristic of the orchestra and their technique, or the difference from a regular orchestra.

Maestro Chailly (RC):
Last year’s concert with LFO was an extremely moving moment in my life. And we dedicated this Eighth Symphony to the memory of Claudio. LFO is an orchestra that was conceptualized and created by Abbado, and it would have been the second time in the history of Lucerne Festival to perform the Eighth Symphony. The first time was about 80 years ago by Toscanini.

As you know, I have been close to Abbado for many many years. I was his assistant at La Scala in the 1970’s and later invited as a guest conductor. He was a dear friend and we also met in various different cities like Vienna and London, or Chicago when he was with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and I was conducting at the Lyric Opera.

As for my impression of LFO, they were exactly what I had expected. It is a collective of excellent musicians forming an unique orchestra for their ability to spontaneously form a relationship. In the very first rehearsal, I conducted through the first movement barely stopping. I wanted to observe how they react to my conducting and gestures, how they reciprocate my musical interpretations and musical ideas. The first movement of Mahler 8 is very complex. In the beginning I explained my interpretative ideas and they immediately understood. So this year, I am very much looking forward to conducting three different programs at the Festival in the summer, and touring Japan with LFO in October.

---The Japanese public were rather surprised to discover the all Strauss program for this concert in October. You have never conducted Strauss in Japan before and also never made a recording. Pease tell us your thoughts about Strauss, his compositions, and what it means to perform his works wit LFO.

I have always conducted Richard Strauss but it is true, never in Japan (smilingly). This project will be recorded by Decca. I have been their exclusive artist for nearly 35 years, but this will be the first Strauss album. I am very fond of these three symphonic poems, “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” “Tod und Verklärung,” and “Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche,” that I have also programmed for Japan. They all have contrasting emotions and character. And for the orchestra it is always a great challenge because there are many exposed moments in each section. Also it is a repertoire that was not played during Abbado’s time, so LFO will develop this experience with me. Along with the Strauss, there is Stravinsky. Le sacre du printemps is perhaps one of the most difficult scores in 20th century music. We also have Beethoven’s Egmont Overture paired with his Eighth Symphony. I would describe the Eight Symphony as “a jewel of joy.” And the second movement demands miraculous precision by the players. It requires bravura, the technique for one to perform exquisitely elegant passages, so I will be bringing to Japan an orchestra assembled with virtuoso musicians.

---You have conducted the Beethoven with Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a very befitting orchestra for a classic German repertoire, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with the Concertgebouw, a more progressive ensemble. What kind of “traits” do you anticipate from LFO on these programs?

Indeed, I have conducted these works with the two orchestras you mentioned but also with the Filarmonica della Scala. The LFO is a “virtuoso orchestra,” but not just an orchestra. It is a “project orchestra” where the most talented musicians from all over the world are gathered in mind to design an “instrument” capable in performing such special repertoire and projects. That is why I look forward to this August and the concert with the orchestra in Japan. One thing that will be different is the Stravinsky. At Lucerne, we will be presenting op. 2, 3, 4, 5 in sequence. These are the early works of young Stravinsky, around the period he sets off from his great teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov. Le sacre du printemps was composed later. I feel it is important for an ensemble like LFO to perform this kind of repertoire - because nobody knows Stravinsky’s earlier works. They are very difficult, but important and beautiful compositions and portray the two different personalities of Stravinsky: the traditionally Russian romanticism from the Rimsky-Korsakov era and the ingenious masterpiece that became symbolic to the beginning of 20th century.

---Are there other composers or projects you would like to explore in the future with LFO?

I will not be bringing it to Japan this fall, but it is already programmed for this year’s Festival in Lucerne. They are the fantastic composition by Mendelssohn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony. The theme for this year’s festival is “Identity” and therefore these compositions based on Shakespeare and Byron’s great texts have been selected, but also because these styles have not been explored in the past. And in such measures, I would like to further expand their repertoire.

---It sounds very exciting. I have also looked up this year’s programs on the internet and just reading about them makes me want to go. It sounds like the audience is bound to have a special experience.

Yes, exactly - it is a wonderful experience in Lucerne. Not only is the festival unique because of its history, but because within a period of one month, the public is able to hear numerous performances by fantastic interpreters and ensembles. And it is not exaggerated to say that the concert by LFO is one of the most anticipated event every year, and it announces the opening of the Festival. We must not forget the presence of the Academy for contemporary music. The Academy was founded by the late Pierre Boulez, and now succeeded by Wolfgang Rihm and Matthias Pintscher. A very important parallel side to what I do with the symphony orchestra.

---The predecessor of LFO was first conducted by Arturo Toscanini 1938 and the current orchestra was inaugurated by Maestro Abbado. You will be joining the legacy of Italian conductors who had an important role in this orchestra. The Japanese public has the highest respect and appreciation towards Italian artists. What does it mean for you to be an “Italian” artist?

I think for me to be back in Milan is very symbolic. I am Milanese, and I spent many years in northern Europe, in places like Berlin, Amsterdam, Leipzig, and now I am back here. Returning to Milan and being at La Scala feels very natural to me. I have known this theater for many years. When I was at the conservatory, my father, Luciano Chailly, was the Artistic Director of La Scala. So I have been coming to La Scala since I was a boy, and saw and heard many operas, ballets, and of course symphonic concerts. So it feels very natural for me be in this position in Milan.

And Lucerne is also a very special place for me. The fact that the great Italian maestros, Toscanini and Abbado, are my predecessors is of course very significant. Because of this, I feel a lot of additional responsibilities on my shoulders, but it is a very positive weight.

---The Lucerne Festival was very supportive in helping the revival efforts of the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake through a project called “ARK NOVA.” You were also in Japan just the week before. What does this mean to you?

It is great sadness for someone to experience a tragedy such as an earthquake. In Leipzig we dedicated Bruckner’s 8th Symphony to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. And I remember clearly how emotional this performance was. I love Japan and know the country very well, and I was touring there immediately before the event. It deeply saddens me to think of such tragedy happening in a place you know so well. Music cannot not give an answer. But it is able to heal the soul. It can give positive energy and also hope. This idea of a transportable concert hall, ARK NOVA, is very creative and it is also not subjected to destruction. I also hear that Japan is progressively reviving and building a new future. And I am certain that Japan has the world’s leading technology in anti-seismic structures. I cannot foresee the future but I only pray that such tragedy never happens again…

---Italy also faces the same risks and problems.

Yes - recently Aquila and Amatrice were struck severely. The problem in Italy is that the recovery process is extremely slow. It is a pity for Italians. The people of these regions have been living in difficult conditions for more than a year. This is a grave problem.

---I sense that you are very fond of Japan, but are there particular things you look forward to in your trip to Japan?

Yes, very much. Me and my wife Gabriella, we both love Japanese food. The other thing is the sense of respect Japanese people have for one another. A civic respect - even in a heavily-populated city like Tokyo, you never feel disturbed. We really admire this. And also the number of fantastic concert halls just amazes me - so many more than in Europe. And I never forget the warmth of the Japanese audience. Their discipline, the silence during the performance, and their respect… you feel the public with you even if they are silent. And the explosion of enthusiasm when the music ends. Every time I feel rewarded when I perform in Japan.


14. June. 2017 @ La Scala
Text by Akiko Sugiyama / KAJIMOTO

Concerts of Lucerne Festival Orchestra in Japan