INTERVIEW WITH MARIN ALSOP
On the occasion
of the release of her first-ever Brahms CD, Marin discusses her love for
the composer, his Symphony No. 1, the London Philharmonic, and Naxos.
Q. What challenges
does Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 present a conductor—and, perhaps as importantly,
what special rewards does it offer?
A. The challenge is
one of balance and proportion; it's imperative to get the right
blend of tradition and innovation that infuse the score across to the
listener, while creating an organic, natural unfolding of the work.
Brahms' amazing labor of love, decades in the making, pays tribute
to Beethoven and looks forward past Wagner in a distinctive and unique
way. These very challenges are what make conducting the work so rewarding.
I always feel that I am standing on the cusp of two ages when experiencing
this first symphony of Brahms. Brahms also needs time and space to unfold,
but cannot be stretched out of proportion. This is another major
challenge from the conductor's perspective.
have in the past mentioned your affinity for the music of Brahms; what
makes this particular symphony so affecting to you?
A. One of my
favorite pastimes is imagining the first performance of a work.
How did the listeners feel, react? Were they surprised, shocked,
satisfied? What were the musicians experiencing? How did it really sound?
Brahms' audience had
nearly given up on ever hearing a symphony from him, so imagine their
awe when this monumental opening began! And then the surprising intimacy
of the middle movements and the unique wealth of material that opens the
finale, capped off by his overt quoting of Beethoven's 9th! Every
corner of this symphony brings me satisfaction, surprise and delight!
Q. What was
it like recording with the London Philharmonic?
A. My experiences
working with the LPO are always filled with joy. The orchestra has a
tremendous artistic integrity and a great sense of humor—the perfect combination
for me! Their complete commitment to the task at hand during our sessions
was fantastic. I have always enjoyed our concerts together and the experience
of recording has only enhanced my respect for the musicians!
Q. You have
recorded a number of well-received CDs for Naxos, including recent recordings
of music by Adams, Glass, and Barber. Do you see connections as
a conductor between that twentieth century American concert music and
Brahms, or do you see them more as different traditions?
I am extremely fortunate
to be associated with a company that wants me to record a wide spectrum
of repertoire. This is ideal for me and appeals to every dimension of
my artistic curiosity. Each project I do with Naxos makes the next project
better in some way, regardless of the disparity of the repertoire. Although
the repertoire really is completely varied, I could probably draw connections
between all the CDs! For example, Samuel Barber could be considered the
American 20th century Brahms, while the rhythmic drive of Adams' music
and his exploration of topical subjects could also relate to Brahms!
I think that all terrific music shares philosophical and musical
Q. What recordings
from you might we see in the future on Naxos?
A. I would like to
continue with this wide variety of repertoire and look forward to another
cycle of standard repertoire while continuing to explore lesser known
Symphony No. 1; “Academic Festival” Overture; “Tragic” Overture
Marin Alsop,London Philharmonic Orchestra
on SACD and DVD-A