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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.

 Q. You 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 similarities!

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 works.

BRAHMS: Symphony No. 1; “Academic Festival” Overture; “Tragic” Overture
Marin Alsop,London Philharmonic Orchestra
Also available on SACD and DVD-A


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