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Marin Alsop
Ask the Artist

Marin Alsop Answers Your Questions
Advice, Fond Memories, and Holiday Traditions from Conducting's Brightest Star

Marin Alsop

Next month Grammy-nominated chamber group THE MAGGINI QUARTET will answer your questions.  Submit your enquiries at the bottom of the page!

Q:  Will you please persuade Naxos to let you record the Brahms symphonies with the BSO? You are the most dynamic, exciting Brahms conductor for many a year!
-M.H., UK

A:  Thank you!  I am starting the Brahms symphonies and overtures with the LPO for Naxos and will do a Brahms choral works CD with the BSO.  The project commences in January! 
Q:  I'm the Editor of a publication that focuses on careers for scientists. This is a world in which women are relatively well-represented, but mostly at lower levels; it's rare to see women winning Nobel prizes, or leading research institutes. In other words it's quite similar to the music world, or I think it is--I know the music world much less well. My question for you: Why, in your view, are there so few women leading orchestras, opera companies, and so on, when there are (in my estimation) at least as many gifted female soloists and (increasingly) young orchestra members? To put the question more personally--what barriers have you confronted and overcome in your career, and what advice would you give to young women who aspire to leadership positions in music?
-J.A., USA

A:  I do not think that women have been unsuccessful in achieving stature in these fields due to a dearth of talent, but rather due to enormous societal conditioning.  We are unaccustomed to seeing women in society's highest positions, whether in business or government, and until that fundamentally changes, we will not see women in the top authority roles in any other fields.  I think it's telling that Great Britain had very little hesitation in appointing me as the first woman to lead a major British orchestra and I think this bears out my theory.

The advice I give young women is two-fold.  Perseverance is a key, critical quality to nurture.  Don't give up!  Also, try not to interpret rejections as gender-based.  Take every rejection as an opportunity to become better at what you do.
Q:  Dear Maestra Alsop - I was very excited to discover that you have recorded so much Samuel Barber for Naxos as I was fortunate enough to be present when you conducted the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth in 2000. Of all the concerts I've attended over the years, yours with the WASO has been one of the stand-outs in my memory, with an exciting program of (if memory serves) Copland, Ives and of course, Barber. I have always enjoyed the freshness of the work of these American composers, being brought up as I was on the standard European repertoire. What do you personally feel is the essence of the works of the above Americans that differentiates them from the Europeans, given that (I feel) they are part of the same Western tradition?
-J.M., Australia

Thank you!  I remember my trip to Perth with great fondness.  I fell in love with the area and the orchestra! 
These American works share a tradition with the great European repertoire, but they bring a fresh sense of optimism, positiveness, and a genuine sense of joy.  There is an immediacy to this music that is infectious!

Q:  Is there one piece that you have never conducted which you would really like to conduct?
-P.N., USA

A:  Mahler's Symphony No. 8 and Varese's Ameriques.  They call for such enormous forces that most orchestras balk at the suggestion.  

Q:  Of all the advice that Leonard Bernstein gave you when you were his pupil, which advice has served you best the most?

A:  Bernstein taught me about story in music - that every piece has it's own story, complete with a moral!  And that my primary commitment must always be to the composer.  He also taught me to be myself.  He was an enormous figure and phenomenal influence on so many people's lives.

Q:  For decades I have been waiting for someone to come along and champion the music of Samuel Barber.  I am delighted both by your performances with the RSNO here in Glasgow and the subsequent recordings for Naxos.  If you were offered the chance to record the works of one other American composer, whom would you choose and why?
-D.Y., UK

I would choose Leonard Bernstein next, then Aaron Copland, then Roy Harris . . . but I could also be enticed more towards the living American composers:  Christopher Rouse, John Corigliano, John Adams.  (That wasn't fair, was it?  You asked for one and I gave you six . . .)

Q:  Do you have any holiday traditions with your friends and family?
-C.N., USA

A:   My only definite is to do performances of my gospel Messiah, "Too Hot to Handel."  It's an absolute blast!

To find out more about Marin Alsop's "Too Hot to Handel," visit Thanks to Marin Alsop and everyone who submitted questions!

What's your question for The Maggini Quartet?

With worldwide sales of their British Chamber Music series on Naxos totalling over 100,000 discs, the Maggini Quartet can now add a Grammy nomination (for their CD of Bliss's String Quartet No. 1) to their impressive resumes, which also include a Cannes Classical Award, a Diapason d'Or, of the Year, and numerous Gramophone Editor's Choices.  Currently turning heads by teaming with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies for his cycle of ten Naxos Quartets, the Maggini Quartet provides vitality and virtuosity to the chamber music scene.

Submit your questions to these four champions of chamber music and view the answers next month on



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