Issue 9: The French Connection

Welcome to Issue 9. This is the first time the French repertoire has been explored in Notes from the Podium, and the conductors interviewed have selected a wonderful variety of pieces. Michael Stern, Music Director of the Kansas City Symphony, recorded Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 ‘Organ’ in 2015 with the orchestra and soloist Jan Kraybill. Widely considered his masterpiece, Saint-Saëns said of the piece, ‘I have given all that I have to give – what I have done I shall never do again’. Read why Michael agrees with the statement and his approach to conducting this unique work.

Next is Thierry Fischer, Music Director of the Utah Symphony, and from March 2020 he succeeds Marin Alsop as the Music Director of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Thierry chose to talk about Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, a work he recorded live with his orchestra in January. French music is one of Thierry’s specialisms, and his vivid imagination and passion for this piece are incredibly infectious. The intricacies of Berlioz’s orchestration and (rather unhinged!) narrative make this score a fascinating study and a great read for anyone studying or conducting the work.

The final interview is with Scott Wilson, Conducting Teacher at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Scott chose to speak about his research into audience engagement, a topic on which he is currently writing a book. This skillset is one that is rarely discussed, yet so crucial to the future success of our orchestras. Among other topics, we discussed two case studies from the French repertoire: Debussy’s La Mer and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G (both feature in his book).

Huge thanks to Michael, Thierry and Scott for their time. It’s been a pleasure.

Have a great summer,

Dr. Hannah Baxter