Classical music critic Norman Lebrecht talks to major figures in the field
Norman Lebrecht talks to the American composer and conductor John Adams in the week that he conducts his opera Nixon in China at the BBC Proms.
Adams who was born in Massachusetts is one of the most celebrated composers alive. Many of his pieces are in the repertory, including his operas Nixon in China, the Death of Klinghoffer and his opera about Robert Oppenheimer, Doctor Atomic all of which receive stagings around the world and all of which he talks about in this interview.
Adams also talks about his early years learning the clarinet, imagining music in his head as he did his paper round and starting to conduct and compose.
Adams turned down the chance to go to Tanglewood to learn conducting and instead drove to the West Coast to broaden his experiences. Here he encountered some of the early minimalist composers and was involved in performing concerts of music by John Cage. As he developed his artistic personality Adams rejected both Cage's ethos and that of the modernists. Adams has always been concerned with music as expressing feeling and was as open to influences from rock and pop music as he was to music of classical composers. In this sense he believes his openness to a variety of influences makes him closer to a fellow New Englander, Charles Ives.
John Adams also tells Norman about his experiences with the US Homeland security, and how he was blacklisted and about his political views in this honest conversation.
Producer Tony Cheevers.
Norman Lebrecht talks to the great Italian conductor, Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Muti's career has spanned key orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the orchestra of La Scala in Milan and the Vienna Philharmonic. Elegant and erudite, this is the first extended interview Riccardo Muti has given the BBC. He reveals his thoughts and feelings about Verdi and Rossini, about his professional relationship with his mentor, Herbert von Karajan, and about his sense of being an 'outsider' in the world of music, a normal man with an extraordinary job.
Norman Lebrecht talks to the young Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons currently music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Born in Riga to musical parents Nelsons cites one of his earliest formative musical experiences as a performance of Wagner's Tannhauser which his parents took him to when he was just 5. He later took up the trumpet and eventually became a professional player in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra. He had conducting lessons with Neeme Jarvi and then came to the attention of Mariss Jansons whilst playing on tour with the Oslo Philharmonic and subsequently had lessons with him.
He eventually rose to become chief conductor of the Latvian National Opera at the age of 25 and it was there he met his future wife the soprano Kristine Opolais.
Nelsons has conducted at the Met, the Royal Opera House and at Bayreuth where he made his debut in 2010 with a new production of Lohengrin and where he returned this year.
In 2007 he became Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra having previously only conducted them in a private concert and a recording session, never at any public concerts. His present contract with them runs to 2014 and he appears with them at the BBC Proms this week.
Norman Lebrecht talks to the British opera director Graham Vick whilst in rehearsals in Birmingham for Stockhausen's massive opera Mittwoch. Vick is one of the leading British directors. He works in all of the worlds' major opera houses directing the standard operatic repertoire and was for a number of years Director of Prodductions at Glyndebourne. But he is also director of the Birmingham Opera Company which he founded in 1987. It specialises in innovative and unusual productions of operas often in unusual venues such as factories or disused warehouses and this interview was recorded in Birmingham where Vick is currently in rehearsal for the British premiere of the complete version of Mittwoch part of Stockhausen's massive cycle, Licht.
He talks to Norman about Stockhausen, about his approach to directing, his views on opera and about his background.
Producer Paul Frankl.
Norman Lebrecht meets celebrated impresario Lilian Hochhauser, who along with her husband Victor, introduced British audiences to some of the greatest Russian musicians of all time, during the fraught period of soviet rule.
Now in her eighties, Lilian - from a Jewish Ukrainian background - recalls the Cold War period which saw her and Victor pushing cultural and political boundaries to bring some of the most feted names in Russian music to Britain for the first time. Everyone from Rostropovich, Richter and Oistrakh through to The Borodin Quartet and the Kirov Ballet recieved their London debuts thanks to the Hochhausers.
Norman Lebrecht meets Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer, who looks back on a career characterised by ground breaking musical achievements and occasional political controversy.
Fischer recalls his elite musical education under communism, singing as a boy in the opera house where Gustav Mahler was once director. Being taught by both Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Hans Swarowsky during his studies in Vienna, where he initially set out to become a cellist, gave Fischer a unique musical perspective. He remembers what made both teachers great and how they impacted in his later decision to found The Budapest Festival Orchestra, alongside gifted pianist and countryman Zoltán Kocsis. Fischer describes the jealousy and bad feeling which initially greeted the new orchestra, and why his relationship with Kocsis deteriorated. He talks frankly about his discomfort with Kocsis's perceived closeness to Hungary's rightist political regime, and why he will continue to speak out against it.
Iván Fischer has always been musically motivated by change: the desire to alter the status quo and unlock the potential of the musicians he conducts - he speaks passionately about what he sees as the crisis being faced by the modern symphony orchestra, and how they need to be reinvented or face extinction.