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From the CSO to WYSO with conductor Erina Yashima

Erina Yashima poses with her baton.

Erina Yashima, first kapellmeister at the Komische Oper Berlin, will lead WYSO this weekend in Sergei Rachmaninoff's "The Rock" and Florence Price's Symphony No. 1.

Erina Yashima, conductor and first kapellmeister at the Komische Oper Berlin, will take the stage with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

This is her first visit to Interlochen Center for the Arts, but it's not the first time she's been in the Great Lakes region.

In addition to guest appearances around the world and three years as the Philadelphia Orchestra's assistant conductor, Yashima has spent time across Lake Michigan working closely with Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony.

Yashima joined Classical IPR host Keith Brown to talk about her time at Interlochen and this week's repertoire.

Listen to the full interview or read the edited transcript below.

See Yashima conduct WYSO in person at Kresge Auditorium or listen to IPR’s live broadcast.

The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 16.

KB: I understand it's your very first time here. How have you found it so far?

EY: It's wonderful to be here. The atmosphere is very special. It's very unique. And to be in the middle of nature, and just next to a lake, it's absolutely wonderful to have this remote place where you can really focus on music without being distracted by city noises and everything.

KB: You're coming to us from your first rehearsal with WYSO. What was it like to work with Interlochen's young musicians for the first time?

EY: It's very special. I love to work with young musicians. It's different, for sure — I have to adjust. But they are all incredibly talented musicians — very experienced in orchestra playing for their age, which is amazing, and they're very, very attentive. And we're just discovering the music during the rehearsals. It's very fun. There's just this special spirit of playing something for the first time that makes it very special. It's like the first love.

KB: Can you tell us about the two large pieces on the program, Sergei Rachmaninoff's "The Rock" and Florence Price's Symphony No. 1?

"The Rock" has an epigraph — like a motto — which is based on a poem by the Russian poet Lermontov. It basically says, "the cloud is leaning on the breast of a rock," and it's a very poetic, symbolic, metaphoric picture.

But later, Rachmaninoff sent this score to Anton Chekhov, saying that this piece was based on his short story, "On the Way." The story is that there's a snowstorm and a roadside inn, and a young woman and middle-aged men get stuck. And then there is this encounter, and they're both coming from different directions and going into different directions, which is very interesting. The man tells the story, basically, of his life and opinions about his experiences.

The piece starts with a very dark theme. And I hope the audience will recognize that that theme in it, which is very slow, comes back later in different shapes in the middle of the piece, which is really interesting. It's actually hard to notice if you don't know because it's four times as fast and just part of the theme at the beginning. But it just develops, and I think it's amazing how Rachmaninoff, at such a young age, already had this sophisticated way of developing the themes. And then there's this flute theme that comes, also right at the beginning, which is very youthful, and that is the young woman. And then from these two characters, everything evolves. It's very, very dramatic. You hear the snowstorm and a huge dramatic climax, and then the story ends. The storm is over, and she has to leave and he also. But she disappears basically.

Florence Price's Symphony No. 1 was the first work by an African-American woman that was played by a major orchestra. And that major orchestra was no less than the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is pretty amazing — just across the lake from here, very close. Florence Price won a competition for composers with her first symphony, and that also caught the attention of the music director, Frederick Stock, who premiered the piece.

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Keith Brown is the host of Matinee Classics and the host and producer of GAMEPLAY.