Conductor Jader Bignamini on the DSO, WYSO and a weekend of monumental works
Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director and World Youth Symphony Orchestra guest conductor Jader Bignamini talked with IPR about both ensembles' upcoming concerts.
It's going to be a big weekend for orchestra lovers at Interlochen Arts Camp — on Saturday, the DSO will perform works by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky and Giuseppe Verdi, and on Sunday, DSO musicians will join WYSO for a side-by-side performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1.
DSO music director and in-demand conductor Jader Bignamini will take the podium for both concerts.
He spoke with Classical IPR's Nancy Deneen about his work with young musicians and the four masterworks he'll bring to the Kresge Auditorium this weekend.
Listen to the full interview or read the edited transcript below.
Listen to IPR's live broadcasts of both concerts, or see Bignamini and the DSO in person on Saturday, July 22, and WYSO on Sunday, July 23.
Both concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. EST.
ND: How has it been working with the students in the World Youth Symphony Orchestra this week?
JB: It’s been a great week. We work so hard because the program is a big challenge, but every day the students are better and better and they want to be better and better. This is the perfect attitude to have a great performance.
ND: What do you hope the students will gain from the opportunity to play alongside professionals?
JB: I think that they can understand the level that they can achieve through their talent, their passion and their hard work. Because, of course, the talent is nothing without hard work and passion. And also, the attitude is so important. The DSO musicians have an incredible, positive attitude, and they want to be better and better, exactly like young musicians.
ND: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has a long relationship with Interlochen Center for the Arts going back to the 1960s. This weekend, you bring them back to northern Michigan with music by Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Stravinsky. What do you want to convey to the audience when the DSO returns this Saturday night?
JB: This program is so sparkling. It’s a program around the dance. We have Verdi’s “Macbeth” ballet. We have “Swan Lake” by Tchaikovsky, one of the most famous ballets. And then we have Stravinsky — “The Firebird.”
So all the pieces are around the world of the dance, the ballet. But they are great pieces of music and so difficult, too. Tchaikovsky, that is probably one of the most famous parts of the program, but it's very difficult and sometimes very virtuosic. We have several soloistic parts — principal violin, principal oboe, principal cello. "The Firebird," of course, is probably the most difficult part of the concert. "Macbeth," too, is a very symphonic piece. It was a demonstration by Verdi that he was able to compose symphonic music.
My goal is to show all the talent that we have in our incredible orchestra, and I think the audience will be able to listen to the great sound of the DSO. We have an incredible and very flexible orchestra. They are able to play every kind of music. And this program has a particular sparkle, but it’s so different because we have, of course, Verdi, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky — different kinds of music around ballet, but the orchestra plays everything in the right way.
ND: Each week of the summer, many students experience well-known pieces for the first time as members of WYSO. What's it like to introduce them to a work as famous as Mahler's Symphony No. 1?
JB: Usually when I work with musicians — not just young musicians, but every time I work with an orchestra — I try to give the musicians some images to understand the right sound, the right color, the right accents or crescendos and diminuendos.
This symphony in particular speaks about nature, and this is probably one of the most perfect places to play it. And, of course, it’s a very, very incredible piece of music. So I introduced this piece speaking about nature and the style of Mahler because it's incredibly dense. We may have mezzo forte for woodwinds, forte for strings, piano for brass, accents here and there. It’s not like, for example, Beethoven, where maybe you have forte or fortissimo for everyone. It's very different, and they understand that they have to be very precise to follow the indications of the composer and very sensitive. They are talented musicians, and they have to use their sensibility to understand the music deeper and deeper and to find the connection with me and with the composer. It's hard work, but I think it will be very good.
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