© 2024 Interlochen
CLASSICAL IPR | 88.7 FM Interlochen | 94.7 FM Traverse City | 88.5 FM Mackinaw City IPR NEWS | 91.5 FM Traverse City | 90.1 FM Harbor Springs/Petoskey | 89.7 FM Manistee/Ludington
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'It's a constant conversation': Conductor Delyana Lazarova on WYSO and learning Brahms

Conductor Delyana Lazarova leads WYSO in their first concert of the the season at Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Conductor Delyana Lazarova leads WYSO in their first concert of the the season at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Conductor Delyana Lazarova will lead Interlochen's World Youth Symphony Orchestra in music of Anna Clyne, Johannes Brahms and Benjamin Britten.

Conductor Delyana Lazarova views herself as a musician among peers. Her work is built on collaboration, openness, and a keen sensitivity to an orchestra's unique sound and character. She is globally admired for her skill in communicating musical nuances to an ensemble and fostering an environment where music can flourish naturally.

This Sunday, Lazarova launches the World Youth Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) into their first concert at Interlochen Center for the Arts with a program that includes Johannes Brahms's Academic Festival Overture, Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" and "Abstractions" by Anna Clyne.

Delyana Lazarova recently visited IPR to discuss her work with this year's WYSO musicians and their upcoming concert at Kresge Auditorium on Sunday, June 30 at 7:30 p.m.

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

Attend the concert in person or listen to the live broadcast on Classical IPR.

The concert and live broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Kate Botello: And you have just arrived at IPR from the very first WYSO rehearsal of the season. How did it go?

Delyana Lazarova: There are so many fantastic young players, and the energy in the room was just really something very special. I'm so looking forward to after this first rehearsal when we've read through all of the pieces. They were just so already into [the music] and wanting to play.

KB: Have you worked with young players before?

DL: Yes, I have actually. I was the assistant conductor at the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester for three years, as well as the music director of the Hallé Youth Orchestra. I love working with young musicians – it's incomparable.

KB: Now, you've said that you're “a musician among musicians.” How does that affect the way that you conduct or work with the orchestra?

DL: I was a violinist myself, and I've been on the other side. So it feels really familiar. I know the feeling. I always felt, as a conductor, that I’m still a musician, and I would like to have this openness during rehearsals so that we feel that everyone is included and that everyone is on the same page. We all are doing this the same way and we are all together,rather than this is my way.

KB: We have three pieces to talk about that are coming up in this concert. Let's first start with Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture. What would you like them to take away from this piece?

DL: Well, I love Brahms. And this is one of his pieces that he kind of looked at with a smile. He wrote it for Breslau University when they kind of gave him an honorary doctoral degree, and they even jokingly asked him if he could write a doctoral symphony for them. But of course, he just did this overture. And the overture is full of school songs; it has this youthfulness. But what I would like for us to work on this week is to find this Brahmsian sound… that even in this slightly lighter piece, there is still depth and a special way of producing the sound.

In general, that's what I'm going for. These three pieces on the program, we're going to talk about the other two, of course, but they have completely different sound worlds. And the orchestra has to put three different hats for these three different pieces… almost visiting three different planets.

KB: What is the “Brahmsian” sound? What do you mean by that?

DL: Well, it's this Germanic sound of “much more.” For example, for the string players, much more eerie. In the string [section], much more depth. And it's a completely different thing to have an accent in Brahms, which is much heavier and it takes a bit of time. To understand the different language of each composer – why they're using the same signs that are on the page, the same notes, the same dynamics – means slightly different things.

Conductor Delyana Lazarova visits IPR's Studio B for a pre-concert interview.
Scott Clemens
Conductor Delyana Lazarova visits IPR's Studio B for a pre-concert interview.

KB: Now, every conductor has their own personal stamp they may put on each piece that they work with. What's your personal stamp on this Brahms?

DL: It will very much depend on our collaboration with the orchestra. It will be our stamp. I don't want to say it will be my stamp. And after the first reading today, I loved so much of what they've been giving me. Because it's always a two-way street. As a conductor, of course, we have an idea and we want and can give that idea to the orchestra, but it is a constant conversation.

It's like I give one suggestion and I see how they take it, or they give me a suggestion. AThis is one of the things of working with a professional orchestra. And with these young [musicians], it's wonderful to see when they also have something to give back.

KB: Next on the program, we have the Benjamin Britten Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. And you have young people doing this piece.

DL: Yeah, it's their piece, basically. It's such a wonderful piece. I love this Britten because it's written with so much imagination and so much love for each of the instruments. Each group and each section is showcased in such a fantastic way, and it's written so well for them.

Britten takes the inspiration for the main theme from Henry Purcell. And then he makes little variations featuring the different orchestra sections. It's kind of a connection to Brahms who takes, for example, a lot of the student songs and then incorporates them into his overture. So there is a little connection – all of these pieces on the program are connected through being inspired by something else.

KB: You talked about the three different planets. So what is the Benjamin Britten planet that we need to be on for this?

DL: Well, the piece was written in the 1930s. Basically whatever we see on the page is quite different than, for example, what we see on the page from Brahms written in 1881/82. So again, the accents are much sharper, [and] I would say that the instrumentation and some of the use of the instruments were inspired also a little bit by Stravinsky.

We have this pointedness and kind of shortness in a lot of the themes and the variations. The sound is quite different as well as the orchestration is much bigger. The ensemble is larger and it's quite a complexly written piece, especially in the last part of the piece when the fugue comes in and then suddenly we have this juxtaposition of two of the themes.

The strings are playing in three [beats], the brass is playing in two [beats], and all of them come together in this really jubilant and fantastically high moment of the whole piece. Even after the first rehearsal I'm very much looking forward to working out the details and really mastering these moments with the orchestra.

KB: Oh, this is wonderful. And they're getting such a broad education, even with just these three pieces.

DL: Yes, I really, I really hope we get the language of each composer because as musicians, of course, we come from different countries, from different places, but we have to perform so many pieces that are not written in our country. So I believe we cannot be tourists in these pieces. We have to go deep and try to understand the language and be natives as much as possible. We'll be German this week, we'll be British this week, and we'll be a little bit American British also, with Anna Clyne.

KB: This “Young Person's Guide” is often done with a narrator. You've opted to go without a narrator. Why did you choose it that way?

DL: Of course, the narrator is so wonderful, but then the music has to stop every time. And I feel that the music is so evocative on its own – it's so clear which section is included – I just wanted us to tell the story.

KB: Our last piece is “Abstractions” by Anna Klein. Another type of musical language entirely.

DL: Yes the piece was written a few years ago in 2016, I think, and it's a suite of five movements based on five the Baltimore Museum of Art. It's interesting because Anna Clyne describes that she didn't want to put this piece into music. She wanted to convey what feelings the person who's looking at these pieces has. It's brilliant work. Each of these movements is so different from one another. It brings this certain abstract way of looking at music as a piece of art in certain ways.

KB: So each thing is inspired by something else. So “Abstractions” is based on visual art. What would you like them to take away from this musically? And what is her [Anna Clyne’s] language like?

DL: Well, reading new pieces is quite intriguing, I have to say. I love contemporary pieces because this is the music of our life, basically. It's the soundtrack of our life. Pieces written now. And I am a huge fan of Anna Clyne’'s music. I've worked with her before, and the sound that we will be producing needs a bigger palette of sounds. Each of these movements that we'll be working on will need slightly different [ways] of producing the sound. One thing that I would love for us to work on this week is listening to each other… just to become a huge chamber ensemble where everyone responds to everyone, and everyone is connected.

And we understand for each of the pieces, how and why certain things are connected and which group is connected to the next one and how we are playing off of each other. If we can do that, I will be the happiest conductor on earth.

KB: If you have one big wish for your WYSO, what would that be?

DL: Oh, to play with all their heart and with much love.

Scott Clemens is Classical IPR's Digital Content Producer and host of Afternoon Classical.