French conductor and contralto Nathalie Stutzmann visits Orchestra Hall on October 12, 13 and 14 to conduct the Minnesota Orchestra in music by Prokofiev, Mozart and Beethoven. We’ve asked her a few questions about her early musical memories, life as a traveling musician, her hobbies and upcoming projects, and the music she conducts here this weekend.
How did you get your start in music?
I grew up in a family of singers, and there was always music at home and at my grandparents’ home. Whether it was someone playing the piano or putting on the radio or a disc, there was always music around, so I was permanently immersed right from the childhood and it already fascintated me.
What are some of your favorite spots to travel for performances?
It has to do with the beauty of the acoustics: Carnegie Hall, Berlin’s Philharmonie, Vienna’s Musikverein, Amsterdam’s Concergebouw and São Paulo’s Sala São Paulo—they all have wonderful acoustics! When I travel for performances, I also like to find some free time to simply walk into the city to feel the atmosphere, the people, eat local food if possible and soak up the atmosphere of real life.
Tell us a bit about your Minnesota Orchestra this week with Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony.
Prokofiev's Classical Symphony and Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony are related by the fact that Haydn was the master teacher of Beethoven, and Prokofiev was truly inspired by Haydn to write his Classical Symphony. They are two very joyful, happy works. Beethoven was very much in love at the time he wrote his Fourth Symphony, of a countess named Therese, and Prokofiev was very cheery in his way of imagining the use of the classical period writing, referring to Mozart and Haydn.
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is also quite cheerful—this is actually quite a bright programme!—and of course there’s the Adagio, which is a particularly beautiful and moving moment and one of the great summits of Mozart’s meditative music. I discovered it when I was very young and I really loved this passage as well as the Beethoven symphonies by Herbert von Karajan. I also loved Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, which I discovered soon after Peter and the Wolf.
Watch Nathalie Stutzmann conduct Beethoven’s Third Symphony.
When you get a chance to attend a concert as an audience member, what do you love to listen to?
As a member of the audience, I like to go everywhere, to symphonic concerts, to operas, to listen to recitals, string quartets... Each genre mutually contributes to one another, and I think it’s quite a pity that some audiences only go to one type of concert. Music is so vast, and that’s what’s great! And of course, I also try to listen to artists or conductors who take risks and arouse emotions in me, rather than people who are too cautious and not totally invested in their role of interpreter.
What do you enjoy doing while away from the concert hall?
I love to drive boats on the sea in summer, and I would love to play golf again but I don’t have time for it anymore.
We hear that your dog has a unique name.
Yep—Pamina! Here’s a photo of us.
Do you have any advice for aspiring conductors?
If your will to conduct is not burning in you, just do something else because it's really tough! And conducting is about sharing, inspiring, communicating, much more than just giving orders.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
I’m just coming from Washington where I conducted the National Symphony. I’ll return to the U.S. next year, to the Philadelphia Orchestra and Houston Symphony, and in following seasons to the San Francisco Symphony and St. Louis Symphony. I have many projects with great European orchestras including the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Konzerthausorchester Berlin and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic. This is also my first season as Principal Guest Conductor of RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland in Dublin, and I’m Associate Artist of São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (Osesp). I will open the famous French opera festival Les Chorégies d’Orange in 2018 conducting Boito’s Mefistofele with Erwin Schrott in the lead role. And my new recording of Italian arias, Quella Fiamma!, will be released under Warner/Erato in just a few days, on October 27!
Nathalie Stutzmann conducts the Minnesota Orchestra in Guarantors’ Week: Beethoven and Prokofiev on October 12, 13 and 14. For more information on these concerts, visit minnesotaorchestra.org.
For more about Nathalie Stutzmann, visit askonasholt.co.uk or nathaliestutzmann.com.