Joana Mallwitz, orchestra director: “Authority is achieved with mutual respect” | Culture | EUROtoday

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With Joana Mallwitz (Hildesheim, 38 years outdated) it’s not information {that a} girl is the conductor of a serious orchestra. It is probably the most pure factor on the earth. Her extraordinary capability on the rostrum has by no means been overshadowed by sexism. And she trusts in a society the place authority just isn’t at odds with mutual respect. It is not any coincidence that she has adopted the normal Ochsentour of many German conductors, akin to Herbert von Karajan, starting his profession in provincial theaters, akin to Erfurt and Nuremberg, earlier than arriving at one of many principal orchestras within the Berlin capital.

Her inaugural live performance as head of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin on the finish of August coincided with an intense marketing campaign on billboards all through the capital. We are speaking in regards to the third main orchestra within the German metropolis, after the Philharmonic and the Staatskapelle, the place she has succeeded Christoph Eschenbach. But she can be the youngest individual to tackle the musical route of one of many principal Berlin orchestras, in addition to the primary girl.

Mallwitz has arrived in Berlin with the backing of a stable observe document in Ertfurt and Nuremberg, with high quality productions and new live performance codecs. But she has additionally landed within the German capital after triumphing on the helm of the Vienna Philharmonic on the 2020 Salzburg Festival or, extra just lately, on the helm of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Conductor Joana Mallwitz conducts the Konzerthausorchester at the Konzerthaus Berlin in a concert in September 2023.
Conductor Joana Mallwitz conducts the Konzerthausorchester on the Konzerthaus Berlin in a live performance in September 2023.
image alliance (dpa / image alliance / Getty)

In May 2023 she signed as an unique artist of Deutsche Grammophon and can launch her first album, The Kurt Weill Albumon August 2nd. But his picture can now be seen in lots of German cinemas, after the discharge of Joanna Mallwitz – Momentuma movie by Günter Atteln that recounts the 2 years earlier than her arrival in Berlin. And a movie that exhibits the behind-the-scenes of her work and her private life together with her husband, the tenor Simon Bode, and their son who was born in 2021.

Mallwitz spoke to EL PAÍS through zoom from his workplace within the Konzerthaus in Berlin. A gathering to debate his subsequent album launch, and likewise his debut, in October, on the head of the National Orchestra of Spain. But the place the German director additionally talks about her admiration for Leonard Bernstein as a director and musical disseminator, about how modifications in society are mirrored in her work, in regards to the communicative capability that orchestral conducting requires, about her profitable Expedition Concerts with the Berlin public, or her bodily resemblance to Cate Blanchett, the protagonist of WarehouseIt wouldn’t be stunning if we have been to see the following feminine conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic or the primary girl to conduct the New Year's Concert.

Ask. On his thirteenth birthday he was given a sheet music of the Unfinished Symphony, by Schubert, the place he wrote in pencil: “This is my first score and, hopefully, also the first piece I will ever conduct.” Did you already know that she could be an orchestra director?

Answer. I knew little or no about symphonic live shows or conducting. I wasn't even conscious that conducting could possibly be a job. I had performed piano and violin since I used to be very younger, and I didn't come from a household of musicians. But at that age I entered a particular program on the Hannover University of Music, the place I had the pianist Igor Levit as a classmate, and I used to be capable of develop my ardour. We labored on that Schubert symphony together with scores by Wagner and Stravinsky. And I made a decision that I might dedicate my life to finding out them. Then I used to be instructed that I must be taught to conduct. And so I began.

P. Did you could have idols and fashions?

R. I had no position fashions, as I used to be simply beginning out on this world. But I do do not forget that after I was a teen, Simone Young was appointed director on the Hamburg State Opera. And figuring out that an Australian girl was coming to Germany to conduct all the large operas was very inspiring for me. Now, after a while, I’ve gotten to know her and he or she is a really pricey colleague.

P. And do you could have them now?

R. There are many musicians that I like. But if I had to decide on an idol I might select Leonard Bernstein. I'll provide you with three causes. The first is his capability as a musician, since he was a director, but additionally a pianist and likewise a composer. The second is his conducting model, which appears instinctive and spontaneous, however includes deep research of the scores; The music leaves his head and reaches his physique by his coronary heart. And the third is his approach of treating his viewers as equals, each youngsters and adults, with that capability to speak and transmit his ardour for music.

P. How has orchestral conducting modified since Bernstein?

R. I don't assume it has modified. Orchestral conducting is about attaining the best expressive energy with authenticity.

P. And don't you discover modifications within the relationships, for instance, between the director and the musicians?

R. Yes, however what has modified is our society. Now the best way we talk issues quite a bit and authority is achieved with mutual respect. That could be very optimistic and I hope it continues. But conducting an orchestra continues to be the quickest and most complicated option to talk. Everything strikes in a short time and can’t be lowered to phrases. You will need to have a transparent thought and have succesful musicians to hold it out. Get absolutely concerned and go away your ego apart. Open your self to the vitality that an orchestra offers you with the intention to handle it.

“Orchestral conducting consists of achieving the greatest expressive power with authenticity.”

P. You are additionally fascinated by deepening your relationship with the general public. And this season, in Berlin, it has developed new live performance codecs, such because the so-called Expedition live shows (Expedition live shows). What's your goal?

R. I began the expedition live shows ten years in the past in Erfurt. They began from my intention to accompany the general public, since every live performance we undergo compositions that we will see as an journey and a journey. I additionally made them in Nuremberg and now I’ve introduced them to Berlin.

P. We are speaking about one and a half hour live shows targeted on a well known work (the Italian Symphony by Mendelssohn, Spring consecration Stravinsky, and so forth.), the place he performs the piano, explains the music and illustrates his feedback with the orchestra. And, on the finish, he performs the complete piece defined.

R. It's a approach of combating the concern that some folks have of coming to a live performance corridor. They assume that they don't know sufficient, that they gained't be capable of respect what they're going to listen to. But they don't need to know something, simply come and let themselves be carried away by the music. I aspire to make our viewers extra curious and open to experimentation. We have numerous new audiences, but additionally regulars who one way or the other uncover one thing totally different.

P. As a conductor within the German custom, I’m stunned that I’ve by no means performed an Anton Bruckner symphony.

R. I have to really feel that the time is correct for every work. And with Bruckner, that hasn't occurred but. Maybe it can occur sooner or later. I don't rule something out.

Joana Mallwitz, pictured in May 2024, at a press conference.
Joana Mallwitz, pictured in May 2024, at a press convention. image alliance (dpa/image alliance / Getty)

P. But I perceive that one of many scores he has studied probably the most is the opera Tristan and Isoldeby Richard Wagner, who has additionally by no means directed.

R. I studied it day and night time with out relaxation. And it was like a poisoned sweet that I couldn't cease consuming. I want to direct it in a number of years when I’ve a extra relaxed life, as a result of this piece is a monster. It drives you irrationally loopy.

P. He has targeted his debut recording on Deutsche Grammophon on probably the most Berlin and European compositions of Kurt Weill, together with his two symphonies and The seven capital sinshis newest collaboration with Bertolt Brecht. What attracts you to Weill’s music?

R. Weill has achieved one thing reserved for nice composers: having a recognizable sound. Anything you hear of his has an unmistakable harmonic edge and articulation. But it is usually a harsh and sincere music that represents the velocity, modernity and melancholy of the Berlin of the Weimar Republic, with that current trauma of the First World War and the sensation of what would come subsequent. It could be seen within the first motion of the Symphony No. 2which is a masterpiece, the place we hear these singable strains with sharp rhythms beneath the place the notes appear to have tooth.

P. The subsequent season could have a number of necessary debuts, such because the Metropolitan Opera in New York or the Berlin Philharmonic. But additionally, in October, with the National Orchestra of Spain, the place he’ll conduct a program just like the one in Berlin with the overture of War and peaceby Prokofiev, the symphony of Matias the painterby Hindemith, and It was price itby Ravel. What connection do these items have?

R. These are works the place historical past and society are mirrored in artwork. In Hindemith's symphony, the artist is confronted with repression, and in Ravel, the traumatic experiences of battle. In Prokofiev, the theme is identical. I’m fascinated by interesting to the magical energy of music to information us by troublesome instances and to deliver the viewers nearer to feelings from totally different eras, whether or not they’re 100 or 200 years in the past and even sooner or later. These are three works that join folks and inform tales about folks.

I’m fascinated by interesting to the magical energy of music to information us by troublesome instances and produce the viewers nearer to feelings from totally different eras, whether or not they’re 100 or 200 years in the past and even sooner or later.”

P. This season he has gone from Nuremberg to Berlin, as head of the Konzerthausorchester, a metropolis with seven main orchestras and three opera homes, the place colleagues akin to Kirill Petrenko and Christian Thielemann work. How has the change been and what relationship do you could have together with his colleagues?

RI like being in Berlin and taking part a bit in its superb musical life. It is a superb metropolis the place you could have distinctive issues to do and likewise quite a bit to select from. And I do know each Petrenko and Thielemann personally and admire them very a lot. I’ve been to live shows of each of them and when Petrenko was conducting the Bavarian State Opera I went many instances to see their rehearsals.

P. You have confessed that you’re a very personal one that is intimidated by a room full of individuals. But his work has led to important public publicity. You began this season by showing on billboards throughout Berlin and the documentary Günter Atteln filmed about you is displaying in dozens of cinemas throughout Germany. How do you mix one thing like that?

R. Public talking is all the time anxious, as I’m an introverted and reflective individual by nature. But that’s good for a conductor. My principal job is to check scores alone, I learn music for a lot of hours in silence and every thing occurs inside my head. And on the similar time, my job includes being in big areas with many individuals. But I’m vastly helped by the vitality of the viewers. I attempt to internalize it and attempt to join it with the music. It is an unbelievable expertise, however I all the time find yourself exhausted.

P. Have you seen the documentary?

R. Yes, in fact. Günter Atteln is a movie director I do know effectively and I’ve numerous religion in his work. That's why it was potential for him to accompany me for 3 years together with his digicam.

P. And the film Yesr? At the start of the season, the comparisons (fully inaccurate from my perspective) between you and the protagonist of Todd Field's movie have been very quite a few.

R. I feel Cate Blanchett is a good actress and I've all the time been instructed that our hair is a bit alike. But I haven't been capable of see the film but.

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