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Riccardo Chailly

Chailly: That would be very naughty. I can give you an example of a composer who is not living but whom I respect and whose music I conduct, Bruno Maderna. A piece like Grand Aulodia written in the late 60s or early 70s sounds dated compared to Déserts. Compared to Varèse, Maderna belongs to the 60s. This is another reason why I think Varèse should be performed in a regular series alongside the official names of the late Romantic tradition.

JR: The international conducting business is a market with buyers and sellers. Generally, third quarter postings were poor and some leading investment banks think that this is only the beginning or announcement of bad news. How does this affect you as an international conductor and your business relationship with orchestra managements, agents, record companies when there is agitation in commercial markets?

Chailly: Not particularly.

JR: You always get your price?

Chailly: Well, there is a market in music and I belong to a particular one and there can be some variation, but the impact of the issues you raised earlier is not very important. More difficult, for me, has been the agitation in the daily management of my own office at the Concertgebouw where I have had to change five key personnel members. This indicates a lack of stability and lack of long-range planning.

JR: By the orchestra's management?

Chailly: Yes, because the positions can be the target of power brokers and their ambitions either here or somewhere else two years from now, rather than focusing on their current duties or a long-term committment. The only people to have stayed on for the last ten consecutive years at the Concertgebouw have been me and the president of the orchestra. We have changed artistic directors many times as well as managing directors and I find this extremely annoying because it is disorienting. Thanks to the current general manager, I have a feeling of stabiility for the years to come. This has been the hardest part of my ten years in Amsterdam.

JR: How many world class conductors can the world economy support comfortably at this point?

Chailly: I cannot give you an answer. Firstly, I am not an economist. Secondly, I do not want to start counting. I am sure that the current music market is not facing the death of the great tradition. This is another end-of-millennium perspective. I am sure that we, me included, and those younger than me will prove the contrary.

JR: Surely, you would agree that classical music is a difficult market? Filling halls is not always easy. Only recently, British violinist Nigel Kennedy's Boston recital was cancelled for lack of box office sales. Some are convinced that classical music is dying. Coverage in mainstream media is already scarce.

Chailly: All of this is very true. For one thing, there is too much touring. Touring costs millions of whatever market currency we are talking about. Touring should be highly selective and regarded as an exception. Touring creates an inflation in both economic and artistic terms. Quality suffers. This is one problem of the crisis aggravated by a lot of unnecessary recordings of bad music. The imbalance has resulted in this crisis and I am glad of it because it will force managements and recording companies to work with greater clarity and reconsider who and what should tour or record. The selection and evalutation process should be much more radical. I suspect that the millennium will contribute to the necessary changes.

JR: Do you feel challenged by the tremendous worldwide impact of Hollywood entertainment?

Chailly: No, I am not disturbed by it but I do worry about quality. Hollywood brings enormous audiences to film and television. This is an interesting way to use these media if there is a quality project, although sometimes I am disturbed by the amount of talking and the limited amount of quality.

JR: Earlier you said that there was a tendency for the young generation in music to be superficial, both as performers and as audiences. Do you think that this is linked to the ubiquitous presence of the entertainment industry and the impact of celebrity news?

Chailly: Yes, we have to stop going to listen to performers saying "I heard so-and-so's Beethoven Seventh" Apparently, the Beethoven symphony in question is secondary. This is unbearably bad. I think that a player or conductor can be a great medium for emotion and interpretation, but should not be the starting point, specially for those who want to go to a concert to hear a great composition. There is this distortion which is influenced by media and I don't like it. It means that we are talking about second-hand culture. It should be Beethoven, Mahler or Bruckner who motivates you to buy tickets for the Concertgebouw. If you tell me that the concert was a revelation, then I am happy. But it is the walk-up to the concert or how one gets close to the composition which has become perverted and is wrong. If you serve and present the music properly this phenomenon could change. I believe in talking to the public before the concerts and having open rehearsals, and explain why a conductor chooses a composer. Prepared in this manner, the public will go to hear the composition of "so-and-so" conducted by "xxxx" and not the other way around.

JR: But marketing machines of record companies and media organisations are selling stars.

Chailly: Fortunately, I work with a record company where the visual space given to the names of the composer and conductor have a coherent relationship and and not a hyped disproportion of these two elements.

Photo : Top - Paul Huf / Decca

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