THE Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) returns to Eden Court this weekend with a programme of epically Romantic music from Wagner, Massenet and Brahms.
Wielding the baton is one of classical music’s rising stars of the conductor’s podium, Polish-born Michal Nesterowicz.
Since winning the Cadaqués Orchestra European Conducting Competition in 2008, Nesterowicz has gone on to conduct many of the major orchestras in Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Poland and the UK, as well as numerous other leading European ensembles.
That former enfant terrible of the classical world, Nigel Kennedy, has been stirring up controversy recently by suggesting conductors are "over-rated". As the man with the baton, what would you say in response?
It is difficult for me to agree with this view, but I remember well, the first time I heard Vivaldi’s Four Seasons recorded by Nigel and English Chamber Orchestra. It was like being hit by lightning. It was new, different, surprising, and each successive time, becoming more beautiful. After more than 15 years since the release of the CD, it continues to be the pattern of reference for many artists. Independence and freedom of creation are values desired by each one of us. Only then are we happy.
When did you develop an interest in music and conducting?
I graduated from high school playing the violin and I attended the orchestra rehearsals. Then, as a result of some confusion and my own insolence, I stood in front of the orchestra. At the end, during the concert, I was given an opportunity to conduct a short five minutes piece by Mirek Gasieniec from Wroclaw. This experience began the chain of events which, through conducting studies, my own string orchestra with colleagues, and various competitions, led me to where I am today.
How would you describe your own style as a conductor?
During the concerts: expressive. During the rehearsals: intense. Bernstein once said: "You have to have knowledge, you have to have taste ... but above all that, the main thing that counts is the natural instinct that comes from the spirit." And that is what I go for, every time I go out on stage.
What has been the biggest challenge for yourself as a conductor?
Different at different stages. My first rehearsal with a professional orchestra was frightening. It is like going to a foreign land and you are sure that you know the language — then a local person speaks to you, and it takes a while for your knowledge to win over you emotions.
Furthermore, every concert and every rehearsal has that "something". While conducting, you do not experience a borderline. You make instinctive and quick decisions. In an instant, music can change you into a different person. Dealing with this element is a constant challenge.
The climax of your Eden Court programme is Brahms’ First Symphony (or Beethoven’s Tenth as it has been called). What makes this piece of music special?
Brahms proved that the form of the symphony did not end with Beethoven’s Symphony No.9. Using the achievements of Romanticism, he opened the next huge chapter in which, under the formal assumptions, there was a space for unrestricted thought.
Especially since winning the Cadaqués Orchestra European Conducting Competition you have conducted orchestras in many different countries and cities. Do different places have different musical characteristics?
This is one of the most interesting side-effects in the life of an orchestra conductor. Travelling, observing and learning. I will be in Glasgow for the first time and I am truly excited about it. The sound of the RSNO is very impressive.
Would you fancy dipping a toe into other musical areas?
I have experienced such adventures many times in the past. A few years ago, I intensively recorded film music. I conducted the concert for over 100,000 people gathered at the Gdansk shipyard with Jean Michel Jarre. I also played with musicians playing different styles ranging from rock to electronic music.
Personally, in addition to classical music, the style closest to me is jazz. I still maintain contact with this by conducting projects for (Cuban alto saxophonist) Paquito D’Rivera and (Dominican pianist and composer) Michael Camilo.
• Michal Nesterowicz conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra at the Empire Theatre, Eden Court, this on Friday 13th September at 8pm.
Wagner: Prelude to Die Meistersinger
Massenet: Méditation from Thais
Wagner: Overture to Tannhäuser
Brahms: Symphony No.1