Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Always in love": Great Dane bounds into the BBC

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales has just announced that its new principal conductor from September 2012 will be the young Danish maestro Thomas Søndergård. He has an impressive track record, having been principal conductor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra - and by all accounts the heat is on. Forget Nordic cool with this guy around. Critics have already spoken of his "piercing intelligence and intense passion" and called him "a sensation". I'm looking forward to seeing him in action - and another Thomas not many miles from here, being a fluent Danish speaker, will no doubt bound in at the first possible opportunity for a man-to-man conversation that the rest of us can't understand. In the picture: Søndergård with some of the BBCNOW principal players. Meanwhile, here's a little Q&A from the orchestra, in which their new top man says he is always in love...

Q: What are you most looking forward to about your new role with BBC National Orchestra of Wales?

TS: I am really look forward to getting to know the orchestra better and exploring new music as well as the great standard repertoire with them.

Q: Who are your favourite composers and why?

TS: It varies, of course, but I have always greatly admired Sibelius.  His symphonies give me such pleasure to work with - especially the final two; 6 and 7. Number 7 will always have a special place in my heart; to be able to describe the array of life's emotions - magic, sorrow, joy etc. - in just 20 minutes is quite extraordinary, and what's more he does it in such a personal way. I recently discovered that he finishes the symphony with a harmonic reference to his own "Valse triste". I am also interested in the contemporary repertoire and that of B. Tommy Andersson and Magnus Lindberg are among my absolute favourites.

Q: What is your favourite moment in your career so far?

TS: In my former years as a percussionist, I performed Mahler's Symphony No.9 twice with EUYO and Haitink in the Concertgebouw, where I stepped in for a player with a broken leg. I was there visiting my friends and Haitink saw me in the rehearsal studying the score, and asked me to step in. I only had a small part to play but this worked out better for me - as it meant I could watch Haitink all the more closely. There was an incredible contact between him and the orchestra. It was the last project for many of the players and the music-making from all was just so touching; we all knew that we would never experience anything like it again in our lives.

Q: Do you enjoy any other styles of music other than classical and if so, what?

TS: I grew up listening to Modern Jazz which I love, and I started listening to Salsa 20 years ago - it's great at parties!

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

TS: I can quite easily travel long distances just to eat good food. I also love to swim in the sea all year round - and if I can combine the two of them... heaven!

Q: Who in the classical music world do you most admire?

TS: Paavo Berglund means a lot to me - he's conducted me many times. I've learnt so much from watching him working, particularly with string sound and phrasing.

Q: Which six words best describe you?

TS: Passionate, enthusiastic, happy, curious, communicative and…always in love!