Gustav Mahler Symphony No. 9. First movement [excerpt]. Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Carlo Maria Giulini. Deutsche Grammophon 437 467-2.
Giuseppe Verdi Messa Da Requiem “Lacrymosa” [excerpt]. Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala. Victor De Sabata. Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano. Oralia Dominguez, mezzo soprano, Giuseppe Di Stefano, tenor. Cesare Siepi, bass. RM 11.930.
Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral.” First movement [excerpt]. Orchestre Nationale de France. Daniele Gatti.
Giuseppe Verdi Falstaff. Act III Scene 1 [excerpt]. NBC Symphony Orchestra. Robert Shaw Chorale. Arturo Toscanini. Giuseppe Valdengo, baritone; Nan Merriman, mezzo soprano; Herva Nelli, soprano; Frank Guarrera, baritone; Cloe Elmo, mezzo soprano, Teresa Stich-Randall, soprano. RCA 60251.
Keith Jarrett The Köln Concert, Part I [excerpt]. Keith Jarrett, piano. ECM 422 810 067-2.
Richard Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Act III Prelude [excerpt]. Orchestre Nationale de France. Daniele Gatti.
GILBERT KAPLAN: Welcome back to “Mad About Music” with my guest today, the Music Director of the Orchestre National de France and the Chief Conductor of the Zurich Opera, Daniele Gatti. He burst on the music scene in his 20’s and rapidly was tapped to head leading orchestras and opera houses around the world, Music Director in London of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. He was invited at a young age to the Bayreuth Wagner Festival and has since led all the leading orchestras in America. As one of the principal conductors the Vienna Philharmonic turns to, a few weeks ago he was tapped to conduct a performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony on May 18th, 100 years ago to the day of Mahler’s death. “Mad About Music” is on location in Vienna in the midst of rehearsals for this historic concert. Daniele Gatti, welcome to “Mad About Music.”
DANIELE GATTI: Thank you.
KAPLAN: Now, let’s begin with your upcoming performance of Mahler’s Ninth. This is a piece you know well, but in two days you will perform it on the very day Mahler died 100 years ago. What impact, knowing that, will it have on your interpretation, do you think?
GATTI: Thank you, Gil, about that, but I do not believe that is a piece that I know very well. I think a composition like Mahler Nine is an endless score. I began to conduct this piece when I was 35, 36, not so young in a way, considering the young conductors today approach this composition very early. And it’s a score that belongs to me and to my life, and I think it has to really respond to a particular moment of your life.
KAPLAN: But what I was reaching for is that this is a big moment, this is the day Mahler died 100 years ago, and I was asking whether this might influence you in some way. Let me put the question a little bit differently. This is a symphony often called one of Mahler’s farewell pieces. And Mahler experts and even Mahler himself have suggested a multitude of farewells to be found in the Ninth: farewell to tonality, to youth, to the 19th century—even to life itself. I mean, do you find any evidence of this sort of thing in the music, and if you do, how does it shape your own interpretation?
GATTI: I think that all these farewells are right. There is a sense of eternity in the last movement, of course. It starts in the drama, in the darkness, and then it’s open the gate of heaven - but I keep the music for itself.
KAPLAN: So you’re not really influenced by all this so-called programmatic aspects of it that people talk about?
GATTI: Yes, that could be interesting, but how can you perform in that? I mean, I am more interested to create tension in the music to pass emotions to the audience. But what is important for an audience that comes to have a live evening, I think, and emotion, above all emotion, the relation inside, and the drama, and the structure -
KAPLAN: The music must speak for itself?
GATTI: For my opinion, yes.
KAPLAN: All right. Well, you have picked this particular piece, Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, as one of the pieces on your list, it’s your first piece, and I see that the record you’ve picked is by Giulini. Is there a particular reason for Giulini?
GATTI: Yes. Yes, it is. Because I approached as I said to you quite late this symphony, but this symphony it was in my heart since I was 20 - 19. And I knew some performances, Karajan, I knew Bruno Walter, I knew Mitropoulos with New York, and I remember very well, it was in 1995, I was in Chicago, conducting Simon Boccanegra at the Lyric Opera. I was alone there and I went to Tower Records and I bought the Mahler Nine of Giulini, and I listened to the symphony. I was completely shocked above all the first movement and I was so shocked, that it was 10 o’clock in the evening, that then I picked up the phone and I rang to Giulini directly.
KAPLAN: You knew him?
GATTI: Yes, I knew him. I had his number, and I rang to him. It was essentially, ‘Yes?’, because Giulini was very easy to approach, and I said, ‘Maestro, this is Daniele, I’m in Chicago and I just finished to listen to your - I couldn’t resist to talk to you, and to say not more than a simple thank you.’ ‘But why, you phone me from Chicago, you’re every kind.’ ‘No, Maestro, you gave to me, I think this afternoon and this evening I grew up much more after listening to you.’ And so, this was a little story between me and him. Giulini because it remains so attached to me this experience when I was alone in Chicago, and to listen to that record, I couldn’t resist to bring him in.
KAPLAN: An excerpt from the first movement of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Carlo Maria Giulini on the podium, the first selection of my guest today on “Mad About Music,” the Music Director of the Orchestre National de France and Chief Conductor of the Zurich Opera, Daniele Gatti. Now, you’re talking about interpretation and among today’s conductors it often seems that many feel they have to put their stamp on a piece of music. So if you’re playing a well-known symphony, it’s not good enough just to play it and perhaps as the composer wrote it. But sometimes interpretations go so far that they don’t reflect anymore the composer’s intentions. What’s your view about this?
GATTI: I agree with you because sometimes interpretations are too much eclectic and then it becomes also odd. Maybe we discover new ways, we open some windows on that. But, why is difficult to do again Beethoven symphonies today or the G minor of Mozart? The problem is that we have to communicate to an audience and we must ask as a return a sort of emotion. Rather than to stay on stage and to demonstrate to the critics that I arrived with a particular new idea, I prefer that people of the audience at the end could come to me and say, ‘I really was without breath through all the symphony, I don’t know what I heard, if it was this interpretation in this way or the other way, but for two hours I just forgot everything and I was captured by the music.’ That’s for me the maximum compliment.
KAPLAN: That’s a very good answer. All right, let’s turn back to your musical selections and I see the Verdi Requiem is next. How often have you conducted it?
GATTI: Oh, I began in 1990 in Spoleto, for a concert in the Duomo Square. At that time I was 28, and probably I was too young, but it was good to just to have in front of me such a monument of music, and then I conducted it every 3, 4 years, so I did probably 8, 9 times, 10, with some repetition here and there.
KAPLAN: You chose a recording by Victor de Sabata. Is that purposely?
GATTI: De Sabata is an interesting conductor for me, and also I remember which I was very fond of his recording of his Requiem, because I was very young, it was one of the first recordings I heard. And the cast was excellent, the orchestra of La Scala, and also I was very attracted about that, I think it’s not very known recording. We can talk about Karajan – above all the Karajan in ‘66 at La Scala was outstanding - of course Toscanini, and Abbado, Muti, and this tradition of that. De Sabata had something special in that - I think in listening the audience could listen that he was always on the point in music. People ask me if it is a piece of really sacred music, a theatrical music, or is an opera, let’s talk about that. Sometimes I, come on, I don’t know, I’m completely naked in front of a question like that because it’s an aesthetical question. If I have to consider a sacred piece that moves me a lot, the Verdi Requiem is probably the piece of music that is touching me mostly.
KAPLAN: An excerpt from Verdi’s Requiem, the orchestra, chorus and soloists of La Scala lead by Victor de Sabata, music chosen by my guest today on “Mad About Music,” the Music Director of the Orchestre National de France and the Chief Conductor of the Zurich Opera, Daniele Gatti. When we return, we’ll talk about the complex relationship between the conductor and the orchestra.
This is Gilbert Kaplan with my guest today on “Mad About Music,” the Music Director of the Orchestre National de France and the Chief Conductor of the Zurich Opera, Daniele Gatti. All right, let’s talk about the relationship between the conductor and the orchestra, a relationship, as you know, that has many tricky issues, including power, psychology, even love-hate some say. Now, things can go wrong in this relationship and the question I always ask conductors who appear on “Mad About Music” is just this: What is it that the conductor sometimes does that can cause this relationship to have trouble, to turn sour?
GATTI: First of all, I believe that the conductor must be really, really deeply prepared every time he goes in front of an orchestra, as a first concert, as a last concert, if we talk about a relationship between music director and his orchestra. So this is out of the question.
KAPLAN: Well sometimes conductors just tell stories of their experience.
GATTI: Ah, well, well - I’m talking about beyond the point. Not talking about funny stories or jokes, I’m just talking if someone needs just to stop the rehearsal to explain how technically could be to resolve the problem, how technically could be resolved a passage, or a balance in the orchestration. There are other pieces where it’s better just to play through. It depends - it depends also the moment, if it’s at the beginning of the rehearsal, in the middle or at the end of the rehearsal. And you have the worst of the orchestra, if it’s a moment just to insist on that or just to let slip that night and then to return the next day. There is not a solution for this because -
KAPLAN: Well, have you ever had the experience where you wanted the orchestra to do something and they really didn’t want to do it, it just didn’t make sense to them.
GATTI: No, but I think that, I’m not talking against orchestras, of course, but the orchestra sometimes has to understand to my opinion, that the conductor has a vision of the opera. Of course the orchestra has to, but if the conductor takes the responsibility to do something the orchestra must be really honest and to be part of that, and not to play against because they think that it’s not good. In that moment they are part of the show, on stage they play for an audience, they must be really with the conductor until the last note. Then they can say, well we prefer not to work anymore with this conductor because in terms of personality, of musical style, but just during the rehearsal and to make fight for that, I don’t think its right.
KAPLAN: All right, now the audience watches the conductor, and they assume that he has real control over what’s happening on the stage. Of course things can go wrong because you’re not playing the instruments yourself. Can you think of any scary moments you lived through where something happened beyond your control and it gave you a nightmare, I mean?
GATTI: Well, thank god probably it’s happened in my life twice, not more.
KAPLAN: Well you’re very lucky.
GATTI: Once it was, I can say to you, during a concert at the last dance of the Rite of Spring, the timpani it was completely out – really the last 20 bars.
KAPLAN: It must have been a nightmare.
GATTI: My god, it was a nightmare. But I tried to stop to listen to the timpani and to have the timpani in my head without listening to him, so I was able – because also I was conducting without score on that occasion – and the timpani was in my head, and not through my ear, so I was able not to lose any beat and we arrived together, and the timpani arrives not really together, but then, but it was the last –
KAPLAN: Very scary. Now, I have found that conductors are often their own toughest critics. And I’m curious, how many performances, after they’re over, do you feel: this really was great? Because so often the audience loves it, the orchestra loves it, the critics love it, but the conductor remembers that little moment he didn’t do as well as he should. And how many times do you walk off the stage thinking, ‘I just could never do it much better than this?’
GATTI: Almost none.
KAPLAN: Almost none.
GATTI: Almost none - because when I finish the music is still reverberating in me. I go out, I take a glass of water, and I return to the applause, and people say to me, ‘but why you are not smiling,’ these are the critics, friends say to me, ‘you come on stage and you are always…’ and I try to explain to them it is not against the audience, because I’m still with the music inside me and for me it’s difficult after the Götterdämmerung march, funeral march to smile to everybody, I’m very happy that you enjoyed the concert, but I’m still there. And it’s a diminution for me because I’m not able to judge objectively the evening. Maybe if I listen after two or three days to the record there is something I will say, ‘wow, it’s good, other parts are too slow, other parts are too fast, and it’s not possible to judge, yes that is the really great evening that I would like to do and nothing was wrong’ – no.
KAPLAN: All right, let’s talk about something that was right. And with all this attention to your own conducting, I see the next work on your list we’re about to hear features you on the podium now, and it’s Beethoven.
GATTI: This is the last Beethoven Symphony I approached as a musician, but it was the first music I ever heard because I was in my mother. So, my mother said to me, that when she was pregnant with me she was continually listening to the “Pastoral” symphony in the last two months. And she was listening, listening, listening, so and she said to me, that ‘probably this music is penetrating in me and arrives to you of course.’ And it was the first music I ever heard.
KAPLAN: An excerpt from the first movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the “Pastoral,” the Orchestre National de France and on the podium, my guest today on “Mad About Music,” the Music Director of the Orchestre National de France and Chief Conductor of the Zurich Opera, Daniele Gatti. Now even with your enormous experience in both the opera house and in the concert hall, I wonder are there any major works you have not yet conducted?
GATTI: Yes, Missa Solemnis -
GATTI: Beethoven, Missa Solemnis. Wagner, The Ring, Tristan und Isolde. There will come Meistersinger –
KAPLAN: Any other symphonies?
GATTI: Some Bruckner symphonies, the Eighth for instance –
KAPLAN: The big one.
GATTI: The Eighth from Bruckner, I never conducted. Heldenleben by Strauss, Shostakovich’s Seventh, for instance, the Leningrad Symphony.
KAPLAN: So you’ve got lots of excitement ahead of you because these are all wonderful pieces.
GATTI: But I arrived to now I am 49. I began – I made my debut at 18. So its 31 years that I am conducting.
KAPLAN: Are there any mainstream composers that you just don’t connect to? You can conduct them but you don’t really like to do it necessarily.
GATTI: Oh yes. Some British, I’ve not conducted British music, for instance I’ve not conducted Walton or Vaughan Williams or Britten, Elgar -
KAPLAN: Elgar and those composers, they just don’t touch you or…?
GATTI: Simply I don’t think I’m adapted for this music, me personally maybe one day. Also for instance the East composers like Dvořák, Smetana, except Bartók; Bartók I do.
KAPLAN: But not Dvořák?
GATTI: No, at the moment no, no Dvořák, no Smetana, not Rimsky for instance, not Borodin. And then the North, now I would like to do and get closer to Sibelius, and also some Nielsen I find quite interesting, but not Grieg for instance.
KAPLAN: Well then we’re going to return to your music list and another work by Verdi, in this case his opera, Falstaff.
GATTI: This is a miracle opera, written by the old Verdi and it’s really a miracle. And probably it’s the opera that I would like to bring with me in my grave, one day. I do not think that it’s exactly a buffa opera, a comic opera, it’s a comedia. Of course people could laugh, better if the people could smile, but there are a lot of messages of loneliness in this opera, if we go further. And what I like is that people could take it easy, but also to consider that at the end Falstaff is a very nostalgic and melancholic character because if you think he has no friends in the opera, he is the only one which is really alone. Apart from the two guys at the beginning which they are really able in two scenes to betray him and to pass to the other one just to have a joke for him. At the end he is a man who has arrived at the sunset of his life and he wants to demonstrate that he still has something, both sexually and as a personality.
KAPLAN: Now when you say you would like to take this with you to the grave, does that mean that you find a certain comfort in this music?
GATTI: Yes, I would like to bring it eventually with me because every time I did Falstaff I had a splendid time with cast, with orchestra, with myself. He helped me also a lot in my difficult moments and he brought me a sort of new view of tomorrow. Despite as I said there is a melancholical side of the opera, but probably it’s like me, I think. I suffered a lot from melancholy when I was young, I suffered from loneliness, and even recently because doing this job, often you are alone, but at the end I felt I’m very happy because - and fortunate to be one of the people that could deserve music and then the price that you have to pay, maybe to stay alone, to stay out of home, and to travel a lot, is a price that you pay because you are elected to deserve this music. So, Falstaff is something that could help me in this case.
KAPLAN: An excerpt from Verdi’s Falstaff, Act III, Scene 1, the NBC Symphony Orchestra and baritone Giuseppe Valdengo under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, music chosen by my guest today on “Mad About Music,” the Music Director of the Orchestre National de France and the Chief Conductor of the Zurich Opera, Daniele Gatti. When we return, we’ll hear Daniele Gatti’s “wildcard” selection, a work that can be neither classical nor operatic.
This is Gilbert Kaplan with my guest today on “Mad About Music,” the Music Director of the Orchestre National de France and the Chief Conductor of the Zurich Opera, Daniele Gatti. Let’s talk about conductors you admire, which I assume includes Giulini, de Sabata, and Toscanini since they are on your list today. But it makes me wonder, your being Italian, and they’re all Italian, do you have to be Italian to be a good conductor?
GATTI: No. On the list of course is missing Otto Klemperer, which is for me incredibly great, and of course Furtwängler - and of course Mitropoulos.
KAPLAN: Yes, but who were the conductors when you were getting started that were alive and conducting then, that you most admired?
GATTI: When I began you mean?
GATTI: Well, I heard live at La Scala Giulini, I heard Bernstein, of course it was the time of Abbado at La Scala, I heard Kleiber, I heard Karl Böhm.
KAPLAN: Now, today there’s a whole new crop of what I would call hot-shot conductors at a young age who are being offered some extraordinary performance opportunities. Now, you were once one of those young hot-shot conductors. What advice would you give to this new group, of approaching their career, mistakes not to make, opportunities to take? Were there any lessons from your own experience you could pass on?
GATTI: Use the brake, use the brake, and don’t put the power too much on the edge, because it’s easy. The problem is that - you’re right, I began, I was young - but let me say that my generation of conductors, today people who are 50, had a chance to start in their early years, but also had a chance to do mistakes, and also we were not put under the spotlight straight away. Personally, I conducted Vienna Philharmonic after 40. I arrived to conduct some score to be experienced with the composer with other early piece of music, so I try to build up brick after brick.
KAPLAN: You feel today that some of these younger conductors are going too fast, taking on assignments they are not ready for?
GATTI: It’s probably not their responsibility. The responsibility is just to ask. I don’t want to complain that, I just want to say, it’s a pity if there is a talent that it would be burned in a few years, or if a talent is today conducting the most important composition, what next? I like very much to go in mountain, not to climb, but to go there. But if you think that you want to arrive at the top, you have to consider the strength and the effort that you have in front of you. If you arrive with the helicopter and the helicopter puts you on the Spitze, on the point, okay, you’re there, and then? So, for me, as Daniele, it was important to know that after a concert, it was important to recreate and to do better for the next performance and not just to say ‘okay, now I go there, I go to Vienna, I go to Berlin, and I have all in my hands.’ People could get quickly bored about this and they look for a new one. Because I feel now at 50 the desire to slow down, to retake my score again, to reopen, to have some weeks free and to think about the music.
KAPLAN: Would you agree with what Herbert von Karajan once told a young conductor, that before you are ready to really conduct Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, you probably have to throw away the first 100 performances. That may be an exaggeration, but it’s sort of the idea you’re talking about.
GATTI: Probably, yes. But don’t forget that Karajan became Karajan after 50. He spent more than 20-25 years in the provincial theater, so he had the chance - also, Toscanini, the same. I mean, today we are just thinking about Toscanini for the recording for NBC, but Toscanini was incredible in the ’20s, or when he came to America, but he was already 40 years old.
KAPLAN: All right, well we have to move on now to that part of the show we call the “wildcard,” as much as I’m fascinated with this line of discussion we’re having. Now here you are required to pick a work which is neither classical, nor opera. It can be anything. So, what did you pick?
GATTI: I picked Keith Jarrett’s “The Köln Concert” because it’s a CD I like very much. It’s a live concert of Keith Jarrett, which as a musician I like very much. I’m not listening so much to live music, but this for me is really classical music. I decided to propose to you this musician because for me it’s the most interesting jazz - if we can consider him a jazzist. But it’s really classical, I like it very much, the harmony, I like the spirit of that. And I have to confess that several times I can listen to him, mainly when I’m driving because when I finish, I like very much to drive to come back home soon, and I have also to do a lot of miles with my car in the night. I have no problem to sleep in that because the adrenaline is high, and sometimes I put jazz music on to relax and accompany me during the trip.
KAPLAN: An excerpt from a live concert featuring jazz composer and pianist Keith Jarrett, the “wildcard” selection of my guest today on “Mad About Music,” the Music Director of the Orchestre National de France and Chief Conductor of the Zurich Opera, Daniele Gatti. Let’s talk about what’s left to do in your profession but when Sir Georg Solti was once asked this question toward the end of what he regarded his career, he replied, ‘I just try to get a little bit better each year.’ He was further along in his professional life than you are, but I wonder, when you think about the future, what is left to accomplish?
GATTI: I quote totally the words of Mr. Solti.
KAPLAN: Just try to get a little bit better each time.
GATTI: Tomorrow when I wake up, I would like to be a little bit better than today. And even music, I would like honestly to say that do it, you can find some blind street, I mean sometimes because you want to improve, and if you stay too long on one piece, then you return about the beginning of this conversation, the risk is to become eclectic and a little bit mannered. So, maybe you are walking in a blind spot and then there is no exit, so you have to return and to say no, maybe this way of interpretation is not good.
KAPLAN: Well do you think that you are a better conductor today than say 10 years ago?
GATTI: I hope to be a better man.
KAPLAN: Well, better man is for another show…
GATTI: No, a better man means also to be a better conductor in my opinion. The two things are for my opinion are not – it’s not possible to divide because it could be pieces that I could conduct 10 years ago that could have much more dash or could be much more interesting in a way or to show to the audience a sort of virtuosity and so on, maybe today less, but maybe today I’m going deeper because the experience of my life brought me to think about my life. So, permit me to say that I joined together life and music.
KAPLAN: That’s a very good answer. All right, we now come to your final selection, which is Wagner’s Meistersinger, and I gather you have some big plans in the future for this work.
GATTI: Very big. Now, the first appointment with Meistersinger is in Zurich in my theater next season. I have the new production in January. And most important thing is in 2013, the new production in Salzburg for the summer festival because 2013 is the Wagner Bicentenary. And Mr. Pereira, which is the Intendant of Salzburg, offered me, he said, ‘Daniele, for 2013 I would like to do Wagner and Verdi, what do you want to do?’ And I said, ‘of course Wagner.’
KAPLAN: An Italian, ‘of course Wagner?’
GATTI: Yes, well. ‘Which opera do you have in mind?’ I said, ‘Well, Meistersinger and Don Carlo.’ I had already conducted Don Carlo for a very important occasion at La Scala in 2008. It was also a good chance to do in Salzburg, but Meistersinger is a bit more challenging, and in these years I really adore this opera, which for me probably is – permit me to say – is like the Falstaff for the Verdi, in a way it’s an opera that talks about a human being. The only opera in the Wagner theater that is not talking about myth, but talking about people that you can find on the road. And there is also the chance to return to cooperate with the director of Parsifal, Stefan Herheim, which we made together I think a very strong couple for that, and I hope our collaboration if we are going to continue in Salzburg. And one more thing that I think the last Meistersinger in the summer festival was Toscanini in 1937.
KAPLAN: An excerpt from the Prelude to Act III of Wagner’s Meistersinger, the Orchestre National de France with my guest today on “Mad About Music,” Danielle Gatti, on the podium—his final selection today. All right, we just come to one last part of the show, which is a question I ask every guest, and you have to give an answer, and it deals with fantasy, musical fantasy. Now we’re not going to ask you whether you’d like to be a conductor because I think you are such a person already, but if you could be a star in music, not a conductor, would you want to be a singer, a violinist, a composer, play the French horn?
GATTI: A composer.
KAPLAN: A composer.
GATTI: Because to be a conductor, it was my first love, the first desire when I was 13. But I started to write music when I was 11, for fun. And then I kept writing music until my 30s. And there was a moment when I was 20 that I had really big doubt to keep going with the composition or the conductor road. At the end I returned to my first love, and I’m a conductor, but one day I return to take my pencil and to write music.
KAPLAN: Daniele Gatti, you’ve been a wonderful guest taking us inside the world of the conductor and of your musical passions. Thank you for appearing today. This is Gilbert Kaplan for “Mad About Music.”
“Mad About Music”
Gilbert Kaplan, Executive Producer
Heidi Bryson, Producer
Marcela Silva, Associate Producer
Leszek Wojcik, Recording Engineer