Calling a spade a spade
Renowned conductor Vladimir Jurowski leads the IPO in a concert performance of Tchaikovsky’s opera ‘Pique Dame.’
Calling a spade a spade Photo: Courtesy
Vladimir Jurowski, one of the leading conductors of his generation, makes his
Israeli debut, leading the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert
performance of Tchaikovsky’s opera Pique Dame (Queen of Spades).
Moscow into a musical family (his father is conductor Mikhail Jurowski), he
began his musical studies at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1990, he and his family
moved to Germany, where he completed his education. He first appeared on the
international scene in 1995 at the Wexford Festival and was appointed music
director of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 2000. Since 2006, Jurowski has
been the principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He also
appears worldwide with leading orchestras.
As someone who grew up in an
intellectual Russian milieu and moved to the West in his youth, the 40-yearold
Jurowski has absorbed the best of the cultural traditions of both
“Our profession has changed a lot,” says Jurowski.
explains that the role of a conductor is inseparable from the development of
society and the role of a political or spiritual leader in a
“The profession of conductor was founded by two enemies –
Wagner and Mendelssohn,” he says.
He goes on to elaborate that if the
first generation of conductors were both composers, those who followed were
mostly conductors, and over the years and generations the attitude toward the
role of conductor has changed.
“Our profession reached its peak in the
1930s, with many outstanding conductors being active in that period. But it was
also a time when strong totalitarian leaders came to power in different parts of
the world, and there is an obvious correlation between the two processes: This
is about people yearning for a strong hand,” he says.
that after World War II, when the professions of conductor and composer finally
separated, the former had a status close to that of a pop star.
the time of Toscanini the conductor was as important as a political leader, then
in the days of Karajan and Bernstein these two composers were almost like rock
stars. So when we say that the conductor’s profession has changed, it
means that society has changed. We live in a very strange period, when there are
a lot of very talented young conductors who are being promoted very much the way
pop stars are promoted.”
Jurowski admits that this situation does not
really excite him, but he sees it as a logical development of the society we
live in. “The myth of a powerful and charismatic leader, who organizes chaos
into harmony, originated in the late 19th century and reached its peak in the
middle of the 20th century and has now disappeared. Nowadays, the idea of a
powerful personality who imposes his will on others is unthinkable, and there is
something anachronistic in the role of conductor. At the same time, the overall
professional level of an average orchestra player has grown immensely, which
allows a conductor – who is now primus inter pares [first among equals] and not
a dictator – to dedicate himself to music making.”
enthusiastically about the role of music in secure periods of history and in
those when music was a means of spiritual survival, of musicians who are seen as
a replacement of prophets and spiritual leaders, of a post-war period when,
“according to Adorno, the beauty died in Auschwitz,” and its influence on the
music that was composed in that period and the contemporary state of music and
Jurowski sees the contemporary approach to conducting as a
sort of authenticity, when every piece is seen in its historic context “and is
cleansed of the influences we impose on it. If we conductors are honest about
our profession, we should play Baroque in one way, Shostakovich in another way,
and Ligeti in yet another way. I believe that this ability to change is an
important sign of our time,” he says.
Vladimir Jurowski conducts the
concert performance of Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
between November 8 – 17. International soloists and Gary Bertini and the
Ankor choir participate.