Young and restless

Italian conductor Andrea Battistoni makes his Israeli debut this week.

Successful young Italian maestro Andrea Battistoni is making his debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Despite his age, 26, Battistoni has already proven himself conducting in the Deutsche Oper of Berlin, Mariinsky Theatre of St. Petersburg, Palau de les arts of Valencia, Arena of Verona, to name a few; and was the youngest conductor to step onto the stage of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala.
Born in Verona, he first studied cello. “It was when I started playing in the school orchestra that I realized that a musician practices all alone in his room, only to share his music with other musicians and together create a huge symphony orchestra sound, which is not just a sum of individual sounds but something larger. The figure of the conductor, a musician who plays orchestra just as others play piano fascinated me. I started studying conducting,” he recounts.
In his effort to bring classical music to the younger generation, Battistoni recently published a book entitled Non e musica per vecchi (It Is Not Music for Old People).
“In Italy, there’s no good music education in public schools, so I just go there to share my passion for music with them, leaving my tails and formal concert manners at home. I explain to children and teenagers that although the idiom of opera and classical music may sound strange to them, major pieces of the past can still speak to the young as if they were written yesterday. Because music speaks about emotions, and emotions never get old. When you express yourself in a natural, easygoing manner and if you are passionate, it works. Also, when I conduct operas in front of a huge audience in Arena di Verona, knowing that quite a few young people are there mostly for the theater show and not especially for the music, which they have never heard before, my responsibility is to not let them down. I really don’t want them to say, ‘Oh, opera is such a boring genre!’ For this, we musicians have to give all our passion to the performance, to lose ourselves a bit in the music, to enjoy it. The public feels this energy. That is the only way to conquer their hearts,” he says.
“For me, as an Italian conductor, it is easier to be invited to perform abroad because Italian repertoire is natural for me. I also try to widen my operatic repertoire to the German tradition. That said, I do not want to become just another Italian operatic conductor. As a cellist, I am attracted to symphonic repertoire, being especially fascinated by Slavic music – Russian and Czech. Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov are probably my favorite composers, especially their piano concerti, but not only,” he says.
How does a conductor make his orchestra sound the way he wants? The cello is just a piece of wood, so using your technical knowledge you can command it; but an orchestra consists of humans. So how does he manage this live instrument? “To be honest, I do not always know how to produce the specific sound from this piece of wood, but when it comes to conducting, I find myself in a far more natural surrounding because these are great musicians who are able to produce from their instruments every sound they want. What they need is an inspiration. I’ve never had problems communicating with an orchestra.
You should not come as a dictator but rather involve them in the process of creating this big, unique sound, which is the magic of an orchestra.
You have to have a clear idea of the piece, to compare what the musicians play with what you have in your mind and try to involve them in the recreation of the piece. That’s it,” he explains.
“In conducting, you keep learning your entire life. You realize that compared to the great geniuses, the composers, you are nothing, and the only thing you can do is try to go deeper and deeper, step by step. It is a never-ending journey, and I am lucky that I started it at a very young age!” he says.
Andrea Battistoni conducts the IPO with violinist Ray Chen as a soloist. The programs feature Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3; Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1; and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2. For more details: