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The Lebrecht Interview


Classical music critic Norman Lebrecht talks to major figures in the field.

Classical music critic Norman Lebrecht talks to major figures in the field.
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London, United Kingdom




Classical music critic Norman Lebrecht talks to major figures in the field.




John Adams

Norman Lebrecht talks to the American composer and conductor John Adams in the week that he conducts his opera Nixon in China at the BBC Proms. Adams who was born in Massachusetts is one of the most celebrated composers alive. Many of his pieces are in the repertory, including his operas Nixon in China, the Death of Klinghoffer and his opera about Robert Oppenheimer, Doctor Atomic all of which receive stagings around the world and all of which he talks about in this interview. Adams also...


Riccardo Muti

Norman Lebrecht talks to the great Italian conductor, Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Muti's career has spanned key orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra, the orchestra of La Scala in Milan and the Vienna Philharmonic. Elegant and erudite, this is the first extended interview Riccardo Muti has given the BBC. He reveals his thoughts and feelings about Verdi and Rossini, about his professional relationship with his mentor, Herbert von Karajan, and...


Andris Nelsons

Norman Lebrecht talks to the young Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons currently music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Born in Riga to musical parents Nelsons cites one of his earliest formative musical experiences as a performance of Wagner's Tannhauser which his parents took him to when he was just 5. He later took up the trumpet and eventually became a professional player in the Latvian National Opera Orchestra. He had conducting lessons with Neeme Jarvi and then...


Graham Vick

Norman Lebrecht talks to the British opera director Graham Vick whilst in rehearsals in Birmingham for Stockhausen's massive opera Mittwoch. Vick is one of the leading British directors. He works in all of the worlds' major opera houses directing the standard operatic repertoire and was for a number of years Director of Prodductions at Glyndebourne. But he is also director of the Birmingham Opera Company which he founded in 1987. It specialises in innovative and unusual productions of...


Lilian Hochhauser

Norman Lebrecht meets celebrated impresario Lilian Hochhauser, who along with her husband Victor, introduced British audiences to some of the greatest Russian musicians of all time, during the fraught period of soviet rule. Now in her eighties, Lilian - from a Jewish Ukrainian background - recalls the Cold War period which saw her and Victor pushing cultural and political boundaries to bring some of the most feted names in Russian music to Britain for the first time. Everyone from...


Ivan Fischer

Norman Lebrecht meets Hungarian conductor Iván Fischer, who looks back on a career characterised by ground breaking musical achievements and occasional political controversy. Fischer recalls his elite musical education under communism, singing as a boy in the opera house where Gustav Mahler was once director. Being taught by both Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Hans Swarowsky during his studies in Vienna, where he initially set out to become a cellist, gave Fischer a unique musical perspective....


Menahem Pressler

Norman Lebrecht meets pianist Menahem Pressler, founder of one of the most prolific and influential piano trios of all time: The Beaux Arts. Pressler looks back on a career which began in Nazi Germany, before he emigrated to Israel in 1939 and went on to win The Debussy Piano Competition in 1946. He recalls the teachers who helped him as a young pianist, including a German who defied the Nazi regime in continuing to teach him after it became illegal to do so, and his lessons with...


Gustavo Dudamel

The Lebrecht Interview is the interview series that runs during the Proms season in which the writer and broadcaster Norman Lebrecht talks to key figures in the world of classical music. Today, Norman is in conversation with the Venezuelan conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. Dudamel is a walking advertisement for the success of the extraordinary El Sistema music education project in which poor...


Janet Baker

In the last edition in this series, Norman Lebrecht talks to the great English singer, Dame Janet Baker. The Yorkshire-born mezzo-soprano has mostly been known for her performances in operas by Mozart, Monteverdi, Purcell and Berlioz. In the concert hall she was renowned for her lieder singing especially Mahler, as well as English music, in particular the works of Benjamin Britten with whom she was much associated. The clarity of Janet Baker's voice and the dramatic intensity of her...


Edward Gardner

Edward Gardner is the Music Director of English National Opera and about to become Principal Guest conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He talks to Norman Lebrecht about his career to date. Gardner was appointed to the post at ENO in 2007 while in his early 30s and began by conducting a new production of Britten's Death in Venice. He was born in Gloucester and began his musical life as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral. He later went to Eton where he enjoyed the music...


Monica Mason

Dame Monica Mason has spent all of her working life at the Royal Ballet in London. Now 70 she is about to start her final season as Director of the Royal Ballet. In conversation with Norman Lebrecht she talks frankly and warmly of the experiences her various roles in the company have given her. Born in South Africa she first encountered ballet in Johannesburg and began to dance. After the sudden death of her father when she was just 13 she tells Norman how her mother brought her to London...


Valery Gergiev

Norman Lebrecht meets the conductor Valery Gergiev, head of the Kirov Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, and Principal Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and the World Orchestra for Peace. Gergiev also runs festivals in Russia, Holland, Israel and around the Baltic, and was recently charged with re-launching the historic Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and St Petersburg. Undoubtedly one of the busiest musicians on the planet, Gergiev has been criticised for skimping on rehearsal...


Richard Rodney Bennett

Richard Rodney Bennett is a contemporary of Birtwistle and Maxwell Davies but his musical life has pursued a very different path. From his childhood onwards music was there for him. His mother was a pupil of Holst while his father wrote children's books and ballad lyrics. But his frailty meant that the young Richard was sent to boarding school, so he hardly knew him. Bennett's musical mind was inquisitive from the start and after reading about her he approached the composer Elisabeth...


Thomas Quasthoff

Norman Lebrecht meets the German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff, widely considered to be one of the finest lieder singers performing today. Although only four feet tall, with very short arms - Quasthoff's mother was prescribed thalidomide during pregnancy - Quasthoff is nevertheless a towering presence on the stage. In this extensive and wide-ranging interview, Quasthoff reflects on his happy childhood, his very close relationship with his brother Michael (who died of cancer last year),...


Deborah Borda

Deborah Borda's is Chief Executive Officer of the hugely successful Los Angeles Philharmonic. Her career has also spanned a range of the great American institutions, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Detroit and San Francisco Symphony Orchestras and the St.Paul Chamber Orchestra. She has a reputation of toughness and a creative approach to managing in often difficult circumstances. She talks to Norman Lebrecht about the future of the American symphony orchestra and reveals...


Semyon Bychkov

In the first of a series of interviews with prominent musicians, writer and broadcaster Norman Lebrecht talks to one of the world's most sought after conductors, Semyon Bychkov. Born in Russia, growing up during the Soviet era, he finished his education in the United States. He talks about living in poverty in Leningrad, crammed into a single room with his parents and brother, and having to share a bathroom with several families. He describes himself as obsessive about music, yet denies...


Patrice Chereau

Now 65, Patrice Chereau is one of the most highly regarded French directors. He began his career directing at his Lycee and running a theatre in the Parisian suburbs in the 1960s. Not long after he was invited to Italy and to Germany initially directing plays by the classic dramatists. His first job in opera was a work by Rossini at Spoleto but the occasion which caused the greatest controversy was in 1976 at Bayreuth when he directed Wagner's Ring Cycle with Pierre Boulez conducting....


Sir Clive Gillinson

Sir Clive Gillinson began his musical life as a cellist, holding positions in the Philharmonia Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra. When that orchestra got into financial difficulties in the 1980s he was asked to become Managing Director. He held the position for twenty years, turning around the fortunes of the orchestra and establishing relationships with some of the leading conductors like Michael Tilson Thomas, Mstislav Rostropovich and Sir Colin Davis. He also helped plan some...


Stephen Kovacevich

Norman Lebrecht talks to the American born pianist Stephen Kovacevich in the year of his 70th birthday. Originally from Los Angeles, Kovacevich's father was Croatian and his mother American. After studying with the Russian pianist Lev Schorr he won a scholarship which brought him to London where he met and studied with Dame Myra Hess. She helped him develop the sound he made at the keyboard. In 1961 he hired the Wigmore Hall and made an acclaimed debut in music by Berg, Bach and Beethoven:...


Joyce DiDonato

Norman Lebrecht meets the acclaimed American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. The sixth child of an Irish Catholic family in Prairie Village, Kansas, she married young and was almost thirty before anyone was prepared to back her talent. In the decade since then, she has taken on mezzo roles in Rossini and Handel with a wide-eyed zest that audiences find irresistible, and an openness that appears to be innate. The very model of a 21st-century communicator, Joyce DiDonato writes a chatty blog...