(c) Andrej Grilc-07096
Maxim Emelyanychev, © Andrej Grilc

“I always wanted to be a conductor”

Maxim Emelyanychev has already conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. As chief conductor, he leads the original sound ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro and the Edinburgh-based Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Now the Russian (born 1988), who, in an official statement, has clearly distanced himself from the war in Ukraine, is celebrating his debut with Klosters Music on the opening weekend (27 and 28 July 2024) with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. Georg Rudiger spoke to him about the appeal of chamber orchestras, his approach to Mozart and his conducting debut at the age of twelve. 

You almost made it to Klosters Music twice before. In 2021 with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and in 2022 as a substitute for Riccardo Minasi with the Munich Chamber Orchestra. Unfortunately that didn’t work out for various reasons. This summer, you will be conducting the two concerts with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen at the opening weekend. How do you feel about these concerts? 

I’m really looking forward to it and I’m excited. Not only is it my debut with Klosters Music, but I will also be working with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen for the first time. I know the orchestra from many recordings and like its sound, flexibility and big personality. I generally love working with chamber orchestras.

With romantic repertoire as well like in Klosters?  

Yes, it’s wonderful when we have a slightly larger line-up. But the transparency and clarity of sound that I’m used to from a chamber orchestra remains the same. Incidentally, orchestras in the 19th century were much smaller than they are today. So we are also closer to the original.

Have you ever been to Klosters before, or even to the Swiss Alps? 

No, this is also a first for me. I’m really looking forward to it.

With your chamber orchestra Il Pomo d’Oro, which you have been conducting since 2016 as Riccardo Minasi’s successor, you are currently recording all of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s symphonies. What is important to you when you interpret Mozart’s music? 

I am very familiar with Mozart’s music, having played it as a child. In our Mozart project, I combine my knowledge of historical performance practice with new ideas. On each CD we combine two very different symphonies with a bonus track: a piano concerto, an oboe concerto and so on.

In the opening concert of Klosters Music on 27 July, Alina Ibragimova will perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major. She is also very familiar with historical performance practice. 

I’ve worked with Alina several times in the past. We’ve also played Mozart together: the Violin Concerto No. 5. She is a lively violin player and improvises on stage. I really appreciate this spontaneity. She combines outstanding technical possibilities with a deep understanding of the work.

Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony “From the New World” in the same programme is a completely different work. What do you like about this music? 

This composition is also a masterpiece. I have never interpreted the symphony with a chamber orchestra before. The lines become even clearer and the musical ideas even more tangible. I’m looking forward to the wonderful slow movement with the fantastic English horn solo.

You are an experienced pianist and harpsichordist yourself. You played the fortepiano part in Teodor Currentzis’ recordings of Mozart’s da Ponte operas. In the second concert of the opening weekend, Jan Lisiecki will play Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto. Do you know each other personally? 

We have never met, but I know his piano playing – and I really like it. He has many innovative ideas and a bright, poetic piano sound. That’s perfect for this romantic concerto by Grieg.

You made your debut as a conductor with an orchestra at the age of twelve. That is very unusual. Why did you start conducting at such an early age? 

I always wanted to be a conductor, even as a child. I come from a family of musicians and attended my parents’ rehearsals and concerts as a small child. I played the piano and sang in a choir from an early age. My first conducting teacher even said that it was late for me to start conducting at the age of twelve. You can learn the technique at an early stage. The earlier, the better.

Had you any authority issues with the orchestra? 

You have to convince the orchestra. Not with power or a claim to power, but with your skills and musical ideas.

What is more satisfying for you? Playing the piano or conducting? 

These are very different activities, but one helps the other. I have often played the piano in an orchestra and conducted an orchestra from the piano or harpsichord. I also play many other instruments, such as the flute, horn and cornet. I recently played six different instruments in a concert with my Scottish Chamber Orchestra. That was great fun.