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Interview with GHO Conductor Riccardo Chailly

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Conducting Greatness

Music has been a constant, all-consuming passion for Riccardo Chailly, chief conductor at the Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig.

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The son of a renowned Italian composer, Riccardo Chailly was born with music in his blood. After quickly fulfilling his promise, the youthful conductor left his native Italy, eventually working his way to Leipzig, where he's now chief conductor at the Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Riccardo Chailly fell under a musical spell at a young age. He loved music to the exclusion of almost everything else. That remarkable commitment and focus turned him into one of the world’s greatest conductors.

Currently at the helm of the legendary Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra , Chailly is one of the world’s foremost concert conductors, appearing in some of the world's most prestigious concert venues. Since his conducting debut at the tender age of 13, he has since appeared in front of acclaimed orchestras at the Wiener Musikverein, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Though he has been chief conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Chailly made his debut in Leipzig as a guest conductor in 1986.

“That was an exceptional situation for me,” he says, “because I was very young. You have to remember that the Gewandhaus is a legendary and historical orchestra – the oldest in Europe with more than 232 years of tradition. Yet the whole thing clicked after just two minutes of rehearsal.”

Currently preparing for a series of tours across Europe in 2013, Chailly has been described as having “the perfect balance between passion and technique, spontaneity and control,” no matter the venue.

As Official Logistics Partner to the Gewandhaus Orchestra Leipzig, DHL got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to sit down with this most famous of Maestros to discuss, among other things, the importance of good timing and trust in conducting one of the world's most renowned orchestras.

You conducted your first concert at 13. Were you nervous?
I was anxious to start with but, after five bars, I was completely at ease – which was very strange. It was Bach’s third Brandenburg Concerto, I remember, and, from that time on, I’ve never stopped conducting! For me, when I stand in front of an orchestra now, all potential problems have disappeared because I have already worked through them sitting at my desk at home. Yes, there is always a tension before a concert, but that dissipates quite quickly, especially if things are going well. It’s been said that your US debut was a turning point in your career. It was. It was 1976 and I was given Madame Butterfly to conduct. I was so young and it was such a jump into the unknown and a big success. Afterwards I was invited to the San Francisco Opera to conduct Turandot with the only stage performance of Luciano Pavarotti and Montserrat Caballé. Puccini has always been present in my opera activity – and always will be.

You have appeared in the world’s most famous concert halls. Which are your favorites?

There are five: Wiener Musikverein, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Boston Symphony Hall and New York Carnegie Hall. Last but not least is the Leipzig Gewandhaus. It is a miracle of perfection acoustically. We are very proud to play in such a hall. It is a daily privilege.

The Gewandhaus tours all over the world with precious musical instruments – so logistics must be important to you.
Yes, it’s as important as timing in music. If logistics run late a concert can be completely spoiled – as is the atmosphere of audience expectation… and the serenity of the musicians! Musicians need to have their instruments delivered to them in good time so that they can practice, warm-up and be prepared. If the logistics are wrong, this sets a chain of problems in motion which affects all of us – and the quality of the concert itself.

What abilities does a great conductor need to possess?
Humanity – because you are dealing with an instrument of human beings; plus psychological intuition and charisma – and conducting technique because a conductor’s language is the language of gestures. It isn’t verbal. Trust is also very important. With trust, you can go through the Himalayas with your orchestra!

You can read the interview in its entirety on the website for DHL's One Voice magazine here: Link / New Window

To find out more about DHL’s work with the Gewandhaus Orchestra have a look here: E6A48BF0B83A&feature=plcp External Link / New Window

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