Tuesday, October 04, 2016 9:30am
First Person with conductor Dr Jeffrey Tate: the British conductor’s awaited return to Australia this week in a new role with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is a coup, says Louise Nunn…
LIFE AFTER PARSIFAL Since 2001 I have been living the usual hectic life of a conductor: operas in London, Vienna, Paris and Milan and principally in Teatro San Carlo in Naples where I was Music Director for five years, and also a lot in Venice, La Fenice where I conducted the Ring, Idomeneo and the Turn of the Screw. Symphonically, apart from much guest conducting throughout Europe, my life has concentrated in Hamburg where eight years ago I became the Music Director of the Symphoniker Hamburg, a stimulating and ongoing story.
NEW HORIZONS I decided to accept the offer to work with the ASO in a new role – Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser – because of my happy memories of Adelaide: the decision was as much emotional as artistic. I was intrigued by the idea of playing elder statesman, so to speak, not a role that I’d ever thought of assuming. Making music has highly rejuvenative qualities.
RICHARD WAGNER Wagner has played a very large part in my career, particularly the Ring whose mixture of potent theatre, politics and an amazing range of musical expression, has always fascinated me. I will conduct the Siegfried Idyll in my concert with the ASO this weekend. It has always been very dear to my heart. I still get the greatest thrill hearing the opening minutes of the third act of Siegfried.
ADELAIDE AND ITS ORCHESTRA My memory of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra is one of unalloyed pleasure. The work we undertook together for the Ring will remain one of the highlights of my professional life. I know the players will not all be the same, but I am convinced that the spirit and enthusiasm will have remained.
RING RECALL The Ring was very hard work but we knew that the whole town was behind us, a very special feeling. I’ve already mentioned the splendid orchestral contribution but I’m still amazed that the tiny staff of State Opera of South Australia were able to achieve a result worthy of the great overstaffed opera houses of the world. One special joy was the fact that everyone was coming to this mammoth work with fresh unprejudiced eyes giving the result an excitement far away from routine.
JOY AND ANGUISH Conducting is in many senses a torment to me. I remain extremely nervous before concerts, I develop terrible bouts of self-doubt as to my ability but despite all this, when one is on the podium and it all ‘works’ – that is to say, the music takes the form you have planned for, then it can be as thrilling as anything. The other joy for me is the art of rehearsing with one’s fellow musicians, as satisfying as the concert itself, as you seek for musical truths. The last thing conducting should be is an ego trip. What I would say to younger colleagues is – never put yourself between the music and the public and always treat the orchestral musicians as your colleagues.
HITTING THE ROAD I have deliberately avoided any other engagements while I am in Australia in order to revisit all those places around Adelaide I came to love during my 1998 stay – the backroad to Barossa, McLaren Vale, Fleurieu Peninsula, Heysen House and maybe even the top of the Flinders Ranges – all the places that have stayed in my memory. Also to have time to be with the people who have remained in my life ever since that special time. Making music is a large part of my life but not all of it: at 73 one begins to reflect on using one’s time wisely.
Jeffrey Tate CBE has been Chief Conductor of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra since 2009. In February 2014, the orchestra extended his contract through the 2019 season. He was previously
Music Director of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples.
Jeffrey Tate originally studied medicine at the University of Cambridge and qualified as a doctor before shifting his focus to music. He studied at the London Opera Centre and, in 1970, joined the music staff at Covent Garden, where he worked with Colin Davis, Carlos Kleiber, and others. Sir Georg Solti was an early mentor.
Jeffrey Tate was Pierre Boulez’s assistant on the centenary production of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung at Bayreuth in 1976. A committed Wagnerian, he has since conducted his own cycles, including the first Adelaide Ring in 1998. He also conducted the 2001 Australian premiere of Parsifal with this orchestra.
His international conducting debut took place at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1979, conducting Alban Berg’s Lulu. He was later named Principal Conductor at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the first person in the house’s history to have that title. He has also been Principal Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic and was the first Principal Conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra. His recordings include the complete symphonies of Mozart with that orchestra. A live recording of a concert with the Hamburg Symphony, featuring Stravinsky’s Apollon musagètes and scenes from Götterdämmerung, has recently been released.
Tate regularly conducts the world’s leading orchestras and at the world’s most prestigious opera houses and festivals. He has been president of the UK Spina Bifida charity ASBAH (now known as SHINE) and is one of the ‘portraits’ in David Blum’s book Quintet: Five Journeys toward Musical Fulfillment.
This article was written by The Advertiser’s Louise Nunn and first published in SA Weekend on Saturday 1 October 2016. This article was re-posted by Michelle Robins, Publications & Communications Coordinator, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
Tate & Little
Fri 07 Oct 8pm
Sat 08 Oct 6.30pm
ADELAIDE TOWN HALL
A Hero's Life
Sat 29 Oct 7.30pm