Interview: James Gaffigan

We catch up with James Gaffigan, the New Yorker currently serving as Chief Conductor of the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, after the first rehearsal ahead of his LSO debut on Thursday 13 February. He talks to us about the thrills and spills of being an international conductor, his first impressions of the LSO and electrifying star pianist Yuja Wang.

So James, tell us your story. How did you get in to conducting?

Well, I didn't come from musical family, but there was a piano in the house. I always gravitated towards the piano and tried writing tunes, and one day my parents thought to send me to music school, so of course learned how to read music and really started playing instruments, many instruments – clarinet, bassoon, and I was a guitarist also.

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Barry Banks on Berlioz Requiem

Barry Banks reflects on the monumental recording of Berlioz: Grande Messe des morts in St Paul's Cathedral in June 2012, under the late Sir Colin Davis.

The first time that I encountered the Grande Messe des Morts was as a 21 year old student at the Royal Northern College of Music. Had I realised then, what I do now, I would have run far far away from it. However, the innocence and stupidity of youth led me to actually accept it! The stupidity part helped me to come out of it relatively unscathed, but vowing I wouldn't try it again for a while! I sang it again, some 14 years later. Even at the age of 35 I felt that I didn't have the ammunition to do justice.

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