We spent some time getting to know Philippe Jordan, Music Director of the Opéra de Paris, and flautist-turned-conductor Jaime Martín, who make their LSO debuts in concerts at the Barbican this month.
How did you get into music?
Philippe Jordan: I’m part of a musical family. My father, Armin Jordan was a well-known conductor and my mother was a ballet dancer so I got into opera and theatre early. I was always fascinated by that and especially by my dad’s job. It was clear I wanted to do the same thing.
I saw so many things with my father – my first The Magic Flute etc – but really the most extraordinary thing was when I was eleven years old, my father did Die Walküre in Seattle. It opened a world for me with the orchestral sound, the theatricality, the mythology, everything. It made the biggest impact. I couldn’t stop listening to Wagner after that. I would visit rehearsals, see the singers, watch full rehearsals. Of course, I didn’t understand much of it but I knew it was something you could feel, that you could drown in.
And now you get to work in Bayreuth!
It’s incredible. I adore Wagner but never saw myself as a Wagnerian. I got to know how incredible Bayreuth is as a place when I saw the dedication and love given to the music. The musicians and audiences who spend the summer there do it because they love the musical conditions there. Bayreuth is intoxicating, in a good sense. You learn a new approach to Wagner, because you’re forced to think like him, through the acoustic, through the pit. You become a different conductor after Bayreuth.
Tell us about the programme you’re conducting for your debut with the Orchestra.
There’s a theme for the LSO season: roots and folk music. Recently I did a complete cycle of the Tchaikovsky symphonies in Paris, and in my work with the orchestra there I always thought it was important to question identity, and how to cultivate the identity of the orchestra through its sound. When we did the Tchaikovsky, I saw how the Russian musical tradition connects to France. There’s a long history of performing Russian music in Paris – Tchaikovsky had a big influence and so did Stravinsky and the Ballets Russes. The orchestras in France play it in their own way, with transparency. The Mussorgsky we’re playing is its original version and it’s much more radical than Rimsky-Korsakov’s arrangement, which is more like a fairytale.
What music do you listen to outside of your work?
When I have a lot of concerts on, I prefer silence. I think silence is the greatest music ever! All the best music and ideas come out of silence. It’s also important in our work. It’s not noise that provokes music, it’s silence that creates big sounds.
If I do want to listen to music, it’s chamber music, not the music I do – it’s not opera. It could be Brahms’ chamber music, and I love Bach, whether it’s choral, or for the piano – it cleans the senses. It’s healing music for me.
Can you give us an overview of your career?
Jaime Martín: So, I come from Santander, in the North of Spain, and I come from a completely unmusical family! Nobody in my family has ever played an instrument. The reason why I became interested in music is because my father took me to a symphony concert when I was eight, and that made a huge impression on me, to hear an orchestra in front of me. I think what impressed me about the orchestra was the colours and different sounds. That first concert … I was in tears because I could not believe it. The day after that concert I said to my father I wanted to play the violin, but unfortunately in Santander back then there were no violin teachers! So I started to play the flute and that was what I was playing for most of my life until very recently. I went to study in Madrid, Holland, and after that I moved to London and I never went back to live in Spain again. My home will always be London, my family is in London. I do have to travel a lot but this is part of the profession.
Does travelling affect you?
Well of course! When I used to play with orchestras, I used to love going on tour. I got to travel with my colleagues, and some of them were my best friends. But as a conductor, I have to travel on my own and that's a lonely life in a way. I go to the rehearsal to conduct the orchestra and for the orchestra, it is their home, they have their life - then when the rehearsal is finished they go home, but I go to my hotel! This is not the nicest part of this job but the time I spend at home, I try to use in a better way so that when I am at home I am truly at home. Every week I am in a different place but next week I'll have four days off! Four, can you believe it!? I am really looking forward to it.
Do you think the new ways people can listen to music can help to make classical music more accessible?
I think music is something that affects the body and brain very quickly. That’s why the impact of music is so great in our society and why people consume music. We all need music. In the end, everybody finds what they need in the right moment - look at all the platforms we have right now, it’s so easy to access any music! I think it’s great that you can share or discover music and sometimes allow the platform to suggest music according to your taste, that’s just great! Some people wouldn’t know where to begin to find new music. If you haven’t been exposed to classical music much, these platforms are amazing for recommending and suggesting. For every video you watch, there will always be another good suggestion.
Philippe Jordan, the principle conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra will spend the rest of the year touring Europe, often with world-renowned violinist and conductor, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, who will be conducting and performing with the LSO throughout the season.
Jaime Martín will also be spending the rest of the year touring Europe, as well as the United States, where he will be conducting the Gälve Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and Gulbenkian Orchestra. Jamie was recently appointed as Music Director Designate of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, a position he looks forward to beginning in 2019.