Meet our DFCC 2018 candidates: Chloé van Soeterstede

Chloé van Soeterstede is from France. A trained violist, she studied Conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music from 2015 to 2017. She regularly assistants François-Xavier Roth in France and has worked with several major conductors including Vasily Petrenko and Sir Mark Elder. Chloé is also founder and chief conductor of the Arch Sinfonia.

Chloé van Soeterstede baton picWhere are you at the moment and what are you currently working on?

I am in London working with the London Philharmonic Orchestra as assistant conductor of Vladimir Jurowski for a one-off project. The programme is Stravinsky’s Orpheus and Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus. I am also working simultaneously with my orchestra, Arch Sinfonia, for our upcoming project in Lille. Soon after I will fly to Cyprus to work as guest conductor with the orchestra there.

When did you first become interested in conducting?

I was probably 14 or 15 years old, I was the leader of my local orchestra in a music school in Paris, where I am from. The role of the conductor really began to fascinate me, I was taking scores from the library and followed them in rehearsal.

Who are your musical role models?

In conducting, Claudio Abbado is definitively a role model; his calmness, generosity and humility are very inspiring as is Carlos Kleiber, to stay with one of the oldest generation, especially his ability to communicate the music with very smooth and generous gestures. His smile has always been in my memory. I have learnt a lot from Paavo Järvi when studying with him for a summer course.

How did you find out about the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition?

It is one of the most prestigious competitions, all young conductors know about this one. A few friends have participated (and even won!) and told me to definitively apply as the experience and exposure is fantastic.

How have you been preparing for the competition?

Score preparation as much as mental training are, to me, equally important. Working on the scores 'at the table' is an important part of the preparation, to be able to hear everything, to know exactly the character and tempo you want, listening to different recordings after having your own opinion. Every day (when possible!), I am doing a 30-45 min mental power walk listening to some of the competition repertoire, getting to listen to different interpretations. Physically, I sometimes am trying some gestures but to me the gestures are the results of what you want musically in your mind. I don't actively 'practice' in front of a mirror for instance.

What are your thoughts on the repertoire? Which piece(s) are you particularly looking forward to conducting and why?

To me the first round is the most complete in style and the hardest especially because of Stravinsky's Dances concertantes, a piece I have some difficulty to fully understand. The repertoire is fantastic and really has a variety of styles. I am looking forward to conducting the Mendelssohn (if selected for the second round!) as I particularly understand the composer's music and have a clear idea of sound and musical direction.

What is the piece that made you fall in love with music, either while performing it as a musician or experiencing it as an audience member?

Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique is one of the most powerful pieces I have ever performed. I was performing it with the European Union Youth Orchestra on tour, so I got to play it again and again, always learning something new when playing it. The colours, the harmonies and therefore the texture is absolutely divine. I am a huge fan of Beethoven's music when played on small timpani and natural trumpets, chamber orchestra setting. I enjoy every single note of it. I could also name Schumann's Second Symphony that I performed in Japan with the Pacific Music Festival, such a powerful piece to play, very much uplifting in some passages!

What is your all-time favourite piece of music?

I don't have only one favorite piece but I am always astonished when I'm hearing Schubert Death and the Maiden string quartet and also his Quintet for 2 cellos.

How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

I spend time with my friends, go to the museum, do some yoga. I love outdoors, climbing with my boyfriend, cycling, kayaking, horse riding!

If there is anything you could change about classical music, what would it be?

To make it accessible to everyone. This is one of my principal mission with my orchestra, Arch Sinfonia.

What advice would you give other budding conductors?

'Don't wait and do!' is my mantra! Build your projects, this is the only way you actively will be able to conduct and therefore experiment with sounds, gestures, music!

What would the prize mean to you? How would it help your career?

Working closely with great musicians such as Sir Simon Rattle and François-Xavier Roth among others is absolutely a privilege and a career boost. I would get really inspired and learn a lot.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I believe the more honest you are, the more honest the music is coming out of you. I always try to stay grounded. I am very aware that a competition stays a competition so let's stay positive through the process, whatever happens! Toi toi toi everyone!

Meet the other candidates

Find out more about the competition in 2018