&ldquoAs Alsop faced the cellos and drew from them the most tremendously shaped phrases with every inflection of her baton, you were aware of being in the presence of greatness.&rdquo
21st March 2012

A melding of cultures: Conductor Marin Alsop in Brazil

Marin Alsop became Principal Conductor of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra this month. Her premiere concert comprising works of three centuries is just one sample of the repertoire to mark her work with the orchestra.

Taking up the post of Principal Conductor of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra (Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo – Osesp), renowned US conductor Marin Alsop replaces Yan Pascal Tortelier.

A onetime student of Leonard Bernstein, Alsop has also served as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra since 2007. She is the first woman to occupy such a position with a major American orchestra.

The musician has conducted some of the world’s major performing bodies, such as the New York Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Deutsche Welle talked to the conductor about her plans with Osesp, South America’s leading orchestra.

DW: Ms. Alsop, what were your impressions of your inaugural concert with the Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo this month?

Marin Alsop: It was a wonderful opening week, on every level! The musicians played their hearts out; the concerts were sold out; the audiences were warm, enthusiastic and embracing; the press was very supportive and the board and management thrilled. Most importantly, it feels like the musicians and I have a deep connection already, and we are excited to make music together.

The program included “Terra Brasilis,” a work by Clarice Assad from Rio de Janeiro. How much room do you intend to give Brazilian music in your repertoire during the tenure with Osesp?

Osesp has a strong, longstanding commitment to Brazilian music. They have their own publishing company dedicated to reviving, restoring and promoting Brazilian works. Osesp commissions five works by Brazilian composers annually and programs South American and Latin American repertoire throughout their seasons. For me personally, it’s wonderful to discover all of this brand new repertoire, and I am excited to get to know the works of composers previously unknown to me.

Do you have any further points of interest, such as complete cycles focusing a particular composer?

We have started programming, and are recording, all of the Prokofiev symphonies plus some other incidental works for Naxos, so these will be woven into every season. That is the only planned complete cycle at the moment. We want to cover as wide a range of repertoire as possible, from Adams to Strauss to Mozart and Tchaikovsky.

What is your assessment of the role classical music plays in contemporary Brazil? Is the competition with samba, football and the economic boom very intense? What kind of audience do you expect to encounter in Brazilian concert halls?

The concerts are packed with enthusiastic and engaged people. From what I can tell, the audiences are multi-generational, sincerely curious and very supportive. It appears that classical music can not only live comfortably but thrive alongside football and samba in Brazil.

How would you define Osesp’s position in an international context?

Osesp has a reputation as the leading orchestra in South America. I look forward to bringing them to the attention of the international community.

Later this year Osesp will embark on its first European tour under your baton, with a stop in Germany. How will this combination work: a German audience, a Brazilian orchestra with an eclectic program and you as conductor?

This sounds like the essence of Brazil: a true melding of cultures!

Augusto Valente, Deutsche Welle