Brescia-born conductor Riccardo Frizza was appointed as Chief Conductor of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in March 2022. We asked him about his plans, the upcoming concerts and the legacy of former Italian conductors of the orchestra.
– You were appointed as Chief Conductor of the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir in March 2022. Can you describe your former relationship with the orchestra? Why have you decided to take this position?
– I have decided to accept this assignment after having worked with this magnificent orchestra on three occasions. Since the first time in 2013 and above all in 2017 with Dvořák’s Stabat Mater, I noticed that the communication with the musicians of the orchestra was very natural and fluid as it had happened a few times before and above all I appreciated the great quality of the musicians and the choir.
– Italian conductors like Lamberto Gardelli, Claudio Abbado or John Barbirolli, have always played an important role in the orchestra’s life. What does this legacy mean to you?
– Many Italian conductors have had relationships with the radio orchestra even in recent times. Even Gianluigi Gelmetti, who was my teacher, directed it in the late 80s. As I have already said in various interviews, I think that the musical instinct of Italians and Hungarians have something in common. Perhaps the strong link with popular and folk music. As a musician who grew up listening to Abbado’s recordings, I can’t help but think of his great and innovative interpretations which were the direct consequence of his great musical sensibility filtered through his Central European culture. Lamberto Gardelli and Sir John Barbirolli are conductors I know and whose great talent I recognize, but they influenced my training less than Bernstein or Solti.
– You are primarily known as an opera conductor. How different is it to work with a symphony orchestra?
– I am well known for my work in opera because by choice I devoted more space to opera than to symphony despite the fact that at the beginning of my career I was the founder of the symphony orchestra of Brescia, my city. Opera was a fatal attraction because in reality it was a world unknown to me and when I discovered it, I fell madly in love with it. Conducting an opera is very different from conducting a symphony. I would say that it is also much more challenging. Conducting an opera is like telling a story in music through words which, however, are performed by voices that are not under your control. Whereas in case of symphony orchestras, the relationship with the musicians is direct and there are no filters. For an interpreter, opera is the greatest compromise in music because it is almost never the complete result of your intention but of the mediation of other sensitivities.
– Would you let me in on your future artistic plans regarding the Hungarian Radio Orchestra as far as repertoire, concert tours, and recordings are concerned?
– I have just started my mandate, but we are working on many fronts. What interests many is to position the orchestra and the choir at a European level because in terms of quality they are not inferior to any other European radio orchestra. This direction takes time, but it is a path that must be undertaken for the good of the institution and above all for the cultural image of the nation abroad. We are working on European tours which I can’t reveal yet, but they will be key to the project. Another project I would like to develop is to revive the international competition for conductors. In the past it was one of the most prestigious and I think it is an obligation of the Hungarian Radio Television to bring it back to life. I would also like to work on an educational level. There is always a need for new young conductors who, however, hardly have the opportunity to test themselves with top-level professional orchestras. I would like to give a masterclass for young conductors with a particular focus on young Hungarian conductors. As far as the record market is concerned, we are developing contacts with the most important global majors to make known the musical groups on the radio which unfortunately are not known.
– In February you will conduct concerts with works by Puccini, Fauré, Rossini, Debussy, Rodrigo and Prokofiev. How would you recommend this event to the audience?
– I highly recommend coming to the concerts at the Academy and at the House of Music, Hungary because these are two concerts that offer an unusual programme. I really love the juxtaposition of Puccini and Fauré and at the same time Rodrigo and Prokofiev. They are contemporary musicians who express their contemporary world in very different ways.
– Do you have any spare time? How do you recharge your batteries?
– I do not recharge the batteries. My batteries are charging making music. I’m quite used to work and study all the time. I do not love time off. Time is the most precious gift we have in this life, and we can’t waste it.