If we factor in the program itself, consisting of two exceptional masterpieces of the Romantic concerto and symphonic literature, it becomes obvious that this evening is not to be missed. Teodor Currentzis and the Utopia Orchestra have even more to promise to Budapest on 17 November.
– When did you decide to become a conductor?
– In fact, I had to become a composer, that’s what my heart has always been set on. But at some point, I realized that I see in the score something that many people don’t see. It was a kind of revelation. These are some paradisiacal spaces without manifestation for our senses to perceive. I was overwhelmed by these visions, and most of all I dreamed of sharing this subjective sense of beauty with someone. There is no way to put it into words. You can only take a person by the hand, open this magical door, and lead them into this parallel space, through the small looking glass of paradise. Then I began to share my feelings with others, to open my heart to the world around me. It seems to me that in my interpretations this image that I see with my inner vision is present. Then I felt that people in the audience were responding to this. Being together in this world is a great happiness. That’s why I’m a conductor.
– How did you end up in St Petersburg?
– I came to Russia in the early 90s. It was a time of searching for a better future in the world, a time of hope. At that time, there was a technological ‘boom’ in Europe, and the high-tech aesthetics prevailed, whereas I wanted to live in the world of imagination, in the world of intuition and emotions. In, let’s say, Plato’s idealistic world, not Aristotle’s rational world. And at that time I found it in Eastern Europe and in Russia. Here the girls were still braiding their hair, and the men were arguing in the kitchen about the ideal world order. Here they believed in angels, not in high technology. The spirit of Romanticism still dwelled here. So I stayed here. Although, of course, ultimately my decision was influenced by the fact that I found my teacher here — Ilya Musin.
– You are playing a Tchaikovsky symphony in Budapest. What kind of connection do you have with this piece?
– I have admired this symphony since childhood. And it was one of the first works that I conducted in class with my professor. This is a very personal and very significant composition for me. Therefore, I take it up very rarely. But every time I find something new for myself and, hopefully, I discover something new for the audience too. And I really want to share my vision of this music with my audience in Budapest, because Budapest is a special city.
– You have conducted several concerts in Budapest. What were your impressions so far?
– This is a truly amazing city. I was here for the first time in 1990, and I’m just crazy about it. I fell in love with Budapest and Hungarian culture, and the Hungarian mentality is very close to me. This is an amazing country that has given the world the best composers, the best directors: Ligeti, Béla Tarr, Kurtág, Bartók… I travelled around the country looking for inspiration, and I found it.
– You conduct the Utopia Orchestra. Why did you set up the ensemble? How would you define the mission of this orchestra?
– The Utopia Orchestra is a dream come true. You know, in every professional orchestra there are always three or four big enthusiasts, very dedicated people, fans of their work. People who do not look at the clock while waiting for the end of the working day, but those who are thrilled explore the endless space of music. And then the question arose: ‘What if we create an orchestra that will consist only of such musicians: two or three people from different orchestras, inspired by a common dream. What will happen if we connect these minds, these hearts?’ It was an incredible challenge.
It was not only my dream, but also a long-standing idea of a large number of musicians. So we have gathered such an orchestra. These are top-class, very professional musicians – concertmasters of various orchestras, soloists – the best in their field. But in addition to their mastery, they are all united by a passionate desire to get to the true essence of a piece of music, to walk together along the path where our imagination is leading us. Of course, this is a utopian idea, but this is exactly what drives and inspires us.
– What is behind the name of Utopia?
– Utopia is something that is impossible, and that’s what attracts us — making the impossible. The most utopian dreams come true as soon as we refuse to think that it is impossible.
– The orchestra includes musicians of many different nationalities. How do you manage rehearsals?
– This is not that difficult. You see, a traditional ballet divertissement often consists of dances from different nations. For example, in the Divertissement from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, a Spanish, an Arabic, a Chinese and a Russian dance are performed. A typical German Baroque suite also consists of a sequence of dances from different countries, conditionally, a German Allemande, a French Courante, a Spanish Sarabande, an Irish Gigue, etc. When we play a divertissement from a ballet or a suite, we don’t say, ‘How can we combine such different dances?’ On the contrary, such an association is the essence of these genres and the most beautiful thing in them. That’s the same with musicians. In the first place, we all speak a common language — ‘the Esperanto of angels’, which is the language of music. At the same time, we enrich each other with different views, different traditions, different life and cultural experiences. Therefore, our meetings are not a job, it is a forum where we gather to try to find and form a new way of thinking about music for its development and life in the future.
– Barnabás Kelemen will perform Brahms’s violin concerto. Do you know each other well?
– Barnabás Kelemen is an outstanding violinist, an amazing person, and a great thinker. He is insanely musical, he thinks in musical terms, looking at music from his own unique perspective. And he is not only a soloist, he is the head of our orchestra, our Utopia, the main utopist. And I am very glad that the head of our orchestra is a Hungarian musician.
– What are your plans for yourself and the Utopia Orchestra in the near future?
– We meet 3-4 times a year to create a new programme together. We started in the autumn of 2022, prepared and played the works of Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel at the most important European venues in Hamburg, Vienna, and Berlin. This year we performed Mahler’s Third Symphony and became participants of the Salzburg Festival. In the summer we will present Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony. However, the important thing is that every meeting is not just another tour or just a gathering of a festival orchestra. This is a date that we rush off to, and every meeting makes us happy.