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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 16, No. 6

André Previn and the NHK

March 18, 2011

Flash version here

as told to Lucie Renaud

My relationship with the NHK goes back quite a while—eight years ago, I would say. I've gone back fairly regularly since and they made me principal guest conductor, a position I will continue to hold for the next three years. I am enjoying it very much, it's a wonderful orchestra. It's by far the best of the Asian orchestras and really has become a world-class organization now.

When you are a conductor and you conduct great orchestras, like the Berlin Philharmonic or the Boston Symphony or the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, you try to bring forth works that may be interesting and that the orchestra might enjoy playing. I program things that I love with people I like working with.

The big work on the program is of course Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony, a piece I have loved all my life. It really is a tremendous symphony and, I think, the composer's best. It is almost an hour long and is particularly brilliantly written for the orchestra; therefore, when you have a world-class orchestra, it is a really good piece to play because it really shows everybody off—all the sections, all the soloists, everybody.

The choice to perform Takemitsu's Green as well was fairly obvious. He is Japan's most famous composer and this is Japan's best orchestra. I thought it would be nice that, as a Japanese orchestra, when we go on tour, we could play a big Japanese piece. He is a phenomenal composer. This is not one of his longest pieces but it is wonderfully orchestrated and makes a great impression, I think. It may not be a piece that people will take to instantly, but I think they would want to hear it again. When an orchestra is first class, they owe it to themselves and to the audiences they play for to perform composers of our time.

But, of course, I couldn't do without Mozart; he is the world's greatest composer. If I could only take a few symphonies with me, it probably would be anyone of his last five and one of Brahms', but as there are so many and you don't always want the same one, it would be almost impossible to choose.

This will be the first performance in Montreal both for Previn and the NHK Orchestra. It was founded in 1926 and was first known as the New Symphony Orchestra and then briefly as the Japan Symphony Orchestra. NHK stands for Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). The orchestra presents about 120 concerts in Japan a year, including 54 subscription concerts at NHK Hall and Suntory Hall in Tokyo.
Some of the world's most renowned conductors have been associated with the orchestra through the course of its eighty-year long history, including Josef Rosenstock, Herbert von Karajan, Ernest Ansermet, Joseph Keilberth, Charles Dutoit (Music Director Emeritus), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Conductor Laureate), Wolfgang Sawallisch (Honorary Conductor Laureate), Herbert Blomstedt (Honorary Conductor), Yuzo Toyama (Permanent Conductor), Tadaaki Otaka (Permanent Conductor) and André Previn (Principal Guest Conductor).

The third work on the program will be Strauss' magnificent Four Last Songs, as performed by Dame Kiri te Kanawa.

March 18 at Place-des-Arts

(c) La Scena Musicale