Q&A with Richard Egarr
It’s been said you bring a “joyful sense of adventure” to your music and conducting. How do you interpret this description?
I don’t want to bore people. Music should be interactive—it’s a two-way street. Modern-day concerts break down the barriers. As the main contact to the musicians, I am not passive, I speak to the audience. It gives them access and permission to react when the wall between the audience and orchestra is removed. Think of it as a contact sport designed to feed off the energy of one another so we can communicate with people emotionally.
Has the experience of working with multiple orchestras worldwide as both a conductor and soloist revealed more commonalities or variances?
I believe in the competencies of the many orchestras and musicians I perform with. They each have a deep understanding and are familiar with working on the old instruments, repertoire and techniques. I also enjoy working with modern players. I don’t try and give them a list of rules, “Don’t do this, or that,” which are negatives. The worst thing would be to bore the orchestra and have them tune out. Speaking as a musician to the musicians, I give them a sense of my experience with regards to a piece of music, conveying its beauty, color, rhythm, taste and smell. I’ve found the people, the musicians, respond. What’s nice is, as one of the players and conductor, it is a great way for the other musicians to see you’re not just some idiot with a stick, and that makes it really fun to interact with musicians this way.
Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Bach’s Suite No. 4 and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 are favorites among many classical music lovers. What made you choose these works, and is there a specific element or formula you focus on while programming?
As far as pairing these pieces, all the music is pretty upbeat and active. It is not miserable. There is no one correct way of combining or playing a musical piece, and, during the 20th century, soloists were expected to provide their own take on what they were performing. I just try and convey what the music is about. I am looking forward to playing the Vivaldi piece with the soloists, as it is always fun to work with different people.
Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 highlights soloists on violin, flute and harpsichord. This was also the first appearance of the harpsichord becoming more prominent in the solo role, which was a groundbreaking move by Bach.
What do you hope audiences take away with them after the performance?
Well…that they’ve had a positive experience and were excited about the music. Hopefully, they feel we had a good time on stage and transferred that to the audience. Over the past 15 years or so, people have been encouraged to go to concerts as a way to relax, but I believe it is more important they be involved and react. It’s all good energetic, emotional stuff. I hope the audiences are quite exhausted by the end of the concert.