Riccardo Chailly: "Mahler and Puccini glimpsed sound worlds never before explored" | Culture



With the music of Mahler you start, but it never ends. The orchestra conductor Riccardo Chailly (Milan, 1953) owes him, even, his epiphany as an interpreter, when he attended, with eleven years, a rehearsal of the First symphony at the Foro Italico in Rome. He has been directing his works all over the world for more than three decades, and he has almost two complete integrals of his recorded symphonies (Decca) and video (Accentus), but the Italian maestro goes ahead. "Mahler is an eternal work in progress where you never get to anything definitive ", recognizes EL PAÍS by phone from Milan. "You can not keep a composition. It is necessary to know his ten symphonies and his Lieder to delve into its sonic universe, "he continues.

But Chailly began his Mahlerian journey, paradoxically, by the end, with the problematic and unfinished Tenth symphony, that recorded in Berlin, in 1986, in the version of Deryck Cooke. "He was very young and it was a gesture of caution, but also of conviction of the relationship of this symphony with the masterpieces that had preceded him. My debut with her gave me luck and it was the beginning of my first complete cycle of symphonies with the orchestra of the Berlin radio (now the German Symphony Orchestra of Berlin), "he explains. His interpretation came to interest, at that time, the very Herbert von Karajan. "I had the immense fortune to hear him address the Sixth and the Ninth, at the head of the Berlin Philharmonic, but also to maintain abundant conversations with him about Mahler that I remember with emotion, "he says. Another determining figure for Chailly was Claudio Abbado. "At the beginning of the seventies I became his assistant for the symphonic concerts at La Scala in Milan. In those years, Claudio was preparing precisely the first symphonic cycle of Mahler in Italy, which was one of the last European nations to discover his music, "he recalls.

Chailly returns to Madrid to head the La Scala Philharmonic, precisely the formation that Abbado founded with members of the orchestra of the Milanese opera theater. He will direct two programs in the Ibermúsica cycles that begins, tomorrow, Wednesday, with the Concert for orchestra, by Bartók, and Pictures of an exhibition, from Músorgski / Ravel, and continues, on Thursday, with the Sixth symphony, of Mahler. "I'm happy to return to Madrid with two programs that reflect both the tradition and the personality of this orchestra," he says. They are three compositions that Chailly already recorded for Decca with the Orchestra of the Royal Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, which he directed from 1988 to 2004. "I recognize that I never listen to my recordings, but also that I always start from scratch when I direct a composition again, it is the only way to acquire a certain sense of variety and freedom of thought, "he says. It is clear if we compare his first recording of the Sixth mahleriana in Amsterdam, 1989, with the last one, in video, with the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, in 2012. Apart from particular details or differences in duration, Chailly exchanges the sequence of the central movements of the work, Scherzo-Andante to Andante-Scherzo, an old polemic, still in force, that the composer encouraged with his changes of criteria.

The Italian director defends his new position in the Sixth of Mahler. "For me those two central movements function as intermediates. They serve to separate the gigantic funeral march of the first movement, which lasts almost 26 minutes, from the colossal end of half an hour, where the march becomes an obsession and leads to death. As a second movement, the Walking It serves as a necessary spiritual meditation after the funeral march. And the Scherzo, as a third movement, it is heard as a Ländler transformed into a tragic demonic nightmare, "he says. But Chailly also defends Mahler as a link to the modernity of other composers. "It's clear that Berg would not have written his Three pieces for orchestra, opus 6, without having known this symphony, but also that Puccini used a fragment of the end of Scherzo in his opera Gianni Schicchi"He says.

The Italian director has been claiming for several years, from La Scala, the modernity of Puccini. And, for that, he has restored the original versions of some of his operas, such as Madama Butterfly, that failed in its premiere in the Milanese theater, in 1904. "For me, as musical director at La Scala, it is a moral duty towards the composer of Lucca to repair that injustice that caused him so much pain," acknowledges Chailly who, in March, will direct a new production of Manon Lescaut in La Scala. In it, the original version of 1893 will be reused, which includes a different ending to the first act. "It is a very complex and modern passage, where three rhythms are superimposed on the theme of the romanza" Donna non vidi mai "on the trombones in fortísimo. Puccini, like Mahler, sought a continuous renewal and peered into sound worlds never before explored, "he says. That pucciniano project in La Scala will continue in the opening of the next season with a new critical edition of Tosca that promises interesting news. Another composition where his relationship with Mahler returns: "It is famous Mahler's fuss during the premiere in Vienna of Tosca, when he left the room at the beginning of the third act. It seems a gesture of rejection, but for me it denotes a recognition of the sound world of Puccini, which could compete with his in his innovative disruptive load, "he says.

Another composer that Chailly wants to claim is Rachmaninoff. This summer he has scheduled his Third symphony at the head of the orchestra of the Lucerna Festival, whose ownership he assumed in 2015, after the death of Claudio Abbado. "It's a symphony that I already directed in Philadelphia, where it was premiered and recorded by the composer himself, but I want to do it again in Lucerna and maybe record with the other two. In fact, its First symphony, that was another unjust and painful failure in its premiere, I think it is a work of the highest value, "he says. But his interest in less frequented works also includes the film music of Nino Rota or the symphonic work of Luigi Cherubini, which will focus his next two record releases in Decca at the head of the La Scala Philharmonic. And he does not neglect his interest in some early Verdi operas, as Attila, who led this season in Prima della Scala, one of the main musical events of the year in Italy. In the cast of that premiere, highlighted as the female protagonist, the young soprano from Madrid, Saioa Hernández. Chailly comments on her impressions: "I went to see her in her dressing room the same evening as the premiere and she told me that she was living a dream. Well, that dream has lasted until the last performance of the opera. She has made a great debut and I hope to collaborate with her in the future ", she concludes.

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