The conductor is a silent musician. Mark Wigglesworth has just used this oxymoron to title his book in defense of the directors (Faber & Faber). Nobody doubts that it is still the most relevant and mediatic figure of the classic one. But also that, apart from what we see on a podium, he spends many more hours working in silence, pencil in hand, in front of a lot of staves. "Such is the case that my daughter, when she was five years old, told a friend that her father's job was to study," says Gustavo Gimeno smilingly (Valencia, 1976). The owner of the Orchester philharmonique du Luxembourg, since 2015, receives EL PAÍS near his apartment in the Grand Duchy in a place with more than just name: Café Interview. He has just been appointed Principal Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 2020 and next Sunday, November 11, Ibermúsica will start a new Spanish tour with the Luxembourg Philharmonic through San Sebastian, Madrid, Valencia and Oviedo.
"The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is an orchestra of great musical culture, since it has almost 100 years of Viennese, German, Czech and British influences. They perfectly understand any detail of style. And, in addition, they play wonderfully, "admits Gimeno. The Valencian will not only join his name to other Spanish directors who have held North American titles in important orchestras, such as Enrique Jordá, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos or Jesús López Cobos, but also international figures who have played the same role in Toronto, such as Seiji Ozawa, Karel Ančerl or Andrew Davis. But it has not been simple. "The process is exhaustive and stressful, what they call there nerve-racking, they have analyzed with magnifying glass all kinds of artistic and personal issues ", acknowledges the Valencian director.
It all started with his successful debut in the United States, in August 2015, with works by Beethoven Y Dvorak, in front of the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom. "I should have made a good impression on its executive director, Gary Hanson, who after his retirement had an internship with the Toronto Symphony," he says. Hanson followed Gimeno later in many of his performances with important North American orchestras. But it was his debut with the Canadian orchestra last February, which perhaps tipped the scales. "I was worried about debuting there with a work as exposed as the Fourth symphony, by Beethoven. But it was very good. In a few minutes of rehearsal I was fascinated by the orchestra and its excellent concertino, Jonathan Crow. " They are already waiting there for their return, in June, to direct the Violin Concerto, from Sibelius, with Crow as soloist, next to The fire bird, of Stravinski. "I feel more and more identified and excited about the project," he confesses.
But Gimeno will combine his work in Toronto with the Luxembourg Philharmonic, at least until 2022. "I'm comfortable here and the orchestra has improved both in terms of music, depth and repertoire. I think we have reached the Momentum" We proved it in his recent semi-silk production of Rigoletto, of Verdi, in collaboration with the Parisian Théâtre des Champs Elysées, but also in his recent recordings of Mahler, Stravinski and Debussy for the Pentatone label. And even with the increase of their international tours that will take them soon to South America. Now they start their third tournée Spanish in three years with the symphonies Quarter of Mahler and Fifth of Tchaikovsky, together with his first collaboration with the Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang, which will alternate Concert n ° 1, of Bartók, with that of Beethoven. "For me the Quarter, from Mahler, immerses us from the beginning in an uncertain world. And in Chaikovski I admire the extraordinary precision of his scores to capture that emotion that everyone admires in his music, "he says.
But nothing of Spanish music. "I think that the idea of a Spanish director having to direct Spanish music is something from another time. I direct works by Manuel de Falla or Francisco Coll, of course, but my repertoire is international and I select it according to my convenience, "he admits. Gimeno will visit Spain sporadically in the coming years. In May he will direct the Ninth, of Mahler, to the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana and has future plans to direct opera at the Liceu de Barcelona and the Teatro Real de Madrid.
He also talks about the situation of the orchestral direction subjected to sexual scandals and sudden stops, like Gatti's in front of the Concertgebouw. "It is a very positive change, because such cases would have remained years ago in something internal without consequences. But I'm also interested in the fact that in these times, where the superficial and social networks are the most important, the orchestras claim musical depth ". He gives as an example the arrival of Kirill Petrenko to the ownership of the Berlin Philharmonic. "I think, even, that the great boom of young directors has passed. And the orchestras return to look at directors of middle age or of a certain maturity. They are looking for someone to inspire them, "he concludes.
Another silent figure of the Philharmonic Orchester du Luxembourg, but also decisive, is its executive director, Stefan Gehmacher (Salzburg, 1970). A prestigious music manager who has worked with Simon Rattle at the Berlin Philharmonic, with Mariss Jansons at Radio de Baviera and now in Luxembourg with Gimeno. "I just offer my experience to Gustavo to develop his work," he says with refined humility. But he also confesses the differences between the three directors. "Simon is one of those who knows exactly what he wants to negotiate with the orchestra. Mariss is almost the opposite, since she always seeks the consensus of the musicians. Gustavo is very open and close, although he has very clear objectives. Four hours with Mariss, they resolve in twenty minutes with Simon, although Gustavo is much more playful. With him our meetings are constant, but do not spend more than three minutes, "he admits smiling.