Sebastian Weigle to conduct a hidden gem at a Yomiuri orchestra concert


Sebastian Weigle conducts the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra.

By Yukiko Kishinami / The Japan News Staff WriterA symphony by a once-forgotten composer will be the highlight of a Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra concert on Sept. 10, which will be conducted by the orchestra’s new principal conductor, Sebastian Weigle.

The German maestro believes it to be his mission to let music fans experience the music of Hans Rott (1858-84), an Austrian composer whose work has been slowly yet surely rediscovered since the late 20th century. Weigle has already conducted Rott’s Symphony with about 10 orchestras, and the YNSO will be the latest.

“First of all, just by listening, without knowing anything, you figure out it’s unbelievable what this man at the young age of 22 years old is doing,” Weigle said of the symphony written in 1880.

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    Weigle speaks during the interview.

Rott learned organ under Bruckner and composition under the same teacher as Mahler.

“Mahler was very much impressed by Rott’s work,” Weigle said. “The unusual thing is that it sounds like Mahler, but when you think it is Mahler, in the time when Hans Rott wrote this, Gustav Mahler had not even started with any symphonies. If this guy could have had much more time ...,” he said.

Weigle, who was introduced to Rott’s work by a radio station official in Munich, recorded the symphony in 2004 with the Munich Radio Orchestra. He said Rott used some unusual methods for the time.

“How he is guiding melodies, how he accompanies things, how he wants to change one tempo to the other — somehow it’s quite a bit radical, sometimes it’s quite a bit stressful, and I feel that something was not very comfortable with himself. You can feel it in his music,” he said.

For the Sept. 10 concert, Weigle has paired the Rott symphony with Hans Pfitzner’s posthumous cello concerto with Alban Gerhardt as the soloist. Weigle and Gerhardt have made a recording of all three cello concertos by the German composer.

“The Rott symphony is a bit too short to present by itself. And I wanted to present the Pfitzner cello concerto in Japan. They are not far from each other. I hope they’ll fit together,” Weigle said.

The concert is part of Weigle’s second visit to Japan in his first season as the YNSO’s 10th principal conductor. The third visit will be in March.

On Sept. 14, Weigle will conduct a program of popular classics: “Die Zauberflote” Overture by Mozart, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Mendessohn’s Symphony No. 4 “Italian” in Yokohama.

Young Japanese violinist Issei Kobayashi is the soloist for the Tchaikovsky concerto. Weigle and Kobayashi have not performed together yet, but the conductor said, “He was playing for me, and I was so surprised about his talent and his amazing quality, how to use the bow and how to sing with his instrument. I was so much impressed.”

Introducing young artists to the audience is a mission Weigle takes seriously.

“The Yomikyo [YNSO] and myself, we want to present young soloists. They need help and support, and they have huge careers in front of them. I think it’s also nice for the audience to see young talent. We mix them obviously with experienced stars, of course. I do the same more or less in Frankfurt Oper [where he is the general music director]. I’m happy that Yomikyo likes this, too,” he said.

Pianist Rudolf Buchbinder, the soloist for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 at the concerts on Sept. 20-22, is an example of one of those experienced stars.

“We haven’t worked together. One time he became ill when we were supposed to do one concert together in Vienna, and he could not attend it. Now I’m happy to finally work with him,” Weigle said.

The program also includes Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

Weigle said he likes the chemistry with the YNSO very much.

“I like the atmosphere very much, to work with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra,” he said. “They are very open, very curious. They like to learn new things. They know Brahms No. 4 very, very well, but they are interested and open to hear some opinions about phrasing, about style, about tempo, maybe about relationships between the movements or things like this. This makes life very interesting.”

Weigle started his musical career as a horn player at the Berlin State Opera. He first conducted the YNSO in 2016 as a guest conductor and became the orchestra’s principal conductor in April this year. All of the concerts he has conducted with the YNSO have featured Austro-German repertoires. At his first concert with the orchestra as the principal conductor on May 14, he conducted Henze’s “Sieben Boleros” and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9.

“I enjoyed so much the first concert of this contract,” he said. “They gave me so much in my soul, and also how the audience reacted was very, very impressive.”

He then conducted Richard Strauss’ opera “Salome” in June with the YNSO.

“I have a certain responsibility now. It’s different if you come as a guest conductor, or if you come as a chief conductor, a principal conductor. But I cannot say very, very different. I just continue,” he said.


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