Interview with 2019 MAWOMA (for MusicAnd Women MAestra) Conducting Competition winner German conductor Johanna Malangr
All Photo Credits: Hara Vlachou
Q: How did you decided to pursue a career in classical music? Please elaborate on the path to becoming a conductor
A: I started piano lessons at the age of 3 and was lucky enough to have parents, who always took me to classical concerts and opera.
I remember being mesmerised every time by the colourful sounds of a symphony orchestra. At some point as a teenager I realised I wanted to spend my life in this world and conducting could be my way of living literally in the middle of this music.
Q: Was there a moment which makes you to think that ‘this is the end of the road’ about your conducting or music career?
A: Not at all, I think will always treat any setbacks or failures as part of the process.
Q: Taking 18th and 19th century music making and devotion of great composers to their profession and art, I find our century a little bit more on the commercial side of the business. What is your say?
A: There are some aspects of the business side to music making nowadays that I find questionable indeed. For example how recordings are promoted, the way musicians get presented on CD covers in the last years. Also deciding about programmes based on what pieces work well at the box office.
On the other hand it simply takes a lot of organisation, sponsoring, business work to make music happen and I strongly doubt this was different in the previous centuries.
In letters or diaries of composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy or Mahler we can read about their day-to-day struggles with financing, marketing and so on. The artist being completely devoted and occupied with his art alone was more a romantic idea than the actual reality.
Q: At what importance is for you of knowing music history, composer biographies when performing your profession?
A: For me this is a vital step in preparing a piece. It helps to understand the composers intentions and what’s “behind the notes“. I also enjoy the research process a lot.
Q: I, myself being a specialist on Beethoven, would like know your first encounter with this titan on the conducting platform.
A: Out of all his orchestral works the very first Beethoven I ever conducted happened to be his 9th Symphony. It was before I had even started studying conducting full-time and with an orchestra of music students and singers.
I probably barely touched the surface of what this piece is about but it was a marvellous experience. We were a group of young students, it was the first time for many and there was a general feeling of exitement to explore this masterpiece together. We really believed in the humanistic idea and sharing this exuberant joy.
Q: There is an upcoming festival at Swtizerland which you will take part also. Please tell us about this years program.
A: Both are fascinating. I especially enjoy the community spirit in festivals and how they are often so connected to the place, which is the case in Lucerne Festival with it’s beautiful lake and stunning mountains.
Traditionally the repertoire of the Academy has a strong focus on music of the 20th and 21th 21th century. I will be Assistant Conductor to Maestri like Sylvain Cambreling and conduct the Roche Young Comissions.
Q: I will not ask your favorite composer but would like to learn – if any – your favorite historical recordings, within your possesion or not.
A: I love for example Giulini’s recordings of the Brahms Symphonies. Some things I might do differently now but I admire the depth of sound beyound anything. I am also very fond of the first Goldberg variations recording by Glenn Gould and a very old tape of West Side Story under the baton of Bernstein.
Q: Are you currently under a contract from any instution or orchestra? Conducting, being your sole profession, is enough to make your living? Tell us about your future expectations, plans and projects.
A: I am Assistant Conductor with the Lucerne Festival Academy, Music Director of the HIDALGO Festival Orchestra and do quite a bit of guest conducting all over Europe. That’s how I make a living. Opera is where my conducting career started, so I hope to continue doing both Symphonic Repertoire and Music Theatre.
Q: Conservatory students, academicians and classical music enthusiasts will be very happy and excited to read your valuable contribution, me at the very first place. Please share your final comments about anything that I missed to ask or on any other subject you would like to highlight or share.
A: Many thanks for your great questions. If your readers are curious to see me as a conductor, they can check out the dates on my website: www.johannamalangre.com
Hoping that music us connect us soon also in nondigital life!