Debussy and Tchaikovsky are like two sides of the same coin. They share a central essence yet face in opposite directions. Tchaikovsky is devoted to Mozart and European Classical traditions whilst Debussy with his love of the music of Bali, points us all towards a more inclusive human brotherhood. The essential musical language they speak however is very similar. It is the language of melody. Perhaps it was their magical ability to create beautiful and memorable tunes which most impressed Madame Nadezhda von Meck, the wealthy Russian benefactor of both composers.
My role as I see it, is not only to recreate, enhance and give new life to the composer’s intentions, it is also to somehow get inside of the mind and consciousness the composer himself. Not unlike how a great actor must somehow “become” the character he portrays, I feel like a completely different person conducting Debussy than I do conducting Tchaikovsky.
Playing Debussy’s groundbreaking Quartet in the version for string orchestra is probably something which Debussy himself would have considered impossible. (Most contemporary orchestral players would probably agree with this assertion.) But for me, this somewhat radical idea is appropriate for a work by this revolutionary composer and I am convinced that he would have loved it! Compared to the sound of four players, the string orchestra’s palette of colour, dynamic range and emotional expression is exponentially wider and deeper even though the orchestra plays from Debussy’s original Quartet parts with the utmost respect for every detail of Debussy’s score.
The Serenade for Strings is the epitome of musical inspiration. Tchaikovsky’s love for the old forms and his worship of Mozart are abundantly obvious here. Embodying Tchaikovsky’s ideal of integrating transcendent Classicism with the sensual and emotional aspects of his temperament is my goal when conducting all works by Tchaikovsky. Especially the Serenade for Strings.