Get to know Masaaki Suzuki

Masaaki Suzuki against a plain dark background, facing and looking towards the side

You spend much of your time conducting music from the Baroque era, performed on period instruments. What do you enjoy most about switching to a large symphony orchestra like the Philharmonia?

The biggest pleasure in working with symphony orchestras is the opportunity to work on “new” repertoire compared to baroque orchestras, and I have great joy in performing these compositions. This repertoire require a dynamic and steady sound, and it is delightful to be able to accomplish this relatively easily in comparison to period instruments.

Orchestral instruments are still developing – what are the main differences between the orchestral sound the audience would have heard when Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6 was premiered in 1881, and what we’ll hear in this concert?

Unfortunately, I was not at the premiere of Dvorak’s Symphony so I do not have the exact answer to this question! But to my imagination, since all the instruments were built and set up very differently at the time, the sound must have been very different. The instruments today are much more resonant. On the other hand, I think people back in the 19th century were much more passionate and romantic, and therefore the challenge today is to accomplish this emotional expression as they did back in 1881.

This is the first time you’ve worked with the Philharmonia. How do you form a connection with a new orchestra very quickly when you’ve only got a short amount of rehearsal time?

I have no strategy. I enter the room with an open mind, express my thoughts as an individual, and hope the orchestra reciprocates.

Have you and Jean-Guihen Queyras ever performed together before?

We have never performed together, but of course, I knew of him. His recording of the Schumann concerto with the Freiburger Barockorchester left a particularly strong impression on me and it is absolutely beautiful.  The pureness of his expression, that is direct and sincere, is what I admire most about his performance.

What do you enjoy most about visiting London?

I enjoy looking at the beautiful churches and historic buildings in London. The city also reminds me of several famous movie scenes and this is so exciting – for example, the MI6 building that exploded in the James Bond film Skyfall is still standing there!

Which other concert coming up in our London season, would you most like to hear, and why?

I would have loved to hear the performance of my dear friends David Hill and Roddy Williams with The Bach Choir [The Dream of Gerontius, Thursday 16 May], but it is a pity I will not be in London in May. Please send them my best regards and enjoy the concert for me too.

Masaaki Suzuki will join us to conduct our Spanish tour and finish our collaboration at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday, 28 April.