Meet conductor Rory Macdonald
“The Philharmonia has always been one of my favourite orchestras – I love its famously rich string sound and am so looking forward to being surrounded by it on the podium.”
This is the first time you’ll be conducting the Philharmonia. What are you looking forward to?
The Philharmonia has always been one of my favourite orchestras – I love its famously rich string sound and am so looking forward to being surrounded by it on the podium. I have been in the audience at some wonderful Philharmonia concerts over the years, ranging from Mahler and Bartók with Esa-Pekka Salonen, to Rachmaninov with Yuri Temirkanov and Prokofiev with Vladimir Ashkenazy.
When do you know you’ve clicked with a new orchestra?
The chemistry between an orchestra and its conductor is like magic – it is completely indefinable. The most important thing, as both conductors and players, is to try and do full justice to the composers’ ideas and wishes.
What is your relationship with tonight’s repertoire?
Sibelius has long been one of my favourite composers and I love conducting the King Christian II Suite, it’s a wonderful piece with all the colour and drama that one finds in his earlier symphonies. I hope that our audience will enjoying the feeling of discovering something new and rare as it’s not performed very often. The short and charming Dance Intermezzo is also a real rarity. I have always loved the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto and so enjoyed performing it with our soloist, Pavel Kolesnikov, a few years ago. He brings a beautifully subtle classicism to the work.
“I have really missed that wonderful feeling of experiencing a great performance together with hundreds of other people in a theatre or concert hall – and I hope that soon we will be able to do so again.”
This has been a difficult year for culture. What’s been your most memorable musical experience during this time?
This has been an incredibly hard year for everyone and has presented huge challenges for all of us in the arts world. I was very fortunate to conduct Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Frankfurt Opera last autumn. The company built a brand new, Covid-friendly set in just ten days, with all the singers safely separated from each other with plexiglass screens – apart from the Count and Countess who were a couple in real life! To conduct that life-affirming opera during such dark times and after six months without performances was an experience that I will never forget.
We may be looking at a slightly different concert experience for a while. What single thing would improve the format of the classical concert?
The restrictions caused by the pandemic create a real opportunity to try new things. A shorter concert format without an interval allows us to focus deeply on the fewer works being presented. I am happy that lots of interesting smaller scale repertoire is now being explored. I’m also excited to see that many orchestras are now experimenting with different types of venue, and making everything available online. However, I still believe that the basic concept of the classical concert works well. I have really missed that wonderful feeling of experiencing a great performance together with hundreds of other people in a theatre or concert hall – and I hope that soon we will be able to do so again.
Upcoming online concerts
- Sibelius Violin Concerto
- Beethoven Symphony No. 6, Pastoral
Booking for Friends of the Philharmonia opens at 10am on Thursday, 1 July. General booking opens Thursday, 8 July.