Interview: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra Manager Nikolaus Pont

09 January 2017


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BR-Klassik is our Label of the Month for the month of January. On this occasion we spoke to the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra manager Nikolaus Pont about the orchestra’s recent Asian tour, upcoming performances in Europe’s newest concert halls as well as possible future releases.

The latest release is the recording of Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony, the 100th release by BR-Klassik. Can you tell me more about that?

In October, we gave three concerts of An Alpine Symphony with Mariss Jansons in Munich and then we also performed it on a recent Asian tour. Maestro Jansons had never conducted it in Munich and since it is such a huge work featuring so many orchestral colours and qualities, the piece seems to be a very adequate choice for the 100th release of a record label. However, the orchestra and Mariss Jansons were not aware of this at the time of performing it, so what you’ll hear on the recording is the orchestra playing just as superbly they would usually do!

So the orchestra’s recent Asian tour was very successful?

It went extremely well. Mariss Jansons is in fantastic form in every way. As a manager, I guess I am allowed to talk about our orchestra with a fair amount of pride. They are playing at the very top level and the relationship between Jansons and our musicians is as strong as it can be. This is very exciting considering that he has already been chief conductor here for 13 years. There is so much fire and excitement and that was something everybody could feel on the tour, not just the audience, but also everybody on-stage and backstage. So: I am very happy to tell you that it was a wonderful tour.

What are the upcoming plans for the orchestra?

We have a very nice year 2017 coming up, with Mariss doing a European tour at the end of January and the beginning of February. We are playing in some brand new concert halls: the Philharmonie de Paris and two great new concert halls in Poland: Katowice and Wrocław! And in May we will give our debut at the Elbphilhamonie in Hamburg, so that’s going to be an exciting new touring experience.

What repertoire will the orchestra be playing in the upcoming season?

It will be an interesting and versatile season. We will play Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances for the tour at the end of January and Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder with Waltraud Meier. Mariss Jansons will conduct the premiere of a new piece, “Requiem Strophen” by Wolfgang Rihm which is planned to be recorded and released by BR-Klassik in the near future. Also, we’ll perform the Mozart Requiem with Jansons for in May, Shostakovich’s Symphony No 1 and Ravel’s “La Valse”. A great mix of repertoire with Mariss Jansons.

The line-up of guest conductors and soloists is, as I am happy to say, pretty exciting, too: To start the new year in style, now in January Daniel Harding will conduct Verdi's Falstaff with Sir Bryn Terfel in the title role. Other highlights in the upcoming months include Herbert Blomstedt conducting Bach’s St John’s Passion, Jiří Bělohlávek returning to the orchestra after quite some time, Bernard Haitink conducting Bruckner’s 6th and Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting a French programme. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, one of the orchestra’s favourite guest conductors, will conduct Mahler’s 10th and Kent Nagano and Gustavo Dudamel will also return later in spring. We have two artists-in-residence this season: Mark Padmore and Rudolf Buchbinder are our artists in residence this season and will feature in several projects. And then, we look forward to announcing our 2017/18 season in March or early April. Hence: it will be a nice spring!

While all this usual work goes on, we are of course very excited to observe how the architectural competition for a new concert hall in Munich is coming along. We will hopefully know the winning project at the end of May which will open a very interesting planning process that will lead to a new concert hall being opened in the early 2020s! That’s one of the things that keeps the orchestra, its conductor and its management on a really high level of motivation.

Does the orchestra commission a lot of new works?

Yes. There’s a series called Musica Viva in which the orchestra plays 5 concerts with 20th and 21st century pieces exclusively. There’s a high number of brand new commissions there. The contemporary music is in the core of the orchestra’s activities which I regard as highly important. Regularly working on new scores and keeping on top of contemporary music developments and playing techniques is very beneficial, also for the playing of non-contemporary music.

It’s been a real pleasure talking to you! Thank you Nikolaus!


Nikolaus Pont, BRSO Manager in conversation with primephonic editor Rachel Deloughry

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