It may be his first time on the podium in front of The Philadelphia Orchestra (he leads subscription concerts February 4-6), but at not-quite age 40, Andrés Orozco-Estrada is already an established conductor. He’s the music director of the Houston Symphony, the chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic.
Photo by Werner Kmetitsch
In Philadelphia “it’s a great orchestra I’m going to have in front of me, to make this amazing, beautiful music. The Philadelphia Orchestra has a very compact sound, very energetic, very powerful. But it’s not too loud, not out of control, it’s really focused and very centered. I like this very much. It’s what you’d expect not only from a top orchestra, but also a top orchestra in this American, very brilliant, and very high-level way. This is exactly what I’m looking forward to experiencing, and to enjoying of course!”
Orozco-Estrada has deep ties to Vienna, the city with such an important place in Western music history (a history recently celebrated in our three-week Vienna festival). He moved there from his native Colombia in 1997 to study conducting. Soon afterward he made a big splash filling in to lead the Tonkünstler Orchestra at Vienna’s legendary Musikverein. He became the group’s music director in 2009, leading it for six seasons.
“Vienna is indeed something very special, for many reasons. I now have the opportunity to work regularly with the Vienna Philharmonic, which has a huge tradition. Being in the city of Brahms and Beethoven and Mozart, you feel you can somehow understand, maybe with a little romanticism and fantasy, that you can feel yourself going through the same streets as all those composers. This is inspiring! It helps me understand particularly the repertoire connected to this tradition, much better and more deeply.”
The upcoming concerts with The Philadelphia Orchestra are right up Orozco-Estrada’s alley. The centerpiece is the Brahms Violin Concerto, featuring Augustin Hadelich. “I like him very much; he’s a very honest player, perfect technically, very sensitive, with a sense of phrasing and balanced tempos. For Brahms these are crucial skills for a good interpretation. When you are close to Brahms, like I am in Vienna, you have a type of sound in your ear. I’m hoping we’ll get to this very Brahmsian sound together.”
In Orozco-Estrada’s view that Brahmsian sound offers an interesting commentary on Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony, also on the program. Brahms was a huge influence on Dvořák, “but what I like so much about his Seventh, it’s like Dvořák decided to try to find his own way to express and mold his sound. The relationship to Brahms is very strong, the inspiration, but at the same time Dvořák is trying to be different, to find his own path. I like these ‘opposite’ connections.”
The program opens with Samuel Barber’s Overture to The School for Scandal. Barber is sometimes called “the American Brahms,” so here’s another insight into the influence of the Viennese master. Barber was just 21 and a student at the Curtis Institute of Music when he composed the piece, which was premiered by the Philadelphians in 1933.
Orozco-Estrada very much admires the composer’s style in this piece. “Barber was young, still looking for his own style, but in searching for his own identity, he’s trying different things. He’s trying to find color. The piece has beautiful melodies, and a lot of great music.”
So has Orozco-Estrada made special preparations for his first engagement with The Philadelphia Orchestra? He’s immersed himself in their recordings, and of course he knows these particular scores inside out.
But “the most special thing I do: I try to be honest with the music and with my musical ideas, and try to get a musical connection, and of course a human connection. I just try to be myself.”
In the end “what happens is, the moment you meet the musicians onstage is real life, so whatever you prepare is important, but how you use your preparation and how you react and interact with the musicians is the key, and that is only possible in the moment of making music.”
That moment arrives starting February 4 in Verizon Hall! Find more information or purchase tickets here.