Stéphane Denève commences his first full season as Artistic Director of the New World Symphony, the second person to hold the post in the orchestra’s 36 years since the departure of Michael Tilson Thomas. NWS Chief Executive Howard Herring said to The Washington Post, “We wanted someone like Michael…Could they relate to this community in the largest sense? When Stephane emerged, it was clear that he was the guy.”
Michael Andor Brodeur wrote, “In many ways, Denève, 51, does cut the figure of the archetypal conductor: He is a big, broad-shouldered figure who requires no podium to tower over most people. He has an electric presence onstage, swinging his body around and resolving grand gestures into little crackles at the fingertips. He has an ear for detail and a flair for drama. Even his dancing curls seem cut from a certain cloth. But in most ways, the French conductor undercuts what feels like the current zeitgeist of tyrannical maestros. Denève cracks jokes, forgives mistakes, blesses sneezes. He drops a few lines of Baudelaire before rehearsal of Debussy’s La Mer and thanks his players effusively for listening not to him but to each other.”
Denève comments, “I believe in the soul of orchestras. Due to the very slow renewal within orchestras, they develop a certain sound, a certain concept, a certain style that is carried through and that makes an orchestra historically interesting. But what is most exciting here is to try to unify people, to make them listen to each other, to come to understand what makes them become an orchestra…I think an orchestra is the only tangible proof of telepathy. For me, the most important thing is that if you love music, you are not alone anymore.”
New World Symphony held their sold-out season opener on the 16 September, with Denève conducting alongside fellow Molly Turner. The programme featured Hailstork’s An American Port of Call, Ibert’s Escales (Ports of Call), Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, and Debussy’s La mer.
Photo credit: Alex Markow, courtesy of New World Symphony