Special interview with Sir Roger Norrington 1999

I'm very happy to present this original interview with Sir Roger Norrington by the help of Mr. K in Germany. The questions and answers are exchanged via e-mail and fax. The Japanese version is also available.

Eight questions and answers

Q1. Your recordings with period orchestra seem to be suspended since Bruckner's 3rd and Smetana's Ma Vlast, while you have performed Tchaikovsky and more Bruckners at several concerts. Because most people do not have a chance to attend your concert, we sincerely hope those repertoires to be recorded and released. Do you have any plan to further extend your recordings with period orchestra ?

A: I would very much like to extend our recordings with period orchestras. You are right that we performed Bruckner 4 last year and a wonderful series of Tchaikovsky concerts n Paris and in Britain. At the moment record companies seem to be extremely reluctant to record anything with such large forces. It seems to me extremely important that recordings like the Tchaikovsky take place because they give us all a glimpse of a new way of performing this music which could be of value to many. I earnestly hope that the Tchaikovsky project will be recorded, and that a major project for Mahler's 1st Symphony in 2001 with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will also reach recording stage. If you know anyone who is interested we are very willing to follow it up.

Q2. As far as I know, your "Experience" series reached Tchaikovsky last year, but was not held this year (correct ?). Do you think you will continue this exciting event regularly ? If yes, could you give me any idea about next program ?

A: So the next experience package will be in 2001 together with Wagner Wesendonck Lieder there should be performances at the very end of August and beginning of September 2001 together with a weekend in Paris at the end of September and a weekend in London early in October. All the dates are not yet fixed for this adventure.

Q3. The Barenreiter's new urtext Beethoven symphonies will be completed next year. How do you think these new editions are interesting ? And will you consider to reexamine Beethoven's performance 10 years after your remarkable recordings ?

A: The Barenreiter Beethoven Symphonies are extremely important. It is extraordinary that there have been no good Beethoven editions until now, when the complete works of Schuz and Telemann for instance have been available for years!

It must be said that a great many of the new discoveries in the Beethoven text are not very audible. Although they all contribute a great deal to our understanding of the work. What is so audible are questions of tempo, balance, phrasing and dynamics, and fortunately these were all possible to change even before we had such a good edition as the new one. You probably know that there are also other new editions of Beethoven coming out from other publishers.

Q4. I think your performance, especially with period orchestras, are marked by definitive emphasis of sforzando by horn section, which I like very much, but seems very different from most modern performance. Could you tell me what do you think leads such difference between period and modern performance in terms of the presence of instruments ?

A: Modern performance, particularly after Karajan, tend to go for a smooth, homogeneous sound which can be made grand and "elevated" and suitable for large orchestras in large halls. By contrast performances of classical symphonies in Vienna were with small orchestras in small halls where the attack of the various instruments is much more noticeable. In performances with modern orchestras I try to bring out the same sort of details as with old instruments. I want the music to be alive and quite often dangerous.

Q5. How about your opera works these days ? I have read in some interview that your root of period performance was Montiveldi' Poppea, and I love your Magic Flute recording. Do you have any plan to extend your recordings in this area ?

A: At present I have no plans for further operas but I would like to if the recording situation improves.

Q6. Do you think that SWR RSO will be the core part of your activities for next several years ? Could you tell what you want to achieve with this orchestra ?

A: My main plans with the SWR Radio Sinfonie Orchestra Stuttgart are two-fold; one line will be twentieth century works from the whole century (in other words Elgar as well as Birtwhistle) with a particular emphasis on English and American works which are heard more rarely in Germany. The second line is more traditional works from the German repertory but played in the way we have become accustomed on period instruments. This second line is of course rather revolutionary for a traditional German orchestra.

Q7. I am extremely excited about your Japan tour plan. Then, a few questions about Japan. Have you ever been to Japan ? I remember that you put something Oriental jacket (looks like a Japanese one) when I met you in London last year (at Tchaikovsky Experience). How are you interested in Japan, or Oriental ?

Norrington at the Thaikovsky Experience 1998A: I too am excited about the Japanese tour in 2001. I have never been to Japan before though my wife has (she brought back the jacket from Tokyo). I am extremely interested in the Oriental but only as an outsider at present.

Q8. I found on the Web that Anne-Sophie Mutter discussed the opportunity to play a concerto with Sir Roger Norrington. If it is realized, it would be very interesting and exciting performance. Do you still consider to join Ms Mutter ? Or do you have any idea to record a violin concerto which is not found your current recording catalog.

A: I played a Mozart concerto with Anne-Sophie Mutter a few years ago with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and we enjoyed ourselves very much. She has an idea sometimes to record again the Mozart concertos and I would be happy to join her in this if we can get the right conditions.

Answers dated on August 25th, 1999

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