When conductor Stéphane Denève last spoke to St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh in January, he was both excited and impatient to start his new role as music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra for the 2019-2020 season. Now in a few months he will officially assume that position.
“I feel exactly the same,” Denève told Marsh on Thursday’s program. “It’s all very exciting and the sky is blue.” He described his relationship with the SLSO as a “musical marriage.”
In the meantime, the native Frenchman will conduct four weekends of performances at Powell Hall. All of the upcoming programs “are dedicated to the theme of love.”
“I thought, well, I’m not married yet – this musical marriage will happen at the start of next season, and I thought [about] how to build the musical momentum until then,” Denève explained. “I’m maybe not married but I’m definitely engaged, so let’s indeed build the romance together.”
Denève said he “adores” programming and picking selections, even for broad topics such as love. He will lead the SLSO in Alexander Scriabin’s “Poem of Ecstasy” on Saturday and Sunday, with other selections from Richard Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” and Hector Berlioz’s “Romeo and Juliet” exploring stories of passion and love.
The difference between here and there
The conductor works around the world and explained how his programs differ depending on where it’s being performed. He emphasized that context matters.
“I always try to bring music that has not been played often or needs to come back … you dream about the institution that you are working with and try to see what makes sense for that institution,” Denève added.
He also described how “there is often a travel in time with music.”
“You can really see how the music was meaningful in the time it was composed,” he said. “When you travel the world like I do, you realize that really orchestras are very different; then it’s a dialogue between what the musician offers you and what you imagine.
“From this dialogue is a relationship. A way to be more creative is to just really respect what is the culture of a place, of an institution, of a language, et cetera.”
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