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Introducing Antonio Méndez, the Third Finalist of the Young Conductors Award

8 MAY 2013

published in: Concert, Whitsun, General

Antonio Méndez (Photo: Besar Likaj)
1) What does it mean for you to be finalist of the Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award?
I am extremely happy to have been chosen by this Jury as a finalist, amongst all 82 applicants, which allows me to be closer to the final objective of winning! In addition to conducting the wonderful Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra at the Salzburg Summer Festival, winning the Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Conductors Award would mean an important step in my career, with huge honour and responsibility that comes with winning. But before all of that, to be a finalist means having the opportunity to perform in Salzburg with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester and Sebastian Manz, a prospect I am very much looking forward to.
2) What comes in your mind if you hear the words: Salzburg and Salzburg Festival?
I believe that as a musician is impossible not to relate Salzburg immediately with Mozart and Karajan, two of the biggest names of music history. It's absolutely thrilling to think that I will conduct in the city where they were born. As for the Salzburg Festival, I think about one of the most important music festivals in the world, with almost a hundred years of history, tradition and music. The best orchestras, conductors and soloists perform every year at the Salzburg Festival, and it's a huge honour being part of such a prestigious musical event.
3) What is your musical guideline, what drives you in your career? Do you have a role model?
Without any doubt, passion is the word that comes to my mind. Passion for challenges and excellence. The only way I know to do what I do is with a huge amount of passion and dedication, and I truly believe that doing it this way the only result you can get is something from outstanding quality, and most importantly, something authentic and sincere. I can't actually say that I have any specific role model; of course there are many conductors that I admire and many of them have inspired me for many different reasons, both musical and otherwise, but at the end every one of us feels and performs the music in a different way. When I was studying in Madrid, someone told me: "be yourself". I know it sounds obvious, but it has been probably the best advice I have ever received. As a conductor you are very exposed on stage, you have to be a pure communicator, in a way it's like being naked; I think this metaphor shows it very clearly. And in my opinion, being yourself is the way it should be to make this art form work.
4) What does music in general mean to you? What do you want to achieve in your life?
I think that is a very simple question with a very difficult answer. Music plays obviously a very important role in my life, and is much more than a job; it is my passion. For me it means being able to make music with great orchestras and soloists, to share different points of view and work together. It's a challenge and a responsibility which I enjoy very much, with every single day being different and bringing something new. Music is a universal language, which allows a situation such as having a Spanish conductor with a Danish orchestra being able to understand each other perfectly while performing music by French, German or Russian composers; it is only an example but it's something magical and I feel extremely privileged and lucky to be able to dedicate my life to my passion. I believe life is about sharing, in every aspect, and music is not an exception. Developing trust based relationships with orchestras and soloists is, in my opinion, the best way to achieve a true musical message. I am convinced that we all have something to say and contribute to the music, therefore making a commitment to share all this with the audience.
5) What was your most inspiring experience in your profession?
I could say I have had two experiences so far, that have left a deep impression on me: The first one was when I first worked with a youth orchestra, which was the JONDE (Spanish National Youth Orchestra). This was already some years ago, but I still remember the passion and energy with which they played and the atmosphere that we created in the concerts, something very special that you only get in few concerts, which makes it even more special when it happens. The second one was also a debut, in this case my debut with an absolutely world class orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich. It happened at the end of last year and has been so far one of my greatest experiences as a conductor; one of these moments when everything seems to work in the same direction - a beautiful concert hall with one of the best acoustics I know, a perfectly balanced orchestra, outstanding in every aspect, amazing soloists, very good atmosphere and an excellent program - and all for the same purpose, the only one that at the end matters: the music.