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In Conversation with the First of Three Finalists of the Young Conductors Award – Maxime Pascal

7 FEB 2014

published in: Concert

Maxime Pascal (Photo: Guillaume de Sardes)
1) What does it mean for you to be a finalist of the Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award?
To me, it is a great fortune and an infinite honour to have been chosen to participate in this finale. On the one hand, it means that I become part of the programme of the Salzburg Festival, but also that I get to perform inside the mythical venue of the Felsenreitschule and to discover the Camerata Salzburg! I am very happy to participate in such a prestigious competition. The Nestlé and Salzburg Festival Young Conductors Award stimulates artistic and professional encounters. I can hardly wait to continue this adventure, and most of all, to discover the Salzburg Festival’s audience.

2) What do you associate with the words “Salzburg“ and “Salzburg Festival“? 
If you mention the words Salzburg and its Festival to me, I am overwhelmed by a breathtaking flood of names of all those artist personalities which have imprinted themselves upon this city and its festival during the course of the 20th century – a city in which the greatest musicians continue to meet to this day. However, if I were asked to select one name among all those that come to my mind immediately and simultaneously, I would choose Hofmannsthal. On the one hand, to pay homage to one of the Festival’s founders, but also because I have a pronounced taste for literature and the theatre; my love for these art forms provides a certain balance for my musical life. The close relations between text and music inspire me. I also like to imagine that such passion persuaded Hofmannsthal (and his friends) to found this Festival.

3) What is your professional motivation? Do you have role models?
As a conductor, I want to involve the musicians and listeners in a dialogue, breaking down the barriers between those two worlds. All my efforts pursue one goal: to make each concert a great celebration, uniting the composers, their works, the audience, the musicians, the artists, the technicians and everybody involved in this event. In order to keep my listeners alert and surprise them, I dedicate myself to all kinds of repertoire, from Gesualdo’s madrigals to Richard Strauss’ operas or Karlheinz Stockhausen’s works…
I am very grateful to Pierre Boulez and François-Xavier Roth for teaching me. I don’t necessarily have role models, but I love conductors who are creators, who reinvented the stage, the orchestra and the status of the conductor – like Karajan, Gardiner, Boulez… For my part, I am working on my own concept of the concert and the orchestra today, and what they might become in the future. I founded my own orchestra in Paris five years ago: Le Balcon, an ensemble which uses varying constellations of creating sound.

4) What does music in general mean to you? What do you want to achieve in your life?
Music has always been a part of my life: my father is a jazz trombonist; my mother is a piano teacher. I remember being very impressed at the first concert I attended, at the age of six, by the fact that so many people would congregate to listen to music together. I have always been deeply touched by the human voice, especially the recorded spoken voice. The audio cassettes with children’s stories which I listened to at night were an incredible acoustic miracle to me. Today, my life revolves around music in all its forms.

5) What was your most inspiring professional experience?
The most inspiring experience was certainly meeting all those musicians of my generation with whom I founded my orchestra Le Balcon. I believe firmly in human encounters; meeting Pierre Boulez was one of the most important experiences of my life. I had the fortune to work with him and to receive his advice, especially on his works Le Marteau sans maître and Répons. He revealed to me many important aspects of conducting, of interpretation, the connection between text and language. 

Aged 28, the Frenchman Maxime Pascal studied conducting with François-Xavier Roth at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique et de Danse in Paris. In 2011 he won the Simone and Cino del Duca Prize of the Academie des Beaux-Arts. Since 2008 he has been music director of the orchestra Le Balcon and the Impromptu Orchestra, appearing at major festivals such as the IRCAM Festival, the Berlioz Festival and the Paris Summer Festival. He has gathered international experience in Belgium, for example, where he conducted the Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, at the Australian BIFEM Festival in Melbourne and in the Ukraine. In 2012 he participated in a master class with George Benjamin as part of the International Ensemble Modern Academy; in 2013 this was followed by the Stockhausen Summer Course with Kathinka Pasveer and Suzanne Stephens, where he performed a Stockhausen concert with his Le Balcon ensemble. With the l'Orchestre National de Lille Maxime Pascal presented Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia at the l'Athénée Théâtre Louis-Jouvet in Paris in January.

You can order concert tickets for February 28, 7:30 p.m. by clicking here.