At SSO, Jesús López-Cobos to lead Spanish-influenced program
Jesús López-Cobos is guest conductor in Seattle Symphony's next program, to be performed June 7, 9 and 10, 2012. Violinist Leonidas Kavakos will perform Korngold's Violin Concerto in D major; the program also includes Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol and Strauss' "Don Juan."
Special to The Seattle Times
Seattle Symphony OrchestraJesús López-Cobos, conductor, and Leonidas Kavakos, violin, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, at Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $17-$110 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).
Talk to enough conductors, and you'll find that a common denominator emerges: They're idea people, musicians with a drive to make real a sound heard in their own minds.
The job requires both abstract thinking and the ability to muster myriad forces toward a single purpose. But unlike most baton-wielders who answered their calling after spending time as instrumentalists, Seattle Symphony's next guest conductor, Jesús López-Cobos — returning after a decade to lead the orchestra this week in a program dominated by Spanish music — never was part of an ensemble of players. Nor did he have any significant, formal musical training.
But he was certainly an idea man.
"Music came into my life when I was 10," says López-Cobos by phone from his home in Lausanne, Switzerland. "My father was listening to classical music all the time. That was always my big love."
What López-Cobos did have was a philosophy degree from the University of Madrid. He also had a love of singing that led him to take charge of the university choir.
"I was singing from childhood," he says. "Singing every day, Gregorian chants. That was my way into music. That's why I went to opera when I finished my studies in Vienna."
Did that philosophy degree somehow help?
"It's good to know a little more than only about music when you are dealing with a repertoire from the 18th and 19th centuries," López-Cobos said in a 1997 interview with Chicago radio broadcaster Bruce Duffie.
"If you know also what was the philosophy of the composers of the time, I think it helps very much."
López-Cobos took to a conductor's big-picture perspective naturally, and his obvious talent led him in 1966 to study in Italy and Vienna.
By 1968, he began his professional life conducting opera and, later, symphonies.
At age 72, his extraordinary career has included roles as music director for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Madrid's Teatro Real, the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra and Deutsche Oper Berlin, and as principal guest conductor for the London Philharmonic.
López-Cobos organized Seattle Symphony's next program around guest violinist Leonidas Kavakos. Kavakos wanted to play Erich Korngold's 1945 Violin Concerto in D minor, which borrows themes from several of the Romantic composer's many Hollywood film scores.
"The orchestra also wanted some Spanish music," he says. "So I thought, why not do something really in the style of Korngold, like Richard Strauss' 'Don Juan,' based on a Spanish myth? I had combined these together before, and once got a letter from Korngold's son in appreciation of the program. For the second half, I wanted to conduct Spanish music through the eyes of an outsider, like Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol."
López-Cobos also includes Spanish nationalist composer Joaquin Turina's folk-inspired Danzas fantasticas on the bill.
"The Seattle orchestra is pleased to have a chance to play that," he says.
Apart from his position as principal guest conductor with Orquestra Sinfonica de Galicia in La Coruña, Spain, López-Cobos is happily free of his old administrative duties.
"I am traveling and trying to keep a balance between conducting opera and symphonies," he says. "I am concentrating on music all the time."
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org