FRENCH CONDUCTOR NATHALIE MARIN HAS LED FAMOUS ORCHESTRAS IN BUENOS AIRES, CANNES, BRUSSELS, AND THE TURKISH CITY OF MERSIN. AT THE LAST FRANCOPHONIE FESTIVAL IN BAKU, MRS. MARIN PERFORMED IN THE AZERBAIJAN STATE ACADEMIC PHILHARMONIC HALL. IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AZERI OBSERVER MAGAZINE, SHE SPEAKS ON THE MAIN MISSION OF A CONDUCTOR AND WHY A CONDUCTOR’S PROFESSION REQUIRES CHARACTER.
BY OXANA VALIYEVA
AZERI OBSERVER STAFF WRITER
Question: As a child, the great composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, was highly impressed with the influence of music. It was in an Opera Hall where he decided to devote his life to music. When and how did you understand that you wanted to make music a part of your life?
Answer: Unlike Pyotr Tchaikovsky, I did not have the opportunity to go to any opera halls while I was a child. I grew up in the French countryside, and there were no musicians in my family. By some miracle, my brother and I both have musical talent. As a little girl, I would take a stick and wave it to the music. After some years, I did not doubt that I wanted to lead a big orchestra playing great classical music masterpieces. My brother played a crucial role in my life because he persuaded my parents to send me for studies to the Conservatory of the city of Leon. I am unlimitedly grateful to him for it.
Q.: Are there any conductor who you admire?
A.: My teacher, Michel Tabachnik (a Swiss conductor and composer), is the primary conductor in my life. He is devoted to music and art. I can develop my style based on the knowledge and methods he imparted to me.
Q.: Why did you choose the pieces from composers Robert Schuman, Louis-Hector Berlioz, and Francis Poulenc to perform in Baku?
A.: Thanks to the French Embassy in Azerbaijan, I had the opportunity and honor to direct the Symphony Orchestra of the Azerbaijan Television and Radio named after Niyazi. We performed overture from Beatrice and Benedick opera by Berlioz, Symphony No. 4 by Schumann, and The Concerto for Two Pianos by Poulenc. In my opinion, these are the best pieces of French classical music, and they had never been performed in Baku before. In a team with talented pianists Saida Tagizade and Yegana Akhundova, we showed all the beauty, emotionality, and depth of the French composer’s music.
Q.: Do you improvise while on stage? Can a musical piece be performed differently?
A.: You never know what might happen on stage during a performance. Musicians have all the chances and risks of unexpected improvisation (laughs). In classical music, unlike modern music, improvisation is impossible. When an orchestra performs a classical piece, everything should be top notch. Our task is to convey the beauty and power of the composer’s musical idea. But, as we say in France, “Never say never!” If something unexpected happens, we try to get out of the situation without allowing the audience to notice, which is an adventure for us!
Q.: How would you recommend introducing music to a child? What music should parents put on for a little music lover?
A.: Music plays an enormous role in a child’s development. It helps a child get to know the world and develop while listening. Classical music allows children to gain experience in feeling and understanding the differences between eras and styles and lays the basis of musical taste. Being a conductor in different countries, I always try to perform concerts of children’s classical music. Children are our future, and I, as a conductor, must contribute to their development.
Q.: At what age is it too late to learn music?
A.: It is never too late! All of us have talents. Some people reveal it in childhood, others later in life, and some search for a lifetime. Music is a phenomenon that has no age limit. Take an example from retirees in Europe – they do not consider their venerable age as an obstacle. They sing, learn to play musical instruments, create music bands, and thereby prolong their happy life.
Q.: What characteristics should a conductor have?
A.: The requirements for our profession are very high. A conductor is a performer, artist, musician, and psychologist. Rehearsals and concerts require tremendous physical and emotional stress. Therefore, we, like athletes, should be in good health, have endurance, and be able to control our bodies.
Q.: Tell us about the high mission of a conductor.
A.: Inspiration is a significant postulate of my profession. I motivate about a hundred musicians to not only mechanically perform musical pieces but to live them emotionally. The audience will undoubtedly feel our energy, compassion, and a whole range of emotions. The conductor, with their technique of transmitting the feeling of the music, unites musicians into a single organism, which reflects their every movement. It is not an easy task when 16 violinists in an orchestra play the same part – each musician has his or her style of performance. My responsibility is to make the 16 instruments sound like one and further convert the orchestra into a single polyphonic instrument.
Q.: How does a fragile woman deal with this? How thorny is the path of a female conductor?
A.: Just about a hundred years ago, women were not allowed to play with an orchestra. This is mainly due to the patriarchal nature of past eras, and we can trace it in many other spheres. In my opinion, in addition to housekeeping, a woman should have a profession of her own. A female conductor is a rare occurrence even now. Fortunately, we see the situation is changing. The era of professionalism and talent without gender discrimination has arrived. The work of a conductor is difficult both for females and males. Though, a woman will always face suspicion of project managers on her way to success. Each year, the international congress of female conductors brings together over 60 participants from all over the world. It is invaluable to share experiences with your fellow conductors. Besides, we absorb a variety of cultures, knowledge, and approaches to work. I hope that representatives of Azerbaijan will join our women’s team next year.