Jaime Martín, Chief Conductor of the RTE National Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, will be joining NYO as we tour in Coventry, London and Nottingham. Ahead of our concerts, we were excited to ask Jaime a few questions about working with NYO, what he loves about being a conductor and his advice for teenage musicians.
Q: Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and pursue a career in music?
I wanted to be a conductor since I was a young music student, but thankfully, my professional life was steered towards playing in orchestras. As a student I had the opportunity to become a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra in 1987. Before that I had played in other student orchestras but suddenly, I had in front of me Claudio Abbado conducting Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder with Jessye Norman as one of the soloists. The next tour was in Europe and India with Zubin Mehta! It is not a bad way to start playing in orchestras and I became hooked to the excitement of sharing the stage with many friends in extremely powerful concerts. I decided to stop the conducting studies I started in Holland and became a keen observer of conductors from a vantage point, the principal flute chair, just in front of the conductor. The orchestra has been for me the best conducting class I can imagine. I have been principal flute of many orchestras, Royal Philharmonic, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and London Philharmonic. I had the opportunity to work with the most amazing conductors, Abbado, Harnoncourt, Mehta, Solti, Giulini, Gergiev, Jurowsky and many more. I have waited for many years, playing in the orchestra, before I decided to start conducting. If I had the opportunity to go back twenty years in time, I would do the same.
Q: What do you love about being a conductor?
Conducting for me is about freedom. I feel free and I would love to encourage the orchestra to feel as free as possible. My job is to focus the energy of all the musicians on the stage in a particular way, in this case, the way I would like a particular piece to sound and what I would like the musicians and the audience to feel. To achieve this, every member of the orchestra has to feel free to be able to communicate and connect with the rest of the group.
Q: What is the most challenging part of being a conductor?
To try to encourage musicians to do a phrase in a way that might not be their initial instinct.
Q: What are you looking forward to about working with NYO?
As a young student, I played in different youth orchestras: first the National Youth Orchestra of Spain, then the National Youth Orchestra of the Netherlands, and finally the European Community Youth Orchestra, now European Union Youth Orchestra. In a youth orchestra there is not a collective memory of how a piece is played, there are no traditions or habits about how a particular piece should sound. I love the feeling of discovering a piece together, and you can feel the excitement just looking at people’s eyes.
Q: What is your advice for today’s teenage musicians?
Everything is possible, you set your own limits, so my advice is to set the limits as far away as possible.
Q: Who is your favourite composer?
It is impossible to answer this question. If I had to take just one composer with me to a desert island, I would take Mozart, but usually the greatest composer is the one I’m studying at the time. So now, the greatest composer for me is Shostakovich, no doubt.
Photograph by © Chris Dunlop.