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'With young musicians, magic can happen'

Kathrin Lemke
September 12, 2016

At the Beethovenfest's Campus Concert, the Mexican conductor leads the National Youth Orchestra of Germany. As she told DW, the event is also an exciting repeat encounter with a friend and colleague of her youth.

Alondra de la Parra, mexikanische Dirigentin
Image: Cicero Rodrigues

Playing piano at age seven and later cello, Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra studied composition and conducting in Mexico City and New York. Now 35, she guest-conducts a number of world-class orchestras. In 2017 her duties begin as music director and principal conductor of the Queensland Symphony, one of Australia's major orchestras.

On Juni 6, 2016 her concert at Mexico City's "Palacio de Bellas Artes" opened Mexico's "Germany Year," with musicians from the National Youth Orchestra of Germany joining the "Orquesta Escuela Carlos Chávez" in works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Silvestre Revueltas. On September 15, Alondra de la Parra leads the National Youth Orchestra, the State Youth Chorus of North Rhine-Westphalia and soloists from Mexico at the Orchestra Campus, a joint effort of the Beethovenfest and DW. The program includes the world premiere of "Zimmergramm" by Mexican composer Enrico Chapela, a work of music commissioned by Deutsche Welle.

DW: Last summer you combined young musicians from Germany and Mexico into a single orchestra. What did that involve?

Alondra de la Parra: Both the National Youth Orchestra of Germany and the Orchestra Carlos Chávez were really well prepared, so it was a matter of blending their concepts of sound and rhythm. That's extremely exciting. I was very glad to have them perform pieces by Revueltas and Beethoven, because of course Beethoven is known everywhere - in Mexico too -, but it was gratifying for this new generation of German musicians to get acquainted with our repertory.

Alondra de la Parra with orchestra. Copyright: DW/ P. Álvarez
Last summer, the conductor opened Mexico's Year of Germany at the 'Palace of Fine Arts' in Mexico CityImage: DW/P. Álvarez

You often work with young people. What is special about the experience?

I love working with them because they challenge me in different ways. Sometimes I find myself having to explain things that generally don't need explaining, but it can be the opposite: sometimes - boom! - younger musicians instantly comprehend things that professionals need a long time for. With that raw talent, magical things can happen. And I love having a mixed orchestra because it provides an even broader experience for the musicians. We need to remember that that is what music is about: connecting human beings and expressing emotions, ideas and images to one another.

You have conducted works by Enrico Chapela. Tell me about your collaboration with the composer. What do you think about his music? Enrico has been a friend and colleague since early in my career. One of the first pieces I conducted in New York was "Ínguesu," which is music he wrote based on a soccer match. We actually went to the same school, but not at the same time. He's a lot older than I am. He's an exciting composer because there's always a story behind his music. He always does in-depth research, so every note on the page is there for a reason. I love working with Enrico. It's really fun to talk to him about his music and to get involved in his creative process.

Precision and hard work can sometimtes result in magic, says de la ParraImage: picture-alliance/Ddm Papier/F. Charmeux

What can you tell me about Chapela's new work, the one you will conduct in Bonn?

As I said, with Enrico there's always a story. This piece has to do with a moment in history after the Mexican Revolution and before the First World War when the German and Mexican governments secretly met with the intention of becoming allies somehow. So there's some interesting history behind it. The piece will feature different characters from that moment in history, both German and Mexican. We'll be joined by a wonderful guitarist, Pablo Garibay. It's a fun idea.

Alondra de la Parra. Bild: Leonardo Manzo
She joins the expanding ranks of exciting young women conductorsImage: Leonardo Manzo

Do you have a favorite work by Beethoven?

I was thinking about that lately, because of course every note Beethoven wrote is great. But I think my favorite symphony is the "Eroica," the Third. It's so incredibly well written. There's so much beauty in it, but at the same time so much depth. It has so much to say.

Kathrin Lemke spoke with Alondra de la Parra in Mexico City.

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