The Beginning | From Peru to America | First Professional Appointments | Peru | First Recording Project | Eugene Symphony and Auckland Philharmonia |
Los Angeles Philharmonic | The Year 2000 | Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra | Guest Conducting | Operas | Festivals and Awards
When I look back at where I started, I consider myself a very lucky and blessed person. Music was at home—making music was a part of my every-day life. My mother, Luchy Gonzalez, directed a chorus for the Peruvian Airline (Aeroperu) and my sister played the guitar. I, on the other hand, took piano lessons, but I wasn’t good at practicing, and neither did I like the idea of playing anything by myself. Both my sister and I were members of my mom’s choir and members of her dance troupe as well, dancing to Peruvian folk music.
My life changed when I was fifteen years old and started working in the Municipal Theater in Lima, assisting Luigi Alva during the opera season. I liked the backstage area and loved listening to so many operas and operettas (that’s why my passion for the vocal repertoire is so great). At one point when we were doing Tosca, I had gone to sit in the house during a dress rehearsal, toward the end of Act I. The conductor turned around and saw me sitting there watching the rehearsal, and he asked if I could conduct the remaining of Act I (from “tre sbirri una carroza…”) right then and there. This sounded fine and fun at the same time, and without hesitation I replied YES (a sign of ignorance of my part, I should add). Everything went fine and Act I concluded without any problems. This event is really what made me realize that I could and wanted to learn how to become a conductor.
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After a short trip to Chile in 1987, where I met Maritza, my wife (I was only 19 then), I went to America and got accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music and the Juilliard School. It was a nice dilemma to have to choose from the two schools. But my teacher and mentor Otto-Werner Mueller encouraged me to plan to study for a long time, and so it was arranged that I would do my Bachelor’s degree in Conducting at Curtis (1991) and my Master’s in Conducting at Juilliard (1993).
To backtrack a little, prior to going to take the conducting auditions in the USA; I was invited to conduct the National Orchestra of Peru during their summer season. My first professional engagement and I hadn’t gone to conducting school (another sign of ignorance of my part)! Things went well, and off I went to take the auditions.
While I was a student in Philadelphia and New York, I went back to Peru to guest-conduct the National Symphony, and took up the job of Music Director of the Norwalk Youth Symphony in Connecticut, with whom I made my Carnegie Hall debut in 1993.
Over the years I have maintained a relationship with both Curtis and Juilliard, mainly as a guest conductor and on tour with the Juilliard Orchestra to France and Japan.
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After graduating from Juilliard in 1993, I landed the jobs of Music Director of the New York Youth Symphony at Carnegie Hall, Conducting faculty member at Juilliard, and Staff Conductor with the New York Philharmonic.
During my four years with the Youth Symphony, not only did I get the opportunity to learn and try out a lot of symphonic repertoire and new compositions that we commissioned, but I also got to work with great soloists like Joshua Bell, Misha Dichter, Eugenia Zukerman, and David Shifrin, among others. My post as Staff Conductor with the NY Philharmonic led to my debut with the orchestra on a very last minute notice, replacing Leonard Slatkin, who had gotten stuck on a train between Washington and New York (he actually got stuck at Newark). It was clear that Maestro Slatkin was not going to be on time—at least for the start of the concert—and I was asked to change clothes rather quickly and begin the concert conducting Richard Danielpour’s “Towards the splendid city,” which was a brand new piece.
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In 1993, some friends and I founded the Asociacion Musical Renacimiento and created the Orquesta Filarmonica de Lima and the Compañía Contemporánea de Opera. Some of the titles we presented included “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “La Cambiale di Matrimonio,” “Il Signor Bruschino,” “Gianni Schicchi,” “Xerxes,” and Puccini’s “La Boheme.” We also produced “The Merry Widow” with Juan Diego Florez, when he was still a student at Curtis. With the Filarmonica we presented quite a bit of Peruvian compositions, many of which were premieres, like Celso Garrido-Lecca’s Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra and Enrique Iturriaga’s “De la lirica campesina”.
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In 1994, Ernesto Palacio was working with the Compañía Contemporánea de Opera in a Rossini Festival. Juan Diego Florez was visiting Lima during his summer break, and they met for the first time in my home. Shortly after this production, Ernesto Palacio called Juan Diego and me, asking us to come to Italy in a couple a months. He needed a secondary tenor and a conductor for a production and recording of “Il Tutore Burlato” by Vicente Martin y Soler. This was a revival of a piece that was lost for about 200 years and was found in Spain. The recording is still out and is with the Bongiovanni label (fun to listen to).
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I went to Auckland to guest conduct for the first time in 1995, and I fell in love with that place instantly. My program included a premiere of Helen Bowater, a New Zealander, and Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration, among other pieces. After this engagement I was reengaged to come back every year, sometimes for up to 4 weeks in a row. (Of course, other activities like fly-fishing and sailing were part of my agenda “down under,” but certainly the musical experience was also quite fulfilling!) My relationship with the Auckland Philharmonia went on quite well and I was appointed Music Director in 2000, position which I held until December of 2005.
In 1996, parallel to this, I was appointed Music Director of the Eugene Symphony in Oregon, succeeding Marin Alsop. Both orchestras taught me a lot in developing as a music director and a leader in general, and also in how to use judgment in the best possible ways. My repertoire grew a lot, and I got very accustomed to doing premieres. With the Auckland Philharmonia I produced two recordings, one out of a live concert (Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G with Michael Houston and selections from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet”), and the other one including various pieces related to the America’s Cup held in New Zealand in 2003.
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In the midst of commuting back and forth between Eugene and Auckland, I went to conduct the LA Philharmonic in a family concert. This invitation led to my appointment first as Assistant Conductor (just for a few months), and then as Associate Conductor. I couldn’t have been more honored than when I met Esa-Pekka Salonen, and he told me that that the musicians and staff were so supportive of my work that he didn’t need to see me conduct to offer me those appointments! During my six years with the LA Phil I did many subscription concerts, both at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Walt Disney Concert Hall, and at the Hollywood Bowl during the summer. Esa-Pekka has been a great supporter of my conducting and has had no reservations about what I should be conducting with the Philharmonic. My relationship with the LA Phil is so special to me because this orchestra has seen me develop as a conductor, and its members have always been very kind to me and helpful towards my conducting–so much so that I have been invited to return each year to conduct, both at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.
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This was the best year of my life: I married my best friend Maritza. Our wedding took place in Monterey, California in June, and we took beautiful pictures of us by the ocean.
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After three times as a guest conductor with the Fort Worth Symphony, I was appointed Music Director in the fall of 2000. One of my visits to Fort Worth was as assistant conductor with the New York Philharmonic on a US domestic tour. Also here, as in Auckland and Eugene, I felt a strong connection from the very beginning. My first concerts in Fort Worth were for students, the next during the summer season at the Botanic Gardens, and my last visit as a guest was during the subscription series. This really shows that every kind of concert is important, not only to the orchestra and the conductor, but to our audiences. Speaking of which, our audiences are so great that I have been able to be extremely creative with the content of our programs. We have been able to commission amazing new works by Kevin Puts and Osvaldo Golijov, work with some of the best current composers through our Composer-in-Residence program (Kevin Puts, Bezhad Ranjbaran, Gabriela Frank, Jennifer Higdon, Peter Boyer and John B Hedges), and really delve into the works of our great European and American composers with our annual Great Performances Festivals. We have also performed and recorded many South American works, including our recording Sentimiento Latino (Decca, 2006) with Juan Diego Florez, and INTI, Three Centuries of Peruvian Music (Filarmonika, 2009). Our current recording project, Take Six, released in June, 2012. It is a collection of works by all of our composers-in-residence and includes seven world premiere recordings.
Our home is Bass Performance Hall, which to me is one of the greatest halls in the world. And our musicians…the best!
Of course, I cannot talk about Fort Worth without mentioning the three most important events that have happened since we moved here: the births of our children, Elena (born in October, 2001) and Emilio (born in May, 2005), and Elisa (born in September, 2006) – three true Texans.
April 2010 is the “official” beginning of Caminos del Inka as a non-profit organization, but really my work on the project began long before that. As a Peruvian conductor performing all over the world, I found that there was a need for knowledge about South American orchestral music. For 20 years I have researched, scoured libraries and even people’s homes, to unearth music that had been written but not performed, or begun but not finished. I realized that there is an abundance of forgotten or unknown artistic treasures from this region of the world – works that span three centuries! – and I became quite passionate about sharing them with audiences. To witness works of a seasoned composer such as Enrique Iturriaga performed and recorded for the first time in the United States, or to help promote the works of exceptional young composers such as Jimmy Lopez and Gabriela Frank, is such a thrill. Caminos del Inka is now a team of talented, knowledgeable people and is growing rapidly, getting increased exposure, and taking on a life of its own. I am proud to be its Founder and Artistic Director.
In the fall of 2013 I will become Principal Conductor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, also known as KORK in Norway. Over the years and after many visits to Scandinavia I have been very impressed with the passion and dedication to music of the musicians and audiences in this part of the world. Music is an important and integral part of their culture. I first conducted the Norwegian Radio Orchestra in November 2010 with Renée Fleming as soloist. The collaboration with KORK was exciting and powerful from the start. I was very impressed by the talent of the orchestra musicians and the wide range of musical interest and ability of the orchestra as a whole. I am very much looking forward to conducting several concerts there in the 2012-13 season, and to starting my new position in the fall of 2013.
In the USA and Canada: New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, National Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Seattle Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Indianapolis Orchestra, Milwaukee Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Puerto Rico Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Juilliard Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Florida Orchestra, Rhode Island Philharmonic, Annapolis Symphony, Monterey Symphony (CA), Evansville Philharmonic, Montreal Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Quebec Symphony, Calgary Symphony Orchestra
In Latin America: Mexico National Symphony, Orquesta de la Universidad de México, Orquesta del Estado de México, Sao Paulo State Orchestra, National Orchestra of Perú, Orchestra of San Pedro Sula (Honduras), Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfónica de La Plata, Orquesta Sinfónica de Chile
In Europe, Scandinavia and beyond: Munich Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Orchestra (Hessischer Rundfunk), Hamburg Radio Orchestra (NDR), Bamberger Sinfoniker, Cologne Philharmonic (WDR), Bundesjugendorchester (National German Youth Orchestra), London Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Scottish Royal National Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon, National Orchestra of Spain, Helsinki Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Jerusalem Symphony, Adelaide Symphony, Canberra Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife, Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León, Orquesta Gulbenkian (Portugal), Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Dresden Philharmonic, Leipzig Radio Orchestra, Finnish Radio Orchestra, Danish National Orchestra, RTE National Orchestra (Dublin)
Ainadamar (world premiere by Osvaldo Golijov): Cincinnati Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic
La Boheme: English National Opera and Lima Philharmonic
Barber of Seville: Canadian Opera Company
Un ballo in maschera : Minnesota Opera
Tosca: Minnesota Opera
Il Viaggio a Reims:
Abelard and Heloise (world premiere by Stephen Paulus): Juilliard Opera Center
Oedipus Rex: Juilliard Opera Center
Le Rossignol: Juilliard Opera Center
The Magic Flute: Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
Eugene Onegin: Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
Rusalka: Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
I Pagliacci: Auckland Philarmonia Orchestra
Marriage of Figaro, Il Signor Bruschino, La Cambiale di Matrimonio, Xerxes, Merry Widow, La Boheme: Compañía Contemporánea de Opera (Perú)
La Sonnambula: Prolirica (Perú)
Postcard from Morocco (Argento), Le Rossignol: Curtis Opera
La tragedie de Carmen (Bizet/Peter Brooks): Center of Vocal Arts (Belgium) and National Theater in Prague
Il Tutore Burlato (Vicente Martin y Soler): Music Festival of Gerace (Italy)
Tanglewood, Aspen, Ravinia, Hollywood Bowl, Blossom, Grant Park, Round Top (Texas), Avanti (Finland), Adelaide, BBC Proms, Oregon Bach, Music Academy of the West
2000: Emmy Award
2002: Seaver/NEA Conductors Award
2004: Artists Medal, given by the Peruvian Government
1993: William Schuman Award
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