Tugan Sokhiev: “I will always stay close to the Capitol orchestra”

the essential
Tugan Sokhiev meets with the Orchester du Capitole and the Basque choir Orfeón Donostiarra for two concerts with a magnificent Berlioz program, Saturday 4 December at the Halle aux Grains and Monday 6 at the Philharmonie de Paris.

After the “Fantastic Symphony”, an autobiographical work inspired by a love story, the Russian conductor will conduct “Lélio or the return to life”. The actor Lambert Wilson will be the reciter of this work between music and theater, where the composer finds hope, thanks to music and literature.

Your contract as musical director of the Orchester National du Capitole expires this summer. Would you like to extend it?

I do not know yet. I am in reflection and in discussion with the City. One thing is certain, even if I leave, I will always stay close to this orchestra that I adore.

The future of the Musicales franco-russes, the music festival that you created in Toulouse, seems to be called into question. Are you disappointed?

The cause is not yet lost. I think that the artistic and cultural will of an artist is stronger than the political constraints. Culture must be saved. This is the dogma of my life and my work with the Orchester du Capitole.

You arrived in Toulouse in 2005, 16 years ago. Did a concert particularly impress you?

For me, every concert at the Halle aux Grains is unforgettable. Of course there have been magical tours to Japan, Paris, South America, China, Moscow, Vienna. I am really lucky, because I have an orchestra that loves to make music. I think that the success comes from the work that we accomplished with the musicians and Thierry d’Argoubet, general delegate of the Orchester du Capitole. He has always found possibilities for the artistic influence of this orchestra. We made a lot of recordings of concerts, records, tours. People who ask us are really impressed with the orchestra. Its strength is the human, family, musician spirit. That is impossible to break. But the orchestra must be supported. I hope that the city will continue to be present because in terms of music, the Orchester National du Capitole is the most attractive element in Toulouse.

Among the concrete actions you are waiting for, there is the construction of an auditorium …

The auditorium is my dream and that of musicians. The orchestra and the audience deserve a real concert hall. The Halle aux Grains is a mythical, magnificent hall where the public envelops the musicians. But this room lacks height for the vibration of the sound, the contrasts, the nuances. And we cannot adapt it because of architectural constraints.

This Berlioz concert is given in two very different rooms in terms of acoustics and dimensions, the Halle aux Grains, and the Philharmonie de Paris …

We are used to the acoustics of the Philharmonie. In both halls, these concerts will be magnificent, with the Basque choir Orfeón Donostiarra from San Sebastián conducted by José Antonio Sainz Alfaro. It will sound good!

Why did you choose Berlioz?

My idea was to present in the same concert the “Fantastic Symphony”, inspired by a Berlioz love story, and its sequel, “Lélio”. These are two sister works. The first is a symphony for orchestra, the second is more of a theatrical performance. We are fortunate to have Lambert Wilson as reciter. In “Lélio”, Berlioz talks about Shakespeare, this adored woman, philosophy… What interested me was the theatrical side of the composer and the modernity of the work. He composed the “Fantastic Symphony” at a time when Beethoven was still alive, around 1820-1830! Berlioz was not at all appreciated in France. It was not until three years after his death. On the other hand, it was enormously successful in Russia. There is something of the Russian soul in the “Fantastic Symphony”. Lots of emotion, sensitivity, an extrovert side too.

Aren’t you conducting the New Year’s concerts as planned? A meeting eagerly awaited by the public.

No Unfortunately. I discovered a scheduling problem. I’m going back to Russia. It is a compatriot, Stanislav Kochanovsky, who will conduct these concerts. The program is a little Russian, with Tchaikovsky in particular, but we will keep the surprise.

Saturday December 4 at 8 p.m. at the Halle aux Grains, Toulouse. Phone. 05 61 63 13 13 (www.onct.toulouse.fr). Prices from 18 to 65 euros.

An instrumental drama inspired by love at first sight

Created in 1830, under Louis-Philippe, the Fantastic Symphony is a musical work in five movements (Rêveries-Passions, Un bal, Scène aux champs, Marche au torture, Songe d’une nuit de sabbat) which brings French music into musical romanticism. This autobiographical score was born out of Hector Berlioz’s love at first sight for an Irish actress, Harriet Smithson. The story told is that of a composer who wants to kill himself out of love, with opium. Too weak to kill, the dose of narcotic plunges him into strange visions. He dreams that he has killed the one he loved, that he is condemned to torture and witnesses his own execution. To interpret this “instrumental drama” the Orchestra of the Capitol will be complete with a hundred musicians, joined by the Basque choir. Choir Donostiarra. “Lélio or the return to life” (1832) is the continuation of the Fantastic Symphony, inspired by Berlioz’s tumultuous love affair with Harriet (who became his wife). Lélio is a “melologue”, a term coined by Berlioz to designate a musical genre comprising passages telling how the composer overcomes his despair and comes back to life thanks to music and literature. The text is interpreted by actor Lambert Wilson.