«It's all about... the audience»

by Matthew Studdert-Kennedy
Gustavo Gimeno conducting an orchestra

Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg

Gustavo Gimeno


Gustavo Gimeno in conversation with Matthew Studdert-Kennedy


«We were used to having an audience… we realised when we had no audience or only a tiny one that part of our job was not complete or fulfilled. This period has made me more aware than ever of the importance of the listener and how their presence can inspire you.» Any conversation with Gustavo Gimeno flows naturally between open-minded ­evaluation and moments of intuition. And while the pandemic years have touched all of us in many different ways, Gimeno hopes and believes that there are aspects of the experience that we can carry forward with us to positive effect. For his eighth season leading the Orchestre Philharmonique du Lux-embourg we can perhaps even find renewed motivation from these challenging times. «Our role was more fragile, we had to reinvent ourselves, break from the norm. We learned to overcome obstacles and break boundaries. We were more grateful than ever to make music when we were able to.»

Now the Music Director of two major symphony orchestras (he also took on the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Autumn 2020) Gimeno is driven on by his responsibilities towards the public just as much as he is towards the musicians of the orchestra. The repertoire for the season ahead includes work by some less-often programmed composers of the twentieth century: Witold Lutosławski, Karol Szymanowski and Henri ­Dutilleux. This, he believes, is great music that deserves to be present in our concert halls that will nourish both musicians and audiences alike. «Let’s not forget that often the audience comes to a concert to hear a particular work but they then find that the lesser known piece on the programme is the one that they enjoy most… I find this very inspiring, a reason to make sure we ­programme a broad mix of repertoire.»

There are new works too including, to open the season, a percussion concerto by Daníel Bjarnason written for the peerless Martin Grubinger. And as ever there are established symphonic works which this time include Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Richard Strauss and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Present in each of ­Gimeno’s seasons with his Luxembourg orchestra have been the ­symphonies of Gustav Mahler and next up is the mighty Sixth Symphony. «I have played the Sixth many times in the orchestra. Some of the symphonies I have always felt very close to such as number one and the Third; the Sixth I have come to later. I love it very much. I’m doing the symphonies in the right order for me and it feels like the right moment to do the piece.» So the journey continues and intuition tells us that it will be the right moment for the audience to hear it too.

We’ve got something similar coming up soon at the Philharmonie: