Two “returnees” will be conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker in the coming weeks: Sir Antonio Pappano and Mikko Franck. Pappano last conducted the orchestra in June 2005. “He showed himself to be a musical bundle of energy, from a head full of passion down to his rhythm-obsessed feet,” as the Tagesspiegel wrote afterwards. The conductor, who was born in Britain to Italian parents and grew up in the United States, impresses with a combination of precision and emotionality, analytical clarity and electrifying vitality. Not without reason is he one of the most sought after conductors of our time.
Precision and emotionality
He learned his craft from the bottom up: after studying music, Pappano initially worked as a répétiteur, and later he was assistant to Daniel Barenboim at Bayreuth among others, before he started his conducting career. In the role of music director, this has taken him from Norwegian Opera via the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, which he has headed since 2002. Since 2005, he has also been music director of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome 2005. In addition, he makes guest appearances at many major opera houses and with top international orchestras. For his return to the Philharmoniker, he will conduct a Franco-Russian programme: works by Maurice Ravel and orchestral songs by Henri Duparc with Véronique Gens as the soloist, Modest Mussorgsky’s St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain and Alexander Scriabin’s Poème de l'extase. Despite his many engagements as a conductor, Antonio Pappano is also the piano accompanist of singers such as Ian Bostridge, Joyce DiDonato and Jonas Kaufmann. In this capacity he appeared in December 2016 in the Philharmoniker’s Singers concert series in a recital with Gerald Finley.
Finnish whiz kid
Mikko Franck, born in Helsinki in 1979, knew as a five-year-old that he wanted to become a conductor. He first studied violin at the Sibelius Academy, then in 1995 he began conducting classes with Jorma Panula, who has trained a number of famous Finnish conductors, including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sakari Oramo and Jukka-Pekka Saraste. “There is something in this profession that suits the Finnish mentality,” as Mikko Franck once said in an interview. “We come from the forest. And this is one of the loneliest occupations in the world, so we don’t have a problem always being alone.” When he made his debut with the Philharmoniker conducting works by Maurice Ravel and Dmitri Shostakovich in 2003, he was only 23 years of age and was then considered a whiz kid from Finland. His artistic career led him to the Orchestre National de Belgique as chief conductor, and as general music director and artistic director of Finnish National Opera. In September 2015, Franck, who conducts while sitting due to back problems, took over the musical direction of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. Standing in for Seiji Ozawa, he returns to the Berliner Philharmoniker this season to conduct the concertante performance of Maurice Ravel’s opera L'Enfant et les sortilèges.