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Q and A: Conductor Douglas Boyd on musicians, mystery and Mozart

Internationally renowned conductor Douglas Boyd (Artistic Director of Garsington Opera and Music Director of the Paris Chamber Orchestra) will lead a performance of Mozart’s last three symphonies at the Melbourne Recital Centre on Friday, September 28 at 7.30pm. We chat to Boyd about collaborating with Australian’s next generation of leading musicians, and his love of Mozart.

What attracts you to travelling half way across the world to work with the Australian National Academy of Music’s orchestra?

I truly love coming to Oz – my favourite destination. I’m always made welcome here by the orchestras, and the work that is being done at ANAM to train the next generation of musicians to become enquiring, positive and brilliant musicians, is an inspiration.

What do you gain from the experience of working with young/developing musicians?

I hope that some of my experiences – especially my years as an oboist with Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and now my life as a conductor – will bring something to the young musicians, but I’m equally inspired by them. They remind me why I became a musician!

What do you see as the greatest strengths needed for a long-term career as a musician?

That it must never be routine and never be a “job”. That every concert is the most important you have ever given.

What’s the one (if there’s one that really stands out) piece of advice you’d give to a young musician looking to master Mozart?

That he can express every emotion of the human spirit, and that’s why his music is relevant today.

Composed without a commission or an upcoming concert at which to perform them, what’s your theory about the mystery behind why Mozart wrote these three symphonies?

I think it was an inner need to express himself through a trilogy. There is a narrative that connects all the works both in emotion, form and tonality. From E b (39), the key of Masonic Enlightenment, to G minor (40) the key that often represents death (his daughter had died that summer), to the triumph of C major in 41, and one of the greatest finales ever written.

Why do you think the myth of Mozart as a bratty, chaotic character has endured? Is Peter Shaffer’s play/film Amadeus solely to blame?

I love Shaffer’s film, but it’s not based on truth. His letters are the best evidence of his passion, intelligence, humour and humanity

If you could ask Mozart one question, what would it be?

Can you teach me?

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