Gérard Korsten is Principal Conductor of the Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg Bregenz. Born in South Africa, he began his career as a violinist after studying with Ivan Galamian at the Curtis Institute and with Sándor Végh in Salzburg. Following his studies in the US and Europe he became Concertmaster and Assistant Music Director of the Camerata Salzburg and later Concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe from 1987-1996.
Korsten held positions of Principal Conductor of the State Theatre in Pretoria and the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra before he was appointed Music Director of the Orchestra del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari from 1999-2005. In Cagliari he conducted the first Italian performances of Richard Strauss’s Die ägyptische Helena, Weber’s Euryanthe, Delius’s A Village Romeo and Juliet and Schubert’s Alfonso und Estrella, as well as the productions of the core operatic repertoire including Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, Lucia di Lammermoor, Carmen, Die Fledermaus, Tosca, Aïda, The Barber of Seville and Don Pasquale. In 2009 he was appointed Music Director of the London Mozart Players, the position he relinquished at the end of last season.
Gérard Korsten has appeared in the most notable opera houses and concert halls around Europe including Teatro La Scala Milan (Le nozze di Figaro), Maggio Musicale Florence (Così fan tutte), Teatro Reggio di Parma (La sonnambula), Teatro Lirico Verdi Trieste (Don Pasquale and La fille du régiment), Opéra de Lyon (Ariadne auf Naxos, Henze’s L’Upupa und der Triumph der Sohnesliebe, Siegfried, La Traviata and La Vie Parisienne), Royal Swedish Opera (Don Giovanni), Netherlands Opera (Così fan tutte), English National Opera (Aïda), Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Albert Herring) and the Lincoln Centre New York.
His past symphonic engagements have included concerts with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Orchestre National de Lyon, Salzburg Mozarteum, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai Turin, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Salzburg, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Swedish Radio Symphony, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra.
Gérard Korsten’s recordings feature CD of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade and Souvenir de Florence with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe on Deutsche Grammophon, Die ägyptische Helena and Euryanthe and DVDs of Alfonso und Estrella and Don Pasquale with the Orchestra del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari. His 2011 DVD recording of Le Nozze di Figaro at La Scala has been awarded a Diapason D’Or and was Critic Choice in the Opera News.
Recent highlights have included debuts with the Deutsche Oper Berlin (La Traviata) and the Hungarian State Opera (Don Pasquale), BBC Scottish Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic and returns to Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Camerata Salzburg, Gavle Symphony, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the London Mozart Players on tour in China.
In the 2014/15 season Gérard Korsten brings Vorarlberg Symphoniorchester Bregenz to Vienna Musikverein and returns to Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and to Lyon Opera for a new production of Idomeneo.
Interview with LMP
Last October Gérard Korsten was announced as the LMP’s new Music Director, starting his three-year term in September 2010.
The LMP’s Marketing Manager, Femke de Vos Burchart, sat down with Gérard and talked about his career and his plans for the LMP.
You were a violinist before you became a conductor. How long have you been conducting for?
The first time I conducted I was 16, but that was just with a youth orchestra. Then I went on to win a conducting competition in South Africa when I was 20. I only entered to try it out and I won! I wanted to both conduct and play the violin after this. I went to study in Salzburg with Sándor Végh and became his assistant in his chamber orchestra and helped him out a lot doing rehearsals as he was already quite old at that time. I conducted my first opera, Cosí fan tutte, when I was 27, about 22 years ago now. I was still playing the violin in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, where I was leader at that time. There came a point where I realised the people behind me played better than I did as I found it hard to keep up with the gymnastics of playing the violin. In 1996 I decided to stop playing the violin and focus entirely on conducting.
Do you miss playing the violin?
Very much, especially with a group like the LMP. I used to direct a similar orchestra and every time I see David Juritz play I just want to grab his violin and start playing!
Is there any chance we might see you play the violin?
I don’t know. I suffer from “conductor’s disease” as we call it: my back is out, the shoulders and neck are messed up, so I don’t know. Maybe next year I will start practising a bit, but I will have to start from scratch again.
Do you remember when your first concert was with the LMP?
It was about four years ago. I kept being asked back and was offered Music Director last year.
What do you like about the LMP?
It feels a bit like a family. The orchestra is 60 years old and many musicians have changed, but ‘something’ stayed from the very beginning. That’s something I feel in the orchestra. There’s a very positive atmosphere, which is important to make great music.
Do you have any grand plans for the musical future of the LMP?
I don’t intend to change anything. I don’t think it needs changing. Of course we can always polish and broaden the repertoire. The personality of the orchestra is there, all I can do is contribute another bit of personality. We can try and tour more abroad and within the UK, let the world know about the LMP and make it better for everyone.