Born in South Africa, Gérard Korsten 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 when he left the COE to concentrate on conducting. Gérard Korsten is currently Music Director of the London Mozart Players and Principal Conductor of the Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg Bregenz.
He 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.
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 and La Traviata), Royal Swedish Opera (Don Giovanni), Netherlands Opera (Così fan tutte), English National Opera (Aïda) and Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Albert Herring).
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, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Swedish Radio Symphony, Yomiuri Nippon and Melbourne Symphony orchestras. CD recordings include Tchaikovsky’s Serenade and Souvenir de Florence with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe on Deutsche Grammophon, Die ägyptische Helena and Euryanthe. His 2011 DVD of Le Nozze di Figaro (La Scala 2006) has been awarded a Diapason D’Or. Further DVDs include Alfonso und Estrella and Don Pasquale with Orchestra del Teatro Lirico di Cagliari.
Highlights of the 2011-12 season see him touring to eight venues in the US with Irish Chamber Orchestra, conducting Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne for Opéra National de Lyon and touring to Spain with the London Mozart Players. Future engagements include returning to SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden Baden und Freiburg, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Latvia National Symphony and Camerata Salzburg in both Vienna and Salzburg, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the BBCSSO.
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.