Constantin Trinks Conducts the Seoul Philharmonic

by Interviewed by Jake T. Ryu, Executive Advisor of Daewon Cultural Foundation, 20/05/2015

The young, versatile and ebullient German conductor Constantin Trinks is very active in the opera world, having conducted major opera houses such as Semperoper Dresden, Bavarian State Opera, Vienna State Opera, Staatsoper Hamburg, Opéra National de Paris, New National Theatre Tokyo, Frankfurt Opera and the Opernhaus Zürich. I had the chance to interview him about the June 10 concert program and his personal story.

1. We are looking forward to see you conduct the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO). What do you know about the orchestra and Maestro Myung-Whun Chung, the orchestra’s Artistic Director?
Maestro Chung is for me a role model. He took up the Seoul Philharmonic and widened its reputation internationally, using his insights into the world of Mahler and his refined art and French touch to present it on a remarkable cycle on Deutsche Grammophon (an international classical music label). As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t noticed the orchestra’s exquisite quality and skills really before its Europe tour in 2011. I am so excited to give now my debut in Seoul with this fabulous orchestra!

2. You are going to conduct Lalo's Spanish Symphony with violinist Svetlin Roussev, who is also the concertmaster of SPO. What are you going to emphasize when you interpret the piece?
First of all: Following the soloist’s intentions; then: the power and drive of the Spanish rhythms, French lightness and transparency. At that time in France Spanish-themed music was en vogue, in the same year (1875) Bizet for instance premiered his Carmen. I am working in Paris these days (conducting The Magic Flute at Bastille), going to Opéra comique, breathing in the very special flair of this city in springtime. I thought it would be interesting to bring a little “French touch” to Seoul.

3. You are also going to conduct Wagner's Meistersinger von Nurnberg Prelude. You are a German conductor and have profound knowledge of Wagner's music. What is the point of your conducting of the piece?
Wagner’s music was the reason for me to become a conductor. Wagner accompanies me since I am eleven years old. That’s why I feel a very strong relationship to his music. When I perform Wagner it is always a challenge for me to achieve a certain combination of transparency and precision with a dark, warm quality of sound.

4. Schumann's Symphony No. 2 is the least performed symphony of Schumann’s all four symphonies. It reflects psychological and emotional problems the composer had at that time. What are you going emphasize in this symphony?
I never understood why his 2nd is the least performed – for me it’s definitely the favourite of his four symphonies! I love the mysterious pianissimo beginning with the solemn brass fanfare that returns – quasi as an idée fixe – in each movement of the symphony; the brilliant Scherzo with its wonderful tender and yearning second Trio; the incredibly beautiful Adagio, a deeply felt melancholic cantilena based on the Trio sonata from Bach’s Musikalisches Opfer; and the lively, triumphant Finale with the Beethoven quotation (from the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte). When Schumann suffers or when he is happy he is it with his full nature of the Romantic. His music touches me very deeply in its complete honesty and directness of expression. 

5. When did you realize that classical music was something you wanted to pursue? How did you fall in love with the piano, French horn and other instruments and also conducting when you were young?
At the age of six I started with piano lessons. Soon I discovered Mozart’s Magic Flute; at the age of eleven I was absolutely fascinated by Wagner’s music which was the trigger to go to the opera as often as I could. At the age of thirteen, when I had already started with horn lessons, I decided to become a conductor. Still today the French horn is my favourite instrument: This instrument represents as no other the typical atmosphere of German Romantic epoch. Later, in time of studying at the music academy, I also discovered my love to singing. Many singers I am working with tell me they immediately can feel that I know what a singer needs, as I was singing myself.

6. What is the difference between working as a freelance conductor and as a Music Director?
As a freelancer I have the privilege of having more time to experience different mentalities, living in different cities for a certain stretch of time. I need this to be inspired, I like to meet people and see how a city lives on a daily bases. Coming to Seoul in May and again in June is ideal: getting to know an orchestra, a mentality of a country always comes through local kitchen. You learn a lot talking to a taxi driver as well as spending an hour with an orchestra! On the other hand as a Music director you have the significant advantage to develop more strongly your own signature. And you can realize Bruckner and Mahler cycles!

7. If you have a philosophy or discipline in conducting, what would that be?
Always make your gymnastics in the morning.

8. If you could have some time for relaxing when you're off, what do you do usually? What are your non-musical hobbies?
Buying shoes with my daughter!

9. What did you read recently? Could you introduce the books to us?
Stefan Zweig: Die Welt von gestern – a picture of Austria and Europe before and between the World Wars, and T. Colin Campbell: The China Study – The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted – a clear, scientific proved statement for vegan nutrition.

10. What is your dream now?
There are many. To mention just a few of them:  (1) to realize a cycle of Bruckner’s symphonies, (2)  to conduct Bernstein’s West Side Story, and (3) to conduct Bach’s motets and Mass in b-minor as well as Monteverdi’s Vespro della beata vergine.

Note: The below interview is taken from the cover story of the SPO Magazine, June 2015 edition.


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