“You know, I don’t live in the real world,” confides Estonian conductor/ violinist/researcher Andres Mustonen as he relaxes in the lobby of his Tel Aviv hotel after his first rehearsal with the Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra. “In my music, I’m in a constant quest for freedom and creativity. I’m searching for an interpretation of my own. ”Because performing is not about copying other musicians’ ideas but about looking for your own way. If you don’t have one, you shouldn’t conduct or play instruments. The piece is only a starting point for me. I look beyond it. I think of its atmosphere, energy, word, expressions, of why we are performing the piece at all.
Mustonen, one of Europe’s leading conductors, is not a rare guest on our shores. Born in Estonia, he inaugurated Hortus Musicus, his early music ensemble in 1972, when he was a violin student at the Tallinn State Conservatory. The internationally acclaimed ensemble, one of the oldest of its kind in Europe, which specializes in pre-Bach music, first visited Israel in 1980 and was here last year as part of the Eilat Chamber Music Festival. Mustonen, who began his international career at an early age, will celebrate 40 years on stage next year with a world wide tour, which will also include Israel.
Convincing as his renditions of the mediaeval pieces sound, Mustonen has never limited himself to early music. Along with it, he researches interrelations of various musical cultures and performs and conducts the works of our contemporaries on the world’s most important stages, such as Giya Kancheli, Edison Denisov, Sofia Gubaidulina, Valentin Silvestrov, Alexander Kneifel and Krzysztof Penderecki.
Not surprisingly, his approach to programming is anything but traditional.
“I almost never perform a program that consists of a concerto and a symphony, although this is what many people still expect in old Europe. But I prefer programs that are built around an idea, be it a crossover, a contrast, a style. The program I am presenting in Israel is Harmony and Energy. What I mean is not a musical but rather human harmony,” says Mustonen.
He goes on to explain that the program features several relatively short but highly charged pieces. “A brief violin concerto by Vivaldi, A Little Deneliade by Kancheli, an absolutely mad La Folia di Spagna, Variations by Salieri, but also a subdued and introverted yet powerful Shostakovitch in his First Cello Concerto (soloist Hillel Tzori) – he could not fully express it, but the music goes to extremities and comes very close to the madness of Salieri’s piece – and at the same time, the infinite harmony of Mozart’s Adagio, which I play.”
Mustonen has nothing but praise for the Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra. “An orchestra player’s life is not easy. Every two weeks a new conductor comes and demands, ‘Play fast, play slow, play loud, play soft,’ and it does not really help,” he says with a smile, and starts to “saw” an imaginary violin.
“This is not what conducting is about. I love the stage. For me, this is the best place ever. This is where I live. I’m here for artistry, for inspiring the musicians, and I have to admit that we have skipped this first technical step very fast and almost immediately reached what matters – the inspired music making.”
Andres Mustonen leads the Netanya Kibbutz Orchestra at the Givatayim Theater on March 5; at Heichal Hatarbut in Nahariya on March 6; at Hakimron Hall in Emek Ma’ayanot on March 8 and 10 at Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh at 8:30 p.m. (09) 960-4757
By MAXIM REIDER
The Jerusalem Post 04/03/2011