The human factor

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Dan Ettinger, an Israeli conductor with a successful international career, will lead the Rishon Lezion Symphony through a series of concerts between October 18 and 26. The program features music by Franz Schubert, as well as a piece by Israeli composer Theodore Holdheim.

Pianist Alexander Korsantia wil play solo.

This season, Ettinger will step down as musical director of the Rishon Lezion Symphony Orchestra, a position he held for years.

“But I hope to return to the orchestra for at least one series every season,” says Ettinger in a phone interview from Paris, where he is conducting La Traviata at the Paris National Opera.

Ettinger in based in Mannheim, Germany, where he serves as musical director for the National Theater Mannheim, not to mention his work with the Tokyo Philharmonic. Recently, he was appointed musical director of the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra.

On a steady basis, the Israeli conductor leads operatic productions in the world’s major venues, such as Vienna, London, New York and Munich.

How has he achieved all this? “Hard work, first of all,” he says.

Recalling the words of his tutor Daniel Barenboim, for whom he served as an assistant, Ettinger says, “You have to work for at least 10 years with various orchestras, and then you begin to understand something. This communication with an orchestra cannot be learned at a music academy; it begins only when you start working.”

Ettinger goes on to explain, “This is not only about the experience of conducting but also about networking – creating connections with important opera theaters and orchestras throughout the world.

And again, I am talking not only about professional but also human connections. Each invitation opens new doors, and it is no less important to be invited more than once. I am really proud that I’ve built my career by music making and human relationship with orchestras, theaters and singers and not by other ways, such as mafias, cliques, connections with other important people, publicity, etc. These are accepted, but not by me. My way is the way of human relations. After all, music is humanness, and for me that is what counts.”

An honest and uncompromising musician, Ettinger stresses that in his private life and in his music making, he lives by his truth.

“That is not always easy,” he says.

“Not everybody likes it, but I follow my instincts, leaving judging the results to the others.”

Speaking about 10 years of learning, Ettinger says that the major secret is to find the right balance between leading the orchestra and listening to other musicians and letting them flourish. This is what you can learn only with experience.

“Orchestras in Germany are different from those in Japan and, of course, Israel. The mentality, discipline, music tradition are different. And again, learning the human aspects of an orchestra as a representative of the society leads to many music discoveries, and that is simply captivating. Interestingly enough, orchestras remember conductors. For example, I went back to Paris after three years of absence, and it took us only two rehearsals to restore the mutual musical language,” he recounts.

In regard to the upcoming concerts, Ettinger explains that the idea behind the programming was to perform Schubert’s original work (the Fifth Symphony) and his orchestrated compositions.

“By the way, Schubert’s Fifth was the first piece I conducted in Rishon even before getting the position there,” Ettinger says.

“Others pieces are Wanderer, arranged by Liszt for orchestra – sort of a piano concerto; and the Fantasy, arranged by Wagner’s assistant Felix Mottl. In the past, when I still had time to play piano, I used to perform it a lot with Arnon Erez. I love it. It is a true masterpiece. I was curious to hear it arranged for an orchestra,” he says.

Making a point of including Israeli pieces in concert programs, Ettinger will also conduct the Chaconne for String Ensemble by Theodore Holdheim.

Ettinger has nothing but praise for his musical friend Alexander Korsantia.

“We first met several years ago when he played Bach concerti in Jerusalem. Then we toured Latin America with the Rishon Symphony.

I invited him many times to my Mannheim and Tokyo orchestras, and we performed together in many places in the world. Meanwhile, we played only Rachmaninov. I am more than impressed by his introverted approach, and I am very curious to hear what he will do with Schubert’s music. We are both sincere in our music making. This contributes to our cooperation,” he says.

The concerts take place on October 18 and 19 in Rishon Lezion; October 20 in Rehovot; and October 26 at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. For reservations: the Bravo online booking office.

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