Last night’s smashing opening of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s 89th season was due in large measure to musical director Peter Oundjian’s enthusiasm and creative scope.
What are some of the highlights for this season?
That’s difficult to pick. The Mozart festival in January is always lovely. One of the most exciting things of the year is going to be the New Creations Festival, and John Adams is coming. He’s the most popular composer in the world today.
There’s a real challenge — almost a contradiction — that every year you have to make classical music new again with your programming. How do you do it?
You just keep using your imagination, and thinking, if I was living in Toronto, what would I want to see? And I don’t want to see the same things over and over again. I want to look at a brochure that makes me go, “Oh my God, I want to go to that, I want to go to that … I can’t possibly go to all these things!”
There are always going to be those diehard purists who oppose any changes or updates to their beloved classical music. How do you go about making sure they’re still happy, too?
That’s why I sort of hesitated when you first asked me to talk about the season, because it really is eclectic, and if you just want to hear beautiful music performed by a great orchestra, there is plenty of that as well. There’s a tremendous range.
You’ve been described as someone who — unlike previous directors who shall remain nameless — has injected the TSO with energy, warmth and a real connection with the audience. What’s your method?
The method is to try to strike a balance between making people feel extremely welcome and making it as un-elitist as possible. I think people still think of classical music sometimes as an elitist art form, and I think that’s just a crime.
Do you ever just throw on your jeans and go nuts at a rock concert?
I grew up as a Beatles and Pink Floyd fan, so sure. Recently, I must say that I can’t really take the volume at rock concerts! (Laughs) So I protect my ears these days, but I’m quite in touch with what’s going on in the rock world. I love all kinds of music.