Even after all these years, Benjamin Zander still gets excited for new seasons with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.
You can hear it in the conductor’s voice as he giddily breaks down what’s to come in 2018 and 2019. While Zander’s enthusiasm never wavers season to season, he’s especially excited this time around, as the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates its 40th anniversary, which also happens to coincide with Zander’s 80th birthday.
Benjamin Zander on 40 years of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra
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“I get excited by every season, but this is a very particular one,” Zander tells Metro. “Forty years is a long time for an institution to run. It’s been running beautifully and it’s getting better and better.”
It’s hard for the conductor and musical director to choose which programs he’s looking forward to the most this season, as they’re all “carefully thought out” and stick out in his mind.
“Don’t make me choose,” Zander jokes. “They’re all my babies.”
That said, the conductor could spend hours going over every intricate detail that excites him for each show, whether it’s Brahms Symphony No. 1, Mahler Symphony No. 5, or, one of his personal favorites, works by the legendary Beethoven.
In addition to bringing these classics to the masses with the Philharmonic Orchestra, Zander is especially looking forward to a youth show at Symphony Hall set for the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The performance will include an appearance by Ukranian concert pianist Anna Fedorova, who’s become a viral sensation after amassing more than 19 million views on YouTube with her rendition of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
“That’s far more than any other classical piece by anybody ever,” Zander says. “She’s coming and playing that piece live at Symphony Hall. It’s a concert that will blow your mind.”
As for what keeps Zander inspired after all these decades, the conductor points to several specific reasons, the first being his work with the youth orchestra. Zander recently had a “fantastically successful” tour with the young performers in Europe and can’t wait to see them bring it this season.
“It’s that incredible excitement of bringing them in touch with their first experiences of all these great pieces of music,” he explains.
The other reason for his continued enthusiasm for the arts has to do with his approach to the music. While many of these pieces are well known and have been apart of the culture for centuries, Zander still finds ways to make them feel fresh and new.
“We never do routine performances,” he says. “Never mind the tradition.”
“What I’m drawn to are the great masterworks and rethinking them,” Zander adds. “It keeps me very alive an excited.”