In Austria, his name has been a familiar one at least since he was head conductor of the Tonkünstler Orchestra (2009–2015). And since then, Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s renown has grown along with his assiduously built career. Since the 2014/15 season, he’s been head conductor of the hr Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt and music director of the Houston Symphony. What’s more, the London Philharmonic Orchestra appointed him principal guest conductor in September 2015.
Orozco-Estrada works with many of the leading orchestras worldwide, including the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic,the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Orchestre National de France, Staatskapelle Dresden, the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig, the Vienna Symphony, and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra as well as US orchestras including those of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago. In summer 2014, he made his first appearance at the Glyndebourne Festival with Don Giovanni, and his widely hailed Salzburg Festival debut was followed up with a return visit there to conduct Nicolai’s opera Il Templario in the summer of 2016.
The current season of 2017/18 will see Andrés Orozco-Estrada make his first appearance at the helm of Staatskapelle Dresden for two concerts at the Salzburg Easter Festival, and he will also give his debut with Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchester. Furthermore, he’ll be returning as a guest to perform with the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester and the Vienna Philharmonic, the latter of which he’ll also accompany on a tour to Paris and Budapest. With his own hr Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt, a two-week tour to Asia is planned. And finally, in December 2017, Orozco-Estrada will return to the Vienna Musikverein and re-unite with the Tonkünstler Orchestra for three performances of Gustav Mahler’s 8th Symphony.
Andrés Orozco-Estrada began his musical training on the violin, and it was at age 15 that he took his first conducting lessons. 1997 saw him go to Vienna, where he was admitted to the conducting class of Uroš Lajovic, a student of the legendary Hans Swarowsky, at the mdw (then still the Academy of Music and Performing Arts). Orozco-Estrada graduated from the mdw in 2003.
In 2014, the Vienna-based conductor was already back at the university to conduct the Webern Symphonie Orchester’s annual concert in the Golden hall of the Vienna Musikverein, thus maintaining close ties to the mdw even after graduation. And now, the mdw will be hosting a celebration together with the Tonkünstler Orchestra on 18 December to congratulate one of its most successful graduates upon his 40th birthday. A brief interview with the maestro makes clear the mutual affinity between him and the university.
You studied conducting at the mdw with Uroš Lajovic. What were the most important things that you were able to take along from your work with him for your career?
Andrés Orozco-Estrada (AO): The entire student experience in and of itself was extremely important, especially in terms of the diversity of the subjects we covered. I learned a whole lot of important things from Professor Lajovic, including clear structuring and score analysis, efficient rehearsal techniques, and the ability to use the tools I’d learned to search for my own interpretation, in the process developing my artistic personality. Just as important as the conducting instruction from Uroš Lajovic, however, was operatic conducting and my other opera department experiences, as well as composing lessons, opera history, etc.
What experiences from your student days in Vienna do you look back upon most fondly?
AO: Generally, the opportunity to learn. And walking every day through the mdw, an institution with countless stories and memories of the fantastic musicians who had studied there and helped build up the university’s reputation. The joy of breathing in this inspiring atmosphere, walking in the footsteps of important personalities like Zubin Mehta and Claudio Abbado. And of course the city itself, plus the great joy of experiencing classical music in Vienna, attending rehearsals, and hearing important orchestras like the Vienna Philharmonic, the Vienna Symphony, the Vienna RSO, and the Tonkünstler Orchestra.
In March of 2014, you joined mdw students to rehearse and lead a performance of Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein. What did and what do you think is important to convey when working together with young students?
AO: I can only speak from my own experience: the most important thing is to strike a balance between the technical aspects of musicmaking, knowledge, and emotions—or let’s say: musicality, individuality, and one’s own interpretation. The right mix of these factors gives rise to a special musical experience. I’ve been privileged to learn this important lesson, and today, I try to pass it on in my work as a conductor. It’s what I try to convey when I get up in front of a young orchestra—and I hope that it helps young musicians to find their ways, as I did mine.
In mid-December 2017, you’ll be in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein with Mahler’s 8th Symphony and the Tonkünstler Orchestra, in September you’ll be conducting his 4th Symphony in Houston, and in April 2018 you’ll be conducting Mahler’s 5th in Switzerland and Vorarlberg. Is this Mahler-cluster just a coincidence, or is there something more behind it all?
AO: I don’t believe in coincidence. Most of what happens in life happens as a consequence of what you’ve set out to do, the visions you had for your life, and what you’ve chosen to put work into. Also important are the larger context and the musicians. One might say that this cluster is a “planned coincidence”, because these are works that I think of very highly and very much enjoy conducting. Only the 8th Symphony will be a première for me. We could easily fill a whole issue of this magazine talking about Mahler, but to put it succinctly, Mahler is one of the most exciting, important, and challenging composers out there. He’s simply a must. And discovering him and his music, his significance for Vienna and his connection to the city and its orchestras, has been among the most unbelievable and valuable experiences I’ve been privileged to have here.