A concert interview with conductor Cynthia Katsarelis
"Live performances create a human
connection between the performers and audience members — that energy is palpable! The rhythms of Beethoven and Márquez make you want to move, the lines in the Brahms take your breath away."
Cynthia Katsarelis, is Music Director and Conductor of Boulder’s Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra. Reviews of her work have mentioned that she possesses a “creative imagination” and that she achieves “ultimate performance(s)” which are “models of precision and spirit”. She also implemented musical programs for public school students, economically challenged children, and gifted young musicians. Her commitment to working with young musicians has also taken her to Haiti to guest conduct and teach.
Katsarelis joins Jefferson Symphony Orchestra on May 7 as guest conductor for our Season 70 Finale Concert.
JSO: Tell us 3 words that describe listening to a symphony orchestra.
Cynthia Katsarelis: "Awe-inspiring, sublime, exhilarating! "
Share some examples of why this concert’s programming is exceptional.
CK: "Composer and conductor Richard Wagner called Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony 'the apotheosis of the dance' because each of the movements has its own amazing dance-like rhythm that stirs both the body and the spirit. Fast, slow, playful, and thrilling rhythms make this a symphonic favorite.
"The opening work on the program is an actual dance, Conga del Fuego Nuevo by the Mexican composer, Arturo Márquez. A conga is an Afro-Cuban carnival dance, while the 'fuego nuevo' or 'new fire is an ancient Mexican ritual. So in this energetic work, Márquez combines two traditions and it sizzles! I love pairing it with the dance rhythms of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
"The Brahms Violin Concerto fits with this in more subtle ways, his music is filled with sumptuous melodies and virtuoso passages for the soloist. But his rhythms frequently defy conventions, putting the emphasis on the 'wrong' beat, or minimizing expected 'strong beats' to create long, beautiful lines. While the rhythms in Beethoven and Márquez make you want to move, the lines in the Brahms take your breath away, all leaving you in a state of awe and wonder."
What are 2 reasons why you should attend any live symphony concert?
Cynthia Katsarelis: "First of all, live symphony concerts are the real deal! Everything is better live... the visceral communication, the emotional peaks and valleys, the movement and visuals, the sound quality — everything!
"Most of all, live performances create a human connection between the performers and audience members, that energy is palpable and the experience is amplified dramatically over anything that comes from a speaker. I worked for one of the world’s most recorded orchestras, the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops; while the recordings are good, the musical experience of the live performances are always far better."
Share how you got into conducting!
CK: "When I was four years old, my parents took me to a performance of the Nutcracker and I was entranced! I know the ballet was awesome, but I was taken by the sound of the music coming out of the orchestra pit, particularly the violin, and by the conjuring that the conductor seemed to be doing. After that, I asked my parents to buy me recordings of symphonic music and started reading the books on classical music that they had in the house.
"Eventually, I got a violin teacher and started on my journey. At first, I didn’t know how to become a conductor but I did know how to become a violinist — you practice! A lot! I played in my school orchestra where my director let me conduct a piece on a concert, and I played in local community orchestras. This led me to win a section violin job in the Florida Orchestra where the conductor was very 'old school.' I left the job for the Peabody Conservatory of Music (of Johns Hopkins) where I was able to study both violin and conducting.
"I continue to love the intellectual and creative challenge of conducting along with working with my colleagues in the orchestra and collaborating with soloists, choirs, and dancers."
What is 1 reason why “life is better with music"?
CK: "Beauty feeds the soul, music makes beauty in community with others, and making and hearing great music is wicked good fun!"
What is 1 secret to conducting an orchestra?
CK: "Joy! Everything else can be learned (and must be learned). In the concert, the conductor doesn’t make any sound, the musicians do. Joy inspires a sense of sharing that brings life to the music and creates connections with others."
Is there anything else you'd like to mention to our symphony audiences?
CK: "Come and enjoy the concert! You’ll leave dancing in the aisles! But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I’m truly honored to have the opportunity to work with the splendid musicians of the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra."