interviews Mariss Jansons - 4 September
You worked with
Mravinsky over many years. What effect
did this have on you and your work?
I worked with him for
18 years and he had an enormous effect
and influence on me; both in the relationships
with music and musicians and he had
a great influence on the entire Russian/Soviet
conducting school. He penetrated very
deeply into each work he conducted,
gaining a profound, clear understanding
of the music, its interpretation and
preparation and to rehearse as it one
should. He very much loved nature. Beethoven's
Pastoral is one of his finest
interpretations. He loved plants and
flora, and the fantasy in music.
He adopted very sparing
gestures [as a conductor] reflective
of his deep thoughts about the inner
world. He did'nt like excessive movement
... very economic. He liked to perform
a work as a real performance, a creation
on the night based on many deeply thought
He was both very strict
for himself and with others.
of the 20th century would
you compare Mravinsky with?
I think most of all
Fritz Reiner, in his model of economy
in movement and thought ... also George
Why did he make
so few studio recordings?
He was very demanding
of quality. With the Soviet record firm
Melodiya this was not always possible.
He didn’t want to take risks if there
was no guarantee of quality of the highest
class. He wasn’t always sure that high
class performances would be recorded.
The only exceptions were his records
for DG in 1956 and 1960. Also high payments
for recordings were made only for Moscow-based
ensembles; and lower fees were offered
Did he restrict
his repertoire in later years?
He conducted fewer
and fewer concerts, but he was still
interested in new works, fresh interpretations.
I remember three completely different
interpretations of Tchaikovsky's 5th
in his last years. He always thought
deeply through the music. He was more
interested in quality of work not in
the quantity of works he performed.
Also the same with
Yes, this is quite
You toured with
him 4 times, how did he seem on tour?
He didn’t conduct every
day. He conserved his energy. He would
ensure the programme for rehearsals
was prepared well in advance ... not
travelling on the day of the concert.
He would assess the acoustics for instance
to ensure the correct balance ... insist
after a concert that he enjoyed a free
day. On the day of the concert he wouldn’t
speak with anyone. His sole concern
was the performance and the highest
quality was essential.
Of course we met and
talked on tour. We were close friends.
How was he as a
We often met either
at his or at our homes; he was a great
man. At once in his presence, you were
aware of his greatness as a person,
yet he loved to joke, tell stories.
There was a great energy force within
him. It was strange in the 1980s [that]
he suddenly became interested in ice-hockey
on TV. Yet he would often love just
to sit on his own, thinking about music
... life in general. He loved philosophy.
He didn’t like to go to big social events,
receptions. When he did, he would be
quiet, not talking to anyone. He preferred
a small company of friends to socialize
Is it true he never
compromised himself with the Soviet
No, he never went to
compromise, he always stood by his own
Did he suffer because
Mravinsky was recognised
as a great artist. Everyone knew this,
even the Party. Although he missed several
foreign tours, nothing worse ever happened.
They could do nothing against him. He
was so great a figure. He could not
be touched in his career. He had colossal
principles in life of such high morality.
Everyone realised this and could not
How has Mravinsky
influenced the present generation of
First of all, he influenced
me and others who knew him and I pass
on this to others. I know others pass
on his influence as well. Certainly
for many young musicians this often,
like Toscanini, remains only through
recordings. His principles in art and
music are the most important and live
on amongst us today. They are [also]
still alive in his orchestra. They maintain
the divided strings as in Mravinsky's
End of interview ….
Interviewer: Gregor Tassie