Music before words
Alain Altinoglu is a French conductor of Armenian descent. Born into a family of musicians, he learned notes before he learned letters, and Armenian before French. At a young age, he received an introduction to the piano from his mother, who among other things, could boast of having been the first person to perform Ravel’s Concerto in G… in Turkey!
When opportunity knocks
Altinoglu entered the Paris conservatory at the age of 16. At the time, he was already working at the Opéra de Paris as a vocal conductor and accompanying pianist for singers. Even then, the desire to conduct exerted a strong pull. One day, while working as the chorus director for a production, an unexpected promotion came his way: he found himself leading the Opéra’s orchestra after the maestro had to leave because his wife had gone into labour.
A first time for everything
How does it feel when you find yourself standing in front of an orchestra for the first time? “[…] the biggest fear is that you’re going to give up: the first time in your life, and now no one’s going to play together, it’s going to be horrible.” Fortunately for Alain Altinoglu, everything went well. The conductor has since led some of the world’s largest ensembles (Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London, etc.) and, paradoxically, he teaches conducting even though he never studied it formally.
A conductor’s challenges
For Alain Altinoglu, a concert’s success resides in the ability of a guest conductor to adapt to the orchestra, the city and its culture, and the present time: “The insight for the interpretation should really not come from the composer’s time, but the age in which we live.” And understanding the musicians in front of you, making a good impression is of the utmost importance. The respect and admiration the performers have for the maestro can greatly influence their performance during a concert.
“The conductor’’s first instrument is his ear.”
– Alain Altinoglu
“Bringing an all-French program to his BSO debut, the French conductor moved with a dancer’s grace. He knew exactly when to push forward and when to pull back, when to hang tight and when to let loose.”
– Zoë Madonna, Boston Globe