You studied viola at the Academy before turning your hand to conducting. What inspired your change of direction?
I’ve been fascinated by the role of the conductor since I was a teenager. I’ve always seen the conductor as a guide, sharing the story of the music with the audience and steering them through the storyline. However, before I stepped onto a podium, I first wanted to be very good at playing my instrument. I started playing the violin and then moved onto the viola, which allowed me to really enjoy the harmonies! Before coming to the Academy I studied in Paris, and during that time I founded a chamber orchestra in order to try things out and experiment with conducting gestures in a supportive environment. I then took a year out to study conducting, and that confirmed for me that I wanted to do this as my job. I carried on my studies at the Academy, taking conducting as a second study, and in 2012 I founded my orchestra, Arch Sinfonia, which is made up of very fine freelancers in London.
As the Taki Alsop Conducting Fellow you are mentored by Marin Alsop. How is she helping you to develop as an artist?
To Marin, I am a fully individual human being. She is not someone who wants clones of herself and she gives genuine advice for the individual she has in front of her. The Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship (TACF) offers amazing support (both financial and emotional) to its Fellows and it is an honour to be part of the TACF family. During Covid, I interviewed Marin every week about many different subjects – it was fantastic to have her insight on my podcasts.
Since becoming a Fellow in September 2019, I have shadowed Marin at rehearsals with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Around that time, I was selected to take part in the Deutscher Dirigentenpreis international conducting competition in Cologne, and she discussed the repertoire with me and gave me advice from her experience of the pieces.
Who are your musical influences or role models?
Nikolaus Harnoncourt's sound in Beethoven is absolutely a model for me. My former teacher, Paavo Järvi, and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen are equally inspiring, and I'm fascinated by Esa-Pekka Salonen's technique. And of course, Claudio Abbado’s musicality and deep understanding of the music.
What attracted you to studying in the UK?
In France, our education system can be pretty negative and rarely focuses on the positive side of a student. Having done some courses abroad, I knew that the English way of seeing things is more open minded and open to discussion. My time in the UK and at the Academy was a revelation!
What are the benefits of performing and learning in an international environment?
Meeting so many people from different cultures. I feel richer in my soul and mind from my time studying in the UK and from touring and visiting concert halls around the world. Music should not have any borders.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
I have been very fortunate to have conducted fantastic orchestras in my native France, Spain, Italy, Germany and, of course, my adoptive country, the UK. So far, one of my (many!) highlights was conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for two concerts of great music. The orchestra could be compared to a very fast car that takes any turn you wish. We had a deep connection and I'm glad to have been reinvited to conduct a concert with them at Cadogan Hall. I’m also very happy to be returning to the BBC Symphony Orchestra to conduct an exciting programme with cellist Steven Isserlis.
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
I am scheduled to make my debut in the USA and Canada next season, so that's very exciting! I am also very much looking forward to making my debut with the London Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and many other prestigious orchestras. But I'm staying very flexible as I know that the dates may move.
Find out more on Chloé's website: chloevansoeterstede.co...