Stéphane jokes with David Nice. Did our gentle conductor really give the music critic a black eye? Click here to find out!

The UK arts reviews website The Arts Desk has just published a long, fascinating and in-depth question-answer interview between David Nice and Stéphane Denève (from a meeting in 2010), to coincide with the opening of the new RSNO Season (his last as Music Director). You can read the full interview here.

Their discussion, packed with interesting anecdotes, covered a wide range of topics close to Stéphane’s heart, including Berlioz’ Symphonie fantastique, his thoughts on conducting, rehearsing an orchestra, on contemporary composers such as Helen Grime and James MacMillan, on the differening musical cultures in America and Europe, on performing La Mer at the BBC Proms and on his early training as a conductor and pianist… and even his thoughts on Bach – not a composer one would normally associate him with.

Denève on conducting:

For me, the grail of conducting is when you are imposing the music in such a charismatic, logical way that it does actually come from the musicians


No authoritarian gesture from any person can be as precise as what the music imposes

Denève on the future:

There’s so much repertoire, and I could concentrate on so many things different, sometimes I long for Bach but I’m pushed a bit by the wind; you cannot decide everything, you have to compromise, people want this or that repertoire, this soloist wants to do this piece. So what I love is that now I will have a new experience, having had such a feeling of success with the RSNO, I hope that my next experience will not be a straight repeat – I’m going to Germany to a radio orchestra. It will be a different kind of culture and hopefully another story.


You can read the full interview here.

And, for the story of the interviewer’s black eye (was it caused by Stéphane?!) you’ll need to read his personal blog.