A Chat With: NJSO Musis Director Jacques Lacombe

Classic Arts Features   A Chat With: NJSO Musis Director Jacques Lacombe
 
An interview with New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Music Director Jacques Lacombe. The ensemble offers a vibrant Thanksgiving weekend program featuring Elgar and Bach.


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On Thanksgiving weekend, the present a program featuring Elgar's timeless Enigma Variations and NJSO Concertmaster Eric Wyrick performing Princetonian Edward T. Cone's Concerto for Violin and Small Orchestra, as part of the Orchestra's New Jersey Roots Project.

The program also includes Webern's orchestration of Bach's "Ricercare" from The Musical Offering. Performances take place on Saturday, November 27 (8 p.m.), at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark and Sunday, November 28 (3 p.m.) at the State Theatre in New Brunswick.

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The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra's opening night on September 14th celebrated both the launch of a new season and your official inauguration as the orchestra's 13th Music Director. Any new projects or initiatives in store for the orchestra's future?

We are introducing two major new programming initiatives this season. First, we are in the inaugural season of a multi-year Winter Festival: "Man & Nature: Exploring the Elements in Music." This year's festival revolves around the theme of Water, so the concerts will feature works that explore musical characteristics of water _ from the rolling swells and open ocean of Debussy's La Mer to the contemplative reflections of Tobias Picker's Old and Lost Rivers _ one particular piece, Tan Dun's Water Concerto, features water itself as a solo instrument!

I am particularly proud of our second new initiative, New Jersey Roots, which celebrates the work of composers who were born in, or whose artistic identity was shaped by their time spent in, the state of New Jersey.

Speaking of the Garden State _ in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, you discussed the importance of NJSO's role as a "state" orchestra; something that is reflected in both the performance schedule, and the music itself!

It is very important for the NJSO to be part of the community. We perform concerts in seven venues throughout the state, and through our Resources for Education And Community Harmony (REACH) program, NJSO ensembles reach audiences in all 21 counties in the state. On Opening Night this past September, since it was a one-time-only concert in Newark, we arranged for coach busses to pick up concertgoers from each of the seven venues and take them to NJPAC. It's so important to be connected with the community, to build bridges and create partnerships so that the NJSO is the orchestra of all New Jerseyans.

Musically, through the New Jersey Roots Project, we gave the world premiere of Montclair State University professor Robert Aldridge's Suite from Elmer Gantry on Opening Night, and we have a slate of works this year by important New Jersey composers like Edward T. Cone, whom is featured on this weekend's program, and Roger Sessions. This is an important project, and it will shine a light on the amount of incredible music that the Garden State has produced.

You've said before that your passion for music began as a young boy soprano in a choir in Quebec. Was there a particular moment when you first realized that you wanted to be a conductor?

When I was about 14 years old, I started to study organ and I became the accompanist for many singers and also for some choirs. One of the choirs I was working with regularly eventually programmed a concert of Mozart's Requiem with orchestra. Since I was acting not only as an organist but also as the assistant to the conductor, he asked me to conduct two movements of this marvelous piece during one rehearsal. This was an incredible experience for me and I think, above all, that event that made me realize that I wanted to become a conductor. The feeling of shaping the music with my hands is something that I had never experienced before and it's a wonderful feeling!

What is one of the most memorable symphonic or opera programs that you've conducted?

There are obviously a lot of programs that I've conducted and which have a special place in my heart. For example, my debut at the MET conducting Werther with Alagna and Kasarova is something that comes to my mind right away as a production where everything seemed to fall in place so perfectly. More recently, my very first concert as music director of the NJSO is also an evening I'll always remember. With soloists Joshua Bell and Jeanine DeBique, I felt that there was something very special in the air as if the audience, the musicians and I were all on such an amazing level of communication, sharing great and deep emotions through music.

Any specific classical music recording that you couldn't live without?

If I would have to pick one recording today that is at the very top of my list, it would probably be Tristan und Isolde conducted by Carlos Kleiber. I saw him conduct quite often when I was studying in Vienna and he remains to me a unique example of someone who could make an entire orchestra sing _ he shaped every single melodic line of a score, giving each its own exciting life.

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