Sandro Naglia, conductor

Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and pursue a career in music?

I was already established as a professional solo singer when I started to take conducting lessons. The opportunity was a sort of exchange of experiences with a good friend of mine, who is a conductor. He wanted to learn something about vocal technique, and I needed some basics of conducting, mostly because in my vocal masterclasses I had sometimes to arrange opera scenes and concertatos. Actually conducting had always been a dream of mine, but I thought I was too old to start. But I quite soon received invitations to conduct in the repertoire area where I was more known as a singer, notably Baroque music, so I started this activity, still thinking my repertoire would have inevitably been very limited. Later, when I met my principal teacher, the Bulgarian conductor Deyan Pavlov, he forced me to face up to advanced repertoire… I can remember when he assigned to me Čajkovskij’s 5th Symphony to study: “Deyan, I don’t even know how to start” – “Do as much as you can, then we’ll see together”. I had to come back to study harmony, ear-training, orchestration, score reading… but it worked. Since then, I have conducted from Monteverdi to late-Romantic to contemporary music.

Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life?

In relation to conducting, beyond my main masters (Deyan Pavlov and Dominique Rouits), a perpetual source of study and inspiration comes from three completely different conductors: Sergiu Celibidache, Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado. I’m very fascinated by the Russian school as well.

What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling aspect?

The challenge is to enter the deep well of the score, the fulfilment comes when you reach a complete empathy with the players in real time, and this can possibly make the music spring.

As a conductor, how do you communicate your ideas about a work to the orchestra?

I try to do it with as few words as possible. Gesture and body language should hopefully inspire an instinctive reaction from the players in the direction I have in mind. I use words only if I have to explain something peculiar in my vision of the score, or if I want to create a musical atmosphere with a sort of “subtext” which can be related to literature, philosophy… or cinema!

How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?

I believe in a joint work with players, as the orchestra should be an organism and not the triumph of the conductor’s ego. The conductor should guide the players towards the full awareness of what they are playing; he/she should build a sort of virtuous circle where the best the players can give matches perfectly with his/her intentions.

Is there one work which you would love to conduct?

Skrjabin’s Piano Concerto.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I remember the wonderful experience of singing at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, but I’ve never had the opportunity to conduct there.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Čajkovskij, Mahler… and Cage!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I prefer to aim for “importance” more than for “success”. Success comes and goes, importance is something solid. Importance means giving something unique to the field you are related with.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

To study and to go deeply in what they are studying. Study is inescapable, even if you are incredibly talented. And also: not secluding oneself “only” in music. A thorough knowledge of all arts – painting, literature, theatre, dance… – is of primary importance for an aspiring artist.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I do hope to be still alive!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To feel good about myself, with everything around me which makes sense. And my wife near me.

Sandro Naglia earned a Master in Vocal Performance Degree from the Music Conservatoire of Pescara (Italy) and a Master of Arts Degree from Rome University.

As a tenor, he made his debut in 1987 at Teatro Carcano in Milan singing Falla’s El retablo de Maese Pedro, and two years later he distinguished himself in Monteverdi’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin conducted by Sir J. E. Gardiner in London, Venice and Bath Festival, recorded by DG-Archiv, starting then an international career. 

In 2000 he began to study conducting, and later on he attended advanced study classes with N. Samale, D. Rouits, L. Shambadal and, mostly, with D. Pavlov in Bulgaria. He made his debut as a conductor in 2001; since 2007 (Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Spring Early Music Festival in Melbourne, Australia) conducting has been developing as a parallel activity to singing: he was on the podium of such orchestras as I Pomeriggi Musicali of Milan, “T. Schipa” Symphony Orchestra of Lecce (Italy), I Solisti Aquilani (Italy), Orquesta del Reino de Aragón (Spain), Plovdiv State Philharmonic Orchestra (Bulgaria), Debrecen Philharmonic Orchestra (Hungary), Filarmonica Banatul Timişoara (Romania), “B. Lyatoshins’kij” Chamber Orchestra of Kiev (Ukraine) etc.  in a repertoire ranging from 17th to 20th century music, with special focus on late-Romantic.

He has been Principal Guest Conductor of “B. Marcello” Chamber Orchestra (Teramo, Italy) from 2009 to 2011, and Guest Conductor of the Orchestra of the Opera and Ballet National Theatre “O. Danovsky” (Constanţa, Romania) from 2015 to 2017.

As a singer, he has performed throughout Europe, North and South America, Asia and Oceania (Accademia di S. Cecilia in Rome, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Wiener Musikverein, Wiener Konzerthaus, Konzerthaus Berlin, Edinburgh Festival, Flanders Festival, S. Petersbourg Philharmonic, New York Lincoln Centre, Frick Collection Concert Series, Opera houses of Rome, Bologna, Genoa, Palermo, Monte-Carlo) under such conductors as Sir J. E. Gardiner, G. Gelmetti, G. Ferro, S. Bedford, M. de Bernart, R. Alessandrini. Over the years, his repertoire has ranged from Renaissance and Baroque music (often performed with Early Music groups, as Concerto Italiano and La Venexiana) to Classic and Romantic operas, oratorios and symphonic works; from German Lied to 21st century music, including many world creations. He has recorded more than fourty CDs for DG-Archiv, Naive-Opus 111, Glossa, Arts and other labels. 

Since 1996 he has been regularly teaching in courses and seminars in Italy and abroad, and has been invited to give Master Classes by such institutions as University of Southern California Los Angeles, University of Oregon, University of Melbourne, Academy of Music and Opera House of Tashkent etc. 

He is author of several essays, including the books Mann, Mahler, Visconti: «Morte a Venezia» (1995; new ed. Roma, IkonaLíber, 2012), Festina Lente. Taccuini 1993-2007 (Chieti, Tabula Fati, 2011), Il processo compositivo in Gesualdo da Venosa (IkonaLíber, 2012), I paraggi e il mondo (Tabula Fati, 2014), La curvatura del cielo. Taccuini 2007-2013 (Tabula Fati, 2016); moreover, he has translated in Italian works by Henry James, Fernando Pessoa and Marguerite Duras.

He currently lives in New Jersey, U.S.A

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