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Conducting the classics

Each genre will always have its fans, given the fact that great music is great music, believes Lawrence Foster, who conducted the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo with Mischa Maisky at the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) on Monday.

With a musical career spanning over 50 years, Foster’s dedication to his art has seen him work with the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra in Los Angeles where he made his professional debut aged just

18,  the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya in Spain and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also worked with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo which was earlier known as the Orchestre National de Monte Carlo.

Muscat Daily spoke to him before he took to the stage at ROHM, to find out more about what he thought of the opera house and how much of an important role education had to play in the survival of classical music.

Foster said the chance to conduct what he described as “a world-class orchestra” was a pleasure and that he was looking forward to working alongside famed cello soloist Mischa Maisky. He hoped the audience would enjoy the concert. 

All of the pieces for the performance were selected by Foster. “I wouldn’t have chosen them if I didn’t love them. On stage, I think the music sounds wonderful and I am told it takes a moment to get used to it, but it seems to be one of the finest acoustic venues in the world. Placido Domingo told me that this was just one of the most amazing places to sing and I think Oman has built a miracle in this opera house.”

A great appreciator of classical music, Foster said the death of sitar maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar was the most tragic event for music. Pandit Ravi Shankar is credited for introducing Indian music to the Western world. “I used to go to his classes at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles when he was teaching there, so I learnt a lot about traditional Indian music. I believe great music is great music and while you need to know something about it you don’t need to be an expert as great music communicates with all.”

This isn’t the first time that Foster has visited the sultanate.  Twelve years ago, he had spent Christmas in the desert under the stars and even spent time in Salalah.

“This really is one of the most beautiful countries in the world to visit and there are many other places here that I would like to visit.”

On how much of a role classical music has to play among today’s youth, Foster said he believes that in China, the Middle East and South America it has seen a real boost in recent years. He added, “Places which used to have almost no classical music are now understanding the universality that this type of music can have.”

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