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Joana Carneiro talks Beethoven

As conductor Joana Carneiro prepares to make her Kirklees Concert Season debut with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony at Huddersfield Town Hall this Thursday 12 October, she took a few minutes out from her busy schedule to answer some quickfire questions about what this exciting evening has in store.

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Please tell us a little bit about why you decided to become a conductor.

I was nine when I first heard conducting mentioned. I was very fortunate in that I was surrounded by music formally and informally all my childhood.

I played in an orchestra and danced as well, so I think I was just interested in the two combined: expressing music with my body.

Portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

How has your relationship with Beethoven’s Seventh evolved over time?

I’ve had the opportunity to conduct this symphony many times. My view on it has changed on each occasion, as the more I play this music, the more ideas come to mind. Listening to different orchestras playing and rehearsing it definitely influences the way I conduct as well.

Also, knowing more and more about the time period of the composition, the conflicts that were going on and Beethoven’s devotion to freedom, paired with the very obvious idea of dance we hear in this piece, have continuously influenced the way I conduct it.

The symphony is notable for being one of the composer’s most optimistic pieces. How does it feel conducting it?

It is optimistic and joyful for sure, but also very moving. I always feel grateful when I get the chance to conduct it.

How would you describe MacMillan’s A Scotch Bestiary which you’ll also be conducting?

I’d describe it as a zoological journey, influenced by Disney, and crafted in the most beautiful way. Anyone who hasn’t heard it before is in for a treat!

The Orchestra of Opera North in Huddersfield Town Hall © Justin Slee

Do you prefer conducting contemporary music or revisiting past masterpieces?

I really like the two. In fact, I need them both as an artist. The approach is more or less the same in music, regardless of the time it was composed – I’m always searching for the sound imagination of the composer and how that’s reflected in the physicality of playing our instruments.

The biggest difference is that with music of our time we can ask the composers what was on their mind when composing their pieces!

What are you most looking forward to with your Kirklees Concert Season debut?

Just sharing the most beautiful music making possible.

Beethoven’s Symphony  No. 7 will be performed by the Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Joana Carneiro in a programme which also includes Beethoven Coriolan Overture Op. 62 and MacMillan A Scotch Bestiary, on Thursday 12 October at Huddersfield Town Hall. The concert starts at 7.30pm.

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