Kazuki Yamada

“Growing together with the OPMC.”

Kazuki Yamada has led the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo for seven seasons, and will also become director of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra this spring, balancing continuity with new beginnings.

© Sasha Gusov

I was invited to perform with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo for the first time in 2011. Yakov Kreizberg had recently passed away and this concert was especially moving,” recalls Kazuki Yamada, who became the orchestra’s artistic and musical director a few years later in 2016. This spring he will be conducting two symphonic concerts in the Principality: on 15 April with pianist Momo Kodama in a typically French programme featuring Gounod, Fauré and Debussy, and on 4 June, when he will be conducting works including Carmina Burana, Carl Orff’s iconic piece about destiny. “Although I am Japanese, I can be very ‘neutral’ in terms of my conducting, which means I’m also able to handle Russian, German and Italian repertoires. With regards to classical French music, I am particularly fond of its colours, temperature and scents, and that’s why I love to play it,” explains the conductor. “We usually present our concerts in the Auditorium Rainier III, but we will be appearing in the Grimaldi Forum for an evening to perform Burlesque by Richard Strauss, a very challenging piece for orchestras, and Carmina Burana, a work that feels very dramatic but whose text is entertaining, moving and carnal.” The conductor’s career gains added momentum in April, when he takes over as director of the City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Momo Kodama, pianist
© Marco Borggreve

“I wasn’t expecting to be appointed because I thought I was too old,” laughs the 44-year-old. “I’ve been performing with the CBSO as a guest conductor since 2012, which has definitely helped, along with my experience with the OPMC. Becoming director of the City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is a hugely motivating challenge for me: the preparation times are shorter than those in Monaco, with an essentially symphonic repertoire.” Kazuki Yamada is aware of the historic heritage of the OPMC, which was founded in 1856, and has gradually introduced new events in the Principality, such as the Evgeny Svetlanov International Conducting Competition and the Mozart in Monaco Festival. “What makes the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo special,” concludes Kazuki Yamada, “is the blend of French and Italian repertoires, since we are close to the border, and the rich, bright sound it produces. Since we began working together, we have performed major concerts, symphonies and operas such as Déjanire, a historical piece composed at the request of Prince Albert I of Monaco. We have developed our relationship with the general public and I hope that we will soon go on tour in Japan.”

By Tanja Stojanov