From September 2023, the renowned conductor and harpsichordist Ottavio Dantone will be the musical director of the Innsbruck Early Music Festival. Of course, we had the opportunity to interview him in advance.
Who are you? As a person and as a musician?
I am a man and a musician who loves to study, to learn, to go deeper. When I realise I've done something wrong, either in music or in life, I think back a lot to try to improve. Sometimes mistakes are the best teachers. As a man and a musician, the most important values for me are sincerity, knowledge, dealing with all aspects of life and scores, of course with the eyes of sincerity, with what I see and hear, without the need to impress at all costs. For almost 10 years, I have lived in the countryside, in Burgundy. The tranquillity I breathe when I am at home is unfortunately too little for what I would like, but I feel that these are moments that are too important for me as a man and musician and that allow me to reflect, study and go deeper. What I like most of all is to be in my music room in the country studying new scores, to dig into them and look for those details that make individual compositions unique. I'm not a socialite, quite the contrary. I don't look for people's approval, if they give it to me I'm happy, but it's not a goal for me. The goal is to be honest and sincere with myself and the people around me. The centre of who I am and what attracts my attention is art, music. My greatest pleasure is research.
Music never leaves me and my thoughts, 24 hours per day :-)
What do you represent musically?
Sometimes there is a risk of putting approval first at the expense of sincerity. I would like to represent the image of a modern performer, capturing the interest of others with as much intellectual honesty as possible. I think I am part of the generation of the third phase of the philological process and rediscovery of the Baroque repertoire. The first phase started with the pure and simple use of ancient instruments in the 1950s, which was already a great innovation; the second moment was the advent of emerging baroque music groups that took a provocative to shocking approach precisely to communicate to the public that baroque music was less deeply rooted than was believed, also rightly creating a shock in this evolutionary process, a strong signal of cultural change that I was also part of at the beginning of my career together with my orchestra. We are now in the third phase, the phase of language awareness, of assimilating aesthetic elements that allow us to dialogue with the public, who now listen to us in a sincere and pure way, without necessarily having to force our hand to amaze. Finally, I can now give free rein to my creativity, to my personal sensitivity, because the assimilation of language, rules and treaties is now so deeply rooted that the listener now understands and perceives the emotions that the composer and musician wanted and wants to convey. At this point, finally, my creativity, the creativity of every performer, can freely come into play.
What is important for you in music?
Our era is the only one in history to listen to and perform music from the past as well as the present. The task of the modern performer is to know the aesthetic and expressive mechanisms of the different composers and to communicate the truest and most effective emotions to the listener. This requires a long and deep study of historical sources, rhetoric, history and philosophy, as well as the widest possible knowledge of the repertoire. All this makes it possible to make the technical aspects of flair and imagination, which complement the musician, aware and effective. It is also important to bring out freedom, and I and my orchestra liberate music through deep knowledge and continuous, unceasing study.
With my Accademia Bizantina we have studied so deeply that today we feel we can say things that are true and emotionally strong at the same time.
Do you have role models? If yes, which ones?
I have never had any particular role models, but I have had and still have admiration for all artists who manage to communicate emotions to me or teach me something new.
What made you apply to the Innsbruck Festival and finally accept the position?
The Innsbruck Festival is one of the most historic and important festivals in the world, and it is the ideal situation to implement everything that represents my ideal in early music. Experimentation, research, education and a deep relationship between the musicians and the audience. For me, it is a challenge and an honour not to be missed.
What is your musical idea, what are your visions that you want to bring to the Innsbruck Festival?
I would like to try to free today's early music from conventions and rules that sometimes prevent its natural enjoyment of emotions. I want to avoid a 'closed' and 'obtuse' philological vision that does not know how to develop a relationship with its own time and does not take into account modern needs and sensibilities while maintaining a profound relationship with the past.
I would like the maximum of rigour and awareness that determines the maximum of freedom of expression and creativity.
What are you most looking forward to when you think about the 5 years of festival weeks ahead?
I am very curious. The role of artistic director of such a prestigious festival is new to me and I hope to learn a lot from it and to be able to pass on to others my experience and what I have learned in my long career as a musician.