Trombonist Jörgen van Rijen about New York and Lucerne, about Claudio Abbado and Andris Nelsons

Jörgen van Rijen, solo trombonist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam and of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, was with the New York Philharmonic for the past seven months, now he is back in Lucerne for his seventh time. In an interview, he shared his experiences with international orchestras and also talks about different rehearsal techniques of Claudio Abbado and Andris Nelsons.

In the past few months you experienced the New York Philharmonic, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and now you are back with the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, very impressive! You are a member in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, how did you end up in New York this spring?
Well, the New York Philharmonic was looking for a trombone player for half a year, and me and my family were open for some new experiences. It actually ended up happening with the support of the Concertgebouw Orchestra and my family moved to New York City for half a year and we all experienced a totally different lifestyle for a few months.

What are the main differences to you between an American and a European orchestra?
There are many differences in the organization of the orchestra, because the money comes from different sources. A big part of the money in Europe still comes from subsidy, whereas in New York there is no subsidy at all, the money mainly comes from private donators. This does not affect me too much as a musician, because in both systems I am on stage trying to play the most beautiful music. However, it affects the program to a certain point. I think due to fundraising differences, European orchestras are able to take more risk in their programming decisions than American orchestras.

What was different for you playing with the New York Philharmonic?
Generally, for me the biggest difference was that I just had to play much bigger and louder. Not only because Americans like it louder, but also mainly because the concert halls in New York or Chicago are much bigger. In Amsterdam we have to be careful not to play too big, because it was loud anyway. In contrast, in New York you want to make it as big as possible, so that there is still some sound left when it gets to the end of the hall and to make sure the sound fills the whole hall. Another difference is the timing. Whereas in Europe orchestras play very late, the New York Philharmonic always play right after the conductor’s sign. Coming to New York, I knew I had to play earlier, however the question was how much earlier?

Probenarbeit mit Claudio Abbado, 2010 (Foto: Priska Ketterer/LUCERNE FESTIVAL)

Jörgen van Rijen, Solo-Posaunist des LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA., bei der Probenarbeit mit Claudio Abbado, 2010 (Foto: Priska Ketterer/LUCERNE FESTIVAL)

You have been with the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA for the past seven years, how is it for you to be back in Lucerne in this special summer, after the founder of the orchestra Claudio Abbado passed away?
First of all, of course it is very sad that Claudio Abbado is not here anymore and it is something you miss. Everybody normally is here to work with him, it was always his orchestra. It is very strange that we are all still here, only he is not there anymore. I know Andris Nelsons quite well, because he comes a lot to Amsterdam and I think he does a great job. He should not try and he also does not try to be Claudio Abbado, because there is only one Claudio Abbado. So Andris Nelsons has to do it completely his way, and I think it works. He is very inspiring, he has a lot of imagination and fantasy for the music, which is very nice. For me personally it is good to have something completely different.

What do you think are the main differences in rehearsal techniques between Claudio Abbado and Andris Nelsons?
One speaks a lot, the other one does not speak much. However, more in detail it is difficult to put it in words. Claudio Abbado was playing through a lot and it was sort of a “Zen” rehearsal technique. He was using a lot of the self-cleaning processes with the orchestra – when you play something many times, the musicians solve it themselves. In the concert Claudio Abbado was able to make it to something magical. As I said, Andris Nelsons is talking more and has more stories for every passage. He is thinking in pictures and uses a lot of imagination to bring the whole orchestra in the same direction. In the end, the result from both conductors is the same. They both create the atmosphere that we all work together to complete one idea. I do not prefer one or the other, they both have to be the way they are.

Interview: Nora Murer | LUCERNE FESTIVAL Marketing & Communication

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