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GILLIAN WILLS talks to conductor
Sebastian Lang-Lessing in the context of the
recent Mendelssohn Festival in Hobart, Tasmania


Sebastian Lang-Lessing has made an indelible stamp on the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra since he became Chief Conductor in 2004. The TSO has only 47 players. While many would lobby for more, Lang-Lessing is happy with these modest forces. 'It is an opportunity to play core repertoire by Mendelssohn or Schumann or Beethoven who wrote for smallish orchestras. The size is often ideal for contemporary repertoire too, and, because the musicians are more exposed they play better' he says.

For the last three years, Lang-Lessing has pioneered new approaches to programming. He sees the orchestra as an important ambassador for the state of Tasmania and an iconic symbol of its beautiful rugged scenery, its rich and brutal heritage. Concerts are being increasingly presented in special locations around the State to promote theatricality, highlight an area's identity or create irony.

Recently, a performance of Beethoven's emotionally powerful Ninth Symphony was staged at the bleak former prison settlement of Port Arthur where nineteenth century convicts were incarcerated. This settlement was once referred to as hell on earth and is notoriously eerie. Needless to say the concert made a big impact and received rave reviews.

The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

Touring is another major strategy for this highly driven conductor. The orchestra has already performed in Sydney and the first European Tour is to be launched in 2008, the TSO's sixtieth anniversary. Lang-Lessing says this will establish the TSO on the world stage and be a motivational incentive, as the orchestral musicians will confront the fierce competitive standards in the international arena.

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Copyright © 9 August 2007 Gillian Wills, Brisbane, Australia


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