A Melting Pot in Music: An interview with Maestro Dirk Brossé

May 26, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Epoch Times Photo
Maestro Dirk Brossé. (Courtesy of Dirk Brossé)

Music is structured sounds built around universal laws, and has the power to influence the moods and emotions of human beings, says Dirk Brossé who is one of Europe’s finest composers and conductors.

Maestro Brossé has since extended his work beyond his Belgian homeland. He is the principal conductor of America’s world-famous Star Wars: In Concert and also the music director of The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, “a wonderful place for classical music,” Maestro Brossé talked with The Epoch Times about his wide-ranging, multi-faceted musical endeavors which include marrying his music with lines written by Nobel laureate, Gabriel García Márquez, and composing soulful music for ancient Chinese instruments such as the erhu.  

Retrieving the original beauty of classical music—a European approach

When asked about his approach to directing an American chamber orchestra, Brossé said he wanted to introduce a new voice to refresh Americans’ experience with classical music. Bringing the European tradition to America is his artistic goal and he has applied that to his role as the music director of The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia—a post he has held since 2010.

“The musicians (here) are top, they play as no one else. They are all graduates of Curtis and Julliard, the best musicians,” he said.

“I cannot teach them to play better,” he added. “The only thing I can bring is a different view. Putting on a different pair of glasses and say ‘well, let’s look at it that way, let’s do it that way.'”

As a result he believes the level of the orchestra has gone up. “Every time we play, it is better and better and better.”

When asked about his approach to directing an American chamber orchestra, Brossé said he wanted to introduce a new voice to refresh Americans’ experience with classical music. Bringing the European tradition to America is his artistic goal and he has applied that to his role as the music director of The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia—a post he has held since 2010.

“The musicians (here) are top, they play as no one else. They are all graduates of Curtis and Julliard, the best musicians,” he said.

“I cannot teach them to play better,” he added. “The only thing I can bring is a different view. Putting on a different pair of glasses and say ‘well, let’s look at it that way, let’s do it that way.'”

As a result he believes the level of the orchestra has gone up. “Every time we play, it is better and better and better.”

As conductor, Maestro Brossé brings with him much experience. He has conducted major orchestras around the world, including the London Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra, the World Symphony Orchestra (Japan), the St Petersburg Camerata Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and the national orchestras of Venezuela and Ecuador.

He believes the artistic goal of a conductor is “to recreate and reproduce the music written by the composers at the best possible level.”

“It is not like in jazz music where everything has to come from the performer. As re-creators of classical music, we (conductors) receive a printed piece of music and all the information is already there. So, the percentage that we can be different from other orchestras is quite small, but at the same time we have to use it to distinguish ourselves.”

Modern music owes much to the great European composers, he says.

“Without Johann Sebastian Bach, there would never be a Michael Jackson, there would never be the Beatles, there would never be Madonna. Because if you analyze their music, you go back to the principles of Johann Sebastian Bach—in the chords, the relation between the chords, the structure of a melody, and the structure of the rhythm.”

But people forget, not only modern musicians but also classical aficionados. In doing so, he warns, performers can lose the composer’s original vision of the music.

“When Beethoven wrote his symphony, he did not use 80 musicians. In Beethoven’s time there were 33 musicians. So, if you play a piece of music with 80 musicians, instead of 33, it is a world of difference.”

Sounds produced by orchestras using modern instruments is also completely different from those made by authentic instruments for which the classical music was originally created.

“Going back to the history and trying to come closer to the original idea of the composer” offers a source of new experience with classical music, he said.

Creating your own destiny—an American approach  

Maestro Brossé says American music culture is very different to that of Europe, the latter government-subsidized and the United States, private-sector supported. He is enjoying American culture, which he says puts the connections between musicians and community on a different level. The music industry in the United States has to constantly find new ways to attract and retain patrons in order to receive donor support.

“In Europe you know you will always have your salary regardless of how many (audience members) are in the hall,” he said, “In the U.S. you have to create your own destination and your own tomorrow.”

Continued on the next page: Maestro Brossé’s destination becomes Star Wars: In Concert