Leo Kremer about life, music, and the benefits of plastic conductor stick

German organist and conductor Leo Kremer came to Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. There was a concert named Gloria at the State Symphony Orchestra and the chorus of the Kazan Conservatory under his leadership at the Big Concert Hall named after Saidashev. We caught up with him and asked the famous conductor about his preferences and future plans.

Leo, where did you start to study music?

– My musical training began in the family. My parents were very simple people. My father worked at the mine. He loved music and wanted to be a musician, but at the time of his childhood there was lack of money so there was no opportunity to study music. My Daddy could sing well- he had a bass.

Another childhood memory is the choir. First impressions of childhood are connected with the way my parents sang. Mother sang in the church choir. And I listened to ... Every day, at the table there was a song before the meal.

Were there any musicians in your ancestry?

– Only amateurs. They sang in the choir. They gave concerts, performed Haydn's Oratorio, Handel’s "Messiah", Beethoven's Mass.

– Do you feel an invisible bond with the great fellow musicians?

– My acquaintance with the music started with their works. When I was 10-11 years old and learned to play the organ, then I performed all the works of Bach, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Reger, and Schumann.

– Do you have favourite composers? 

– (laughs) Music is my favourite. Although, of course, there are some big names. As the building has a room, the walls, there is a major stumbling, foundation, so that music has its own large blocks. Bach, the Viennese classics - Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, representatives of the German Baroque - Telemann, Handel, Bach's sons Carl and Philip. Music is so rich that it is impossible to single out just one favourite composer. When I work with the music - I'm covered in it. I do not listen to music the way the audience hears it.

– What about your favourite conductor?

–Every era has its heroes. In the XIX century lived wonderful conductors. For example, only in Germany: Furtfengler, Busoni, R. Strauss. In XX century there were many excellent conductors such as Harnoncourt, for example. My great and beloved conductors are Sergiu Celibidache, Günter Wand, Eugen Jochum – those from whom I have learned. Now in the conductor's art sky shine such stars as Simon Rettla – conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and Roger Norington.

Do you compose music?

– Yes, I compose, not so much, of course. I have a work for orchestra, for choir, organ and orchestra. There is also a church music.

– Do you have your own organ?

– Yes. In my house there is a small organ.

– You conduct works by Russian composers. Do you feel any difference when your work on Russian music from working on compositions of European composers?

– I conduct a lot. Of course, I find myself closely related to music of XIX-XX centuries in Russia. In the XIX century Tchaikovsky, but not only, I still love music by Glinka, for example. Also, I conduct the music of Russian composers of XX century - Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Stravinsky.

The work is no different. Take, for example, Tchaikovsky: he is the greatest, the ideal, as well as Mozart. He said: "For me, Mozart's greatest composer, and I like to compose in his way."

Tchaikovsky's music is very close to the European countries. He studied composition with us, the German composers. In the XIX century composer has international connections. For me, a special moment in the XIX century Russian music is that it’s emotional.  

– For how many months or years out your schedule is planned?

– Oh, not much. Perhaps, for a year or two. But we should not talk about this.

– Do you travel? What musical trends do you see in the world? 

-I like the music of different styles, different countries, and different ages. Whether it's a fine baroque music or most classical, romantic music or of great band, with great solos and choruses, I love it. My soul is open to all. If this is the music of Monteverdi - I study the score and the style of the time. On Saturday, I can conduct the music of Monteverdi, and Monday - Tchaikovsky's music, for example. It is very interesting to me.

- Proved that classical music is good for the health. You must have good health?

- Yes! I think that for the conductor is necessary. He must be a leader. Sometimes the orchestra consists of 60, 70, 80 people. So many people and me… They are all waiting for my impulse; I have to send it to everyone in the orchestra.

The most important thing for the community - whether it be small or big band orchestra – is the creation of a whole set of individuals. All should unite in a single breath.

– How many times have you already broken the conductor's stick?

- (Laughs) not so many. I use plastic sticks - they are very flexible and do not break, even when I am too emotional. The main emotion you have to show the orchestra without a stick, but only with the hands and eyes. 

Do you like modern music?

– Yes, of course. I love her very much, and conduct and perform it. I play the organ works of Messiaen, Schoenberg, for example. But I do compose in this style, improvising on the organ concerts.

- Where do you find inspiration?

- Within myself. I find inspiration in the music. When I open the score - I'm getting a pulse.

How do you feel about the trend of rock bands to use Symphony Orchestra in their concerts?

– It is their right. There is music academic, there are other areas, and sometimes they are united.

Why not?

- Do you have students?

– Yes

– Are there any things that you never stop learning?

– Every day I have to learn a new score, and play the organ constantly. Remembering the previous concerts, I try to draw some conclusions and move on. And just as water is essential for a fish and music is for me.

What are your creative plans for the next year?

– Oh, I have a lot of them. I have my own festival in Germany, which we plan to hold next year. Also, Germany has become the centre of the festival of music by Bach and Mozart in the following year. Now I'm already thinking about the organization of the festival, its music program.

I plan to travel to the U.S., South America, Mexico, as a conductor, as well as give master classes for organists and singers. 

Dina Khakimova