Four questions with Corinna Niemeyer

1 November 2018

Four questions to Corinna Niemeyer

Tuesday morning September 25: the entire orchestra is on stage in the Main Hall of de Doelen. Today the orchestra chooses a new assistant conductor. The German Corinna Niemeyer is assigned the position of assistant conductor. She will also conduct concerts, starting with The journey of discovery of Piccolo and Saxo (4+) on December 9th 2018. She already made her tv debut during the award ceremony for the Dutch Edison Classical Music Audience Award on November 11th. To get to know Corinna Niemeyer better, we asked her four questions.

What does the role of assistant conductor look like?
As an assistant I will do several projects with Chief Conductor Lahav Shani and also with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Valery Gergiev. The work mainly consists of assisting in rehearsals. Before and during rehearsals we discuss which sound the conductor strives for. It is then my job to hear whether the desired sound is being realized. I will not only be present at rehearsals in de Doelen, but also at concerts in other venues. Each hall has its own acoustics, so you have to wonder each time what is needed to achieve the desired sound in the hall. You could actually say that I am the external ear of the conductor. Sometimes, if schedules are tight, I will also do rehearsals with the orchestra before the main conductor of the project arrives.

Have you always had the ambition to become a conductor?
Maybe, but the realization that I wanted to be a conductor only came later. When I was five years old I started playing cello, later I started to play the piano, sing in a choir and play in orchestras. Because I noticed that I like to work with groups and to pass on music, I started to study for music teacher at the Hochschule für Musik München. But I always had a special love for orchestra music. For my final examinations I conducted the orchestra of the Hochschule. When I did, I was overwhelmed by the experience and I really knew that I wanted to conduct. I did an admission exam and then went to study orchestra conducting. It seemed like an impulsive idea at that time but in retrospect, it was all in place. When I played in orchestras it was fun when the cello had the melody, but I was always (more) interested in the entire orchestra. I also liked to play continuo, which is the ‘engine of the ensemble’ in baroque music. When I moved to start my conducting studies, I found an old diary from five years before. I wrote: 'conducting, that gives me so much pleasure. Should I do that? ' Apparently it always in my head.

Why do you think the musicians have chosen you as assistant conductor?
Yes, that is a question that only the musicians can answer... But I instandly had a great feeling about the orchestra. To prepare for the audition, I attended a concert in Cologne in August, in which Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted. During this concert I felt such a great vibe in the orchestra. Everyone in the orchestra dares to take risks. Previously I had heard a lot about the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, but after hearing the concert I was really convinced and I thought: I want this!

The willingness to take risks sounds somewhat abstract, can you explain that?
At the concert in August the orchestra played a breathtaking pianissimo. Soft playing was really pushed to the limits, which requires the entire orchestra to take a risk. The danger is that the notes are so soft that you do not hear them at all or, even worse, only one note played too hard can also destroy everything. You notice that everyone in the orchestra wants to take on this challenge and that he can trust his colleagues to do so. I experience this willingness to take risk and the team spirit as very positive. It is a great inspiration and fits with my own ideas about making music. I am therefore incredibly looking forward to working with this orchestra.