Music Director Massimo Zanetti Boosts Stature: ‘Orchestra Builder’ Upgrades Orchestra with Fresh Conducting

Feature "I'm very sad to leave. For four years, I worked with the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra and felt a bond artistically and humanly. This kind of chemistry  doesn't come easily. The members gave me joy every time we played together. I can't forget the love of the audience who responded enthusiastically. I'm deeply grateful." Taehyung RyuJoongAng Ilbo

Meeting with reporters in Gwanghwamun July 18th, Gyeonggi Phil Music Director Massimo Zanetti (60) was full of regret in his words and expressions. The Italian conductor, who took office in 2018, will not renew another two-years term after Verdi’s “Requiem” on the 23rd (Gyeonggi Arts Center) and 25th (Lotte Concert Hall), ending a total of four years with the Gyeonggi Philharmonic.

Massimo Zanetti was the ‘orchestra builder’ of the Gyeonggi Phil. His artistic competence rarely disappointed his audience. By conducting always by heart, conveying the core of the compositions, he raised the status of the Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra to the extent that is comparable to the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and the KBS Symphony Orchestra. 

Breaking away from the tradition of orchestral performances that had previously been grand but dull, he evoked a response from the audience with his fresh conducting that emphasized sharpness and details.

“It was important for us to create our own way of playing. We developed our own musical  language and vocabulary and worked on many compositions by different composers from different periods and style. We  achieved  transparency polishing the musical details”

Zanetti adopted new Bärenreiter Edition for Beethoven’s Symphonies and Concertos to help the audience understand with a more direct approach. He cited fluidity, transparent tones and interaction with creating and interacting with a “musical dictionary of playing as one of the achievements of his tenure.”

Along with GPhil, Zanetti has experience in conducting  Asian orchestras such as the NHK Symphony and China Philharmonic. He added that what Asian orchestra – generally talking- needs is a “ tradition on  performing” , something which can be quickly delivered and developed.

 Zanetti’s motivation for coming to the GPhil was because of their  performances with top-class conductors. “I had heard that Riccardo Muti  conducted it twice, and after watching Jaap van Zweden’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, I was convinced that the technique was good and the potential was there.” Zanetti linked magically the two characteristics during the four-year collaboration.

He described the overcoming technical difficulties and the path towards a fresher interpretation with his orchestra performing Mozart, the cycles of Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Respighi,  arriving to Ravel and until the final point of Debussy’s “La mer”.”

 Zanetti said: “We didn’t have enough support for almost a year and a half; there was a lack of sharing and communication between the Management and us. I felt lonely because my ideas weren’t supported,” he said, adding, “I don’t want to complain because it was a pandemic that everyone went through.” However, he could not hide his regret that he could not play more Mahler’s symphonies, including the choral Third Symphony. Verdi’s “Requiem,” which is being staged this time, is not a work that was deliberately chosen for the last stage. It was scheduled for 2020, but was postponed to 2021, and was postponed again to this year due to the Covid-19 restriction.

Zanetti explained that at a time when Russia and Ukraine are at war and the world is in great difficulty due to climate change and economic recession, humanity is at risk, and this is a fitting piece.

“If Mozart’s and Brahms’ Requiems dealt with an afterlife in which through the faith one could accept  the meaning of death, Verdi painted a picture of the living world before death and asked, ‘Why should we die? Should everything perish?’ It deals with the ultimate Beethoven question, the human gaze towards the life meaning.”

It was Zanetti’s idea to pay attention to the excellence of Korean instrumental musicians during last year’s pandemic and to perform all of Beethoven’s piano concertos with Jung Ji-won, Sun Youl, Yoon A-in, Park Jae-hong, Lim Ju-hee. A few months later, Park lived up to expectations by winning the Busoni Competition.

Zanetti is considered one of the masters of opera conducting. Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” conducting the GPhil in March this year, was  extremely well received by enthusiasts. Zanetti revealed that he “received calls from other opera Theaters in the Korea, but he refused unless he played with the Gyeonggi Phil” and he added that he would continue to conduct the Gyeonggi Phil whenever a request came to him.

Zanetti’s replacement is undecided. The new music director will be decided around the time of his appointment as president of the Gyeonggi Arts Center this fall.