For a number of years in the recent past, Sydneysiders were treated to performances by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra during the first week of August. This annual tour was inaugurated by its Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing, under whose leadership, the TSO also amassed an impressive discography which included the complete Schumann and Mendelssohn symphonies. After 7 years at the rostrum of the TSO, Lang-Lessing has handed the baton to Slovenian conductor Marko Letonja.
Succeeding Lang-Lessing is no mean task. However Letonja’s credentials are both impressive and extensive. In addition to his incoming position as Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the TSO, Letonja is Music Director designate of the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra and Principal Guest Conductor of Orchestra Victoria in Melbourne.
Graduating from the Vienna Academy of Music in 1989, Letonja is a respected conductor of both symphonic and operatic repertoire. He has conducted the symphony orchestras of Basel, Vienna and Hamburg as well as the Munich Radio Orchestra and the Stuttgart Staatsorchester. It was in Basel where he was Music Director and Chief Conductor of both the Symphony Orchestra and the Opera, from 2003-2006, that he conducted new productions of Tannhäuser, La Traviata, Der Freischütz, Boris Godunov, Tristan und Isolde, Rigoletto and Don Giovanni, among others. In addition, he made several recordings with the Basel Symphony Orchestra. He has worked at La Scala, Dresden’s Semperoper, the Berlin Staatsoper, the Deutsch Oper Berlin and the Teatro Sao Carlo in Lisbon conducting the grand operas and bel canto works.
Letonja is not stranger to the antipodes. Since 2007, he has toured to Australia and New Zealand, conducting orchestras in Auckland and Victoria as well as La Traviata, Le Nozze di Figaro and Rigoletto for Opera Australia and Rigoletto for the West Australian Opera.
Of his new role Letonja says:“I am delighted to be taking up the role of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. The TSO is recognised as one of the world’s finest small orchestras. I look forward to many years of working with such an orchestra of excellence while building on its outstanding reputation. It’s a great thing to be able to work intuitively with an orchestra, something that I felt with the TSO.”
The year will be a busy one for Letonja and the TSO, as they launch this new chapter in their 60 year history with Welcome Marko! a gala concert in Hobart on March 3rd featuring pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 alongside excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet music to Romeo and Juliet. There are two more concerts on March 10th and 16th, the latter featuring German violinist Isabelle Faust who will also perform with the TSO in Launceston.
As well as tours to regional centres, later in the year, they will premiere Blitz a new work by Andrew Ford, scored for orchestra, chorus and recorded spoken voices); also Mahler’s Ruckert-Lieder and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, opus 45, Teddy Tahu Rhodes.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before Marko Letonja and the TSO perform in Sydney. Meantime, if you’re travelling to Tassie, check out the TSO’s schedule at http://www.tso.com.au