There’s more than just Football and Formula One and the Rio Olympics to divert global attention to Brazil – indeed the whole of South America – at the present time. Classical music has never been hotter than it is right now and in Brazil’s most sprawling metropolis, Sao Paulo, a converted railway station is now home to an exciting new phase in the life of the city’s Symphony Orchestra. The American conductor Marin Alsop has donned her Samba shoes and taken the reins of the Sao Paulo SO linking north to south America and indeed the rest of the world in what are sure to be new and exciting ways.
In this Sinfini Music audio podcast (recorded during the orchestra’s visit to the BBC Proms) she talks to Edward Seckerson about the seismic shift in South America’s classical music scene since Venezuela’s El Sistema education project and more specifically the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra took the world by storm. She speaks frankly about the dangers of merely cloning El Sistema and the passion and inclusiveness that drives all South American music making. Her new orchestra is starting to turn heads and Alsop’s first recording project with them is a dynamic one – the complete Prokofiev symphonies beginning with the epic Fifth. Her teacher and mentor Leonard Bernstein would have approved. She has funny and touching recollections of the great man and his influence on her musical development and she and Seckerson wax lyrical about a grand passion for both of them – Bernstein’s much-maligned theatre piece Mass.