Carlos Checa leapt to the international scene in China in 2005 conducting the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong. In 2009 he performed in London with excellent reviews conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the Cadogan Hall, and by personal invitation of maestro Gustavo Dudamel, in May 2014, he made his debut in Venezuela, in “El Sistema”. Since 2015 he is artistic and music director of the Jove Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona (JOSB). In October 2016, he signed as a music director of the symphony orchestra with the record label Universal Music.
Carlos Checa has also conducted the Wroclaw Philharmonic, the Pomeranian Philharmonic in Bydgoszcz (Poland), the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica, the Orquesta Nacional del Perú, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Xalapa (México), the Orquesta Sinfónica de Mendoza (Argentina). in Spain, he has conducted orchestras such as the Orquesta Sinfónica de Radio Televisión Española, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Baleares, the Real Filharmonía de Galicia, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Extremadura, the Orquesta de Córdoba, the Orquesta Sinfónica Provincial de Málaga, the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Región de Murcia, the Orquesta Sinfónica de Ciudad Real, the Orquesta Clásica de Santa Cecilia, the Orquesta Manuel de Falla and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife.
Since season 12/13, he has been conducting regularly at the Cuenca ciudad de música concerts, such as the tribute to Teresa Berganza at the Auditorio de Cuenca, the tour of the main auditoriums of the Community of Castilla La Mancha with the “The Little Sweep” Opera by Britten, and the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Auditorio de Cuenca, with the opera production “The Magic Flute” by Mozart.
In the field of contemporary music he conducted premieres of Spanish composers such as Andrés Valero Castells, José Luís López de Aranda, Albert Carbonell and Paco Toledo, whom the EMEC company recently published his “Hipodámica” Symphony, a work that was recorded under the baton of Carlos Checa with the Manuel de Falla Orchestra.
Carlos Checa has conducted soloists such as Xuefei Yang, José Menor, Mathilde Borsarello, Cristina Montes, Luís Fernando Pérez, Alejandro Friedhoff and symphonic concerts and international tours with artists like Isabel Pantoja and from next June also with Miguel Ríos.
Carlos Checa began his conducting studies in Barcelona, his native city, under maestro Francesc Llongueres. He later studied with maestro Albert Argudo in the Conservatorio Superior de Música, and graduated in orchestral conducting with distinction. He specializes in composition, instrumentation and music pedagogy. In 2005 Carlos founded the festival FIMUC Serranía de Cuenca and in 2006 he was awarded a scholarship by the Joven Orquesta Nacional de España.
Carlos has taken conducting lessons with Kurt Masur, Antoni Ros Marbà and George Pehlivanian.
After the concert in Andorra, we talked to Carlos about his orchestra, his vision of music and the peculiarities of managing an orchestra consisting of young musicians.
Interview: Jacqueline Terno
Perhaps this is a traditional question – when exactly did you decide that you would connect your life with music? Do you play any musical instruments yourself?
I started playing music at the age of 6, I studied piano, oboe and violin. I was about 17 years old when I really “connected” with the orchestra, having tried myself as a conductor. I wrote a play, made a version for the choir and orchestra, which I was supposed to present at the end of the course. From that moment I began to study the specialty of conducting an orchestra, and so I discovered my passion.
You led the symphony orchestras of Spain, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Poland, the National Orchestras of Honduras, Venezuela … Are there any emotional differences in the reproduction of music by musicians from different countries?
There is a huge difference. The Latin mentality contrasts strongly with the mentality of performers from Central Europe, which, in turn, is very different from the mentality of performers in China. But music is a universal language, and it is always very interesting for me to collaborate with different orchestras.
What character traits are needed to lead an orchestra?
Knowledge of the music piece, the technique of its “explanation” and expression, humility, ability to lead a group, talent and passion for music.
Are there any ideals in your profession that you admire?
I can especially mention the great maestros – Abbado, Italian opera and symphony conductor, Rattle, British conductor, or Dudamel, Venezuelan conductor.
I am grateful to all the maestros who had a hand on my creative path. And I sincerely admire those who enter the stage and have the ability to transmit music with its true meaning – whether it be a dedicated artist or a debutant.
A conductor is primarily a strategist. He has to understand exactly how to lead an orchestra to the desired result. What is your strategy?
I try to make a musician “feel what I feel” before “do what I tell him”, that is, I try to convince with the help of music. Young people want to be helped to reach their potential, which they have, but do not yet realize. They go through a period of studying, and I have to help them to build this emotional bridge so that they can freely express what is stored inside. This is exactly what I do with the JOSB – I create a special connection within my orchestra that grows into a general enthusiasm and concerts that we all really like.
Please tell us about the Jove Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona (JOSB). Are there many non-Barcelona musicians in the orchestra? Is it easy for you to interact with young musicians? Does this require a special approach, mood?
A few years ago, I thought: “If cities like Boston, New York, Rome or Milan, for example, have their own young orchestra, Barcelona cannot be left behind!” This desire, along with the desire to create a large musical creative family, served as the impetus that allowed me to implement this project.
JOSB is open to musicians of all nationalities. Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city, and this is the spirit of the orchestra! Obviously, most musicians are residents of Barcelona who were born in Catalonia, but there are many musicians from the rest of Spain who study in Barcelona and are auditioned to join the JOSB orchestra. There are also foreigners who come to Barcelona on purpose, because they consider the opportunity to become part of our orchestra to be very attractive.
Despite the fact that musicians in an orchestra can be of a very high performing level, it is difficult for them to navigate this space of sounds. And here the conductor is the only assistant. How is it possible to simultaneously feel every musician when there are more than 50 of them?
We currently have over 60 musicians. There are very young boys and girls of 15 or 16 years old and those who are 23 or 24 years old. I like this age difference, because in this way more experienced musicians share their knowledge, talents, and help those who are younger. I try to rally them, create not only a group, but a real musical family. For me, this is a part of my work – I hear them all together and I hear each of them. This is a skill that develops with practice. And one day this special feeling appears – the ability to hear all kinds of sounds of this single instrument called orchestra. The same thing happens to them. They learn to listen and hear this single instrument and themselves at the same time. Performing in a youth orchestra makes this practice possible, which is important in studying process of a musician.
Please tell us about the tour program for the upcoming season and the repertoire of the orchestra.
Our last concert in Andorra, the second in a row for JOSB, was fabulous for us. Each tour is a new experience, an opportunity to communicate and strengthen relationships. So for us it was a great opportunity to come and perform in Andorra, and I hope that we can return here in the near future.
Since its inception, JOSB has performed 25 different symphony programs, and this fifth season we will continue to play the main masterpieces of the symphonic repertoire until we reach 30-36 programs, which was the original bet. As part of our concept for this season, there are more regular free concerts that would attract more young people, motivate them to develop and expand their training.
This year we invited teachers like Josep Caballé, Онñigo Pirfano, or Tomàs Grau. I have not completed the program and am in the process of deciding on this season.
This season we are going to perform for the first time at night, when the main character will be the opera. We want to play the Brahms symphony, the eighth, and then the last Beethoven symphony, the ninth. In other words, we are definitely waiting for an exciting season!