Visually, he resembles something between Paganini and Marilyn Manson, the media alternately describes him as a punk, guru, rebel, rock star, dandy, and the Che Guevara of classical music, while he characterizes himself as an anarchist narcissist and partisan.
No one is better at polarizing than Teodor Currentzis, the Greek-born conductor who has made Russia his adopted home since the 1990s. He strides onstage in eccentric attire, dancing, jumping, and stomping as he conducts and transporting most of his audience to the point of ecstasy with his breathtaking interpretations. As for the others, he turns them off with the accumulated effects; he leaves no one indifferent.
In the city of Perm located in the far-away Ural mountains, he gathers together the best musicians, who regard themselves as a spiritual brotherhood, a family, and are completely devoted to the master. There are no fixed working hours, and everyone gives their utmost at all times for the sake of their shared mission.
As far back as 2005, the then-thirty-two-year-old artist declared grandiloquently in an interview: “I’m going to save classical music,” adding, “Give me ten years.”
More than a decade has since passed, and Teodor Currentzis has indeed made a contribution, not to be underestimated, to keeping his beloved music alive and pulsating with passion.
born in Athens in 1972, he begins playing the piano at the age of four, violin at seven, and studies composition and conducting at the conservatory at twelve
starting 1994 studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he is the last pupil of the venerable Ilya Musin, who also taught Gergiev and Bychkov but only ascribes true genius to Currentzis
2004–2010 principal conductor of the Novosibirsk Opera, founds the MusicAeterna ensemble and choir, with whom he has an exclusive contract with Sony
2006 founds the Territoria Modern Art Festival, Moscow
since 2011 music director of the opera in Perm, the easternmost city in Europe with a million inhabitants which, until 1991, foreigners could only visit with a special permit. He brings along his ensemble to his new place of employment
2012 together with his brother Vangelino, creates the soundtrack for the opening of the European Games in Baku
2016/17 artist-in-residence at the Vienna Konzerthaus, 2017 debut at the Salzburg Festival
starting 2018/19 principal conductor of the SWR Symphonieorchester, having served as its principal guest conductor since 2011
numerous awards, including seven Golden Masks of the Theater Union of Russia, a 2014 ECHO Klassik Award, and the 2016 KAIROS Prize. The same year Opernwelt magazine names him Conductor of the Year.
Did you know?
Currentzis never uses a conductor’s baton, which would be “like hugging a woman you love with crutches.”
He keeps his personal life private: he is known to have divorced, and he is said to change girlfriends every year and to enjoy being idolized.
Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who is also known for pushing limits, is a kindred spirit. Currentzis only regrets not having met her twenty years earlier.
For his recording of Don Giovanni, he matched his clothing to the scenes, from a farmer’s outfit to a gold-embroidered robe. If he is planning a concert of Bach’s sacred music, the smell of incense fills Currentzis’ conducting room.
If he could invite one composer of the past to dinner, it would be Schubert. He would talk with him about lost love, get drunk, and play four-handed music.
Currentzis describes the music market as “evil.” His projects are financed by Russian oligarchs and industrialists, a fact that is criticized by some. Others would point out that he has championed the cause of the imprisoned director Serebrennikov.
The conductor’s home outside of Perm is shrouded in legend: rumors speak of a large wooden house in the forest, a guarded housing area, a black limousine with chauffeur, a cook, and extravagant parties.
Teodor Currentzis also creates perfumes and played the lead character in the film Dau, about the life of the Russian Jewish physicist Lev Landau.