Alexis Kossenko and the joy of sharing a passion for music

By Emilia Campagna

June 16, 2023

Alexis Kossenko conducts Theresia Orchestra in the ‘Rendezvous in Paris’ concert on Saturday 17 June at the Musikfestspiele Potsdam Sanssouci. During a rehearsal break, we caught up with him for a chat and to learn more about the renowned flautist and new guest conductor of our orchestra.

Alexis Kossenko, how are rehearsals going? And what is your impression of Theresia Orchestra so far?

It’s a fantastic team with many incredible talents! At our first rehearsal I was impressed by the sound and we were able to start working on the details straight away, with everyone’s full involvement and commitment.

What do you enjoy most about conducting a youth orchestra?

Unlike a professional orchestra, a youth orchestra is made up of people of the same generation: some are professionals, others are students but have the same skills as professionals. In this kind of environment one does not have to worry about routines or established habits. The best thing is that there is a lot of flexibility and what is changing in the way I work is that I feel I actually have more time to experiment. I like the fact that I can bring my vision to a group of people who, because of their age, have a very different experience. The only downside is that everyone wants to call me ‘Maestro’, which makes me feel a bit old!

Is teaching part of your daily activity as a musician? What do you like most from teaching?

Actually, I don’t have a teaching position (or not yet) because I prioritise my activity as a player and conductor. But I love teaching, I have private students, mainly flautists and singers: and I love it because teaching is sharing and communicating, not just telling someone what to do. It’s much richer than that.

Our musicians are between 20 and 30 years old: what were you doing at that age? And what were your dreams and expectations?

Well, my dream was to do what I’m actually doing now, and luckily I was only at the beginning! When I was about 20 years old, I started playing extensively with EUBO: it was my introduction to performing early music and it was fantastic. In the following years I had some wonderful experiences, founded my first ensemble (which no longer exists), and started building up my own collection of period instruments.

What do you think were the most important experiences and encounters you had when you were young?

There are so many…. but if I had to choose, I would definitely say the ensemble L’Arte dei Suonatori: they allowed me to start conducting – at first small projects, then more and more important works, up to operas. Also very important was my work with La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy: Jean-Claude Malgoire gave me responsibility and taught me a great deal, and I can say that I have taken up his legacy. Important role models for me were Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Philippe Herreweghe: both were demanding and so attentive to details like intonation, texture, sound, which are so important to me now.

Now that you are in the prime of your career as a flautist and conductor, do you any specific dreams?

Yes, I do! I’m happy to say that some of my dreams are now being realised, such as performing all of Bach’s cantatas or Mendelssohn’s complete works. Then I have some dreams that seem a little more distant, like performing orchestral works by Dvořák, Janáček, Ravel… I hope to achieve all of this in the future. But I think the most important thing is that we all have enough opportunities and budget to realise our dreams: the classical music world in general is in danger and we must always fight to keep it alive!

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About Emilia Campagna

Journalist and musician, Emilia is a blogger for Theresia