Houston Symphony Andres Orozco-Estrada
Photo: Houston Symphony
Clearly Andrés Orozco-Estrada thought he would be in Houston this weekend to conduct the Houston Symphony as his season begins to end after a complicated year because his mother arrived a week ago. She flew to Houston from Colombia so that she could watch her son conduct the Houston Symphony Orchestra through a program that included Mozart and Piazzolla this weekend and Mozart and Beethoven next weekend. Sadly, Orozco-Estrada’s travel plans were scuttled when a travel exemption expired earlier this year, leaving him stranded in Austria..
Conductor David Robertson will step into both weekends, leaving Orozco-Estrada to enjoy the performance via the live broadcast of an Ocean and keep thinking about the 2021/22 season, which will be his last. with the Houston Symphony.
As his penultimate season as the symphony’s musical director comes to an end with him 5,500 miles away, Orozco-Estrada called to discuss his disappointment with this week’s unfolding, but his hopes to do so. from the next season an unforgettable memory.
Q: I’ve heard that your bags are literally packed.
A: Yes. And no one can understand it. The rules, of course, we understand, but the exceptions. It is such a disappointment. And part of the frustration is the difference between trips to different places. Here in Europe, different countries have had different ways of acting or reacting to the situation. Spain has organized concerts with an audience at 70% of its capacity. Here in Austria and Germany they had a hearing in September and October, then in November they closed their doors. And that’s all. I do not understand the logic of the different answers. And before I criticize it, I just wish I could understand the reasons. I feel lost in all of this, especially this time because other equally European conductors were able to travel.
Q: Several musicians in the symphony mention their disappointment at not being able to work with you for more than a year. I imagine that you feel that too, besides being absent from the realization of these programs that you helped to create.
A: It is very sad. Of course, I am used to traveling all the time, to different cities and different countries. But I have spent more time with my family and I appreciate every minute of extra time I get. But I wanted to be there in Houston with the orchestra. And also with my mother, who arrived a week ago. I haven’t seen her for over a year. The last time we were able to meet was in February of last year. I was happy to celebrate that she got the vaccine, which is not the easiest thing to get in Colombia. Things are very different there. So yeah, for many reasons, I wish I could be there in Houston. . . . It feels like an opportunity has been taken away. Interacting with musicians is such an expectation for me. And share their energy. It is such a joy to work with them live. I had a little Zoom moment to say “Hi” to the musicians. David Robertson, whom I want to thank because he’s so awesome, was kind enough to find the time for me to talk to them.
Q: What did you tell them?
A: How sad and disappointed I was, but also this important message that I wanted to convey to everyone. That I wanted to recognize and tell them how proud I was of this season. When you consider the circumstances, this season has been a great success.
Q: How are you going to plan your final season here? Are things provisional?
A: That’s what’s so hard about it. We don’t know how the regulations will be. I know what I would like to do ideally. But we still have to follow safety procedures to make sure no one is in danger. But musically, ideally, we’d like to do something that shows the best ways to connect with people. Hopefully the season will be a bit more normal, with more crowds. It is always a process, as everything is in life. For me, it’s a crucial moment, this decisive creative moment: what are the right pieces to program? I don’t want to be selfish. I want to do a great Mahler symphony, because I love it so much. But I also want to think about which pieces are a perfect match so that we can give this audience all we need to give? Reconnect to everyone. It is a simple question, but it is also a complex question. So I’m looking for pieces that give us the opportunity to reconnect, celebrate, recognize and end this very big arc. So that several years are meaningful from start to finish.
Q: It seems certain that this will be an emotional event that will return.
A: I can’t wait to be there. My last season as Music Director is going to be, I don’t mean the strongest, but motivation is like the strongest energy drink, if you will. Every time I come to Houston, there has been this commitment of energy and passion that we try to bring to every concert. This is something I thought about, and maybe it sounds selfish. When I started, there was a lot of energy there. The first gig, great, the second not so great. There was no constant there. But I think the musicians play at a very high level, and there is a strong technical aspect, a great commitment, an emotional connection. Each performance is unique. We are aiming for the top. It’s not always perfect, but when it all comes together it feels very American, in a way, in a positive way. This idea, “We don’t see a problem, we see an opportunity.” It’s a great American mentality. And I am grateful to have lived it these years. So we are going to show that during this last season I am there. It will be something big. Like the Super Bowl.