Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and pursue a career in music?

I was born into a family of a conductors, so it was my father.

Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life?

There have been many influential musicians along the way who have been important influences for me – my father, my teacher Max Rudolf at the Curtis Institute of Music and Leonard Bernstein as far as conductors go. But there have been also influential instrumentalists and composers who have been important in my life, for example Radu Lupu and Arvo Pärt.

What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling aspect?

Every part of conductor’s life is challenging. From the enormity of the repertoire to the geography and travel.

The most fulfilling aspect is that a conductor can spend his or her life with talented human beings and explore music of geniuses like Mahler and Beethoven, for example  

As a conductor, how do you communicate your ideas about a work to the orchestra?

One communicates ideas through various methods – with the eyes, verbally, with gestures and body language.

How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?

I see my role as a medium between the composer and the musicians. The role is to formulate a point of view about the piece through study of the score and to convey this to the musicians. 

Is there one work which you would love to conduct?

There are many works I would love to conduct but one lifetime is not enough to get close to all the masterpieces in the repertoire.

Do you have a favourite concert venue in which to perform?

The Zürich Tonhalle, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, the Musikverein in Vienna, just to name a few.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Hard to name a favourite composer but I do have a soft spot for music of Sibelius and Bruckner.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Success is when you can make music on the highest possible level with like-minded musicians.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Make sure you love music enough to make it your profession and then be prepared to work very hard.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

On the planet Earth.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I think it would be the balance between personal and professional life.

What is your present state of mind?

I’m looking forward to the upcoming tour to Europe with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo

Paavo Järvi conducts the NHK Symphony Orchestra in music by Takemitsu, Rachmaninov and Schumann at London’s Royal Festive val Hall on 24 February. Full details

(Artist photo: Julia Baier)