Saturday 20th April 2024
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Leslie Suganandarajah, the first conductor of Tamil heritage

Raised in Germany and now based in Austria, Leslie Suganandarajah is the Music Director of the prestigious Salzburg Landestheater, and the first-ever conductor of Tamil heritage.

His role as conductor has taken him across Europe, working with the world’s best orchestras and music institutions, bringing an abundance of charisma, energy and sensitivity to his performances both on the symphonic and operatic stages.

Last Friday, Leslie made his BBC Symphony Orchestra debut at the Maida Vale studios in London. Clips from the rehearsal, courtesy of the BBC, are included in the video.

He returns back to London on the 18th October to conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s Cadogan Hall, followed by Hull City Hall on the following day.

So what exactly does a conductor do? Conductors drive the orchestra, from rehearsal to performance. They choose the works to be performed and study their scores, to which they may make certain adjustments (such as in tempo, articulation, phrasing, repetitions of sections), work out their interpretation, and relay their vision to the musicians and performers.

Having taken the helm in Salzburg in 2019–20, in his fourth season there he manages and conducts new productions of Aida, Les pecheurs de Perles, Anthropozän and Die Fledermaus, as well as guest engagements in Germany, the UK and Scandinavia.

Born in Colombothurai, a suburb of Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka, Leslie spoke about fleeing Sri Lanka’s civil war as a young child. As refugees, his family settled in Germany where a local family provided Leslie and his siblings with the opportunity to learn music – they began lessons in piano, flute, violin and organ.

He studied at the Musikhochschules in Hannover and Lübeck and completed his conducting studies at the Musikhochschule Franz Liszt in Weimar. He was accepted onto the Deutsche Dirigentenforum in 2011 and was awarded the Hermann-Hildebrandt Scholarship for young conductors, leading to his appointment as Assistant Conductor to Michael Sanderling and the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra for the 2014–15 season.