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A maestro with a vision

At 41, Pablo Mielgo can already look back not just on a stellar career as both a musician and a conductor, but also on a long and strong commitment to helping young musicians from disadvantaged backgrounds. We met the maestro in Palma.

Text:
Irina von Gagern
Photos:
Reto Guntli
E

The man simply fizzes with ideas and involvements.

It’s not often that master conductor Pablo Mielgo plays second fiddle. But all the attention of his ensemble is currently focused not on his baton but on the bundle of joy he is cradling in his arms. Daughter Amelie, all of ten weeks old with her blonde mane and sparkling blue eyes, is making her debut appearance to the maestro’s orchestra. The strings slide into a lullaby. Amelie smiles; Papa beams. Ten minutes later the “baby break” is over. Pablo Mielgo stands, baton in hand and a model of concentration, in front of his Orquestra Simfònica Illes Balears. In two days they are off to Geneva to play a concert at the United Nations. It will be Pablo’s second such performance for the UN – an unprecedented distinction. Just as important to Pablo, though, (and possibly more so) is his work with disadvantaged youngsters: He has established no fewer than four youth orchestras in Spain and South America in the last few years, including the Orchestra Harmonia, which he set up with top tenor Juan Diego Flórez in the former Colombian drug capital of Medellín to give musical opportunities to youngsters from poor backgrounds. On top of this, Pablo also heads the SaludArte Foundation, which is based in Miami and Madrid and supports socially disadvantaged children and adolescents and aims to bring about social change through music. And he’s further organising a summer camp for young musicians from poor countries, in collaboration with Oxford University. The man simply fizzes with ideas and involvements. Pablo Mielgo may live life in the fast lane. But whatever he does, he’s totally committed. When we meet for lunch in the heart of Palma’s Old Town, for instance, he first devotes all his energies to a quick interview for a Spanish radio station; and then, once this is over, he promptly turns his smartphone off. Our meal consists of tapas and paella ciega, or “blind” paella. “That’s what they call a seafood paella in Mallorca where the scampi have already been peeled,” Pablo explains. “Because you can eat it blind.” Pablo has been living in Palma for three years now with his German wife Nina Heidenreich, who is a highly successful violinist herself. “I love this island,” he says. “The quality of life is amazing, and so many interesting people come here.” He and Nina got together in Qatar: She was playing in the emirate’s philharmonic orchestra, and Maestro Mielgo was guest conducting at the time.

Top tenor Juan Diego Flórez is a good friend of Pablo Mielgo.
The OSIB performs an open-air concert in a ruined Mallorca castle.
‍Happy family: Pablo with his wife Nina (a reputed violinist) and their daughter Amelie.

Following the father

Pablo Mielgo grew up in Madrid, the son of a successful architect. “My father came from a very modest background,” he recalls. “But he still managed to study architecture. He’s my big role model. My parents taught me always to give my best,” he adds with pride. Pablo began piano lessons when he was just three years old. His teachers saw his talent, and at five he was sent to the conservatory. “I was lucky,” he says. “I had very good teachers.” After studying piano and conducting in Madrid and London, he gained his first experiences as a guest conductor. He also founded two festivals on the way, in Madrid and Caracas, and assisted such greats of the rostrum as Claudio Abbado and Daniel Barenboim. “Conducting is like life,” Maestro Mielgo reflects. “Whether you’re leading an orchestra or heading a firm, you’re striving to produce something together. And whether the people around me perform to their best is up to me. Only if I give my all can I expect my orchestra to do likewise. Not that leading means you have to be aloof: As soon as I step off the rostrum, I’m one of the ensemble.” And at home? Pablo smiles. “I’m totally under my daughter’s spell already,” he concedes. “I’ve always put my family first.” So what life lessons would he like to pass on to young Amelie? “I’d like her to be open to everything: every country and every culture. And to have an open ear for music, of course. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve got to know so many different countries.” He’s also constantly travelling to and from his many engagements. “I really love flying,” he enthuses. “Eight hours just for me: to work, read, sleep, watch a movie.” Our 90-minute interview with the maestro has certainly flown by. Now he needs to get back to work. When he switches his phone on again, he has 22 mails and numerous messages waiting: inquiries about concerts, festivals and charity projects. “It doesn’t faze me,” he insists. “I learnt how to organise myself well very early on. And however hectic things may get, I’m still able to relax,” he adds, smiles and leaves. 

‍The Orquestra Simfònica Illes Balears  (OSIB) at Palma’s marina. 

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