Well I’ve had the desire to conduct West Side Story for 50 years really. It’s a piece that you just yearn to get to grips with because as a musician, because of its complexity of rhythm, because of its fantastic melodic gift, because of its exuberance, it’s just the most full of energy and vitality piece of music theatre that you could possibly imagine. Oh I can never forget my first encounter with West Side Story. It was first of all buying the record, I was 14 at the time and then going to a performance in 1958 when I was 15 and it was when it first came to London and I was completely blown away, totally blown away and I went to it three times. I met Lenny Bernstein when I was in Paris, a student of Nadia Boulanger and he was great friends with Nadia Boulanger, this was in 1967 and then of course I spoke to him about West Side Story because you know, it made such an impact on me as a fifteen year old. And I asked him, I said ‘you know in “America”?’ [Singing] I said ‘Did you get that from Monteverdi? Because it seems awfully like to me Orfeo.’ [Singing] which is a, this combination of 3/4 and 6/8. He said ‘Yeah, yeah I did. I guess I did.’
So he admitted to that. There’s something about music theatre, if it’s done with a very un-arty way you know, it’s not too sophisticated, it’s beautiful. And I think that’s the miraculous thing that music, when it’s allied to words, can go beyond poetry, can go somewhere else and beyond literature, beyond the novel, beyond a play. And it’s a cliche but it’s absolutely true that it has an internationalism about it. Whereas a language is tied to its own particular culture and its own particular users of that language, whereas music has a much greater capacity to embrace a wider audience. And in a beautiful place, a historic city like Edinburgh, it’s a marvelous concentration of artistic talent and the ability to, for audiences to enrich their lives exposed to such a concentration of art forms and then take away the things that have really stirred them and moved them. The thing about West Side Story is that it’s incredibly exciting rhythmically, you can’t resist wanting to get up and dance or to feel the dance rhythm, it’s imbued, like a lot of the best music in the world, with dance rhythm. But it’s dealing with an incredibly serious subject matter which is racial tension but it’s actually applicable, incredibly poignantly applicable, to the conflicts in our own society in 2019 and it has this eternal quality about it. I mean Lenny’s music is so contemporary in feeling, even now and I think it’ll resonate a lot with audiences coming to Edinburgh in August 2019.