Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
A keen ear and an aptitude for music I showed as a boy of five
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I have always been inspired by great performances, particularly those of artists of the old school such as Cortot, and have sought to make strong, informed musical statements
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
To be able to keep my playing to a high standard. I am much more demanding now than I was ten years ago and the musical challenges are greater. Also, I have to ensure that the Orchestra has the resources to maintain its status and continue to expand.
You founded the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra in 1998, why did you decide to establish a new orchestra?
To establish an instrument of the highest quality in a town which is revered the world over for excellence. My colleagues and I have worked hard to create an orchestra worthy of the attention of some of the world’s greatest artist who now collaborate with us on a regular basis. I am totally against having to create a niche in order to attract attention. The OPO makes strong musical statements playing all kinds of repertoire, including your all time favourites.
Your piano festival begins on 30th July: what are you most looking forward to in the festival?
To acquaint myself with emerging talent and share my musical experiences with them.
The Oxford Piano Festival and Summer Academy is now widely acknowledged as one of the most prestigious of its kind in the world. A residential course at St Hilda’s College, it welcomes to Oxford some of the most talented young pianists from all continents to study with some of the world’s greatest artists and teachers. This year’s artists include Marc-André Hamelin, Peter Serkin, Dame Fanny Waterman, Paul Badura Scoda, Menahem Pressler, Peter Donohoe, Tong-Il Han, Alexandre Tharaud and Nikolai Lugansky.
The students attending are of the highest standard and many are on the verge of international careers. This year, we will be welcoming as students both the winner and runner-up of the 2015 Leeds International Piano Competition. In the younger category, we are delighted to be welcoming again three scholars from the Lang Lang Foundation, chosen by Lang Lang himself. It is a privilege to be amongst such outstanding talent: I learn a lot.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I rarely listen to my recordings once they have been edited
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I identify strongly with the German/Austrian classical repertoire of Mozart and Beethoven but also enjoy performing the romantic and 20th century repertoire.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
We are here to serve the Oxfordshire community. As the only professional orchestra in Oxford, we are free to perform works we think our audiences would enjoy, including much of the core repertoire. The Oxford Philharmonic does not have to adhere to any gimmicks or acquire a niche to attract attention: it has a territorial claim and is in the service of the community.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I love playing in the Sheldonian Theatre. Other than its revered history, it has wonderful acoustics and provides an intimate setting for our audience and musicians alike
Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?
The works I work on at any given time. We have just performed Walton’s Façade which I loved, and I am now preparing to conduct Haydn’s ‘London’ Symphony: what a great master he was!
Who are your favourite musicians?
Those who move me
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The few concerts I have given in my life which were less discomforting than others
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Do not be afraid to be an individual and always aim at making strong musical statements
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
I hope to be still alive and on stage tackling repertoire I have still not been able to perform: would love to conduct more Wagner, for instance. Also, I would like to devote myself to recording a lot of the piano repertoire.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To be with my family
What is your most treasured possession?
What do you enjoy doing most?
Anything that makes me feel alive
What is your present state of mind?
One of huge responsibility for something my colleagues and I have created and which I would like to see continue its legacy when I am gone
Marios Papadopoulos MBE is the founder, music director and driving force behind the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly Oxford Philomusica), Orchestra in Residence at the University of Oxford.