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

My journey into conducting was slightly unusual: I became interested in music ‘accidentally ‘ aged around 10, thanks to some Sibelius and Beethoven on vinyl, and the only classic music in my parents’ collection. No music was made at home, no family member encouraged it, I was just fascinated. A neighbour heard I was interested and offered me free trombone lessons as he had been a professional, so that instrument became my first outlet. I just knew I wanted to conduct too, and put on a charity concert aged 16 (Fauré Requiem), then gained a place to study trombone at the RAM. I played in orchestras, early music ensembles, theatre and chamber groups until my early 30’s when conducting took over, thanks to a Junior Fellowship at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, funded and appointed by Sir Charles Mackerras. This is the short version! But perhaps differently to a number of others in my profession, I didn’t formally study conducting, and I didn’t do an undergrad at Oxbridge. That would have been nice.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

People who have supported me over the years include Sir Charles Mackerras, and the composers Matthew Taylor and James Francis Brown. Each have done so in very different ways, but each have inspired me through their all-consuming passion for music, their artistic integrity, and (perhaps more important than anything else) simple ‘gestures of friendship’. Also, outside of the purely music world the theatre director Peter Avery, who has opened my eyes to so many things about performance, art and life in general.

In terms of musical influences, I feel I am still discovering them day by day. In terms of interpretation I have been fascinated by many involved with ‘historically informed practices’, such as Harnoncourt, Mackerras, Herreweghe etc. More recently I have observed fascinating work being done by Sakari Oramo and Ivan Fischer, who seem to have no fear about introducing imagination and experimentation into their work with the exceptional musicians they lead: The Budapest Festival Orchestra’s appearance at the Southbank centre earlier this year may just have been the best concert-going experience of my life – despite my not agreeing with some of the interpretation! The sense of engagement in their performance, and the generosity with which they delivered the music, was just exceptional.

In the recorded sphere, I have noticed how many times I listen to Sir Neville Marriner and feel he has hit tempi spot-on. Also listening and watching online, Andrew Manze seems to offer fascinating perspectives: I want to get to one of his live performances now.

I have also been hugely inspired by people I have seen combining what I loosely call ‘theatre pratices’ with stunning all-round musicianship: I have watched them work utter magic on younger people at the Ingenium Academy Summer School (an International Summer School for musicians held in Winchester). There have been many, but those I have worked with more closely include Matthew Sharp and Dominic Peckham. I think their styles are the future of music education, frankly.

An unexpected inspiration has also come through my work in Palestine with the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music and Palestine Youth Orchestra: My eyes have been opened not only to the reality of the Palestine – Israel conflict, but also how much we can assume here in the West that we ‘own’ classical music. Wait until you hear these guys play….

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Trying to swap from one genre (playing) to another (conducting) in a profession where people pigeon-hole each other mercilessly. What on earth would I know about string playing, for example?! And working with non-professionals and youth orchestras as often as I do, I know that others will assume that my approach wouldn’t transfer into working with established professional ensembles.

Also something I have only realised relatively recently , which is that conducting appears to be quite an upper/upper-middle class business. I’m state educated, from the West Midlands and don’t have family connections in music, arts management or banking. People talk a lot about how being female is a barrier to becoming a conductor, but actually I think there’s a much greater demographic/class barrier in the way.

Which performances are you most proud of?

A number with my ensemble sound collective: A performance of Britten’s Serenade for tenor, horn and strings in 2014 at the Little Missenden Festival with Robert Murray lingers in the memory, also world and London premières of music by Matthew Taylor – most recently his Concerto for Flute and Orchestra with Daniel Pailthorpe; a UK première of a super-funky overture by Carl Nielsen Amor øg Digteren (with Sinfonia Tamesa) and the first performances of a secular oratorio by Rachel Stott about William Blake, Companion of Angels.

I have been quite proud of performances of Sibelius Symphony No.7 with Sinfonia Tamesa, Beethoven’s Eroica with sound collective and the Fifth Symphony with the Palestine Youth Orchestra. Just a few weeks ago I was privileged to accompany cellist Matthew Sharp and the Hertford Symphony Orchestra in an extraordinary performance of the Dvorák concerto.  I’m not sure the roof is back on the concert hall yet.

As well as the above, projects that stand out for different reasons include a production of Kurt Weill’s Die Dreigroschenoper in London and Berlin with a cast of over 60’s who had never sung before in public, and an outreach project with sound collective in Somerset, where teenagers composed companion pieces to Stravinsky’s The Soldiers Tale.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I think my main strength lies in conducting symphonic repertoire. Sibelius, Beethoven, Brahms, Nielsen and Dvorák – with Schumann in development at the moment – are all composers with whom I feel a great affinity. I try very hard to get close to what they intended, and pray I can spend the rest of my life doing so. I also love tone poems with a solid narrative; Tschaik Romeo & Juliet, Sibelius Pohjola’s Daughter… That sort of dramatic, fantastical stuff!

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

There are so many variables in the business of programming, from soloists you want to work with through to acknowledging composer anniversaries. I find myself now working two years ahead to ensure I have enough time to properly think, and properly research new ideas.Sadly, money comes into it too: Late Romantic and 20th century works are often expensive, with music hire and PRS to consider but also all those wonderful colourful instruments that cost a bomb, such as percussion, harp, celeste, vibraphone…and if that piece isn’t some form of guaranteed box office winner, you can be in real trouble. In a conversation with someone recently who was railing about the conservative programming that’s prevalent and  the need for the classical music business to take up an alternative approach to programming, I felt it appropriate to (slightly misquote) Bill Clinton’s election campaign strategist in 1992: It’s the economy, stupid.One thing I try to do is ensure each season has a balance with music that is new to me, and if possible something brand-new. I also try to ensure that I have allowed nothing onto programmes that I don’t have huge enthusiasm for – it’s absolutely fatal for conductors to end up rehearsing and performing music that means nothing to them. It never goes well when that happens, believe me.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Symphony Hall in Birmingham is a fabulous space which, as huge as it is, feels intimate and warm to perform in. I’d also like to return to the Philharmomie in Luxembourg and Vienna’s Musikverein as a conductor, having loved playing in both halls.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

There isn’t much to beat a Beethoven Symphony in terms of energy, drive and sheer joy in performance. Also Sibelius. I would love to do more opera in the future, having got a huge emotional kick out of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, Puccini’s La bohème and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress when I had chance to conduct them.To listen to….I really couldn’t choose a one single ‘Desert Island disc’, so as a cop out I think the music I no longer get the chance to perform: Bach, Monteverdi, Gabrieli.

Who are your favourite musicians?

The ones who genuinely care, and who genuinely put themselves last and the music first. You won’t that find many out there, but they do exist.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It’s hard to choose as performances come with so many different aspects – the music, the perfomers, the venue, and of course those rare ones where something magical occurs and everyone just feels it.But (also with a really driven and energetic Beethoven 5 during the concert as a part of the memory) I don’t think I will ever forget giving a concert with the Palestine Youth Orchestra in Amman, Jordan, during the Gaza conflict of 2014. The concert was given in aid of the Edward Said music school in Gaza, and afterwards I was interviewed by Gaza Television, who asked me to send a message to the people there who had watched the concert….I forget now what I actually said, but I do remember thinking any words could not have conveyed the humanity inside Beethoven’s music.

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

  • Sing
  • Read books around your subject, such as history and literature (conductors)
  • Sing first, practice second (instrumentalists, conductors)
  • Ignore the cynicism which is so prevalent and easy to join in with’ but be realistic about what you can achieve in non-commercial music, unless you have a private income
  • Sing
  • Don’t work for less than you know you should – you devalue it for everyone else as well as yourself when you do
  • Understand how harmony works
  • Do some more singing

Tom Hammond is Co-Artistic Director of the Hertfordshire Festival of Music. Further details here

Appointed by Sir Charles Mackerras as the first Junior Fellow in conducting at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, Tom Hammond has  developed a rich and musically diverse career that encompasses working with top-flight  professionals, youth orchestras, non-professionals, and devising and leading education and outreach projects. 

Winning awards and critical acclaim en route, Tom has built a reputation for developing ensembles musically and artistically, whilst encouraging thoughtful programming, championing new music and developing relationships with outstanding soloists. In 2011 Tom was appointed an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music, in recognition of his achievements in conducting.

Tom Hammond is Artistic Director of sound collective, Music Director of Sinfonia Tamesa, the Essex Symphony Orchestra and the Hertford Symphony Orchestra, a Principal Conductor at the Ingenium Academy International Summer School, Guest Conductor of the Palestine Youth Orchestra, and Principal Conductor and Music Director of the Yorkshire Young Sinfonia.

Soloists with whom Tom has collaborated include Øystein Baadsvik, Philippa Barton, Dimi Bawab, Richard Birchall, Jonathan Byers, Simon Callaghan, Jonathan Dormand, Sadie Fields, Susana Gaspar, Christopher Guild, Amy Green, Emma Halnan, Pamela Hay, Anna Harvey, Fenella Humphreys, Boyan Ivanov, Matthew Jones, Amanda Lake, David le Page, James Mainwaring, Elisabeth Meister, Robert Murray, Mohamed Najem, Daniel Pailthorpe, Olivia Ray, Catriona Scott, Alicja Smietana, Veronika Shoot, William Stafford, Matthew Sharp, Reem Talhami and Andrew Zolinsky.

www.tom-hammond.org.uk

Twitter : @tomhammond music

 

 

(photo credit: Luiz Ciafrino)

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

When I was at school, in rural North Yorkshire, I had a very charismatic head of music, who seemed to conduct absolutely everything. As an impressionable 11 or 12 year old, I wanted to be like him. Soon I was pinching Mum’s knitting needles and carving the air in front of my bedroom mirror, accompanied by the Beethoven Violin Concerto. That’s where it started – it was downhill from there, really…

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Of the ones I’ve known well: Benjamin Zander figures highly – he was a profound influence, blessed with such an open-minded, enlightening approach to freedom in music. I learned so much from him about the possibilities within one phrase, or within an entire Mahler symphony. Amongst my more formal conducting teachers, three crucial, inspirational and utterly amazing maestri stand out above all others: Paavo Järvi, who I was lucky enough to study with in Estonia, and who I still see often in London and on the continent; Sian Edwards, now the new head of conducting at the Royal Academy of Music; and the legendary Ilya Musin, with whom I spent an unforgettable summer studying at Accademia Chigiana in Siena.

Of those I (alas) never met: Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould. I wore out tapes hearing and watching them as a student. Luckily I’ve replaced most of it now on CD or DVD.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Trying to remember that the music is more important than the multitude of irritations which follow performing musicians around: a stage that’s too dimly lit, or a silly row with a technician about trivia can always make us forget why we’re there at all

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of? 

I remember a Shostakovich 7th Symphony some years ago where almost everyone was in floods of tears at the end. Nobody could speak or clap for what felt like an age, and I kind of lost touch with myself. It was a remarkable evening. I guess, as performers, we all try to (re)capture that essence every single time.

Of recordings, my CD of works by Raymond Warren (all premieres) are undoubtedly a highlight – I was very lucky to work with such a great singer and players:

With which particular works do you have a special affinity or connection?

One composer springs instantly to mind: Sibelius. And he’s topical, with 2015 being his anniversary year. Something about his language, harmony, use of rhythm as a structural device, that distinctive timbral-colour: all those things do it for me. I also feel deeply at home with Mahler, Bruckner, Elgar, and Tchaikovsky. I wish I did so for Brahms and Beethoven, but alas not – I love their symphonies passionately, yet every time I conduct them I feel they’ve beaten me, and it’s back to the drawing board

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Programming for orchestras hinges on so many variables. Balancing the personnel required, soloists, requests for premieres, or commissions, venue-size, and of course cost plays a big part. Currently it feels as if, certainly with orchestras, one is under greater pressure than ever to appeal to audiences. In some cases, I admit, I’ve felt under pressure to water-down programming – which breaks my heart – but I suppose we’ve got to build our audiences before we can take greater risks with our programming and repertoire. I have a long wish-list of works I’d love to perform, but it gets longer each year, not shorter!

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why? 

Probably Snape Maltings, Suffolk. I’ve many fond memories of being on that stage. It’s a beautiful sounding hall, for a start, with (as I recall) so much wood, brick, and orange light. Plus the view over the marshes and  reed-beds over the Henry Moore sculptures is unearthly and intoxicating. Performing Britten there has been one of the highlights of my career to date. I long to return.

Dvorak Hall in Prague’s Rudolfinum is also right up there. Such a fantastic hall, just the right degree of space in the acoustics, yet intimate too: somehow you feel like you can reach out and touch the very back row. However, not quite the same calming, tranquil vibe backstage as Snape…

Favourite pieces to listen to? 

Sometimes I’m unable to cope with listening to music (yes, an odd thing for a musician to admit to, but at times it all gets a bit too much: silence or speech are the maximum I can handle). Despite that, I love plunging into… late Beethoven quartets (played by the Italian Quartet)… Richard Strauss with Schwartzkopf, and Kleiber’s Rosenkavalier… Beethoven Concerti with Wilhelm Kempff (that colour – where does it come from?!)… and Sibelius in those old, mono but incredible Anthony Collins / LSO recordings. Or Jeff Buckley – that works too, most days.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Apart from the Shostakovich Leningrad mentioned above, it must be a concert of concerti in a large church in Prague, at the start of my career, when I was assistant conductor. Mid-Weber, a VERY aged, Yoda-like monk (hooded cowl, the lot) barged his way through the orchestra, sending music and stands flying, to reach the vestry. How the soloist and I stayed together I’ve no idea. Most of the violinists were either playing from memory, or in tears of laughter – probably both.

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

To maintain the music, the composer’s deepest intentions, at all costs. Everything else is secondary, or should be. Technique is crucial, not only as an instrumentalist or singer, but as a conductor too. So is repertoire, style, stamina, and a deeply-centred awareness. Humility goes a long way too. Yes, nowadays a good website plus skill at self-promotion is necessary alongside all this. But music must always remain as the beacon, despite the weariness of travelling, unsatisfactory dressing-rooms, and the mountain of admin. We get to spend every single day with genius, after all, if we choose it

What are you working on at the moment? 

Mahler! I’ve performances of the 5th and 6th Symphonies coming up soon, and am making a short film about them too. Plus I’m busy programming with many of my orchestras for the coming seasons, including more Family Concerts with my great friend and collaborator James Mayhew

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

Doing just the same, only more of it, and in more countries than I am now. Working my way through that repertoire wish-list…

What is your most treasured possession? 

It would have to be the two cats, even though they’re not possessions at all really, are they? Besides they possess me rather than vice-versa. They’re called Schmoogle & Ratty (don’t ask!)

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Standing on top of a Lakeland fell, in total silence except the wind, having tortured myself to climb up it. And probably enjoying a pint afterwards.

British conductor Robin Browning is increasingly in demand with orchestras both in the UK and abroad. Robin made his debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in London, in a concert which was broadcast on Classic FM. He has conducted the Hallé, English Northern Philharmonia, Northern Sinfonia, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, St Petersburg Festival Orchestra, and Estonian National Youth Orchestra. 2011 marked Robin’s US debut, conducting three subscription-series concerts with the Boise Philharmonic, and in 2013 he made his debut with Milton Keynes City Orchestra. 

Robin recently assisted Sakari Oramo for the UK Premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican. He has also been assistant conductor to Benjamin Zander with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and assisted Mark Elder with both the LPO and OAE. Since taking second prize in the NAYO Conducting Competition, and winning the inaugural Boosey & Hawkes Award at the Edinburgh Festival, Robin is now firmly established as music director of five British orchestras, including the highly-regarded de Havilland Philharmonic. He has performed in some of the world’s most famous concert halls, including Snape Maltings, London’s Cadogan Hall, the Rudolfinum in Prague, and the Banff Centre in Canada. In 2008, Robin gave a concert at the Olympic Stadium, Nanjing, conducting live on Chinese television before an audience of 70 million. He has worked with a wide array of soloists, including Guy Johnston, Aled Jones, Craig Ogden, Jack Liebeck, John Lill and Raphael Wallfisch. 

Robin studied at the Accademia Chigiana, Siena, with Myung-Whun Chung and the legendary Ilya Musin. He furthered his training in the USA with Joseph Gifford, and was invited to Estonia for masterclasses with Neeme and Paavo Järvi at the Oistrakh Festival. Robin also studied with Sir Charles Mackerras, Sian Edwards and Benjamin Zander, and participated in the first ever Conductor Development Programme with Milton Keynes City Orchestra in 2012. 

Passionately committed to the training of younger musicians, Robin has guest-conducted orchestras at both Trinity Laban Conservatoire and Guildhall School of Music, and works regularly with young conductors at the University of Southampton. In 2008 he was involved in the Barbican Young Orchestra project, preparing the inaugural orchestra for Sir Colin Davis. Robin is also dedicated to contemporary music and recordings: since making his first first professional studio-recording in 2008, he has released three more – all are available from iTunes and Amazon. 

www.robinbrowning.com

Who or what inspired you to take up conducting, and make it your career? 

When I was five I used to sit on the floor listening to my father [Manoug Parikian, leader of the Philharmonia in the 1950s, soloist, chamber musician and teacher] as he practised. So it’s safe to say that music was an integral part of my life from a very early age. And I decided that music was what I wanted to do while playing in a performance of the Bartok Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion when I was seventeen (I was a percussionist before I took up conducting).

As for conducting, I genuinely can’t remember. I was aware of conductors and what they did, and knew names such as Toscanini, Furtwängler, Klemperer and Cantelli from my father talking about them. But it wasn’t until I was studying timpani and percussion at the Royal Academy of Music that I took an interest in what was or wasn’t going on at the front. And it wasn’t until my early thirties that I plucked up the stupidity to try and make it my career.

Who or what were the most important influences on your conducting? 

Oh crikey! I don’t know. I’ve had some wonderful teachers: Michael Rose, George Hurst, Ilya Musin. They all gave me enormous amounts of wisdom, a lot of which I chose to ignore at the time. But sometimes it’s something as simple as a player asking you to speak up that can make you examine what you do; and teaching others is of course the best teacher.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

I remember being so nervous before my first concert that I was unable to tie my tie. That was quite tough. Otherwise: remaining in employment.

Which performances are you most proud of?  

All of them. Some have been better than others, but any performance is something to be celebrated.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in? 

Not particularly. It helps if they have a roof.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

Sibelius 7th Symphony – but ask me again tomorrow and you’ll get a different answer.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Too many to mention, but anyone who plays with commitment, musical intelligence and honesty.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

I can barely remember what I did last Thursday.

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

Eek. I feel desperately unqualified to answer this, but if I have to: put the music first.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I’m off to Edinburgh at the weekend for a week-long course with the wonderful Rehearsal Orchestra (www.rehearsal-orchestra.org), a group that has an astonishing capacity to have a go at pretty much anything thrown at them. I’ll be conducting Lutosławski Concerto for Orchestra, Stravinsky Petrushka, Shostakovich’s First Symphony…….errm, lots of other things. Basically it’s a week-long orgy of hedonistic musical excess punctuated by civilised bouts of whisky-drinking.

I’m also promoting my book, Waving, Not Drowning, a light-hearted pastiche of the Maestro Memoir married to a brutal exposé of the murkier secrets of the conductor’s world. Or something. Where can you get it, you say? Oh look: www.wavingnotdrowningbook.com.

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

In the land of the living.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

As I am now: answering questionnaires while in the privileged position of watching England retain the Ashes and just having had a gin and tonic.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

I like nothing more than settling down for a good satisfying [redacted].

What is your present state of mind? 

Decisive. No, hold on, indecisive. Errm…

(Interview date: 5th August 2013)

Lev Parikian’s book Waving, Not Drowning: the art of conducting explained from upbeat to cufflinks, co-authored with Barrington Orwell, is now available priced £7. To read sample text or order a copy (paperback or e-book), please go to www.wavingnotdrowningbook.com

Levon Parikian studied conducting with George Hurst and Ilya Musin. Since completing his studies, he has pursued a freelance conducting career, and is much in demand as Guest Conductor with orchestras in Britain. He currently holds Principal Conductor posts with several London-based orchestras, and is Principal Conductor of the City of Oxford Orchestra and Artistic Director of The Rehearsal Orchestra. He has worked extensively with students and youth orchestras, including the Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra, National Youth Strings Academy, Royal College of Music Junior Sinfonia, and Royal Holloway University of London, where he also teaches conducting. In 2012 Levon conducted the UK premiere of Armen Tigranian’s opera Anoush with London Armenian Opera.

Levon lives in South London and his hobbies include making retaliatory hoax calls to call centres, finding unexpected items in the bagging area, and wondering why he came upstairs.

Lev also blogs on topics as diverse as music, food, sport and aardvarks. To read his blog, please visit levparikian.wordpress.com

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Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and make it your career?

Ward Swingle, of Swingle Singers fame, is an old family friend, and it was he who suggested, on the evidence of my childhood piano playing, that I pursue conducting. At the time I took it as a compliment but with hindsight imagine it had more to do with the inadequacies of my pianistic technique. Put more politely, he made me realise I was more interested in music, than in playing it.

 

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

George Hurst taught me everything I like about my conducting as well as everything I don’t like. I came under his spell at a dangerously young age.

 

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Knowing when to say yes and when to say no.

 

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I can count on the fingers of one hand the performances I remember with unequivocal pride but given that I’m hopefully not yet half way through my career, I don’t think that’s a bad proportion! One should always want to do better. I’m pleased with the Shostakovich Symphony cycle I’ve recorded, though I have to confess I’ve never listened to the CDs once they’ve been released. Perhaps I’m worried that doing so will make me less proud.

 

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

The first professional orchestra I ever conducted was in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. As such, I always feel inspired by the memories of that excitement. And despite its questionable acoustics, I smile every time I walk into the Sydney Opera House.

 

Favourite pieces to perform/conduct? Listen to?

Wagner is the pinnacle for me. His music is a constant search for the perfect equilibrium between heart, mind, and soul. Realising it is a very special feeling. His music essentially invented the need for conductors and the flexible physicality he requires is a joy to express. Listening is another matter and I tend not to listen to music I conduct. Chamber music is where I’m freer to respond without judgement, listen without an opinion, and love without experience.

 

Who are your favourite musicians?

One tends not to know individual musicians in orchestras that well, but there are many, many I admire enormously. And the singers and soloists who hear music collaboratively are the soloists I enjoy the most. Stephen Hough and John Tomlinson spring to mind as prime examples.

 

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Conducting Mahler’s sixth symphony with the Dutch National Youth Orchestra at a performance in Haarlem and hearing Simon Rattle perform Mahler’s Second Symphony with the CBSO at the Brighton Dome. You don’t need glamorous venues!

 

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

Sincerity, Respect, Confidence, Passion, Thought, Time.

Born in Sussex, England, Mark Wigglesworth studied music at Manchester University and conducting at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Whilst still a student, he formed The Premiere Ensemble, an orchestra committed to playing a new piece in every programme. A few weeks after leaving the Academy, he won the Kondrashin International Conducting Competition in The Netherlands, and since then has worked with many of the leading orchestras and opera companies of the world.

In 1992 he became Associate Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and further appointments included Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Highlights of his time with the BBCNOW included several visits to the BBC Proms, a performance of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony at the prestigious Amsterdam Mahler Festival in 1995, and a six-part television series for the BBC entitled ‘Everything To Play For’.

In addition to concerts with most of the UK’s orchestras, Mark Wigglesworth has guest conducted many of Europe’s finest ensembles, including the Berlin Philharmonic; Amsterdam Concertgebouw; La Scala Filarmonica, Milan; Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Orchestra, Rome; Stockholm Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Helsinki Radio Symphony, Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra, Salzburg Camerata and the Budapest Festival Orchestra.

Mark Wigglesworth’s full biography
(picture: Intermusica)

It has long been my ambition to perform all 5 Beethoven Concertos in one evening, and it is great to be able to do this in a concert in aid of the Musicians Benevolent Fund. This charity has done so much over many decades to support musicians who have fallen into difficulties of one sort or another and provides invaluable scholarship money to talented students. The icing on the cake is that this will happen in my old Alma Mater, the RNCM in its 40th anniversary year, with an orchestra comprising many of its students past and present, with the very talented young conductor Daniel Parkinson. (Martin Roscoe)

All five piano concertos in one evening, performed by Martin Roscoe, one of the UK’s most acclaimed and versatile pianists, and conducted by Daniel Parkinson, together with an introduction by John Suchet. This promises to be a marathon feast of music, culminating in Beethoven’s Fifth ‘Emperor’ Concerto in the final concert at 9pm. By presenting all the concertos in a single day, audience members attending all three concerts will be offered a unique window on Beethoven’s creative life, and insights into the evolution of the piano concerto in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, from the youthful post-Haydn Nos. 1 and 2, through the No. 4, which marked a major turning point in the development of the concerto with the piano entering before the orchestra, to the sweeping proto-Romantic and virtuosic No, 5, the ‘Emperor’.

The concerts take place at the Royal Northern College of Music on 5th October, from 5pm, and tickets are available now. For further information, please visit the Beethoven Piano Concerto Project website: www.beethovenpianoconcertos.co.uk

I recently interviewed conductor Daniel Parkinson for my Meet the Artist series. Read his interview here.

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Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in composing and conducting? 

I think it was probably a combination of discovering that I could make my own sounds on the piano as a very young child and also hearing Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) on a tape recorder, which I can still remember vividly. Later I became obsessed with the Beethoven Piano Sonatas as I tried to learn how to play them, but soon became more interested in mimicking their sound in my own modest piano compositions. Beethoven has remained a great influence on my work. I was also very lucky to have the encouragement of my piano teacher and parents, who never questioned my interest in composition, but did provide very useful constructive criticism when required! As a result of this, I can’t recall ever making the decision to be a composer. This path was simply inevitable. Like many of my colleagues, I think that composing is not so much a choice or career, but really a very intense compulsion and almost a way of life.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I have just finished creating a Live Music Sculpture for St Paul’s Cathedral, which will be premiered on 12th July 2013 as part of the City of London Festival. The site-specific work will involve singers and French horns which are placed spatially throughout the cathedral in various horizontal and vertical locations, including the Whispering Gallery. It has been designed to explore the unique acoustic of Wren’s architectural masterpiece. I am also working on an original story and libretto for a new chamber opera commissioned by Size Zero Opera.

Who or what are the most important influences on your work? 

Usually I turn to literature for inspiration. In prose and poetry, the construction of phrases, form, ambiguity, the importance of context and semantics have a great deal in common with music. I have been directly influenced by the prose of James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Vladimir Nabokov and Thomas Mann very much, and also the poetry of T.S. Elliot, Thomas Hardy, Emily Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins. These influences are always changing. I am not so aware of musical influences and try to avoid thinking about these too much!

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

The greatest challenge so far was probably composing a Live Music Sculpture for the very long and narrow space above the River Thames inside the walkways of Tower Bridge. The space was so long that the sound behaved in a very unusual way. There was a significant audible delay while the sound travelled from one end of the bridge to the other, which had to be built into the composition.

What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an orchestra/ensemble/singers? 

The most exciting thing about working with an ensemble of musicians is hearing how a collection of entirely different personalities can unite for a period of time to bring to life the vision of a composer through performance. An imagined or written down piece of music exists in a different kind of intangible reality until it is actually performed. And even then, the way that music works is still wonderfully elusive. I think many composers are delighted when they can finally get out from behind the desk and hear their work materialise in rehearsal and performance. One hopes that there will always be unimagined revelations and pleasant surprises brought out by the performers, but also a confirmation that the imagined sounds of a composition are actually achievable. It is thrilling when an ensemble performs a new composition with the same expressive commitment as they would Brahms or Mozart and are able to channel all their knowledge and experience through new music.

It can sometimes be a challenge to convince an orchestra or ensemble that the virtuosic difficulties or conceptual ideas are worth all the effort, but also just as challenging as a composer to learn that the vision isn’t working, and that it needs refining in the next composition after speaking to the players or simply listening to the performance!

Do you have a favourite concert venue? 

I have been privileged to write for a great variety of venues, so it’s almost impossible to choose a favourite. I’m enjoying working with St Paul’s Cathedral very much at the moment and attempting to discover some of its architectural secrets.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Again, there are some many it is hard to pin them down! I am a great admirer of Pierre Boulez, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and the pianist Krystian Zimerman. As well as enjoying their extraordinary compositions and performances, for me, these three different musicians epitomise what it means to have artistic conviction, as well as complete dedication and a rigorous approach to their work. I am also a big fan of Leonard Bernstein who seemed to be the most remarkably gifted all-round musician. He was very much ahead of his time as a thinker and a great educator.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

The first time I heard Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with the CBSO as a student was a huge moment. Despite having got to know it well on record, the sheer scale of the thing was overwhelming in performance. It is extraordinary to consider how Mahler was able to control and organise form over such expansive amounts of time. I will never forget the devastating emotional gravity of the Urlicht in the fourth movement after all the preceding orchestral bombast! This must be one of the most poignant and beautiful moments in Mahler’s entire output.

What is your favourite music to listen to? 

Bach, Beethoven, Purcell, Szymanowski, Maxwell Davies, Britten, Puccini, Boulez, Mozart, Sibelius, Mahler, Schubert, early Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams and Berg.

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

I think it is very important to have conviction when composing or performing music. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, nobody else will. And more importantly, if you find that you can’t believe in your work wholeheartedly, turn that doubt into something constructive until you can believe in it. It is also important to have a very strong connection to the past, as well as a clear vision for the future when composing or performing music. However, it is easy to be seduced by both, and actually the most important place to be is in the present. We should ask ourselves: What matters now? And what can my music say about the present? And the connection between the past and future will hopefully be there instinctively, for the same themes returned to by humanity over and over again are always eternal.

What is your most treasured possession? 

I have a very beautiful 1920’s horned gramophone which plays old 78s. I often listen to fantastic 1920s/30s and 1940s popular music and jazz on it, as well as wonderful recordings of classical music. It’s fascinating to notice how the tempi were often altered to fit each movement onto one side of the record. The sheer effort involved with winding the thing up and changing the needle just to hear about 4 minutes of music, as well as the crackly sound quality, provides a wonderfully different listening experience. It turns a very short listening session into a major event as everybody gathers around the horn to listen. It’s definitely not the same as casually flicking through an ipod!

Samuel Bordoli’s new work, Live Music Sculpture 3: St Paul’s Cathedral, will be premiered as part of the City of London Festival, with five performances Friday 12 July, taking place at 11.30, 13.20, 14.20, 15.20 and 16.20 in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. 

For more information on Samuel: www.bordoli.co.uk

For more information on Live Music Sculpture: www.livemusicsculpture.com