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

I was born into a musical environment: my father, Bernard Rose, was a huge inspiration. He was a conductor, composer, scholar, organist, horn player, singer, inspirational teacher. I studied with him at Oxford and sang in his daily choir at Magdalen College, but before that I was a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, as was my father, his brother and both my brothers. At Salisbury we had about 8 services a week, with about 12 rehearsals, from the age of 8-13. I remember thinking at the age of 12 or so that I wanted to be in music, and thought conducting would be good. My father sent me to have lunch with his old teacher at the Royal College of Music, Sir Adrian Boult, and Boult gently grilled me for over an hour over lunch, insisting that I should only pursue conducting if I really wanted it. This helped focus my mind. Leopold Stokowski used to stay frequently at our house from when I was very young, and I think this must have had an influence on me also. As soon as I went to Oxford I began serious conducting, having already taken on a small Oxfordshire choral society.

Who or what are the most significant influences on your musical life?

In the early days Christopher Dearnley, Organist at Salisbury Cathedral, and my first piano teacher, was a strong influence. Then at my senior school my teacher for A-level played me Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Juenglinge”. I was 15 years-old, and it blew my head off. I knew from that moment that I would dedicate much of my life to ‘living’ music.

When I left school I studied ’12-note music’ in Vienna with a former pupil of Arnold Schoenberg, and this has been a strong influence all my life. Whilst at Oxford I became fascinated by the conducting of Pierre Boulez, and used to go to watch him conduct. This was my main conducting influence.

What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling?

The most challenging aspect is inspiring musicians, professional, students or amateur, to create exciting musical sounds, and, hopefully, display their enjoyment of this to the audience. Certainly, it is very fulfilling teasing the written notes into audible sounds, whether it be medieval music, Classical or music of today.

As a conductor, how do you communicate your ideas about a work to the orchestra?

Through gesture as much as possible. When teaching conducting I stress the importance of “less talking is more music”. The fact that in the concert or recording venue at the moment of impact there is no speaking is a vital aspect of communication from conductor to musicians.

How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?

My first role as conductor is my being the representative of the composer in the room, from whatever period. I always do masses of research into the composer’s background at the time of composition, etc, before studying a work. I have had the pleasure of working directly with many hundreds of living composers, and I am a composer myself, so feel I am “on their side”! If the piece is not written out logically I do all I can to persuade the composer to make the scores as logical as possible.

Is there one work which you would love to conduct?

Stravinsky “Sacre de Printemps”

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

The Philharmonic Hall in St Petersburg, Russia, is unbelievable!

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

There are too many to list. It goes from Perotin in the 1150s through to Machaut, Byrd, Tallis, Sheppard, Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Hummel, Beethoven, Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Stockhausen, Ligeti, Xenakis, Arvo Paert, Steve Reich…

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Achieving a fine/masterful performance.

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

The joy of performing at the highest possible standard; rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal!

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

Still conducting and composing internationally

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The morning after a great concert!

What is your most treasured possession?

The autograph score of Bach’s B Minor Mass

What is your present state of mind?

Good! I’ve just finished editing a new CD in Latvia and am preparing for my 70th birthday concert in April. I am a lucky person!

 

Gregory Rose’s 70th birthday concert is on 18 April 2018 at St John’s Smith Square. The programme includes several premieres, including a piece for solo voice with Loré Lixenberg and a new Violin Concerto, specially composed for the acclaimed violinist, Peter Sheppard Skærved.

Full details here


Gregory Rose is particularly noted for his performances of the romantic and contemporary repertoires, having conducted over 300 premieres of orchestral, choral and ensemble music throughout Europe and the Far East. He studied violin, piano and singing as a young child and was a pupil of Hans Jelinek (Vienna Academy) and Egon Wellesz (Oxford University), both former students of Arnold Schoenberg, and of his father, the late Bernard Rose.

Gregory is Music Director of the Jupiter Orchestra, Jupiter Singers, Singcircle and CoMA London Ensemble. He has conducted many concerts and operas for Trinity College of Music, including concerts with the Contemporary Music Group, and operas by Poulenc, Stravinsky, Virgil Thomson, Scott Joplin, Berthold Goldschmidt, Samuel Barber, Nino Rota and Malcolm Williamson. He is a professor of conducting at Trinity Laban Conservatoire.

Full biography

 

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

The decision to become a musician was a gradual one; my first post – as organist at Brixton prison when I was 16 – showed that it was possible to be paid for doing what I enjoyed – and my first paid conducting performance (Messiah, when I was 17) further convinced me that this was a congenial way to make a living. It was Adrian Boult, however, who wholly changed my focus of ambition. I went to a concert of his in Oxford during my post-graduate year and suddenly became aware of what a conductor could achieve. I pushed a note under his door in the Randolph Hotel asking if he would take me as a student. Characteristically, he replied the next day inviting me to audition for his advanced course at the RCM and that began a learning process that continued almost until he died. He was unquestionably the most significant influence on my musical life.

What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling aspect?

The most challenging part of being a conductor in this country is that you’re almost always trying to work with a short amount of rehearsal time, so you tend to depend more than you should have to on your musicians being prepared to fill in the gaps for you. That is not the case in the United States and in Europe, where you are given more rehearsal time with professional musicians; the more relevant challenge there is developing the sense of urgency you need for a rehearsal without being over-demanding.

The most fulfilling aspect is the sense of making music with a number of other people, some of whom you’ve known for many years, and still deriving the same intense pleasure from doing so – in some 30 years after our first collaboration. Whether the players feel the same, of course, I cannot say!

As a conductor, how do you communicate your ideas about a work to the orchestra?

I believe the conductor’s job is to communicate as much as possible by gesture; too much talking is a well-known conductors’ disease. That said, offering an orchestra/choir what you hope are helpful images to clarify the sound or character that you are trying for can be beneficial if you can find the right metaphors.

How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?

A conductor needs to be both a manager and a bit of a visionary. Helping musicians to feel that what they do is important and worthwhile – and valued by the conductor – is important, but clearly the composer should be the fundamental reference point for all performers.

Is there one work which you would love to conduct?

There are several works I would like to conduct, which have so far eluded me: Walton’s First Symphony and Cello Concerto, Mahler’s Second Symphony and Morning Heroes by Bliss. More pressingly, there are works I would love to conduct more often – particularly Beethoven’s Glorreiche Augenblick, The Kingdom or the symphonies by Elgar and such neglected masterworks as the Holst Choral Symphony, and the marvellous tone poems by Bax.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I love both the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, though I also love Dalhalla in Sweden, which is an open-air venue – constructed out of a gravel pit – with a fantastic atmosphere and acoustic. The only drawback is that the conductor has to be rowed to the venue and I can’t swim.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

My favourite composers are always the ones I’m currently working on. When you’re preparing something for performance, it occupies the whole of the forefront of your mind and that means you are very closely entwined in what you hope to be the intentions of that particular composer at that particular time.

It is very difficult to identify favourite musicians; almost all of my colleagues are helpful and collaborative. You soon discover the handful who are not, and as far as possible you give them a wide berth. One of my absolute favourites, though, is the marvellous South African baritone, Njabulo Madlala. Brought up in Durban he has made his way to the forefront of the classical music scene purely on merit and a determination which never prevents him from being entirely charming and delightful.

We performed Elijah together four years ago in Leicester. He sang it wonderfully, and I’m thrilled to be able to do it again with him in the Barbican Centre on 13th February. Elijah is one of those works that has drifted slightly out of fashion – a real mistake, as it is full of inspired melody and dramatic invention. And, of course, it brings together professional orchestral players and soloists with one of our leading amateur choirs. A combination which often leads to the best result possible: professional expertise with amateur commitment and enthusiasm.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Being the best possible conduit between the composer and the audience. If the audience leaves the concert saying what a wonderful piece they have heard, I think we’ve done the best we can.

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

Fidelity to the composers’ intentions. We live in a time of absurdly elevated personality cults; the job of the performer is to focus the audience on the composer’s personality and not his or her own.

Hilary Davan Wetton conducts the City of London Choir and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ at the Barbican Centre on Tuesday 13th February at 7.30pm. Soloists are Rachel Nicholls, Diana Moore, Daniel Norman and Njabulo Madlala as Elijah. More information and tickets


 

Hilary Davan Wetton has been Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the City of London Choir since 1989. One of the country’s most distinguished choral conductors, he was founder/conductor of the Holst Singers, and is Conductor Emeritus of the Guildford Choral Society and Artistic Director of Leicester Philharmonic Choir. He is also Associate Conductor of the London Mozart Players and Conductor Emeritus of the Milton Keynes City Orchestra.

Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford and the Royal College of Music, Hilary studied conducting with Sir Adrian Boult and was awarded the Ricordi conducting prize in 1967. Over a career spanning 50 years, he is particularly admired for his interpretations of 20th century British music, conducting many first performances for British composers as well as neglected works by Gardner, Parry, Holst, Dyson, Bridge, Sterndale Bennett and Samuel Wesley.

His extensive discography includes recordings for Hyperion with both the Holst Singers and Guildford Choral Society, a series of acclaimed recordings for Collins Classics with the LPO, including Holst’s Planets, Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, and discs for Naxos and EM Records with the City of London Choir. He received the Diapason d’Or for Holst’s Choral Symphony (Hyperion, 1994). In Terra Pax: A Christmas Anthology (Naxos, 2009) reached number two in the Gramophone classical chart and enjoyed wide critical success. Beethoven’s Der Glorreiche Augenblick (Naxos, 2012) has also been much admired, receiving a five star review in BBC Music Magazine; and Flowers of the Field (Naxos, 2014) with the City of London Choir, London Mozart Players, Roderick Williams and Jeremy Irons went quickly to number one in the Specialist Classical Chart.

Hilary has broadcast frequently for the BBC and Classic FM. For six years, he was presenter/conductor for Classic FM’s Masterclass, and he was Jo Brand’s organ teacher for the BBC 1 series, Play it Again. He has been awarded honorary degrees by the Open University and De Montfort University and is an Honorary Fellow of the Birmingham Conservatoire.

www.hilarydavanwetton.co.uk

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

I don’t know if there was one person or event in particular that led me to pursue this career. I wanted to be a conductor and to have a new platform to communicate with musicians, music lovers and people who are not aware of classical music. I wanted to have an opportunity to inspire the future generation of young musicians. I also wanted to engage people who are not fans of classical music and get them excited for it. I know many colleagues who always dreamed about being a conductor but I came to that realization when I was 22.

What, for you, is the most challenging part of being a conductor? And the most fulfilling aspect?

The most challenging part of being a conductor or a Music Director of a group is inspiring musicians to accept the challenges I present. New music is a challenge, unique collaborations are a challenge and these are paths that every orchestra (youth, community, professional) should take from time to time. As a leader one should find the determination to excite the orchestra to take on challenges with no fear. The fulfilling aspect is the final product, the inspired musicians, the excited audiences and most importantly the feeling of accomplishing something that presented a challenge.  

How exactly do you communicate your ideas about a work to the orchestra?

Every orchestra I work with I learn from. Communication is a complex topic and there are no masters. I work hard in diversifying my approach and with each experience I realize that it’s not just about the music but about the people. In my communication with the orchestra I try to inspire them with my passion and love for the music, I engage them to be collaborators and of course teach them through this process. To maximize the potential of any group it requires the energy of each individual and this can be achieved through communication not only on the podium but off the podium as well.

How exactly do you see your role? Inspiring the players/singers? Conveying the vision of the composer?

The role of a Music Director should be all encompassing. As a MD one should inspire the players through passion and enthusiasm for the music, engage audiences, and be in constant search of projects and collaborations. MD should also find ways to challenge to musicians and audiences because that is the only way we grow; that is the only way to the future. As an MD one should never assume that people know the music or the history and stories beyond the score. As conductors we have to educate not only the musicians but the audiences from the stage. Pre-concert talks do not provide a direct tool to teach and one never engages everyone in attendance. I believe that collaborations are vital for the growth of arts and classical music specifically. I think we live in a time where we absolutely have to collaborate with artists and other fields to maximize the reach of our art form.Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?I am always proud of the youth I work with and I am proud of them for accepting my challenges. I have commissioned new works, initiated unique collaborations with many organizations and invited artists from many genres to work with us. I want to thank the many young musicians I have had the privilege to work with and know that they will be leaders and inspiring individuals no matter what they do. Stepping on the podium to work with the future generation of rock stars is the greatest joy in my life, I feel honoured.

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

Picking repertoire for youth and community orchestras is tough. This is something I constantly think about. I try to include a piece that will challenge the orchestra, a piece that will be fun for the audiences, and a piece that the orchestra will not feel overwhelmed with.

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

There are many beautiful spaces I have conducted in and can’t pick one in particular. I like spaces with windows and no formal stage. I like the orchestra to be surrounded by the audience and to feel as close to the people as possible.What is one piece that you’ve always wanted to conduct? And have you had that chance yet?

There is a wonderful Armenian composer Avet Terterian and I would love to conduct any of his symphonies when I have an opportunity to do so.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I currently work with many youth and community orchestras in the U.S. state of Washington. My definition of success is the consistent growth of the musicians I work with, the development of their understanding of music and most importantly the continuous passion, love and care for classical music. I want to see the youth in my orchestras be passionate advocates for arts and culture regardless of what they pursue as a career. Decades later I want to see a world full of people from diverse professional and cultural backgrounds support the arts in large numbers. As an educator and conductor I want to instill in them the importance of music.

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

As conductors it is important to understand our role within the music organization and in our community. It does not matter if you conduct the greatest orchestras in the world, a community group or a youth organization you have to stay grounded and understand the importance of impacting the youth and community. I don’t mean just advocating for the arts but actually getting your hands dirty in the daily, weekly projects of inspiring the community. There are many great conductors in the world but one thing that is evident with many is the lack of consistent commitment to youth, community and outreach events. I want to see more conductors involved in outreach events, these concerts are not just for assistant and pops conductors. Music Directors are equally responsible for these performances and should do more than just a few in a year. I want to see the role of the Music Director taken more seriously. We live in a world that is fast paced and it is easier than ever to travel across the world. Holding more than one major symphony conducting role is not only disrespectful to the orchestra but most importantly it is disrespectful to the city and community the conductor is serving. A major symphony is one of the most important cultural organizations in a city and we need to have the Music Directors fully involved in the community which again is a rare fine these days. Classical music is suffering and this is definitely one of the factors. We need our leaders a lot more than just 12-15 weeks out of a year while the rest of the year they are holding other “full-time” jobs and guest conducting 30 other orchestras.Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I want to continue working with orchestras whether they are professional or not, I want to keep inspiring the youth and the community it serves.  

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I don’t know if that exists for me but I am content with the constant challenges despite the absence of perfect happiness.

What is your most treasured possession?

I don’t know about possessions but I have treasured people who are: my wife, my brother, my parents, family, friends and the many people who help and inspire me.

What is your present state of mind?

The moment.

Armenian-American conductor Tigran Arakelyan is the Music Director of Bainbridge Island Youth Orchestras, the Federal Way Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Artistic Director /Conductor of Port Townsend Community Orchestra. Arakelyan held conducting positions with California Philharmonic, Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, Rainier Symphony and the Northridge Youth Philharmonic. His primary conducting studies were with renowned conductors Ludovic Morlot and David Alexander Rahbee.

His recent conducting engagements were with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Olympia Chamber Orchestra, Armenian Pops Orchestra, Centum Youth Orchestra (S. Korea) and the Northwest Mahler Festival Orchestra.  Arakelyan toured South Korea twice (2014, 2017) with the Federal Way Youth Symphony conducting over a dozen concerts from Seoul to Busan. He recently initiated the Inaugural Bainbridge Island String Orchestra Festival with award winning guest artist Andrew Joslyn. Arakelyan also commissioned/premiered a work by international award winning composer Yiğit Kolat. 

Previously, he was the Music Director of Whidbey Island Orchestra (WA), Lark Musical Society Youth Orchestra (CA) and the Founder Conductor and Artistic Director of Cadence Chamber Orchestra (WA). At the university level Arakelyan was the Music Director of the University of Washington Campus Philharmonia and UW Summer Orchestra. He has been instrumental in initiating innovative collaborations with composers, soloists, visual artists, dancers, and choirs. Arakelyan helped in creating youth scholarship programs, festivals, young composer competitions, and led orchestral performances at unconventional venues. 

Arakelyan conducted the Pacific Northwest premiere of Paul Hindemith Kammermuzik Nr. 1. He has also conducted the Yakima Symphony Chamber Orchestra, University of California Los Angeles Philharmonia, Redmond Academy of Theatre Arts, Korean Music Association Choir (WA), Inverted Space Modern Ensemble, U.W. Symphony, California State University Northridge Symphony, CSU Northridge Discovery Players, and the Nimbus Ensemble (CA). A strong advocate of new music, he premiered works by Iosif Andriasov, Stepan Rostomyan, Eleanor Aversa, Jeff Bowen, Jon Brenner, Arshak Andriasov, and Felipe Rossi. 

Arakelyan played alongside Sir James Galway during his induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is a recipient of numerous awards including: Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Performing Arts Fellowship (2013, 2014, 2015), Edward Hosharian Award, and the Armenian Allied Arts Competition (1st place), among others.  Arakelyan participated in the Conductors Guild Workshop, Pierre Monteux School for Conductors, Idyllwild Music Festival, Dilijan Chamber Music Series, Seasons Festival Academy, and Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. He conducted in masterclasses with notable conductors David Loebel, Frank Battisti, Donald Thulean, Ennio Nicotra, David Effron, Neal Stulberg, Michael Jinbo, and Lawrence Golan. 

Arakelyan received a Doctorate in Musical Arts degree in conducting from the University of Washington. His primary conducting studies are with Ludovic Morlot, David Alexander Rahbee, John Roscigno and flute studies with Paul Taub, John Barcellona, Laura Osborn, Stephen Preston, and Shigenori Kudo.​ Outside of conducting, he is the founder/director of the Armenian Orchestral Music Project and the Classical Program Coordinator at Music Works Northwest. Arakelyan is also the founder and host of Off The Podium-Music Podcast where his guests are renowned musicians and artists. 

www.tigranarakelyan.com

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

I suppose my family – I was surrounded by music form a young age and never considered anything else really!

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

My teachers (including my grandmother on piano and mother on violin!), youth orchestra and choir conductors such as Adrian Brown and Ralph Allwood, and of course a host of colleagues and conductors who I have had the privilege to assist or work with, from Mark Elder to Vladimir Jurowski.

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

Keeping up with learning all the repertoire! Juggling family….

Which performance are you most proud of? 

I feel that our recent memorised performances with Aurora Orchestra have genuinely broken new ground. Some of the Proms with these have been quite special.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Ask me in 40 years

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

With difficulty! A mixture of repertoire I know, to alleviate the burden on learning, plus taking the right repertoire to new orchestra.

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

Nothing beats a Prom at the Royal Albert Hall

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing the violin in the National Youth Orchestra with Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique under the baton of Sir Roger Norrington – I had an out-of-body experience!

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

Relax – it’s an obsession, a career, an ambition, yet it’s also a way of life!

Nicholas Collon and Aurora Orchestra continue an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime journey through the complete cycle of Mozart’s piano concertos. Staged over five years (2016–20) and featuring a host of stellar guest pianists and other collaborators, Mozart’s Piano presents all 27 concertos as part of a single series for the first time in the UK.   

The concerts uses the piano concertos as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey across centuries and contrasting repertoire.  The result is a virtuosic, vibrant and playful series which illuminates Mozart’s life, music and legacy in new and unexpected ways. 

Further information

Nicholas Collon is founder and Principal Conductor of Aurora Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, a position he takes up in 16/17. His skill as a communicator and innovator has been recognised by both critics and audiences alike – he was the recipient of the 2012 Critics’ Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent – and he is known as an imaginative programmer encompassing an exceptionally wide range of music.

Under Nicholas Collon’s artistic direction, Aurora Orchestra have an enviable reputation in the UK and increasingly abroad and are recognised for their creative programming and concert presentation. 2016 will see the launch of two major series in London; as Resident Orchestra at Kings Place they will begin a 5-year cycle of the complete Mozart Piano Concertos, and as Associate Orchestra at the South Bank Centre they will present a new series ‘The Orchestral Theatre.’ They have appeared at the BBC Proms every year since 2010, including performances of Mozart’s 40th symphony and Beethoven’s 6th, in which the entire orchestra performed from memory.

For Warner Classics Nicholas and Aurora have released two critically acclaimed recordings: ‘Road Trip’featuring music by Ives, Copland, Adams and Nico Muhly (winning the prestigious 2015 Echo Klassik Award for ‘Klassik Ohne Grenzen’) and ‘Insomnia’ with music by Britten, Brett Dean, Ligeti, Gurney and Lennon & McCartney.

In addition to his work with Aurora, Nicholas is in demand as a guest conductor with other ensembles in the UK and abroad. A regular guest with the Philharmonia, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic, in recent seasons he has also worked with the London Philharmonic; BBC Symphony; Zurich Tonhalle; Brussels Philharmonic; BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Spanish National Orchestra; Hallé Orchestra; Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse; Trondheim Symphony; Danish National Symphony Orchestra; Orchestre National de Lyon; Bamberg Symphony Orchestra; Les Violons du Roy; Scottish Chamber Orchestra; Warsaw Philharmonic; Academy of Ancient Music; London Sinfonietta; Royal Northern Sinfonia and Ensemble Intercontemporain and collaborated with artists such as Ian Bostridge, Angelika Kirchschlager, Vilde Frang, Pekka Kuusisto, Francesco Piemontesi, Steven Isserlis and Jean-Efflam Bavouzet.

Future engagements include returns to the Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre national du Capitole de Toulouse, BBC Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Trondheim Symphony, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé and Academy of Ancient Music and debuts with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; Gurzenich Orchestra; Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg; Les Siècles; National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia.

In opera Nicholas has worked with English National Opera The Magic Flute, Welsh National Opera Jonathan Harvey’s Wagner Dream and Glyndebourne on Tour Rape of Lucretia. Future projects includeTurn of the Screw at Aldeburgh and LSO St Luke’s with Aurora Orchestra.  A champion of new music Nicholas has conducted over 200 new works including the UK or world premieres of works by Unsuk Chin, Phillip Glass, Colin Matthews, Nico Muhly, Olivier Messiaen, Krzysztof Penderecki and Judith Weir.

 

(Photo: Jim Hinson)

 

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(photo credit: Zbynek Maderyc)

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

There were lots of influences. Examples of many famous and less famous conductors. Among all, I’d mention the American Leonard Bernstein and in my own country Jiří Bělohlávek, whose conducting I could observe personally. It happened when I was a teenager. I found out for myself then that I wanted MUSIC to be a central point of my life. My psyche and specific talents somehow indicated conducting would be the best path, although at that time I could imagine to go into many other professions.

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

Definitely my parents and grandparents at first (even though no one in my family is a professional musician), then my music teachers (especially my trombone and other brass instruments teacher at a primary art school Jiří Vrtek who was also a very skilled and passionate leader of many sorts of wind bands in which I played already as a kid), then the conductor of my student symphony orchestra in Brno Tomáš Krejčí who gave me my first, highly desired conducting opportunities and found me a conducting teacher – and finally aforementioned Jiří Bělohlávek with whom I studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague after I had graduated from what we call “gymnasium” (a grammar school in English). And obviously a lot of splendid (and less splendid) recordings – LPs, cassettes, later CDs.

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

There is a lot of details which I cannot mention. Difficult to choose. Some of my “jump-in” experiences (Carmen or La bohème without rehearsals), some of the difficult operas, even if rehearsed (Mihalovici’s Krapp or The Last Tape, for example), some of the contemporary premieres (lately Olga Neuwirth’s percussion concerto Zero-Zone, for instance), first Le Sacre also wasn’t as easy. These particularities shouldn’t cover the substantial challenge, though: to find the most direct and inspirational way how to communicate with every orchestra one leads so that both the players and the audiences are enriched and happy…

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

I think both Má vlast recordings I’ve made so far – the first with The Prague Philharmonia, taken live in 2010 at the Prague Spring Festival, and the second the brand new now with the Bamberg Symphony – are both quite representative. That’s as for recordings. I cannot say about the performances. There were too many (and too many details!) which I really loved. I was rather proud as I graduated ambitiously from the Academy in 2004, performing my beloved Asrael Symphony by Suk by heart. I kind of tasted where my abilities could go.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Works with great intelligence and highly emotional contents.

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

It’s always a complex decision. I’m personally putting a great deal of new pieces for me to learn each season, to make progress in my knowledge (and enjoyment) of a wide repertoire. “My” orchestras (such as Bamberg now) have their own portfolios with which I’m working closely and sensibly. As soon as the main focuses are clear, I’m also trying to enable myself (and my orchestra[s]) to get deeper in the pieces – and that means repeating them, also at various places. And I have been trying to find the right balance for years now between orchestral stuff and opera. Some seasons are more operatic, some less. (I think my programmes are very well balanced in terms of Czech/Slavic/European/international music now. The same for all possible styles, even if, roughly put, years 1750–1950 prevail.)

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

Several of them. I would definitely mention some of the older halls in Europe and America, above all my national “home” at Rudolfinum in Prague, Musikverein in Vienna, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam or Severance Hall in Cleveland. And then some of the newer marvels: Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Symphony Hall in Osaka, Philharmonie in Berlin, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the new Helsinki Music Centre, the Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall… I like my professional home in Bamberg, too. And I’m looking forward to performing at the Philharmonie in Paris where I haven’t been on stage yet. I liked it in the audience a lot.

Who are your favourite musicians?

So many that it wouldn’t fit on one page.

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

Never to stop working hard – but in a relaxed manner. And to be personal – without wilfulness.

What about your new position at Bamberg excites you the most?

The amazing and open-minded musicality of the players there – combined with great characters (in playing/music and in psychology). And the city’s devotion to culture.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A complete balance – of mind (brain), emotions and spiritual connections, of work and doing nothing, of pleasing myself meaningfully and serving others, of Dionysian and Apollonian……And that also accompanied by sounds of blissful music.

Born in the Czech Republic and described by Gramophone as ‘on the verge of greatness’, Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of Bamberg Symphony, Permanent Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO), and served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of PKF–Prague Philharmonia from 2009 to 2015.

He is a regular guest with many of the world’s greatest orchestras. Recent highlights have included Bohemian Legends and The Mighty Five – two major series specially devised for the Philharmonia Orchestra; a two-week focus on Martinů and Roussel for Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France; and performances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, DSO Berlin, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Last season, he made his débuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Filarmonica della Scala.

www.jakubhrusa.com

 

 

 

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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