Hopes and fears for 2019

Will the next 12 months bring feast or famine to the clas­si­cal mu­sic world? We sur­vey ten mu­si­cians

BBC Music Magazine - - Contents - IL­LUS­TRA­TION: JONTY CLARK

Stephen Hough pi­anist

HOPE My hope is for us all to lis­ten bet­ter. There’s so much wasted back­ground noise in taxis, lifts and res­tau­rants. It’s a con­stant un­der­cur­rent of life, and

I’d love to re­duce it. I don’t think there’s any­thing wrong with si­lence, par­tic­u­larly as a mu­si­cian. Si­lence is very im­por­tant. It’s the soil from which ev­ery­thing we grow comes from. Un­less we have that si­lence in good shape, then what comes out of that won’t be healthy. It’s al­ways a mu­si­cal con­sid­er­a­tion, but it’s also im­por­tant in life in gen­eral. It’s some­thing we find very dif­fi­cult to do.

FEAR I fear how volatile the world is – ev­ery­thing has be­come so ex­plo­sive, par­tic­u­larly thanks to the drama­ti­sa­tion of pol­i­tics. Again, a lit­tle bit of si­lence would be in­cred­i­bly use­ful!

Na­dine Ben­jamin so­prano

HOPE My hope is to so­lid­ify my skills and raise them up to the next level. I won’t be on the main stages do­ing opera, but I will be in­volved in con­certs and ap­ply­ing my time dif­fer­ently in or­der to get where I want to be. It’s re­ally im­por­tant to me that I’m al­ways analysing what could make my char­ac­ters clearer, cleaner, more en­joy­able and read­able. I need to keep learn­ing more about this craft. Be­cause I came to the pro­fes­sion quite late and I didn’t go to con­ser­va­toire, my jour­ney has been quite dif­fer­ent to a lot of other singers.

FEAR My chal­lenge will be sup­port­ing my­self through­out 2019. When I have that amount of learn­ing to do, it means that I’m not able to be work­ing as much in the way I’d like to, so I’ll have to look for spon­sor­ship. From 2020 I’m fully em­ployed, but 2019 is all about learn­ing, and un­for­tu­nately you only get to see the fruits of those labours a year down the line.

Vasily Pe­trenko con­duc­tor

HOPE 2019 will be a very spe­cial year for me with the or­ches­tras I con­duct. It’s the cen­te­nary year of the Oslo Phil­har­monic, and there are tours with the Royal Liver­pool Phil­har­monic and Euro­pean Union Youth Or­ches­tras, and I’m look­ing for­ward to fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of all the youth ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes. And at the end of the year I’m mak­ing my de­but at the Met Opera in New York con­duct­ing Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame. It’s an opera I love, and I have done sev­eral pro­duc­tions of it in Rus­sia and ★am­burg. It means a lot to be on such a le­gendary stage, with some of the best singers and crew in the world, ready to make opera at its best.

FEAR My hu­man wish is that peo­ple will not es­ca­late any more ten­sions be­tween coun­tries. For me, be­ing Rus­sian, and English by ci­ti­zen­ship, I wish that both coun­tries will be­come more friendly again, and that all the ten­sions of re­cent years will be over­come. There’s no rea­son to hate each other. It’s more pro­duc­tive to work to­gether in peace.

Ma­han Es­fa­hani harp­si­chordist

HOPE My hope is for less trib­al­ism. By trib­al­ism, I mean the as­sump­tion that one will like or not like some­thing, or an as­sumed ten­dency to have an in­ter­est in some­thing. It’s all based on pre­con­ceived al­le­giances and ig­no­rance. It could be some­thing as sim­ple as peo­ple say­ing they’re dis­in­clined to like the harp­si­chord or not want­ing to hear a

cer­tain com­poser based on hear­ing their pre­vi­ous work. We need to take each com­poser, each piece of mu­sic and each in­stru­ment on their own terms oth­er­wise we’re go­ing to lose out, and art will suf­fer.

FEAR I had a harp­si­chord built with a car­bon-fi­bre sound­board in the hope that it would be an in­stru­ment of the fu­ture and have tun­ing sta­bil­ity. And I’ve started wor­ry­ing that the sound­board’s go­ing to crack and that my whole ex­per­i­ment will turn out to be a com­plete mess.

Sarah Wil­lis horn player, pre­sen­ter

HOPE As a horn player, my hope is quite sim­ple. I still have to hit the right notes ev­ery day. There are no short cuts. I have to prac­tise and pre­pare. Stay healthy and in­spired. That’s a never-end­ing jour­ney as a mu­si­cian. Pre­sent­ing is a per­sonal pas­sion. I’ve been lucky to present over 90 pro­grammes of Sarah’s Mu­sic from all over the world for the broad­caster Deutsche Welle, and I re­ally hope to do more of this in 2019. I have an in­ner need to com­mu­ni­cate my love of our mu­sic world. I think it’s some­thing mu­si­cians need to do: we have to get out there and do some­thing proac­tive. For me, it’s not enough just to play my in­stru­ment these days.

FEAR I worry about not hit­ting the right notes! Con­duc­tor Si­mon Rat­tle called us stunt­men be­cause we have to do things that could mean fall­ing to our pos­si­ble death. Split­ting a note in a horn solo is very sim­i­lar. My other fear is that clas­si­cal mu­sic is be­ing pushed a lit­tle bit to the side by news. Sarah’s Mu­sic has just been re­placed after four years. The chan­nel wants more cur­rent af­fairs and news, so we’re look­ing to re­home it some­where.

Héloïse Werner com­poser, so­prano

HOPE This year, I’d like to write more of my own mu­sic – for my­self, but also for oth­ers to per­form. I stud­ied com­po­si­tion at uni­ver­sity, but my singing and per­form­ing ca­reer has rather taken over since. I’d also like some­how to see my work be­ing made avail­able on a dig­i­tal plat­form so that it can reach peo­ple who don’t nec­es­sar­ily go to op­eras and con­certs. It’s so im­por­tant to make con­tem­po­rary mu­sic more ac­ces­si­ble on­line in gen­eral, in fact.

FEAR Though I’m not Bri­tish, I stud­ied in the UK and then, be­cause I liked it so

much, I moved to Lon­don and started my ca­reer there – that’s where all my mu­si­cal col­lab­o­ra­tors are. I have no idea how ex­actly Brexit will af­fect the fu­ture, but I sus­pect it will have a mas­sive im­pact on the mu­sic world. I do hope that there may be a way that I can re­main in the UK and con­tinue work­ing here, but while there’s no guar­an­tee, it’s quite un­set­tling.

Chi-chi Nwanoku dou­ble bass player

HOPE I would like mu­sic to be able to work harder for so­ci­ety and the com­mu­nity. Specif­i­cally, I want the gov­ern­ment to look prop­erly at the ben­e­fits of mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion and learn­ing an in­stru­ment and have them re­in­stated into the gen­eral cur­ricu­lum of our state schools. Of course, not ev­ery child that learns an in­stru­ment is go­ing to be­come a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian, but learn­ing an in­stru­ment and be­ing al­lowed to have cre­ative free­dom in gen­eral can make you bet­ter at what­ever you choose to go into.

FEAR Over eight years on the board of the Na­tional Youth Orches­tra, I started to see a pos­i­tive ad­just­ment in its ra­tio of state-ed­u­cated ver­sus pri­vately ed­u­cated play­ers – 93 per cent came from pri­vate schools when I started. My worry is that that im­prove­ment will stop or, worse still, re­v­erse, and the di­vide be­tween the two will widen again. The way to avoid that is, among other things, to get in­stru­men­tal teach­ing brought back into all schools.

Jeremy Filsell or­gan­ist, con­duc­tor

HOPE One of my great hopes would be that we could find a way of tak­ing the for­mula that makes the BBC Proms so suc­cess­ful and some­how spread­ing it else­where. By for­mula, I mean the way that the high­ways and by­ways of the reper­toire are ex­plored and then per­formed to such a high stan­dard. In the United States, for in­stance, there are a lot of or­ches­tras that are re­ally well sup­ported, but then I take a look at the pro­gram­ming, and a lot of it is so con­ser­va­tive.

FEAR I worry about the way the arts are in­creas­ingly seen as a lux­ury rather than a ne­ces­sity. We re­ally need to find more po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who have a strong cul­tural base. It’s won­der­ful to have the likes of France’s Em­manuel Macron, who had artis­tic as­pi­ra­tions as a child and un­der­stands them in oth­ers. But how long has it been since we had the likes of Sir Ed­ward ★eath in UK pol­i­tics or, in the US, a pres­i­dent like ★arry Truman, who was an ac­com­plished pi­anist?

Ni­cholas Daniel oboist

HOPE The most im­por­tant as­pect of my work is play­ing con­tem­po­rary mu­sic and help­ing to cre­ate new pieces. So I hope to con­tinue to play new mu­sic as well as I can to con­vince peo­ple that it’s worth hear­ing and worth play­ing.

FEAR The most im­por­tant thing is that we find a way to make the politi­cians un­der­stand that the ‘Ev­ery Child a Mu­si­cian’ scheme (ECAM, hap­pen­ing in the Lon­don Bor­ough of Ne­wham) is pos­si­ble to work across the whole coun­try. The scheme gives ev­ery sin­gle child in the pri­mary sec­tor four years of mu­si­cal in­stru­ment les­sons; they’re given the les­sons for free, they get ex­ams for the Lon­don Col­lege of Mu­sic for free and they get to keep the in­stru­ment. I think that the vast ma­jor­ity of the pub­lic are be­hind us on this, it’s just the politi­cians who need to un­der­stand that it is a vote win­ner and not a vote loser. It’s a fear and a hope…

‘We re­ally need to find more po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who have a strong cul­tural base’

Ch­eryl Frances-hoad com­poser

HOPE The ABRSM se­lected a lit­tle pi­ano piece of mine, Com­muter­land, to go in the syl­labus and I have a real hope that lots of peo­ple do­ing pi­ano ex­ams come across it, like it and start think­ing about con­tem­po­rary mu­sic.

FEAR We’re al­ready quite iso­lated as com­posers and I can count the per­for­mances I’ve had in Europe on two hands; I don’t know whether Brexit will make any dif­fer­ence. In the last 18 months I’ve been to Ger­many and Italy to have pieces done and it just seems that Europe is be­com­ing aware of my work, so I am wor­ried about that op­por­tu­nity be­ing shut off. I’m not say­ing that it will, but it’s ob­vi­ously a con­cern. It’s nowhere near as bad a prob­lem as it is for my per­form­ing friends who are go­ing to have real prac­ti­cal dif­fi­cul­ties be­cause of this.

Global play­ers: could the BBC Proms for­mula be ex­ported?

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