Inside Southbank Sinfonia

An orchestra like no other, based in the heart of London


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All the town’s a stage

The typical classical concert format is well known. It’s the result of hundreds of years of evolution, but essentially boils down to this: you arrive at a concert hall, you sit down, and you listen. For the next couple of hours, that’s the point from which you’ll experience the music, see the musicians and form your opinions. One view, one space, one acoustic.

But why not try something different? What happens if instead of a concert hall being your venue, you use an entire town as the stage?

As part of the Anghiari Festival in July, we presented a ‘Progressivo’ concert which weaved its way around the ancient streets and squares of a Tuscan hill-town. At every turn came a new chamber group and a new piece of music to experience, each setting offering a unique combination of sound, backdrop and character. There was Mozart snuggled beneath the rugged bricks of the bell tower, some Debussy where a turn of the head unveiled a vista of shimmering buildings in the valley below, and the charm of Strauss’ Til Eulenspiegel performed in front of a row of shops flanked by onlookers peering down from the terraces above. During the evening we traversed six venues, with the audience ambling from one to the next after each piece.

Anghiari Festival | Southbank Sinfonia

Crowds look on as an ensemble performs R Strauss’ Til Eulenspiegel in front of the local shops

Of course, in a concert like this you’ll never hear every detail of the music as you would in the Wigmore Hall. Church bells clang out on the hour, pans clatter from the kitchens of surrounding houses, and every so often the high-pitched drone of a Vespa climbing the neighbouring hills drifts its way into the performance. Each space also offers its own acoustic charm, with walls jutting out at unusual angles and sound drifting up into the ether above. The musicians have to adjust their playing to suit the space, and sometimes tweak the dynamics or tempos of a piece of music to make it as audible as possible for the crowd. The music is adapting to suit the spaces.

But to focus on acoustic imperfection misses the point. The joy of the Progressivo is that you experience sounds in entirely unexpected settings, as buildings, views and even the smell of the air influence your involvement in the music. The whole character of Anghiari infuses the performance, each stop adding unanticipated extra emotion and associations to the notes being played.

Anghiari Festival | Southbank Sinfonia

A string quartet plays Debussy in Piazzetta Poggiolino. Just to the left is a view over the Tiber Valley.

It works the other way, too. Walking through the town the following day, you’re aware the squares have taken on a new meaning. Where previously it was simply a picturesque space in a town, it now resonates with the memories and emotions of the performance you saw there. The remnants of the music hang in the air, as do the reactions of the dozens of people who shared the experience with you. Music has shaped space, and transformed your relationship with it.

Four months on, it’s still got me thinking. London offers its own additional challenges to open-air performances – sirens wail, aeroplanes roar overhead, trains rumble by – but where could we host a metropolitan equivalent? Perhaps a wander along the Southbank; perched atop the roof garden of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, under the concrete eaves of the National Theatre, finishing in the courtyard behind the Oxo Tower. Or maybe in the sedate squares of Bloomsbury, with backdrops of Georgian terraces, the British Museum, and the towering Senate House to set the mood.

Which spots spring to mind for you? Where could you imagine a chamber group appearing, and what might they play? There’s a whole world out there just waiting for music. Let’s go exploring.

Matt Belcher
Marketing Manager

Every July, Southbank Sinfonia makes its home at the Anghiari Festival in Tuscany. The festival is renowned for its friendly informality, spectacular setting away from the tourist trail and the chance to enjoy a great range of classical music up close every day. Find out more about the Anghiari Festival here.


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Musical Choreography

David Merseguer Royo | Southbank Sinfonia

David Merseguer Royo
Percussion

80 minutes of near-continuous playing; thousands of notes across 13 instruments… Our percussionist David Merseguer Royo had his hands full during our critically acclaimed production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse at the Royal Opera House. How do you prepare for a production like that? We spoke to the man himself.

In a nutshell, what was The Lighthouse like for you?

The Lighthouse is one of the hardest parts I’ve ever played, but in a way it’s a percussionist’s dream. It’s scary at the beginning, but once you’ve come to terms that you’re actually going to have to perform it, the whole thing becomes a challenge – and a very good one, because you don’t get many chances to play an opera like this.

How do you learn and rehearse your part?

I started to rehearse everything separately, focusing at first on the hardest elements – the marimba part and the timpani. You plan your set-up based on the changes of instrument in the score, so I started by thinking ‘marimba, then there’s one bar to move to glockenspiel so let’s put those together. And there’s two bars to move from marimba to timpani, so they should be nearby too’. It spans out from there.

Southbank Sinfonia at the Royal Opera House | The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse on-stage at the Royal Opera House

Then I tried to memorise all the choreography, things like ‘leave the marimba sticks and go to the timpani; put the timpani sticks to one side because next time you’ll be here you’ll need other mallets’. The choreography is such an important part so you can focus on the music, otherwise you’ll suddenly find you’re not playing in the right place. For a percussionist, the choreography is almost as important as playing the right notes.

The first time I played with the full set-up was in the first orchestral rehearsal; that was the first opportunity to put it all together. It’s never going to be the first set up that sees you through to the show, it evolves through four or five changes as you find bits that need tweaking!

The score to The Lighthouse picks out lots of solo lines from amongst the orchestra. How did you see the percussionist’s role within the music?

Peter Maxwell Davies’ wrote very well. He blended the tone of my instruments with other sections and instruments, for example pairing my playing of timpani, tom toms and bass drum – the low stuff – with the cello, bass, viola or bass clarinet. The marimba often accompanied solo parts elsewhere, then with the glockenspiel and crotales it was usually with the flute or clarinet in the higher registers. The percussion parts were woven into the ensemble.

Southbank Sinfonia at the Royal Opera House | The Lighthouse

David playing the bones in the pit

Were there any new instruments for you?

I’d never played the bones before this show. After the first rehearsal I kept the bones and went to my house and spent all night watching tutorials on YouTube. I was up all night practicing in the dining room – and I was kicked out twice by my girlfriend who told me to go upstairs and practice there! But now it’s one more instrument that I can play, which is good.

Finally, what’s the best thing about being a percussionist?

Here at Southbank Sinfonia, it has been the involvement and relationship with the rest of the orchestra. Every time my part provides an opportunity to lead the orchestra in terms of rhythms or crescendos, I feel like the concertmaster is really involved, looking and moving with me. Likewise, when I have something with the basses I feel like there is a lot of eye contact. When you get to the point where you sense the orchestra is feeling the same as you in that moment, it is a great feeling.

And then you get the chance to play a lot of loud things too!

Find out more about David Merseguer Royo here.

Southbank Sinfonia works in partnership with the Royal Opera House throughout the year, performing side-by-side with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and – as in The Lighthouse – providing the orchestra for productions with the Jette Parker Young Artists. Find out more about the partnership here.


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Playing in a Small, Dark Box

Anaïs PontyAnaïs Ponty | Southbank Sinfonia
Violin

Having spent the last three weeks in the pit of London’s Peacock Theatre with British Youth Opera, what’s it like to perform an opera run? 

The first time I had the score to The Cunning Little Vixen in my hands it was overwhelming – there were so many different motifs that switched so rapidly between each other. At the beginning I was focusing on every flat, every change of key and all the rhythms that jump around, but the joy of playing in an opera is that you have the time to go deeper in the music.

There’s an awful lot of music – the Janáček alone was 84 pages – but it’s good to have the occasion to play it multiple times, each time getting more familiar and more relaxed with it. Finally, when you’ve performed it several times you find yourself anticipating the music and sometimes realise you’re not actually reading the notes any more, instead just feeling the moment and being driven by that evening’s unique atmosphere.

British Youth Opera | Southbank Sinfonia

Looking into the zoo enclosure: Anaïs (right) in the pit, warming up before a performance.

Small space, big sound
The relationship you have with the music, and the sound you create as an orchestra, changes a lot over the course of rehearsals and performances. We rehearsed first at St John’s Waterloo, playing the music as though it’s a symphony or a concerto. But as soon as you arrive in the pit – a small, shallow box, half covered by a low roof – you realise you’re no longer the shiny instrumentalist who wants to play out because, first of all, you’re going to make your colleagues deaf! Secondly, you need to be able to hear what’s happening up on the stage.

The pit is a very intimate space, with musicians packed in. You can hear a lot of what’s immediately around you, but at the same time you can’t hear yourself when the winds or brass are playing forte. At other times, like in the Holst where there were two string quartets opposite each other, I couldn’t hear what was happening from the other side of the pit. You listen for as much as you can, but also find yourself looking at the movement of other string players and imagining their sound to keep the performance together.

Cat-like Reactions
Speed is everything in the pit: you need to be much quicker at responding and reacting to the performance. When it’s a conventional orchestra performing a symphony and the conductor is trying to shape the performance, it feels like you have more time to react. We’re talking fractions of a second difference, but if you don’t react instantly when something happens in opera, you have already lost the singers. In a symphony, you have slightly longer as a group of performers to interpret and react to the conductor.

British Youth Opera | Southbank Sinfonia

The end of another performance of ‘Vixen’ and the orchestra stand to take their bow in the dark pit.

Shadow Puppets
The pit is a bit like an enclosure at the zoo. Before each performance, the audience would come and peer in as we were warming up. After this, the orchestra doesn’t really see the audience again so it feels very different to a normal concert. You hear clapping and laughter during the performance, and we react to that as it helps to support what we are doing, but as we’re out of the spotlight the atmosphere can be a little more relaxed, with more jokes within the orchestra. The chicken scene in Vixen? Well, we might have been doing a little acting there too.

One of the great things about leading the strings is that you’re right at the front of the pit so you can occasionally glimpse some faces on stage, otherwise you can’t put a face to a voice. The only other way we could see what was happening above us was through the shadows cast against the pit wall when the cast took their bows. We couldn’t see the staging, so we just had to use these shadow outlines of animals in the Janáček as fuel for our imaginations.

I really enjoyed performing these operas, particularly the Janáček as it’s such good music to play. I could have happily kept going into the pit each night. It’s a very different style of life, but I’m going to miss it!

Essential tips to survive the pit

  • Take some light. The pit is a gloomy place – you basically don’t see the light for two weeks, you live in there in the dark! Maybe some Vitamin D is a good idea too.
  • Make sure you get along with your neighbours – you’ll be spending a lot of time with your seating partner.
  • As a violinist you are playing all the time, so it’s important to get good food before a performance. An opera is a long time to be playing continuously for, so there’s a lot of chocolate and coffee involved.

Find out more about Anaïs Ponty here.

Southbank Sinfonia’s works in partnership with British Youth Opera annually, bringing to the West End fully-staged productions featuring the finest young singers and musicians. The 2015 productions were Janáček Cunning Little Vixen, Vaughan Williams Riders to the Sea and Holst Savitri. Find out more about the partnership here.


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Bass on a Plane: Getting to the Anghiari Festival

Gatwick airport, 9.00am. Hundreds of people, luggage obediently dragging behind them, make their way through the North Terminal building. Some are there on business, others are holidaymakers. Check-in staff scan passports, porters move items from A to B, and an army of baristas serve sleep-starved customers with espressos.

And yet they all stare at the same thing. Towering above everything else, unmissable amidst the frenetic activity of Britain’s second busiest airport, is a white fibreglass monolith. A smidge over two metres tall, peppered with battle scars and remnants of stickers from years of adventures, it glides slowly across the concourse. From every group of onlookers you hear the same conversation begin: “Cor, that’s a big one isn’t it?”. And yet, this is only one relatively small cog in a machine – albeit a very visible one.

Bass on a Plane | Southbank Sinfonia

For scale, this is Orchestra Assistant Ali hauling stormtrooper look-alike Bertha around the airport.

An orchestra is a big and complex machine that requires lots of parts to keep it going. For Southbank Sinfonia, a typical concert in London will normally include 33+ musicians, a conductor, perhaps a soloist, pads full of music for each player, music stands, chairs of different types to suit instruments and playing styles, and – at the very least – a set of timpani. The players, instruments in hand, rely on the tube or buses to get to a concert, met there by a van full of percussion, bulky items, and the essentials needed for a public performance.

Imagine, then, the scale of transporting the entire orchestra to Italy for a week featuring 16 concerts, 15 venues, 49 pieces, 2 conductors and 10 guest artists. After months of planning and hundreds of phone calls and emails, nearly every eventuality has been thought through.

But despite this, it’s surprising how tense you are when you utter the following words: “Hello there, I’d like to check in to my flight. And this is my double bass.”

This is the story of just one instrument travelling to Anghiari, and its ginormous flight case we’ve affectionately named Bertha. It begins in the Southbank Sinfonia office, buried in the crypt of St John’s Waterloo, where a bass, cocooned in its fabric case, gets placed gently into its new fibreglass and foam home. The first hurdle is getting the beast upstairs to ground level, its 40+ kilos requiring three pairs of hands to inelegantly push and pull it up the stairs.

Next: getting it to the airport. With most of the orchestra having left the day before, the bass was a delayed straggler. Without a van, the only other option was a taxi – and a big one – though it turns out London cabbies are slightly more optimistic than us when it comes to believing what will fit into the back of their car. In something more akin to a game of high-stakes Tetris, with different combinations of seats flipped down and angles of instruments trialled, we watched and heaved with trepidation as the bass was squeezed in. The first car was too small, but the second? Would the boot close? Would we make it to the airport on time? Would we make it to the airport at all?

Bass on a Plane | Southbank Sinfonia

Bass Tetris round one – and we lose. Bigger cab needed. Cue phone calls.

We got it in. Just. And that’s where we found ourselves at Gatwick, receiving celebrity-worthy staring as we approached the check-in desk.

A flash of panic crossed the check-in assistant’s face as this obviously wasn’t a regular occurrence, but upon typing in our booking number and seeing the instrument was expected, followed by multiple phone calls to baggage handlers, special codes typed into the computer system, and stickers full of airport hieroglyphics pasted on, all was well. BA were happy for the bass to fly.

It obviously wasn’t going to fit on the conveyor belt that whisks bags from check-in to aeroplane hold though, and neither would you want a fragile instrument taking the same labyrinth adventure that our suitcases endure. Bertha was so big that she wouldn’t even fit through oversized luggage, so to get her onto the plane we were taken through the bowels of the airport to a special security screening area.

Bass on a Plane | Southbank Sinfonia

The bass just squeezes into the biggest car the taxi firm had – phew!

The giant X-ray machine here couldn’t even handle the bass’s bulk, so – after finding floor space big enough – Bertha was ordered to strip (no photos allowed, so you’ll have to use your imagination). Clunk, clunk, clunk went the latches all around as the intrigued security officers peered over with expectation to see what lay within. Apparently they only get something this big a handful of times a year. The staff were genuinely interested in seeing the instrument, asking questions about its role in an orchestra and its history. Flight case opened, swabs were taken and a machine buzzed and beeped in the corner as it searched for traces of anything suspicious. Cleared and security sealed, with multiple signatures confirming what it was and where it was going, a porter arrived to steer the bass straight to the plane.

The lift doors closed as it went airside and, aside from a glimpse through the departure lounge window as it was towed to the plane, that’s the last we would see of her until arrival in Italy.

Fastforward six hours, a long delay and an unexpected change of plane later, and we stood expectantly at Pisa airport watching the baggage carousel whirl round. Suitcase. Suitcase. Suitcase. Suitcase. Then a glimpse of white through the hatch, squeezing through with millimeters to spare, followed by a running commentary as Bertha passed clumsily in front of her audience, at one point inevitably getting stuck on a sharp bend and almost causing a pile-up of bags behind.

Bass on a Plane | Southbank Sinfonia

A glimpse of Bertha trundling across the airport to our plane.

“Who would take something like that on a plane?” asked one onlooker, and after lugging the bass into yet another taxi, then up and down Anghiari’s steep hills upon arrival at the festival, it didn’t seem like a daft question at all.

But when we heard the first notes of the orchestra performing under the stars in Piazza del Popolo on Saturday night, that question answered itself. Yes, it’s a logistical nightmare transporting an orchestra around the world – yet there’s no doubt that it’s worth the reward.

This blog was written during the Anghiari Festival in Tuscany, an annual week-long residency that sees music abound from every piazza, church and cloister of an ancient Italian hill-town. Visit our Facebook page to see more photos from the tour.


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In the Pit

William Neri | Southbank SinfoniaWilliam Neri
Viola

Before I began my time with Southbank Sinfonia in January, I had never stepped foot in the United Kingdom; I thought the Tube was where viral videos lived and that pudding was a chocolate mush that we fed to our grandparents. The exciting and busy agenda Southbank Sinfonia offers to its players has given me a crash course of all of the names, places, and people that are the lifeblood of classical music in London. If there’s one thing that my time with Southbank Sinfonia hasn’t been lacking, it’s unique performance opportunities.

In May we participated in some of our most exciting projects through our partnership with the Royal Opera House. This year’s partnership has included chamber music performances in the Crush Room, mock auditions, a concert under the baton of Sir Antonio Pappano, and a side-by-side performance with members of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House.

Our performances alongside Royal Opera players offered a lot of firsts for many in our group. For me, it was the first time I had ever performed for a ballet. Ballet offers unique challenges for us players in the pit, and we have to keep in mind that pit players are acting as accompanists to the featured act on stage. Barry Wordsworth, the Music Director of the Royal Ballet, insisted on a strict adherence to rhythm as the dancers would be completely on their own if the orchestra had a free sense of pulse. The level of respect for the dancers above us skyrocketed when we got a chance to observe their rehearsal with piano. The amount of physical conditioning and finesse that is required for these incredible contortionists is immense; we definitely have the easy part: just count and play.

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and Southbank Sinfonia rehearsing side-by-side

Paul Wynne Griffiths conducts during an orchestral rehearsal of operatic repertoire.

Paul Wynne Griffiths, a conductor with the Royal Opera House, was directing our opera selections and insisted on similar accompaniment practices as Barry, only this time with a greater emphasis on dynamic range. The singer above us is just one person who can only sing so loud, and certainly not at the level that can overpower 50 string and wind players. The veteran ROH players sitting around us automatically knew which fortes were proper fortes and which we were meant to play under a different voice to support, rather than overpower, the singer.

The opera and ballet music we performed ranged up and down the spectrum of intensity, giving us a chance to sample the different techniques applied in pit repertoire. Although we are out of the spotlight – literally – in the pit, we must still blend and match with the characters on stage. The music in ballet and opera is meant to compliment the story that the stage is delivering to the audience. This means players in the pit have to know what is happening above them in order to deliver the appropriate accompaniment.

There are so many miniscule aspects to playing in a pit that one can only learn through experience. That’s why the most exciting part of our side-by-side project was when we were actually side-by-side with the members of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera. When I normally perform on stage with an orchestra it’s typically around 90 minutes of contrasting music, whereas these opera performers seldom have a performance that lasts less than two hours. Of the same composer! Composers like Wagner and Verdi can be quite unforgiving to the violist, assigning us with the task of hammering out endless amounts of tremolo! If it’s not tremolo then it is something else that requires our bow to be on the string constantly (like harmonically ambiguous arpeggios or noodly passages).

Royal Opera House and Southbank Sinfonia side-by-side

Bill playing alongside the Royal Opera’s Rebecca Brown.

With a heavy and cumbersome instrument like the viola, we become increasingly aware of every second our instrument is up in playing position. Playing in these conditions forces the player to adapt to a more comfortable style of playing, and to hone the most efficient energy to sound ratio possible. Tremolo at the lower part of the bow, where the bow is heaviest and the arm can provide the most natural weight, was a common sight in loud passages. My common reaction to seeing a page of tremolo marked fortissimo would be to spend all of my bow and flail around in my chair in order to produce as big a sound as possible (because that’s how you produce a big sound, right?). After about three measures I would be totally spent and have no energy left in the tank for the rest of the opera. Asking myself “is this necessary to produce an appropriate sound?” after every technical choice I make has helped me conserve my energy. Less really is more!

It was such a rewarding experience to sit next to someone who excels at all of the skills required for this delicate art. Having the opportunity to observe and question someone who, every day, creates music the way I’ve always dreamed of has given me a clearer understanding of the demands for this profession.

Find out more about William Neri here.

Southbank Sinfonia’s partnership with the Royal Opera House continues in October as our players perform in the pit alongside the Jette Parker Young Artists in Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse. Find out more here.


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It’s not just noise

Patrick Tapio Johnson | Southbank SinfoniaPatrick Tapio Johnson
Cello

Ever since I was an undergraduate student, I’ve had a passion for contemporary music. Largely, this was fuelled by many of the composers that I knew personally, who were grateful to me for taking what they did seriously; it is amazing how many performers will look at a piece of new music, then make the following announcement:

“It’s just noise! I can play any old [insert profane noun here] and nobody will care!”

But I was one of the ones who was actually willing to go to the trouble of learning the notes – and needless to say, this resulted in quite a few new works being written for me.

Accordingly, when I learned of the extent of my involvement in the Southbank Centre’s Changing Britain festival, I was definitely excited. Two entire programmes of 20th and 21st century music!

However, it was not long before I discovered how much WORK this was going to involve… At the time of writing, I am praying that my neighbours are well-disposed to the strains of Peter Maxwell-Davies’ Fantasia and Two Pavans (in which the cello part resembles a violin concerto, but sadly still needs to be played by a cellist) and Phil Cashian’s Caprichos, a nefarious work of unnecessarily migraine-inducing complexity. I hope they’re okay with some colourful language as well!

Mark Anthony Turnage | Southbank Sinfonia

Mark-Anthony Turnage, conductor Jonathan Berman and the ensemble discuss ‘Twice Through the Heart’ during rehearsal at Southbank Centre

As for the other two works, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Twice Through the Heart and Joanna Lee’s Every Inch of Many Effigies, I’ve had to learn those during my daily commutes to Southbank Sinfonia HQ at St John’s Waterloo, armed with a metronome and some rhythmic sniffing. It’s taken a bit of courage to omit these two works from physical practice – not least as we had the privilege of Turnage coaching a couple of rehearsals on Twice… – but as the mental demands were much greater than the technical ones, it felt like a sensible sacrifice. Also, I’m still in the process of trying to convince myself that the Cashian will be ready by Saturday, and my faith in my abilities is likely to improve with a bit more note-bashing.

And then there are the blisters! It’s amazing how much some of these guys seem to like plucked pizzicato sounds, of all different varieties. At the moment, I’ve run out of blister-free plucking fingers, and have the better part of a week’s worth of rehearsals ahead of me. Time to learn how to play with a handful of plasters?

But at the end of the day, I do this because I enjoy it, and because I feel a sense of duty to give modern composers a chance to have their music represented with the same dedication I would bring to Beethoven or Brahms…

…Because despite what some may think, it ISN’T just noise, and people DO care.

Find out more about Patrick Tapio Johnson here.

Find out more about Southbank Sinfonia’s free salons in Southbank Centre’s Changing Britain festival here.


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What it means to me: Dvořák’s ‘New World’

Duncan Anderson
Duncan Anderson | Southbank SinfoniaViola

I was lucky as a child to grow up in quite a musical family – my parents actually met playing in an amateur orchestra. My mother played second oboe in that orchestra, and throughout my early years I remember her raving about one particular piece. That was Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, because, being second oboe, whenever it was programmed she played the cor anglais part in the second movement: that beautiful, world famous melody and perhaps the greatest cor anglais solo ever written.

To be honest, at first I didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. Then, when I was about 10 years old, I heard the piece in full in a concert for the first time. I was completely bowled over – it was amazing! The second movement was fine; it is a nice melody, though to a 10 year old the rest of the movement seemed a bit long and tedious. But the other movements, the opening and the finale in particular, captivated me. They were so exciting – the melodies, the way the harmony changed, and the energy inside it all. From that moment onwards, it became one of my favourite pieces.

Throughout my teenage years, I listened to the piece a lot. Gradually, as I learnt more about music, I began to appreciate its subtleties, as well as the background to it. Although the symphony was written whilst Dvořák was in America, and certainly contains many American influences, it is still very Czech in character, and I found this successful combination of styles fascinating. I also learned to appreciate the second movement more, and realised that it wasn’t just ‘the tune from the Hovis advert’, but that it went much deeper, as an outpouring of Dvorák’s homesickness whilst in the States. The more I learnt about the piece, the more it grew on me.

Eventually, aged 18, I arrived in London to continue my studies. Part way through my first year as an undergraduate, whilst in a practice room slaving away over a Kreutzer study, my phone rang. It was somebody from a local amateur orchestra looking for extra violas for their forthcoming performance of Dvořák’s Ninth. “Was I available and would I come and play for £50?” I was over the moon: this was the first time I had ever been offered money to play in an orchestra, and I was being asked to play my favourite piece! I thought I’d finally made it. Without hesitation I said yes, went along, and had one of the best days of my life to that point. The quality of the orchestra didn’t matter, it was the music that made it worth my while.

Since then, I’ve realised that I hadn’t quite ‘made it’ that day; there was still quite a lot of work to do. I’ve played the ‘New World’ symphony a few times since and it remains one of my favourite pieces to play and listen to. I am very excited about performing it with Southbank Sinfonia and maestro Ashkenazy. Each time I play it, I find something new in the music and I’m certain this time will be no different.

Find out more about Duncan Anderson here.

Find out more about Southbank Sinfonia’s upcoming performance of Dvořák’s Symphony No.9 with Vladimir Ashkenazy here.