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Big interview: Barry Wordsworth, Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra
4:50am Sunday 26th January 2014 in News
THE ARGUS (TA): How do you decide on the programme for the season at the Brighton Dome?
BARRY WORDSWORTH (BW): The choice of programme for the orchestra’s forthcoming season is as always one of the most challenging and interesting responsibilities of the music director.
There are so many things to be taken into consideration.
First, I must agree with the board the number |of programmes we should try to present and the Dome has to be consulted to make sure of the availability of the hall and to try to avoid being too close to other orchestral activities and to liaise with the other orchestras to make sure there is no duplication of repertoire.
Once that is established we look back over the past seasons to see which of the standard |and popular repertoire is due to be heard again.
A repeat of any work within three years is probably best avoided.
All orchestras try to balance the desire to satisfy their audience by a delicate mixture of the familiar and the less well known.
The more programmes you are able to present the easier it is to provide a broad choice, so since money is in short supply that desire becomes ever more difficult to achieve.
Orchestras come in all shapes and sizes depending on the demands of the composer, so some works are more expensive than others and a careful eye has to be cast over my thoughts, to make sure I am spending our available funds in the wisest way possible.
I am very fortunate to have the advice of our concerts manager Ian Brignall and our librarian Charles Strickland, whose knowledge of the highways and byways of orchestral practice is invaluable.
When we have formulated our plan the board (and we are fortunate to have a very wise board indeed) look at the suggestions we have made and give us further considerations, which are discussed before the programme is finally ready to present to the sponsors.
If sufficient support is found we can then present the plans to the Friends and the public and we will go through the nail biting weeks as we see whether the general public find our plan attractive enough to take up subscriptions for the season.
(TA): You have chosen Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin as a highlight this year? What is it about this piece that excites you?
(BW): I do not believe we will ever have the funds or the necessary number of performances to try out very experimental work, nor do I think that the majority of our supporters look to us to do |that, but alongside the well known and much loved, we can venture into some less well known repertoire and I am very pleased that before the end of this season we have the chance to play Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin, with it’s masterly and brilliant display of the colours one can |hear in the orchestration by this French master of this craft.
We are also going to perform Appalachian Spring by Copland in its original form.
It was a ballet commissioned for Martha Graham and isa wonderfully optimistic, life affirming work that could only have come from this greatest of American composers.
(TA): Can the mood of an audience affect your performance and the orchestra’s performance?
(BW): The Brighton audience shows wonderful support for its orchestra, not only financially but by their reaction to our work.
The mood of an audience is something we feel very strongly on the platform, I feel it in my shoulders and down my spine.
It is a warm and deep longing that all will go well, and when it does the Brighton audience show their feelings without inhibition.
This is wonderful and rare and is at the heart of the orchestra’s spirit and our determination to survive.
I am equally engaged, whether it be a work I have conducted many times or a new piece in my personal repertoire.
The challenges and rewards are different, you will readily understand if I liken it to the difference between making a new friendship and the challenges of keeping an old friendship meaningful and ever more special.
During the next season we will celebrate the orchestra’s 90th anniversary.
(TA): Is the question of good and bad taste relevant in classical music?
(BW): The question of artistic taste and |judgement is always something that conductors need to question in their work and I am very happy to hear honest and considered opinions from members of the audience and the musicians who I work with.
(TA): Is a score a map to be followed or a creation to be brought to life?
(BW): The foundation of our work is the orchestral score.
Our system of notation is quite good, but is always open to interpretation and it is important to read the composer’s thoughts and to have a good feel for the historical background to the music in order to try to get “inside the music” and convey its true meaning and relevance.
The search is endless and the most important truth is that great music is a language and a means of communication between us, which can be spoken in any number of different accents.
I am often asked what a piece is about. I can tell you what I think, and I hope to give you good reason, but if you hear something different in a work, and it means a lot to you, then that is just as valuable and relevant.
I hope that we shall be able to continue our musical journey together, and that the orchestra will survive the current financial turmoil and be the positive force that Brighton deserves.
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