Last week, the London Sinfonietta hosted their very first live Facebook Chat with conductor Nicholas Collon, who answered a range of questions on George Benjamin, conducting, and audiences.
Nicholas Collon joins the ensemble on Saturday 12 May, 7.30pm at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, for a programme of George Benjamin and Ligeti, as part of Jubilation: the music of George Benjamin.
Here’s a selection of his answers from the chat…
Q: Fantastic to see Nick working with the London Sinfonietta again! I’d be interested to know whether the preparations he makes for conducting contemporary music are different to those for ‘standard ‘ repertoire?
A: I broadly treat my preparation of all scores and all music the same. Be it Beethoven or a totally new piece, I try to imagine I’m looking at it for the first time, even if it’s a piece everyone knows. Of course, some contemporary music takes a lot of working out; a piece like George Benjamin’s Antara is very complicated, and there are some things that the score can’t even tell you, such as what sounds the keyboards will produce. Equally, I’ve just spent all morning learning Ligeti’s Melodien, which starts off as unintelligble (it’s all in handwriting), and slowly becomes lucid.
Q: What made you decide to become a conductor and how did you get into the work?
A: I have no idea what made me want to be a conductor. I think I have done since I was very little. I remember playing the violin in a youth orchestra aged 10, and I kept on turning round to look at the horns. I’ve just fulfilled my desire to be facing the other way – it’s much more fun!
Q: What excites you about contemporary music?
A: I love the imagination that you have to bring to a score to take it off the page, and the sense of daring and adventure in performance. There’s something thrilling about creating new sounds together with an ensemble, and I find the detail that is necessary in preparing a contemporary score and then realising that, rewarding.
Q: I’m new to the music of George Benjamin and coming to the London Sinfonietta concert in May. Do you have a favourite Benjamin work you’d recommend I listen to before the concert?
A: Hope you enjoy the concert! I’m a viola player, so I’m going to say Viola, Viola. It’s really wonderful. All his music is so imaginative. He said to me the other day that a composer’s job is to write the most beautiful music imaginable.
Q: And finally, what other plans have you got coming up?
A: I’m going to Munich next week for a nice but unusual programme with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, then back for the London Sinfonietta concert, and then I’m working with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for some Strauss and the UK premiere of Philip Glass’ Sixth Symphony. So a busy few weeks. And a lot of time spent learning Ligeti and Benjamin! See you on the 12th May!
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