Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Interview with Percussonist Colin Currie

At the moment the Orchestra, David Danzmayr and Colin Currie are in the Henry Wood Hall rehearsing Jennifer Higson's Percussion Concerto, which we'll be performing on Sunday night at the Pickaquoy Centre. We caught up with Colin beforehand to find out his thoughts on the Festival.

Everyone at the RSNO is really looking forward to their first time at the St Magnus Festival on Orkney! You are not a Festival novice, though, are you?
No, I debuted at the Festival in 2002, when I enjoyed similar performance opportunities to this occasion, playing both a concerto and a recital. So this trip marks my second visit to St Magnus.

Can you describe the atmosphere of the Festival? Do you have any tips for our players when they are on Orkney?
The Festival has a wonderful atmosphere! A hearty combination of relishing good music, the surroundings and having a right good knees-up at the end of the night! Any tips? Make time for some sight-seeing...

What, in your opinion, is the best thing about touring?
I enjoy the variety of a constantly changing work-environment. During the season, I see at least one city/place a week on average and it is constantly challenging and inspiring. Overall, I would also say that the best part of this business is the great people one gets to work and meet with.

Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto has been described as a "colourful, propulsive and unabashedly accessible concerto". Is this a good description of the piece? Where and when have you played it before?
I have played this work nearly 40 times since its premiere in November 2005 with The Philadelphia Orchestra, so a large number of places, including most recently its Asian premiere with The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. It is an absolute gift of a piece for my repertoire, is highly engaging and enjoyable and enormously thrilling in a live performance. This will be only the second European performance, so it is an especially big event for me and the composer.

There’s a lot of percussion being taken up to Orkney by the Orchestra, particularly for the Concerto! Which percussion instruments does the solo part require?
The focus is on the marimba, and I also play vibraphone and crotales. On the un-tuned end of things I have two set-ups, one containing small bright sounds and another with powerful drums and cymbals, all of which get a good seeing to in the cadenza.

We know that you have an incredibly busy international schedule. Where will you be before the Festival, and where are you headed afterwards?
I just gave two days classes at The Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, as I am Visiting Professor there. It is a very interesting school, and they have a robust approach to new music which I enjoy being part of.

Following the St Magnus Festival I continue with performances of the Higdon, this time in Bogota Columbia, before concentrating on preparing for three concerts at this year's BBC Proms.

Are you intending to see any other events while you're on the islands? Has anything in particular caught your eye?
I hope to see Max's "The Lighthouse".

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