Easter at Snape Maltings with world famous conductor Marin Alsop
PUBLISHED: 15:57 20 March 2017 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 March 2017
One of the world's great conductors is spending Easter at Snape Maltings, seeking to engage audiences, young and old, with an eclectic programme embracing Stravinsky and Britten. Andrew Clarke spoke to Marin Alsop about the thrill of working in Britten's concert hall
Marin Alsop is one of the world’s greatest conductors. She is also one of the busiest, flying across the United States and around the world at the drop of a hat to perform in some of the most prestigious concert halls with some of the finest orchestras on the planet.
In this country, in 2013, she became the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms and overcame murmurings of discontent on social media and from fellow conductor Vasily Petrenko when he said that the conducting platform was no place for a woman because they were a “distraction”.
Marin shrugged off such out-of-date complaints, told the promenaders “You’re awesome!”, and two years later was invited back for a Last Night encore. Talking from her home in the United States, she admits she loves working in Britain and relishes the relaxed but professional approach adopted by British musicians. It’s clearly a two-way love affair because for many years she has been principal guest conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the City of London Sinfonia.
From 2002 to 2008 she was also principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and has made a number of recordings with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2014 at the BBC Proms she was awarded honorary membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society, one of the most prestigious honours within the classical world.
However, despite the globe-trotting, since September 2007, her main focus has been on work with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where she is musical director. It’s a job she adores because not only has she transformed the critical and commercial fortunes of what was an ailing orchestra but she has taken the opportunity to develop an outreach and mentoring programme which she brought the sights and sounds of the orchestra into the lives of young people across the city.
It’s something that she is clearly passionate about and during her short residency at Snape during April she will be conducting a family concert and be unveiling her take of Benjamin Britten’s classic Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.
“I think not only is it a fantastic piece of music but it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to be reminded of the complex wonder, that magnificent mix of sounds, that is contained within an orchestra. We work with it everyday and can become blasé. You play this in a concert to young people, to families, to people who, perhaps, have not been to a concert hall before and you hear it afresh. You hear it through them, you get to experience again that sense of wonder that you had when you first heard it.
“Introducing young people to the world of the orchestra is so important and is so magical. I remember when I first heard Britten’s Young Person’s Guide I was at a concert as a kid and it was on a programme with Peter and the Wolf and I think these are the seminal pieces that give kids access and exposure to a fantastic world. They create sound pictures in our minds and allow kids to absorb the music and use their imaginations.”
Marin will be performing three concerts at Snape during the coming month at the invitation of Snape’s chief executive, and her old friend from the BBC Proms, Roger Wright.
“I adore Roger and love working with him, but I also know about Snape and its connection with Benjamin Britten, and I have never been there, so when Roger suggested I come and work with the Britten-Pears Orchestra I jumped at the chance.
“I am working at the Southbank Centre with Colin Currie right before hand, so when Roger made contact it seemed a natural fit. I have heard a lot about Snape and the wonderful setting as well as the great concert hall, so I am very excited to be coming to Suffolk to experience this first hand.”
She said that she will be bringing the Southbank programme with percussionist Colin Currie to Snape on April 8, which will include Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No.2; Percussion Concerto (In memoriam Steve Martland) by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
This will be followed on Easter weekend by two concerts – both of which will feature a performance of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra but the Saturday evening event will include Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.
“What really excites me is to the piece in the birth-place of the music and with a young orchestra too. It feels like we have a really nice synergy working for us.”
The two concerts, on April 15-16, will also include Anna Clyne’s Masquerade and the European premiere of John Adams’ Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance which was a gift to mark the end of her residency with the Cabrillo Festival in California after 25 years. “My musicians asked John Adams to write a piece for me and it will be great to share this with audiences on this side of the world.”
Talking with Marin its clear that she has not only a love of music but also a passion for sharing it with new audiences and young audiences. “It’s a question of giving something back. I have a wonderful career. I get to work all over the world with wonderfully, talented people and I want to share my good fortune. I want to introduce more people to these fantastic pieces of music – I think that’s the most rewarding thing I do.”
She was born in New York to parents who were both professional musicians, so was there any chance of her not going into music. What if she wanted to be a lawyer or a scientist?
“Oh, there was no chance,” she laughs: “It was all pre-ordained. I went to Yale University as an undergraduate and I think my parents were the only two people on the planet who said: ‘Yale? Why on earth do you want to go there? Why don’t you go to a conservatory?’ But, that was my little bit of rebellion, such as it was, but even from a young age I loved music and I knew that my future lay in music and I don’t regret it at all. I love what I do and it will allow me to enjoy the wonders of Snape – so that’s great.”
Marin Alsop will be performing with the Britten-Pears Orchestra at the Snape Maltings Concert Hall on April 8, and again on April 15-16.
April 8: Southbank programme with percussionist Colin Currie to Snape, includes Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No.2; Percussion Concerto (In memoriam Steve Martland) by Mark-Anthony Turnage and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
April 15-16: two concerts both featuring Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Anna Clyne’s Masquerade and the European premiere of John Adams’ Lola Montez Does the Spider Dance. Saturday evening event includes Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.