Issue 23: The Overlooked

Welcome, and Happy New Year. There is something for everyone in this issue: it includes conversations with three phenomenal individuals on three very different areas of repertoire, all frequently overlooked in mainstream music education.

It was incredible to finally secure time with Sir Roger Norrington. A veteran of historically informed practice (HIP), Sir Roger was knighted in 1997 and retired in November 2021. I was very intrigued by his suggestion to discuss the Schumann symphonies – he came to the pieces fairly late in his career, but has been a dedicated advocate ever since. Norrington has recorded Schumann’s symphonies twice, first with the London Classical players and then with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. These works are frequently dismissed and are often re-orchestrated (by Mahler as well as conductors themselves) but read why Sir Roger disagrees with these alterations, and how addressing these works via the ‘Six Ss’ allows us to view the symphonies in a new light, and hear them as Schumann intended.

Next is the Alaskan conductor and force of nature Cayenna Ponchione-Bailey, who spoke to me back in October about her very unique and fascinating work with Afghan composers and musicians. Cayenna has her fingers in many pies: she is the Associate Conductor of the Orchestra of St John’s; Director of Performance at St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford; Director of Research for the Oxford Conducting Institute; and has been awarded a three-year Leverhulme postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Sheffield (to write a book about orchestras in Afghanistan). It is our hope that this interview will play a small part in raising awareness of the rich repertoire of music available from this area of the world, and conductors will use the resources Cayenna has made available to expand the repertoire of European orchestras. No mean feat!  

It is always such a great pleasure to speak with Simon Beck. Vastly experienced in conducting Musical Theatre and extremely generous with his time, Simon returns to Notes after his West Side Story interview published back in July 2022. This time we discussed Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel – Richard Rodgers’ favourite of his collaborations with Hammerstein. Simon’s experience is with the 1945 stage version, performed with the students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (in which there are numerous differences to the 1956 film score). Read how the operatic nature of the musical altered Simon’s work with the cast and orchestra, and why Sondheim called one particular scene ‘probably the single most important moment in the revolution of contemporary musicals’.

What a mix! As ever, massive thanks to Roger, Cayenna and Simon for their time and insights.

Dr. Hannah Baxter (Editor)