Welcome to Issue 26. I am delighted that Notes from the Podium has, once more, been given the opportunity to broaden its horizons. Alongside one conductor, speaking to us about an undiscovered gem of the Baroque era, we have included two in-depth interviews with a director and a concertmaster. I have found the experience very illuminating, and an invaluable exercise in placing the conductor’s work in its broader context.
Director Jonathan Kent CBE has been on my radar for many years. His productions at Glyndebourne Opera House are among their most well known – a particular favourite of mine being Britten’s Turn of the Screw (I was lucky enough to view a number of rehearsals for this production back in 2014). Jonathan’s experience as a director is vast – originally an actor, in 1990 he established and was joint Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre, a position he held for 12 years. He then moved into opera and musical theatre – most recently directing Aspects of Love at the Lyric Theatre – and has also just completed a film version of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. Our conversation covered his collaboration with various conductors and referred to a selection of operas by Britten, Purcell, Mozart and Puccini (among others).
Robyn Bollinger has been Concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra since 2022, and was previously Guest Concertmaster for the Indianapolis and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestras. She is also an established soloist, and I was thrilled to have the chance to speak with her last month. Taking a deep-dive into the concertmaster’s work with Robyn, as well as discussing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Swan Lake, demonstrated to me how important it is to continually view the orchestra through new eyes. For me, after so many years of focus on the conductor’s work, the experiences she shared on collaborating with conductors shed a new light on the role. I hope you also find her insights and vivaciousness a breath of fresh air.
Lastly, conductor and harpsichordist Václav Luks is the founder of Collegium 1704 and Collegium Chorale 1704. I became aware of his work after his appearance at Glyndebourne this summer, as the conductor of their new production of Handel’s Semele. Václav’s choice of subject was unexpected: the Czech Baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka. What unbelievable music! Very little information is available on the composer’s life, but Václav’s highly personal connection to the man and his music sets it alight for audiences in Prague, Europe and beyond. Concertgoers are continually shocked by the sensational quality and artistry of Zelenka’s music, and it is often paired with Bach (the composers knew each other). I sincerely hope we start to hear more music by this Bohemian genius in the years to come.
As ever, huge thanks to Jonathan, Robyn and Václav for their time. I hope you enjoy the issue.
Dr Hannah Baxter (Editor)