Issue 11: Around the British Isles

Happy New Year and Decade to you all. All the interviews in this issue are on pieces written in or inspired by the British Isles (although not recently, mind!).

Fabien Gabel is Music Director of both the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec the Orchestre Français des Jeunes, and chose to discuss Debussy’s La mer, trois esquisses symphoniques pour orchestra. Born in Paris, Fabien is a specialist in French orchestral music, and grew up with numerous musicians that personally knew and worked with composers such as Debussy and Ravel. It’s well known that the composer corrected the proofs for this piece in Eastbourne’s Grand Hotel; he stayed in Suite 200, now known as the ‘Debussy Suite’. Fabien’s fantastic performance with the Detroit Symphony in 2015 can be seen here.

Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Scottish’ is the focus of the second interview. Gemma New, Music Director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, has an intimate knowledge of Mendelssohn’s music, having spent a month in Germany on a Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy scholarship. She also studied with both Kurt Masur and Herbert Blomstedt, and generously passes on some of the wisdom she acquired from both the scholarship and the great maestros. The composer’s visit to Fingal’s Cave and Holyrood Palace in Scotland in 1829 (aged 20) inspired both The Hebrides Overture and ‘Scottish’ Symphony respectively. Gemma is incredibly engaging and her interview is sure to shed a new light on one of Mendelssohn’s most acclaimed works.

John Andrews, Principal Guest Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, Conductor-in-Association with the English Symphony Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the International Composers’ Festival, appeared in the last issue (talking about Wolf-Ferrari’s Il Segreto di Susanna – click here for the interview). He kindly returned to discuss Sullivan’s Haddon Hall, a work he recently recorded with the BBC Singers and BBC Concert Orchestra. It was broadcast on 19th December 2019 and can be heard until 17th January (click here to listen). Set in the stunning and intriguing stately home in Derbyshire, there couldn’t be a more English work to complete the trio.

Happy Reading!

Dr. Hannah Baxter