The relationship between the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Birmingham Conservatoire is arguably closer any other between a music college and an orchestra in the UK. The two organisations are so linked together that the collaborations, the mentoring of staff to students and the shared pride in celebrating Birmingham and the beyond attracts attention from around the world.
On Saturday, 4 June at 7:30pm, the CBSO will be making their final appearance on the Adrian Boult Hall stage as part of Birmingham Conservatoire’s City of Sounds Festival, celebrating 25 years of working together. They will be led by CBSO Associate Conductor and Conservatoire alumnus, Michael Seal, who will share the podium with Conservatoire Principal, Julian Lloyd Webber. Julian will lead Eduardo Vassallo, CBSO principal cellist and Cello Tutor at Birmingham Conservatoire in Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C, and Michael will conduct Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture and Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ symphony.
The ABH was once the home of CBSO. Gone are the days when a bright-eyed undergraduate might end up in the queue behind Simon Rattle buying a cup of tea. But students still get to see a large number of CBSO musicians wandering the corridors of the Conservatoire, teaching, leading sectionals, attending meetings, or perhaps themselves grabbing a cup of tea and bite to eat in the cafe. CBSO musicians are so entrenched in the daily life of the Conservatoire it is hard to distinguish where one organisation ends and the other begins. And with CBSO Centre and Symphony Hall only a few minutes down the road the opportunities for students to observe rehearsals and meet other musicians is a great way to learn and develop.
I caught up with Julian Lloyd Webber to talk about his debut with the CBSO as a conductor and asked him about his memories of the Haydn concerto…
Am I right in saying this is you first performance with them as conductor?
Yes it is!
But you have performed with them before as a soloist?
Yes – I go back a long way with the CBSO – I remember playing Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations with the orchestra in 1973 in Kidderminster! One special memory is giving the first public performance of Frank Bridge’s wonderful Oration for Cello and Orchestra at the 1979 Bromsgrove Festival.
How special is it for you to conduct with Eduardo Vassallo as the soloist?
This is very special. Eduardo is a wonderful cellist and he is one of our most valued teachers – so this feels entirely natural.
Obviously this is a concerto you know very well, how might that make its way in to your conducting?
Hopefully I will know it inside out! More importantly the fact that I know it so well will enable me to respond to everything Eduardo wants.
Do you have any special memories of performing the Haydn yourself?
I played this concerto all over the world. I especially remember one performance in Tokyo with Yehudi Menuhin conducting. It was the first item on the programme and he refused to go on stage until his wife arrived – she was stuck in the Tokyo traffic. So I was getting ever more nervous – and we started the concert ONE HOUR late!
Tickets are still available from the THSH website, but are going fast. Get yours now to avoid disappointment.