My trip to the UK was an incredibly rewarding and exciting experience. In my lessons I gained a wealth of information and ideas on how to perform British clarinet repertoire, and many different approaches and concepts to improve my technique, which I have found invaluable in my development as a musician. I was also able to collect a vast amount of data on Frederick Thurston, who is the focal point of my honours thesis. Much of this information I probably would not have discovered had it not been for my trip to the UK. I was also fortunate enough to attend numerous concerts by the London Symphony Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, London Chamber Orchestra and Southbank Sinfonia, as well as visit London’s many galleries and museums.
After arriving in the UK I traveled from Manchester to London for my first lesson, which was with the Principal of the Royal College of Music and renowned Mozart scholar, Professor Colin Lawson. Much of my time in this lesson was devoted to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. I had been fortunate enough to attend a master class given by Professor Lawson at the Sydney Conservatorium in 2010 and had gained some ideas on how to interpret the work, however this was expanded on greatly, and my ideas and concepts on how to perform the work completely changed. As well as this we spent some time discussing my thesis topic, how it could potentially be improved and what new ideas I could also include. Professor Lawson also very generously provided me with some incredibly useful literature on Thurston, published for his centenary celebration, which is no longer in print.
My next lesson was with Colin Bradbury, former principal of the London Symphony Orchestra and a past student of Frederick Thurston. This lesson was one of the most beneficial for the development of my thesis. I worked on two pieces, Arnold Bax’s Clarinet Sonata, and Gerald Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto. I had chosen these two pieces to focus in lessons while in the UK as they were both written for and performed by Thurston, and I hoped that lessons on them with several different British clarinettists would help to provide me with a more informed interpretation, which I plan to present in my final honours recital. I played through my pieces and was given many useful suggestions on phrasing, tempi and articulation. Colin and I also discussed his experiences with Thurston. This discussion has given me new ideas, both for my thesis and for ways of interpreting the British clarinet music. I was also fortunate enough to have the chance to read through letters written to Thurston by composers such as Gerald Finzi, Arnold Bax and John Ireland, as well as reviews and other documents from an archive on Thurston. Colin was kind enough to allow me to make some copies of these documents, which I plan to incorporate into my dissertation.
Another of my lessons was with Andrew Marriner, principal of the London Symphony Orchestra. Andrew’s recording of Finzi’s Clarinet Concerto is one of my favourites so I decided it would be a fantastic piece to take to my lesson. It was an incredibly rewarding lesson and I was able to take so much from the experience.
I had two other lessons whilst I was in London. The first was on my British repertoire with Janet Hilton, a freelance solo clarinettist teaching at the Royal College of Music. She too gave me many ideas on performing British clarinet music and I was able to take many stylistic things from this lesson. The other lesson was also at the Royal College of Music with Barnaby Robson, principal clarinetist of the Philharmonia Orchestra. This lesson was on the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, it was interesting to hear his ideas on how to perform the work. I played this concerto in several different lessons during my trip and the suggestions and ideas I received were often very different. I’ve now been left to decide which musical ideas I like the most and use them to create my own version of the work. In my lesson with Barnaby I also took away many useful suggestions on how to improve some of the weaker areas of my playing.
In Manchester my first lesson was with Linda Merrick, Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music. As a modern music specialist, she had many suggestions regarding development of technique which were incredibly useful. We also discussed potential post-graduate study options, and I was given a quick tour of the school. It was very encouraging to hear from both Professor Merrick and Professor Lawson that I am very much on track with my studies, and that post-graduate study in the UK is a very achievable possibility.
My next lesson was with Nicholas Cox, principal of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Northern College of Music. I was excited for this lesson as I knew that Nicholas had produced a CD on works performed by Thurston, and would have many ideas and suggestions. Along with some very detailed research notes which he had gathered for his liner notes, it was a very eye-opening lesson on the Bax sonata. He highlighted some potential inaccuracies in the printing of the published work and suggested changing and adding certain notes, as well as altering phrasing marks and articulation. His in-depth knowledge has led me to change how I approach the work. Nicholas too provided me with some of his own notes from his research for which I am incredibly grateful.
My final lesson in Manchester was with Antonio Salguero. This lesson, like several of the others I had was not a part of my original itinerary, but ended up being one of the best lessons of my trip. I played some of the Mozart concerto but spent the majority of time working on technical exercises which I’ve implemented into my daily practice as I have found them so beneficial.
At the end of my two months in the UK, I wanted to do a bit of traveling around Europe as I’d never been before. I took a train from London to Brussels, where I saw the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie. While in Brussels I was also fortunate enough to get in contact with Benjamin Dieltjens, a clarinettist teaching at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels who kindly gave me a lesson and let me sit in on his clarinet class.
After visiting Brussels I traveled by train to Amsterdam where I had hoped to see the Royal Concergebouw Orchestra, however they were touring at the time. I was still had a fantastic time exploring the city. From Amsterdam I flew to Berlin where I saw the Berlin Philharmonic perform with Anne-Sophie Mutter. As well as this I spent a day at Museumsinsel which was incredible. Aside from the music, the many museums and galleries that I had the opportunity to visit while overseas were a definite highlight of the trip.
After Berlin I flew to Vienna, my stay there was very similar to that in Berlin. I saw the Vienna Philharmonic and spent much of my time visiting museums. I had planned to have a lesson while staying in Vienna, however it unfortunately didn’t work out.
Next I traveled to Rome where I had the opportunity to have a lesson with Alessandro Carbonare, an international soloist and principal clarinettist of the Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome. It was a very eye opening lesson and has inspired me to develop the fundamental areas of my playing more thoroughly. I was also kindly given the opportunity to sit in on a class at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia which was taken by Carbonare.
From Rome I traveled to Paris where I stayed very briefly, managing to fit in a bit of sight reading and see the Orchestre de Paris before heading back to the UK and finally Sydney.
If I was to suggest anything it would be to plan well in advance and at the same time accept that not everything will go as planned. As mentioned, some lessons I had planned did not eventuate, while others which happened at the last minute were incredibly beneficial. For accommodation, try and find people to stay with that either you or friends know, as it can be very expensive. I found it cheaper to commute from Manchester to London, staying with friends. The other thing I’d highly advise is to see and do as much as possible, especially when visiting cities such as London which are so rich in culture.
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that BBM Youth Support provided. The trip was such a positive, eye-opening and encouraging experience has greatly assisted me both on a musical and academic level. I feel so fortunate to have been able to have had lessons with some of the world’s leading clarinettists and meet other musicians from all around the world. I would like to thank you for all of your support, and providing such an inspiring and life-changing opportunity.