Written by: Colin Anderson
Anthony Marwood is about to prove that the devil has the best tunes. Cue Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, which is being staged as part of the City of London Festival. Anthony is playing the violin – it’s what he does – and also acting the role of the Solider. “I had the idea a long time ago to do the piece this way. It took a while to come together. We did an experimental performance in America and then a one-off performance in Scotland. And then the Academy of St Martin’s was looking to do something unusual with me alongside my occasional directing work. They were keen and then it’s the rocky road of trying to get funding! For a simple touring idea it’s amazing how many costs are involved; but once that was in place we knew it would happen.”
If Anthony’s first love is playing the violin, then acting “is the other thing I wanted to do. When I was a teenager I had to make a choice and it seemed pretty clear that I had to choose the violin but it was always a slightly painful subject. I’ve longed to let acting come to the fore and Soldier’s Tale is incredibly ideal.” Anthony will share the violin-playing with “another violinist in the ensemble; in the story the violinist has exchanged his violin for this book of knowledge, but some of the set-piece dances I play; in this production I can serenade my princess.” Anthony’s on tour and “having a wonderful time. It’s a fantastic company and Lawrence Evans has just been wonderful to work with; it’s not every director who would have such a deep psychological understanding of how to gently bring a violinist into the acting arena however predisposed I am towards it.”
Anthony describes The Soldier’s Tale as “a very significant piece because it’s one of those strange creations that come out of awkward circumstances – a terrible time in history and of financial restraint for Stravinsky and a desire to create something that was tourable and spoke of its time and yet was also time-less. It was written just at the end of the First War; it’s often done but not like this; this is unusual, possibly unique, but it seems to me the logical way of doing it.”
Anthony hasn’t been neglecting his violin. He records for Hyperion and has recently issued the concertos of Coleridge-Taylor and Somervell (CDA67420), the latter a real find. “It’s incredible what gets lost in history. Hopefully it will encourage concert promoters to be more wide-ranging; we have a tendency to get stuck. And these works are not difficult listening; enchanting really.” Indeed, if you like Elgar, you’ll like Somervell. Fans of the ubiquitous Bruch No. 1 shouldn’t hesitate, either – “even the key is the same; it’s time we listened to other concertos in G minor!” Expect a CD of Vasks and Weill, “two opposing pieces, one eloquent, lush and poetic, quite a masterpiece, that’s the Vasks, and the Weill is brittle and theatrical, and it’s not done enough.”
Anthony has an important premiere soon. Is it too early to ask about the Adès concerto? “Well! I’ve been working with Tom recently, a Stravinsky programme in Aldeburgh, and have been round his house to rehearse. Each time I’m there he leaves a few more bits of manuscript lying around. He goes out the room and I find this ferociously difficult section. He hides and waits for my scream; I can’t wait to get stuck into the piece. How composers create is mysterious and beautiful.” Following the premiere in Berlin, Adès’s Violin Concerto reaches the Proms on September 6th.
Arriving in London sooner, with ten performances behind him, is Anthony the violinist, actor and, indeed, dancer. “This is in the spirit of Soldier’s Tale, touring in out of the way places. It’s so exciting to combine the things I love to do. I can’t overestimate the challenge!” Is he open to acting offers? “I would welcome that. I’m a violinist, no question, but doing this has captured my imagination.”