Written by: Colin Anderson
No sooner returned from sunny Spain, Clio Gould will be joining up with her BT colleagues to collaborate with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Richard Tognetti in English string music. Richard studied in Switzerland with the same teacher that I did. Hes a violinist Ive got such respect for and weve shared the principal viola their current one was in the Scottish Ensemble and is a good friend. It just seemed an obvious marriage of two groups with a similar attitude. This is the first time weve worked together. Im sure it will be a very holistic approach that we take. Im going to direct X and hes going to do Y, then were coming together and playing the solo parts in the Tippett Corelli Fantasia. I think its a wonderful programme with lots of threads binding it together, says Clio of the late-night Prom concert on 14 August.
These threads include much of the music being based on earlier examples Vaughan Williams meditating on Tallis, Tippett elaborating Corelli, and a set of variations by seven composers (Lennox Berkeley, Britten and Walton included) on an Elizabethan tune. Elgars personal brand of energy and nostalgia opens the show with Introduction and Allegro. The chosen pieces also involve solo parts a string quartet in the Elgar, two violins and a cello from Tippett, while VW not only has a quartet but a second (smaller) orchestra. Plenty of space for that in the Albert Hall, although curiously its been difficult to find a suitable place because the hall is so huge. If you put the second group as far away as possible, that works fine in a normal concert hall or in a resonant church acoustic. The Albert Hall is infinitely big. Its been hard to find a place where we can see each other and not be too far away to avoid a time lag.
British composers seem to write so consummately for the string medium? I absolutely agree. I think composers influence and inspire each other. A lot of the greatest string music is from the early twentieth-century when some fabulous British composers where furiously writing for strings. Were so lucky. I think its Elgar, he re-started everything, a great burst of interest in the strings. Its lucky he was a violinist!
Clio Gould is the Artistic Director of the BT Scottish Ensemble, a re-branding of the Scottish Baroque Ensemble. Baroque seemed inappropriate when all the authentic groups got together. Its been BT almost ten years now; theyre incredibly supportive, its a wonderful thing to have such long-term support. A quick glance at BTSEs mid-year schedule suggests it plays anywhere but Scotland. Thats summer touring! We do loads in Scotland, a big winter season, about forty concerts in the main cities.
Essentially a small group of strings, BTSE is flexible in repertoire and brings in extra players as necessary. We have a bus and have done thousands of miles. We just pound around in our little bus, which is like another member of the ensemble. This September were doing an extensive tour of the Western Isles, which we really love. Its the Albert Hall one day and then a tiny village hall in Barra where you put fifty pence into the meter before you get plunged into darkness!
Clios role as director/violinist she describes as like a super-powered quartet, a complete chamber music experience. Its a group thing but I keep an overview, someone has to keep things moving; Im keeping an eye on the whole process. The players make suggestions for repertoire that I shape into a season and go to meetings theres masses of different strands to keep the Ensemble running. Not least education work which is a vital part of what the ensemble does. Weve done masses on the Isle of Arran every child there has the chance to have ensemble input. We go to schools in the Glasgow area where theres little or no music.
BTSE has also made several CDs for Linn including Shostakovich (Eighth Quartet transcribed Barshai) and John Tavener. Whats next? Theres more recordings in October. Were always looking to add to the repertoire. We do a lot of commissioning. Rudolf Barshai has adapted Ravels string quartet; its now Little Symphony for strings. I thought the Ravel would work and Barshai agreed. Theres a textural thing in that piece that lends itself fabulously to larger forces. Other Barshai transcriptions will feature on the CD including Prokofievs Visions fugitives (originally for piano) and another of Barshais Shostakovich quartet extensions; that of No.10 seems favourite. (Rudolf Barshai, born 1924, violist and conductor, knew Shostakovich and premiered the Fourteenth Symphony.)
The no-barriers reach of Goulds repertoire is admirable Johns Adams and Tavener, D.C. Heath and Pierre Boulez. Is there anything she doesnt play? “I dont play baroque violin! I didnt want a career that went down one route. You get told you must practise hard and be a soloist. What I find really stimulating is that I havent been forced to channel my energies into one area. Ive been able to do so many things that have fed off and stimulated each other.