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15 Questions to Emily Beynon

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi! I'm fine, thanks! I'm enjoying a rare day off on a lovely summer's day at home in Amsterdam!

What’s on your schedule right now?
The (Concertgebouw) orchestra season has just finished and in a few days I'm off to Australia for some recitals and masterclasses, then on to Japan for three weeks more of the same and then back to the UK for festivals in Edinburgh and Manchester. I arrive back home on the morning of the first day of our next orchestra season!!

If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?
Goodness... I can't really imagine NOT having chosen music! Not that I didn't have other interests (I've imagined a career as a lawyer, architect and interior designer at various points...) but the need to play music was very strong so even if I had chosen a different professional path, I've no doubt that music would have played a fairly important rôle.

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist?
In a general sense, singers and violinists. Individually, quite a varied bunch; my teacher of course, William Bennett but also Glenn Gould, Emma Kirkby, Jordi Savall, Maria Callas, Arthur Grumiaux... not forgetting the many wonderful musicians and conductors with whom I've worked, both in the orchestra and in chamber groups.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
One has never 'finished' work! I mean this both in the sense that one could always use an extra hour/day/week of rehearsal/practice but mostly that one's interpretation never stands still. Even a recording is simply an artist's vision of that work at that particular point in time and the elusive, definitive version sometimes feels like the apocryphal pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.... So is this a plus or a minus? Maybe both... it's certainly a constant challenge!! Of course it's a huge privilege to be able to earn your living from your passion! Another huge 'perk' of the job for me is the travel and meeting people from all over the world.  

What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
There is in my opinion most certainly a crisis in music education. Music is being taken off school curriculums and children are not being offered the opportunities to learn an instrument as was once the norm. This saddens me greatly and if I think about the consequences for audiences in years to come (both for us and them!) it frightens me too; I think we all need music to nourish our souls.

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it’s all been done before. What do you tell them?

That's like saying that a great novel need not be read any more as that's already been done!! A musician 'reads' a score then shares their understanding of it with an audience (in a concert hall or via a recording)... as long as he or she stays true to the composer and him/herself and presents an honest and personal 'reading', an infinite number of different accounts of the same work can be enjoyed!

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Utter commitment to that work at that time and the sharing of that unique moment/evening with only the people present in the concert hall. If someone comes up to me after a concert and says that they were touched by the music or that my playing meant something special to them, that feels like such a huge reward! 

What does the word “interpretation” mean to you?

As a performer I try to get into the mind of a composer and bring their two dimensional, black on white, graphic representation of an emotion or thought to life through means of my chosen instrument. Just as the translator of a novel cannot simply translate each word that an author wrote, he or she must make it flow and work in this second language requiring great skill both as a linguist and as a creative writer, so I see my task as a performer.

True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put his personal emotions into the music he plays.
True and false - the artist must attempt to connect the emotion of the composer to that of the audience... but this may well be facilitated by his or her own experience of these emotions. 

True or false: “Music is my first love”

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they can really appreciate it.
True and false... education helps appreciation and enjoyment on a deeper level, but I think that the most powerful music can touch people with zero education. Arguably, the greatest problem with zero education is that people may be afraid to venture into the unknown, i.e. the concert hall or the classical section of a record shop!

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season?
I would like to see more mixed programming - both varied combinations of instruments and exciting and perhaps radical juxtapositions of composers as well combining music with the other arts. Concerts for example where music is interspersed with poetry or where lighting/dance/video footage play an important rôle.

What’s your favourite classical CD at the moment?
Hmmm... tricky one! At home these days I usually listen to anything other than classical music - jazz/film music/tango...! But ok, to answer your question, a favourite classical CD would have to be that old favourite: Glenn Gould's Goldberg variations (1955)!

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at it?

I was joint-principal study harp at the Royal Academy of Music and whilst I can't objectively say how good I was, I did consider a career as a harpist - though flute was always my main love! I did have piano lessons for several years too, but I think I can safely say that my musical talents didn't lie in that direction!!


Fantaisie (Cryston/Octavia) 2006
Mozart Concerto (Pentatone) 2006
Pastorale (Octavia)
Rutland Boughton (Hyperion)
Bax - Sonata for Flute and Harp (Metier)
L'album des Six (Hyperion)
John McCabe - Of Time and the River (Hyperion)

Emily Beynon

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