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A varied musical life: Nathaniel Anderson-Frank

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Q&A: Nathaniel Anderson-Frank

8:00, 12th March 2018

The leader of the BBC Concert Orchestra and Piatti Quartet tells Katy Wright why he considers variety and versatility to be so important

What was your first experience of leading an orchestra?
I guess it was when I was 12 years old and concertmaster of the Berkeley Orchestra in California, where I spent a few years growing up. I thought, hey, this is great – I could do more of this! It was a formative experience, actually. It was one of the first full symphony orchestras I played in; I particularly remember performing Benjamin Britten’s Simple Symphony.

How have you found your first months as leader of the BBC Concert Orchestra?
It’s been great – it’s been a really smooth transition and I’m loving it. I started in July with two big televised Proms: the John Williams 85th birthday one and the centenary tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy. I love the flexibility of the orchestra and the diverse range of programming. One week we go from Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra live on Radio 3 to Gregory Porter and Conchita Wurst. That really fits with who I am as a musician: I have quite a range of musical interests and I listen to a lot of different music, so that’s good for me.

What have you been up to with the Piatti Quartet?
We’ve been quite busy. We’re in the middle of recording a CD for Champs Hill, which features a new work we commissioned from Joseph Phibbs alongside music by Britten, Bridge and Turnage. That will be coming out later this year.
The quartet is my other passion, apart from leading an orchestra. Playing in a quartet has been a long-held dream of mine and I’m delighted to be able to combine it with the BBC.

How does your solo work complement your ensemble playing?
Some people think it’s weird that I wear these different hats, but I think it would be weird not to do all these different things. After all, they all involve the violin.
I see orchestral music, chamber and solo as part of this broad spectrum that you can choose to participate in as a musician, or not – of course, some people choose to do just one thing.
I’m passionate about finding ways to combine different facets of what it means to be a violinist. The violin is lucky in that way; there’s so much repertoire for it, and I love having a lot of variety in my musical life.

You do a lot of education work too…
I was recently at St James Hatcham Primary School in New Cross with the Piatti as part of the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust programme, which brings chamber music into schools around Greater London. That’s something I’m very passionate about, because I think it’s our responsibility as musicians to foster an interest in what we do.
I think when young people experience music in a live setting, whether with the BBC Concert Orchestra or with the Piatti Quartet, the response to seeing people playing live up close is a really visceral one. I had kids come up to me who have been studying the violin for a year or two, asking ‘What’s that thing you do when you wiggle your finger back and forward?’ and I’d say, ‘That’s vibrato – you can get there if you keep practising!’ They can hear what you’re doing and want to try it themselves, and that’s great. I think getting people inspired is at the heart of what we do.

What else have you got coming up?
There’s never a dull moment – where do I start? But one highlight will definitely be the BBC Concert Orchestra’s Sondheim concert with Keith Lockhart at Southbank Centre. That’s going to be so much fun.

The BBC Concert Orchestra will give the European premiere of the musical revue Sondheim on Sondheim on 15 March at the Royal Festival Hall. Tickets £12-£45

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