BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra shortlisted for Help Musicians UK Award for New Music Performers of the Year

February 25, 2017 in safnm2017 by mwhiteside

BBC SSO Players Group Shot with Thomas Dausgaard

Laura Samuel, Leader – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

1.      You had a busy performing schedule in 2016 – what is it that is exciting about performing new music to an audience?

I think the BBC SSO is really associated with performing new music and that’s particularly taken off in the last few years with the Tectonics Glasgow festival. It feels that the audience is incredible loyal and open to all sorts of different things and it feels that you can almost chuck anything at them and they will still want to come and explore different things together. I think for us as an orchestra, Glasgow is an incredibly supportive environment to try new things. I feel we can invite different composers to write for the group and that always brings up totally different atmospheres and types of music.

2.      Was there a particular performance that stands out for you?

I really loved playing the Fennessy piece in the Old Fruitmarket as part of Tectonics in 2016. It was a strings only group, we were in a circle throwing musical ideas off each other and responding to each other. Within that the audience surrounded us and also they sat in the middle of us. So for us as performers that was incredibly intimate because we are used to having a front row quite close, but to be completely absorbed by people, front, back and sideways, whichever way you looked, it felt truly interactive. I think that’s what the composer was after.

3.      Obviously each project is different, but in general, how do you approach performing music written by someone else? Particularly if you have never met the composer?

It can be tricky because of course with a more conventional composer or someone with a great history of works that have been played you have an idea of their musical language. With new music there are often clues are in the score. If the composer has done their job very well and been very specific about what they want, you can approach it in the same way like you might do a Beethoven or Mozart symphony because articulation, sound and colours are often expressed. What we are so lucky to have at the BBC SSO is that often when someone writes us something they come and then work with us on it. It’s an incredibly exciting process and can make you completely change how think you should be interpreting something.

4.      Why do you think that it’s important to perform new music?

I think it’s totally crucial to perform new music in the same way it’s vital that people make new instruments and all those sorts of things. We are constantly based on performing things that are very old. Most of our output is things that have stood the test of time and lots of different people have tackled them and approached them in completely different ways. I think really truly excellent new music is brilliantly exciting on the first hearing but then has a life after that. It’s really exciting to think that particularly in this orchestra, with the BBC commissioning so many new works, that we played them first, but in 100 years they also might be performed by people like us who are also exploring new things. I think you have to appreciate that there’s not going to be the consistency of not always having something wonderful to play, but it’s always going to be interesting and stimulating.

5.      What other projects do you have planned for 2017?

To name a few.. Matthias Pintscher conducts a programme of Ligeti, Henze and Olga Neuwirth, the UK premiere of Langgaard’s Symphony No.6 with our Principal conductor Thomas Dausgaard, a day exploring Langgaard’s music and Tectonics Glasgow in May co-curated by Ilan Volkov and Alasdair Campbell.