This April, the country’s most promising orchestral talent will head to Queensland for AYO Young Symphonists! We are looking forward to welcoming Roger Benedict as conductor this year, and hearing works by Borodin, Khachaturian and Tchaikovsky in a Russian-themed showcase at Toowoomba’s heritage-listed Empire Theatre.
Roger has worked alongside many aspiring young musicians as a conductor and mentor, and is currently the Artistic Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellowship Program. He is also Principal Viola of SSO, and has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s leading ensembles, including the Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra Ulster Orchestra, and Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, Japan.
He has extensive knowledge of orchestral repertoire as both conductor and performer, so we thought we would take this opportunity to ask Roger about his favourite works. Here are his top ten:
1. Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony, one of the works I will be conducting with AYO Young Symphonists. I absolutely love this piece and Tchaikovsky in general. The first time I played it was as a viola player in the London Philharmonic many many years ago with the legendary Russian conductor Evgeny Svetlanov. It was spine tingling then and I hope it will be spine tingling with AYO too!
2. Mahler’s 9th Symphony, for me the ultimate symphonic experience. Such a complete all-encompassing work that leaves nothing unsaid about the human condition.
3. Beethoven Symphonies – which one to choose? Maybe the sixth – what an amazing musical description of nature in all its glory.
4. Brahms 2nd Orchestral Serenade, which I’ve conducted a few times. It’s quite rarely performed but gorgeous and so original – it is one of the few orchestral works that doesn’t employ any violins!
5. J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion. I heard this performed on a Good Friday in St Thomas’s Church in Leipzig, Bach’s church. It was incredibly moving.
6. Franz Schreker’s Chamber Symphony – a forgotten composer and a real masterpiece in my opinion. Schreker is one of the many Jewish composers whose music was suppressed in the 1930s and is only now being rediscovered.
7. Elgar’s stirring Sospiri; a little gem. Sospiri means ‘sighs’ and it was written as storm clouds gathered in Europe at the start of WW1.
8. Stravinsky… well anything by Stravinsky, but I’ll choose Pulcinella which I am conducting later this year.
9. Mozart Symphony No.40. A work of great genius, harmonically so adventurous, and I never fail to be swept up in the drama of it.
10. And I’ll sneak in one non-orchestral offering: The Schubert and Schumann works for viola and piano on my new CD with Simon Tedeschi (Schubert’s Sonata in A minor and Winterreise song cycle, and Schumann’s Sonata No.1 for violin and piano – all transcribed for piano and viola). I can’t live without these two composers and we had a ball recording the music. It’s called A Winter’s Tale, just out on ABC Classics.
We’re very much looking forward to welcoming Roger to AYO as conductor in April. In the meantime, hear him perform alongside pianist Simon Tedeschi on their new ABC Classics album, A Winter’s Tale.