Interview with Christopher Moore – part 2
If he could meet any historical figure, Christopher Moore says, he would probably choose Richard Strauss, or perhaps Leonard Bernstein.
“I was reading about Mahler’s illness and death – they all had such sad lives! Beethoven must have been a very interesting character – the madness and sadness in his last letters. Perhaps Schumann was mad. Weren’t they all? They all had some spark of brilliance that made them a little bit different from everybody else. It’s just a shame that we never get to meet them.
“I’d love to have had the chance to play under Strauss, though anybody who conducted the way he did now would probably never get a gig. That kind of old-world, gentlemanly manner wouldn’t put bums on seats.
“The composer-conductor thing is pretty rare nowadays.”
Today’s audiences, says Moore, expect to be entertained. But that still leaves a lot of latitude for creative concert programming.
“There needs to be some sort of balance. Look at this programme here! There’s the Ross Edwards, there’s Mahler, Schumann and Beethoven. That’s quite a huge range.
“In the Australian Chamber Orchestra, we’ve included the music of Xenakis in concert programmes. And what I love about the audience reaction is that it’s incredibly polarising. Some people absolutely love it, and others vehemently hate it. But it doesn’t stop them from coming. And at least they’re talking about it. Whether you like it or not, it’s got something that burns an impression on your memory, even if you can’t remember the composer’s name.”
It’s not only hard-core modern repertoire that makes for a radical audience experience, Moore continues. Older repertoire also has its extremes; it is simply a matter of find a way to express that today.
“Even if you’re playing mainstream repertoire, you can find a way to say something through the music that really touches people,” he says.
“Toscanini said, ‘Tradition is the fading memory of the last bad performance.’
“I was recently given an old compilation of music for violin and piano. And if you look under the heading ‘Modern Composers’ you find Brahms and Massenet. It’s good to be reminded that back in their day they were modern composers. That’s the real challenge – to play all music as if it’s being heard for the first time.”
© Shirley Apthorp