Andy Morley discusses Mahler’s scale, Korngold’s romance, Beethoven’s difficulty and the music of Hollywood ahead of our December concert.

Our own Conor Molony managed to catch up with regular WSO Guest Conductor Andy Morley earlier this week to hear some of his thoughts and ideas on the challenging and dramatic programme that we have chosen together for our upcoming concert in Raynes Park on December 8th.

CM: Where did your inspiration for the choice of the Mahler come from?

AM: Mahler has been a mystery to me from a young age, the sheer saga-like scale of his symphonic forms always seemed so imposing and unmanageable. As I’ve grown older they are beginning to make more sense and I thought it might be interesting to revisit an earlier work, albeit one that eventually formed part of the second symphony.

CM: Are there particular musical references to other works in this? You mentioned something in rehearsal last week about Mahler using this piece with personal reference to life and death.

AM: I think Mahler is a composer of opposites, there is an obsession with the outer world, and of nature of course, but there is also an inner preoccupation, which in itself has opposing and contradicting forces. The concern with human mortality, explored in this work, is very much related to this. It’s a mystery which I find extremely compelling and, in its musical manifestation, tremendously rewarding.

CM: Why Korngold? Who has inspired you with this concerto?

AM: I have a very close friend who is a film music obsessive, and another who wrote a PhD on Korngold, so I have known Erik W’s music for longer than a good deal of more mainstream composers. Korngold’s scores for films such as Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk epitomise his affinity with adventure story telling. This has always inspired my enthusiasm for the piece!

CM: Do you have your own particular favourite moments or parts in the concerto?

AM: I think the opening is amongst the most perfect thematic ideas for a concerto in existence and relatively unusual that the soloist gets things going from the outset. Korngold’s orchestration is pure romance!

CM: The third movement of the Korngold seems a lot of fun, how would you describe it?

AM: It’s like a comedy romp in places! I love the way the second theme, borrowed from his score to The Prince and the Pauper, transforms into a majestic fanfare towards the end.

CM: It has an almost cinematic feel, perhaps of the open prairie, at times. Who is thought to have influenced Korngold in creating his style?

AM: Korngold is sometimes referred to as ‘Richard Strauss on steroids’, a fitting description for much of his film music and some parts of the violin concerto.

CM: Beethoven is such a monumental work. What are the special moments that you enjoy, and why?

AM: The second movement (Szene am Bach) is probably one of the most satisfying and evocative pieces in Beethoven’s oeuvre. At the same time it is perhaps the most difficult to perform owing to the length of the melodic lines and the continual flow, both of which take much effort to get right. The nightingale, quail and cuckoo calls towards the end are the most perfect reward for any orchestra’s hard work!

CM: How does this link with Korngold and Mahler in choosing such a rich and wonderful programme?

AM: Both Korngold and Mahler were Austrian born composers and Beethoven lived in Vienna from the age of 21 until his death. It’s fascinating to explore how the Austro/Germanic origins developed through Mahler and into being a major influence in the golden age of Hollywood. It’s also difficult to believe that, in the 187 years between 1770 and 1957, there were only 28 years when none of these three composers was alive!

WSO regular Guest Conductor hard at work

WSO regular Guest Conductor hard at work

WSO: Thank you to Andy and Conor for these interesting insights. We look forward to seeing many of you to hear these great works on Sat December 8th.