Inspiration for the Young Orchestral Musician

 

Jessica Scott, principal flutist of the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s flagship ensemble, curates pieces that have inspired her as an emerging musician and explains the impact they have made on her artistic journey.

‘I have compiled this playlist with two things in mind. First, I have aimed to include a wide range of artists, balancing the classics and lesser known pieces to showcase the diversity of orchestral music. Secondly, I have either performed or been inspired by every piece on this playlist. I hope, in turn, they inspire other young orchestral musicians to continue discovering and enjoying the orchestral repertoire.’

Jessica regularly performs as a soloist, chamber musician and principal flutist with a wide range of ensembles. She is a founding member of Ensemble Muse, a modern music group who aim to bring a balanced and diverse approach to the performance of new music. Currently studying flute with Professor James Kortum at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Jessica has been principal flutist with the Conservatorium’s Modern Music Ensemble, Opera Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra and Wind Symphony. She is currently principal flutist of the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s flagship ensemble.

 

Camille Saint-Saëns – Carnival of the Animals

Leo Delibes- Lakmé : Flower Duet

The first two pieces in this playlist comprise my earliest memories of music, before I picked up my first instrument. Sitting at the Sydney Aquarium watching schools of fish pass by a giant viewing wall or sitting at the Butterfly Cafe (a favourite destination of our family road trips), these pieces have stuck in my memory since early childhood.

It was a very difficult decision between recordings of Aquarium by Richard Stamp + Keith Porter Snell, Salvador Brotons + Cinda Goold Redman and Ruth Segal + Naomi Segel. I would recommend all three recordings despite finally settling on Ruth and Naomi Segel’s recording with Leonard Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic. Little known to most listeners is the poetry of Ogden Nash, who wrote humorous short verses to accompany a 1949 recording of Carnival of the Animals. Below is his poetic prelude to Aquarium:

Some fish are minnows,

Some are whales.

People like dimples,

Fish like scales,

Some fish are slim,

And some are round,

They don’t get cold,

They don’t get drowned.

But every fishwife

Fears for her fish.

What we call mermaids

They call merfish.

Performed in Act 1 of Delibe’s opera Lakmé, the Flower Duet is sung by Lakmé, the daughter of a Brahmin priest, and her servant Mallika as they gather flowers by a river. Singing in this recording is Dame Joan Sutherland, who remains one of my favourite opera singers.

Mozart- Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra

Whilst the first instrument I wanted to play was the harp, I discovered the flute during my first years of school and fell for its sound. Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp is one of my favourite pieces- perhaps due to those early impressions. There are many great recordings out there- this is one of my favourites of three great figures in music: Emmanuel Pahud, Marie-Pierre Langlamet and Claudio Abbado with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky- Symphony No. 5

John Rutter- Gloria

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and John Rutter’s Gloria were the first pieces I performed in the wind section of an orchestra, as part of the Arts Unit’s State Music Camp conducted by Steve Williams and Brett Weymark. I was still in high school at the time and by the end of the first rehearsal, I was hooked on orchestral music and knew that this was the career I wanted to follow.

There are two versions of the Rutter- in the version we performed, a passage that is usually played by the organ is re-arranged as a dialogue between woodwind players. I was still on a performance high weeks after the camp, and the initial excitement and joy I felt playing in my first orchestra always comes back to me whenever I hear these pieces.

Sergei Prokofiev- Symphony No. 1 ‘Classical Symphony’

Some of my first concert experiences were seeing the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra as a small child. When I was a little bit older, I began attending concerts at the Opera House with the SSO. As I loved making up stories, I would look down at the stage with the acoustic “angel halos” and let the music create the story, usually in the form of a ballet. I can’t remember what the pieces were, but I do still remember some of the stories. My first time hearing Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony was listening to the SSO, and it’s still one of my favourite pieces.

Jean Sibelius- Symphony No. 2

The first piece I performed as a principal player was Sibelius 2 in my second year at the Sydney Conservatorium under the baton of Eduardo Diazmunoz. I have chosen for this piece the Hallé Orchestra’s recording with Sir Mark Elder. On my recent tour to the UK with the Sydney Youth Orchestras, I encountered my favourite live orchestral performance (to date) by the Hallé Orchestra, performing Sibelius 5 in the same hall where this was recorded, Bridgewater Hall. The energy and intense concentration of the Hallé Orchestra draws you into the music from start to finish, which I found was also the case for this recording of Sibelius 2.

Gustav Mahler- Symphony No. 2

Seeing the SSO in performance was an experience that extended from childhood to the Meet the Music series in high school, and of course I have continued this trend into my University years. Mahler 2, in particular the opening to movement four, is another favourite orchestral work which I saw the SSO perform in my first year of University. I have included tracks from three separate recordings for this work; Simone Young is one of my conducting heroes (Mvts 1, 2, 5), I particularly enjoy the SSO’s recording with Challender (Mvt 3), and Jard van Nes sings a divine fourth movement with Bernard Haitink and the Staatskapelle Dresden.

Dmitri Shostakovich- Symphony No. 5

Shostakovich 5 has been another highlight of performing in the Sydney Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Eduardo Diazmunoz.

It is impossible to hear this work and not be compelled to think of the background behind its conception. Written during the terror and subjugation of Stalin’s rule over the Soviet people, and following the public denouncement of Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth, the composer was under very dangerous circumstances as he penned his Fifth Symphony. Members of his family were taken away, and so this symphony was written, cleverly, to seem ambiguous to the officials in charge of his fate as a “tale of political victory”. In truth, the work was not about a political victory, but the victory of people over politics. The premiere received a forty minute standing ovation, and many members of the audience wept during the performance.

Whilst there are many musical clues within the work as to its true meaning (conductor Mark Wigglesworth outlines these superbly in his notes on the symphony), you don’t need to analyse the work in order to experience the strong images it conjures up in the listener’s mind. Like the audience members of 1937, the symphony has left a lasting impression on me. It is testimony to the ability of music in providing hope and empowerment, in the face of life’s most terrifying situations.

Aaron Copland- Appalachian Spring

I have been performing with the Sydney Youth Orchestras (SYO) Flagship Orchestra since 2017. As part of the Four Winds: Mozart by the Sea project in 2017-2018, I travelled to Bermagui with a small chamber orchestra comprising of SYO musicians. Four Winds at Bermagui has a beautiful open-air stage, with a backdrop of waterlilies surrounded by natural bushland. In 2018, we performed Appalachian Spring under Alex Briger amidst the serene setting of Four Winds.

Igor Stravinsky- Firebird

SYO’s performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite was another highlight of last year’s program. The flute solo in the variation is a test for any flute section, but once learnt, is so much fun to perform. A week before the performance, I saw a production of the Firebird with the Australian Ballet, so whilst performing I had mixed visions of Disney Fantasia and ballet choreography in my head.

Leonard Bernstein- Candide

For the past three years, I’ve been lucky to have performed in all three of SYO’s Opera House concerts with the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. The opportunity we had to work alongside professionals from the SSO under the baton of Brett Weymark in rehearsal and performance was a fantastic learning experience. In 2017, we performed Dream of Gerontius, in 2018 Leonard Bernstein’s Candide and this year (2019) Dvorak’s Requiem. Candide remains my favourite of the three pieces for Bernstein’s wit and cheeky political statements. Candide’s Lament is one of the more serious songs amidst the mostly humorous operetta, and features a beautiful dialogue between the flute and soloist.

Sergei Rachmaninoff- Symphony No. 2

SYO’s recent tour the the UK, mentioned earlier for the Hallé recording of Sibelius, is impossible to summarize in only a few words- there were just too many wonderful learning and performance experiences to name. Experiencing such a generous share of knowledge from professionals from the UK’s leading orchestras, performing and rehearsing in venues such as LSO St Luke’s, the Sheldonian Theatre and Bridgewater Hall, the gorgeous buildings of Cambridge and natural surrounds of Cardiff… these are all memories tied to Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, my favourite piece in our program.

Emilie Mayer- Symphony No. 4

During my second year of University, I came across the works of Romantic composer Emilie Mayer whilst undertaking research for my history unit, Romanticism and the Fantastic (taught by Dr David Larkin). I was excited to see that Mayer had defied gender expectations by becoming a successful composer in the 1800s: she has no less than seven overtures and eight symphonies to her name, despite the fact that composing for orchestras was strictly off-limits for female composers of the 19th Century. I wrote an essay on her Faust Overture, on which I was subsequently asked to present at the Sydney Conservatorium’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, as research into her orchestral works was non-existent.

How is it that Emily Mayer’s works are not part of the standard orchestral repertoire? Luise Adolpha Le Beau, Louise Farrenc, Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn are four of Mayer’s contemporaries who wrote for orchestra, yet we only seem to remember those who were associated (through marriage or blood relation) with male composers. I encourage young musicians and conductors everywhere to seek out these prolific female composers.

Ludwig van Beethoven- Emperor Concerto

Beethoven was a major influence on Emily Mayer’s compositional style. Whilst the next piece by Clara Schumann and previous Mayer Symphony  have their own characteristic styles, the influence of Beethoven is evident in both, which is why I have placed this piece between Mayer and Schumann.

The Emperor Concerto holds a special place in my memory. My grandmother was the biggest orchestral fan in our family, and this was one of her favourite pieces. Shortly after her passing, I went to see the Emperor Concerto with my mother. It amazed me that the same piece of music could have an emotional impact on my grandmother, my mother and me. The Emperor Concerto represents to me how orchestral music can reach people from all generations, young and old.

Clara Schumann- Piano Concerto in A minor

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Clara Schumann. On the 14th of September, I performed in Modest Orchestras alongside my wonderful friend and colleague Katarina Grobler on piano, who organised a night of celebrations for the occasion, including a giant cake and a program dedicated to the celebrated composer. Performing Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor alongside Katarina Grobler as soloist has definitely been one of the highlights of my year.

Maurice Ravel- Daphnis et Chloe

Since my first experience performing in the Arts Unit Orchestra to today and no doubt well into the future, orchestral auditions have become a central part of my practice as a young musician. This process, in which months of preparation culminate in 15-25 minutes of playing for a panel, requires a great deal of comprehensive practice. Sometimes I’ll work on the technical challenges of each excerpt, but an equal amount of time is spent listening to recordings, playing other sections from the same piece, or researching the context and background of the excerpt and composer. Daphnis et Chloe is an excerpt that commonly comes up in flute auditions, so I have spent a lot of time over the years finding my favourite recordings of the flute solo. This recording of Murray Panitz and the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Riccardo Muti is one of my (many) favourites.

Benjamin Britten- Sinfonia da Requiem

I am currently in my final year of a Bachelor of Music in Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. It’s a very exciting time for me, with lots of possibilities as to what will happen next. Sadly, this will be my final year performing in both the Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra and Sydney Youth Orchestras, as I will be travelling overseas next year. The performance of Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem and Paul Stanhope’s Jandamarra in Town Hall was my final performance with the Conservatorium Orchestra, under the baton of Roger Benedict and Elizabeth Scott. My final orchestral performance this year will be Enigma Variations with the Sydney Youth Orchestra under the baton of Alexander Briger OAM. I will greatly miss performing with both orchestras and am so very grateful for the opportunities and lessons both orchestras have afforded me during my Undergraduate studies.

Liza Lim- The Alchemical Wedding

Kaija Saariaho- Circle Map

While opportunities for young orchestral musicians to perform with and learn from professionals continue, so too will the future of orchestral music. I am so excited to see where orchestras will be in ten, twenty or thirty years. Liza Lim and Kaija Saariaho, composers of the final pieces on this playlist, are two of my favourite contemporary composers. As our world changes, some of my great hopes are that we will see more performances of works by female, gender diverse and contemporary composers. I also hope to see a greater number of female and gender diverse conductors recording and performing with the world’s top-level orchestras.