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Thursday 16 February 2017

Inaugural Hogwood Fellow announced

We are delighted to announce that Robert Levin is to be our inaugural Hogwood Fellow. Robert is a consummate musician, much loved by audiences around the world as a soloist and conductor. He enjoyed a long and close association with Christopher Hogwood and the AAM, which continues now with Richard Egarr as our Music Director. Robert is also a renowned scholar and musicologist. His tenure as our first Hogwood Fellow for the remainder of this season and our 2017-18 concert season will include performances with the orchestra. Robert will also provide insights into the music we perform through interviews, talks, articles and concert programme notes.

 

Robert Levin writes:

Sometime around 1990 I received a telephone call from Jeremy Marre, who was producing a television series for Channel Four on musical improvisation. His call was prompted, he said, by the fact that although he had a colourful variety of music from cultures around the world, he was having difficulty drumming up much in the domain of Western classical music and had rung because someone had suggested I might be of help. By this time I had long carried out the practice of improvising stylistically idiomatic cadenzas to Baroque and Classical concertos and often made up extended free fantasies derived from themes written down by the audience — a procedure I developed to anticipate skepticism from the public that I might simply be playing by memory something I had written down in advance. I suggested to Mr. Marre that a way to communicate the flexibility and variety of rhetoric within the stylistic precepts of historically appropriate improvisation might be to choose a movement from a Mozarinst concerto, play it through so the viewers were made familiar with the tunes, incorporate an improvised cadenza, and then have the orchestra start a few bars before the cadenza several times so that I could improvise a succession of them. “We’d need an orchestra, then,” said Marre. “Whom should we get?” I proposed the AAM and Christopher Hogwood. Thus, my precious relationship with Chris and the AAM began at my instigation!

As a result of the television recording Chris engaged me to perform both with the AAM and with the Handel & Haydn Society in Boston, where he was Music Director at the time. Out of these collaborations developed the project of recording the Mozart concerto cycle for Decca L’Oiseau-Lyre. The first recording, with K271 and 414, was released in 1993, and we recorded two to three discs a year until the series was regrettably canceled by Decca after eight of the projected thirteen discs were released.

Part of the collaboration involved chamber music, and I had the happy experience of recording the Mozart and Beethoven piano/wind quintets with the marvelous AAM solo winds together with the Beethoven Horn Sonata with the incomparable Tony Halstead. The collaboration with the AAM continued despite the cancellation of the Mozart cycle, and Chris’ continuing loyal support of my work, which meant and still means the world to me, resulted in collaborations with other orchestras across Europe, the United States, and in Australia — performances that I shall forever cherish.

Thanks to Chris I was engaged for a performance with the Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra of the D-minor concerto K466 within an all-Mozart programme on 15 November 2014. In May of that year I was informed that he had had to cancel his participation in the concert. I was immensely anxious, for cancellations so far out are rare and usually ominous. It took some time before I learned the terrible truth. In late September I had an engagement with the Bournemouth Symphony and flew to London a day earlier so that I could get a train to Cambridge and see Chris. It was not to be: he passed away the day before I arrived — a shattering blow. I was asked to conduct the Tokyo concert, which I dedicated to his memory.

Not long after Richard Egarr assumed the directorship of the AAM, succeeding Chris, I had the joy of partnering with him in Mozart’s concerto for two pianos at the 21st anniversary concert for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in the Royal Festival Hall. His artistry and flair were captivating, and we have pursued collaboration, including a recent performance of Beethoven 4 in Boston with the Handel and Haydn Society. I have also had the joy of directing the AAM from the keyboard as well as conducting it in several concerts in recent years. Its continuing successes and worldwide renown, so richly deserved, are an inspiration to me, and I hope to have the pleasure of continued association with this beloved cultural institution.

In particular, I dream of bringing the Mozart concerto recording cycle to a conclusion—a fitting legacy honoring both the AAM and Chris’ pioneering work with it.