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Colin Currie: "getting to work with the SCO for many years now has been absolutely brilliant"

9 Oct 2023

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Another longtime friend of the SCO, Colin Currie made history as the first percussionist to reach the BBC Young Musician final, in 1994. A passionate chamber musician, he founded the Colin Currie Group with the specific intention of focusing on Steve Reich, and has also appeared as soloist in countless percussion concertos, many of which were written for him.

Steve Reich himself has recognised the Colin Currie Group's interpretations of his works as "the best I've ever heard", so it made sense to invite Colin back in our 50th Anniversary Season with a programme built around this music. We are very grateful to him for agreeing to the following short interview.

Steve Reich’s music is a cornerstone of your career. What do you remember of the first time you heard it?

Music for 18 Musicians would have been the first work of Steve’s that I heard, on CD sometime in the very early 90s. It would be a while before I ever heard any of his music live however, and this was probably at the premiere of Proverb at the BBC Proms in 1995.

Your performances with the SCO this autumn are not limited to Reich, however. What should the audience expect from these concerts?

I’ve designed this programme to represent but also branch out from the music of Steve Reich, since his reach and resonance in music is so profound. All of the featured composers have connections to his melodic, highly attractive and compelling style, whether his European counterpart and contemporary Louis Andriessen, or American disciple Julia Wolfe. The concert will be energetic, for sure, but also very warm-hearted and sweet-toned.

Louis Andriessen wrote Tapdance for you back in 2013. How has your appreciation of the piece developed since?

My love and respect for Louis’ Tapdance has only increased since its premiere. This work is not at all what one might expect from a ‘percussion concerto’ and it plays with the listener’s expectations in its mischievous game of thwarting potential preconceptions. It smashes together a Horace Silver tune Señor Blues with reference to Darius Milhaud, and also quotes Charlie Parker at the conclusion. It is furthermore a hauntingly nostalgic piece, one of memory and fondness for these bygone composers.

The 2023/24 Season marks the SCO’s 50th anniversary. What are your abiding memories of working with the Orchestra?

The SCO was the first orchestra I ever heard, and I can recall in particular to this day a Mozart piano concerto with Murray Perahia which left a huge impression. Getting to work so extensively with the orchestra, for many years now, has been absolutely brilliant. From countless school concerts via the Masterworks programme, newly commissioned concertos by Steven Mackey and Sally Beamish, and my recent concerts of Helen Grime’s concerto, it has always been a place of support and encouragement. Needless to say, the artistic standards are so profoundly strong and I remain a yearlong fan of the orchestra, frequently attending their concerts in Glasgow where I live.

Looking ahead to the next fifty years, is there any repertoire you’d particularly like to explore with the SCO?

It’s brilliant to bring Steve’s music to this orchestra. I’m very excited to have the SCO’s highly polished ‘classical’ credentials applied to this music and I’m sure the results will be very uplifting. There’s a lot more of that repertoire we could pursue, and like these November concerts, a diverse musical context to support it.

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