Of course, in reality, there is no ‘mould’ other than the individual, and that’s why our visiting family of professors provides such value through its broad perspective.

Trevor Pinnock offers his unique experience and musicianship across an extraordinary range of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. How many ‘world’ figures have founded a pioneering orchestra, recorded over 100 discs for Deutsche Grammophon, continue to perform as solo instrumentalist and chamber partner and conduct major European symphony orchestras, and still have time to devote to an intensive project with our young musicians? One of the benefits of this lockdown has been to appreciate the generosity of such friends. Pinnock frames this week’s playlist of three works.

The spring of 2019 was memorable for a challenge almost above all others: Bach’s St Matthew Passion. It was streamed live, thanks to our relationship with Classic FM, and has reached an estimated 200,000 people worldwide. Delivering the opening salvo of our ‘Bach the European’ series, thanks to the continuing support of the Kohn Foundation and new help from Fondation Meyer, Trevor took students on an unforgettable journey.

Those of you who have seen him work often comment on his uncanny ability to communicate the essence of what he wants with a distilled simplicity; it allows young people to feel as if they are simply musicians trying to find some answers (or at least what questions to ask), and not students who must fit a standard didactic mould (and I really do mean ‘mould’ here!). He wants to instil trust in a collective group and attain the remarkable responsibility and courage required to make the St Matthew Passion reach the heart of every listener. It is done with a quiet and humble humanity but with rigour and high expectations – exciting, realisable, non-threatening ones.

Please listen to the last 10 minutes of this performance, imagining what has happened in the previous three hours and how Bach leaves us post-crucifixion – and what had happened so intensively in the previous three weeks at the Academy. Trevor’s expression at 09’20” says it all!

Pinnock Bach: St Matthew Passion ‘Wir setzen uns’

Pinnock Bach: St Matthew Passion ‘Wir setzen uns’

Although a less frequent visitor than Pinnock, Sir Mark Elder, Semyon Bychkov, Ed Gardner and our other conductors of close association, Christian Thielemann’s precious visits always have a special mystique of their own. Thanks to the accessibility of recorded sources of all kinds through the digital age, curious students have a greater chance than ever to assess the work of great conductors, past and present. Thielemann comes with a peerless command of the great Austro-German tradition, underpinned by his considerable achievements in Berlin, Vienna, Bayreuth, Salzburg and Dresden. What was so refreshing about his last visit – to mark the 80th Anniversary of Richard Strauss’s visit to the Academy in 1936 – was his enjoyment of how responsive the students were to acknowledging these traditions, and the importance of making them relevant for the here and now.

Richard Strauss gave his signed score of Tod und Verklärung from 1936 to the Academy after he’d performed this work in the Duke’s Hall. Christian Thielemann agreed to conduct the very same work. Watching him rehearse was an object lesson in ‘fixing’ things, signposting the direction and ‘meanings’ in the score and then trusting our musicians. Students reflected after the performance on how enabled they felt, and how the maestro’s economic but generous conducting communicated sans mots what he’d expressed in preparation – but with turbo-charged and reflective magic reserved for the performance. Thielemann is our Carl Maria von Weber Visiting Professor – especially fitting as he is Chief Conductor of the Dresden Staatskapelle, of which Weber was a notable forebear as Hofkapellmeister. And Weber conducted the first full symphony orchestra concert at the Academy in 1826. The table on which he wrote Oberon resides in the Principal’s flat! Here is the final section.

Thielemann Strauss: Tod und Verklärung

Thielemann Strauss: Tod und Verklärung

As I indicated above, the playlist is framed by our Principal Conductor of Chamber Orchestras, Trevor Pinnock. Here is the fourth movement of Mozart’s late E flat Symphony from just over three years ago.

It’s memorably uplifting and beautifully shaped, and our young musicians respond to Trevor’s assiduous preparation and, crucially, his genuine companionship – in the music and in the moment.

Pinnock Mozart: Symphony No 39, K 543

Pinnock Mozart: Symphony No 39, K 543