Learning from the Master!

24 March 2016
Béatrice Muthelet

Béatrice Muthelet



This past tour took us from rainy and cold Dortmund to the sun of Spain and was a real journey from darkness to light!

Let me explain: we started off by reacquainting ourselves with this huge and beautiful piece that is the opera Written on Skin and spent a few days taming technical difficulties with the help of the composer himself and his perfect ears and relentless quest for perfection – nobody can blame him for this, it is his music after all and I can imagine that it feels to him as if we were hurting his child when we play wrong notes or even just the wrong nuance!! It's very unsettling… I can only compare it to when I leave my children to be watched by my mother and get them back with completely different clothes and hairstyle! 

To get back to serious matters, George Benjamin was a perfectionist and demanding, true to his reputation but NEVER in an unpleasant way – and how rewarding is it to then play a passage and it suddenly sounds crystal clear and makes sense – and this made the hard work of the first few days very important and helped us until the end of the tour. How we would wish to have this experience with Wagner, Strauss or Mahler, not to mention all the other composers up there in heaven, how do we wish sometimes to know what they MEANT in certain passages or harmonies, how it would help us to interpret their work and make us better musicians. We are indeed very lucky…

Of course it helps to play in an orchestra where no one shies away from hard work and no challenge is too big or too small to make things better. Until the very last performance we were trying to get things better, to improve some passages which might have been difficult in another acoustic and that's what makes the working atmosphere here so special. Benjamin knew this and was immensely thankful. When he saw Daniel Harding behind the stage after the last concert in London, he said: this orchestra is so wonderful, no matter how high you put the bar, they will try to jump higher... they are angels! 

So for us this means mission accomplished!Beside the opera we also kept busy with preparing other pieces, the smaller opera Into the Little Hill, Fantasia, Canon and Fugue and many others which we presented in concerts around the opera performances. I love this concept because it gives an audience to really GRASP the composer, his different styles, his development and his versatility. Personally I kept very busy on this tour together with my colleague Anna Puig Torné, with whom I played Viola Viola. It's one of the hardest pieces written for our instrument and it is such a great experience to be able to say, having played it in three cities with many rehearsals with the composer in between, that we are beginning to feel comfortable with this piece and dare I say, learned to love it!!!I cannot thank the office enough to have made this project possible – I am always grateful for learning experiences and coming home from work, knowing I have improved is the best feeling of all. 

I hope there will be many others! 

Photos: Geoffroy Schied