He has become something of a familiar face at St George’s of late and this Friday (30 Jan) violinist Thomas Gould returns to the stage, this time without Aurora Orchestra following his lead. ‘Late Night Classical Cafe’ finds Thomas performing with Latvian accordion virtuoso Ksenija Sidorova, together creating an hour (or so) or colourful and infectious classics. He returns in February and again in May with Aurora for two unmissable (and typically eclectic) programmes. We caught up with him ahead of Friday’s concert and a special rooftop performance (weather permitting) to launch our ‘Building A Sound Future’ Capital Development Appeal…
Thomas, you’re becoming a bit of a regular here at St George’s. Are you enjoying your visits to Bristol?
I love playing at St George’s! The acoustics of the hall are of course legendary, but it’s the warmth and attentiveness of the audience that makes playing here so special.
What do you remember about the first time you played here?
It was a lunchtime recital in February 2007 and there was travel chaos caused by snow. We arrived just in time to throw on some smart clothes and walk onto the stage!
Audiences here will be most familiar with you as part of Aurora Orchestra, but you’re with us this month in a slightly different setting. How did your partnership with Ksenija Sidorova come about?
We were actually put together by a record producer because Ksenija needed a solo violinist to record Piazzolla’s Oblivion with her and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for the bonus track on her CD ‘Fairy Tales’. We got on so well that we decided to play more together.
What can the audience expect from your concert with Ksenija on 30 January?
It will be quite informal and we intend to have a lot of fun. There’s a lot of variety in our programme, loosely connected by a theme of folk music from different parts of the woirld.
Your debut solo album is out soon; what sets yours apart from other violin albums do you think?
My debut solo album “Bach to Parker” is a real mixed bag; a journey from Bach’s epic Chaconne to Charlie Parker’s famous bebop classic “Donna Lee”, taking in a bunch of contemporary pieces by some of my favourite living composers. It’s an unusual disc, but there’s never a dull moment.
You also have an album out with your swing troupe ‘Man Overboard’ and have played the likes of Ronnie Scotts; is it good to move away from classical music once in a while?
I’ve always loved listening to and playing jazz, and I find it’s a very good way of relaxing and letting off steam. The classical music world can get a bit claustrophobic if you never do anything else…
The group is visiting us with Aurora in May; it looks to be a brilliant night…
I’m really pleased we’re bringing the ‘Jitterbug’ Aurora / Man Overboard collaboration to St George’s. It’s definitely one of the most exhilarating programmes I’ve ever done. From Paganini to Duke Ellington, this concert has it all!
You started out in a school orchestra… Do you think enough is being done to encourage young people to experience music, or play an instrument?
Playing a musical instrument is a life-enriching gift. Of course not enough is done in this country to give every child the opportunity to take lessons. I’m only here because I was fortunate enough to be born into a musical family that could afford to pay for lessons.
Tell us about your route into playing professionally? What advice would you have for aspiring violinists? Does coming from a musical family have its advantages?
My sister Clio is leader of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Of course coming from a musical family is a huge advantage but it also creates added pressure to succeed when you have a superstar older sibling.
Does your violin have an interesting past? When was it made?
It’s an Italian violin made in 1782 by G. B. Guadagnini. I only know that before it came to me it belonged to a retired violinist in Germany.
What is the most unusual place you’ve been asked to play the violin?
The roof of St George’s Bristol! And St Pancras rail station, in arctic conditions.
Friday 30 January, 8.30pm
Interview by Michael Beek