Five minutes with... Steven Hudson (oboe)
We caught up with Steven Hudson as he was rehearsing for the upcoming Nordic Symphonies concert on Friday 27 March, where he will perform Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C major conducted by Thomas Zehetmair.
What is it like playing a concerto with Royal Northern Sinfonia?
Playing any concerto can be quite a daunting experience. There are a lot of notes to learn and all eyes are on you. The physical and mental energy it takes to transmit a really good performance to the audience is quite tiring, especially if you are going to play in the orchestra for the rest of the concert.
That aside, playing with a group of friends and colleagues of nearly seven years makes it a lot less scary. Having that level of support behind you, and the fact we play chamber music together so often, is nice and makes for a spontaneous and risk-taking type of concert.
This time, having Thomas Zehetmair conducting is particularly special. He was Music Director here when I arrived in 2013 and I have the biggest respect for him. He makes the orchestra sound fantastic. I really revere him – and used to be petrified of him – but to end with him is just the best thing possible for me.
Can you tell us a little bit about the piece you’re performing on Friday 27 March?
I am playing Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C major. He wrote this at the tender age of 21 when he was working for the Archbishop of Salzburg. He wrote many concertos for himself and people in the court orchestra – this was written for the principal oboe.
He left the Archbishop’s employment to see the world and make money! In 1777 he went to Mannheim and gave a copy to the principal oboe there who was a virtuosic player. He created a real sensation with this piece!
After that, it seems to have vanished with no trace of the parts – as there was no printing press. It became known as a tragedy that we knew there was a concerto but there was no trace of it. It wasn’t until 1920 than an archivist in the Salzburg Mozarteum discovered a pile of dusty parts with Mozart’s signature.
These were recognised as the D major flute concerto and it transpires that when commissioned to write music for an amateur flautist (which he didn’t enjoy!) he just transcribed the C major oboe concerto up a tone to become the D major flute concerto.
Why do you love this music? Why is it interesting to you and the audience?
It is so fresh whenever I hear it. In C major it is so joyful and a real treasure of Mozart’s middle period.
It’s quite a quirky piece. Usually in a Mozart wind concerto you have an orchestral introduction before the soloist introduces the theme. In this, we have the orchestral introduction but then the oboe goes off on rhapsodic runs and arpeggios and never actually plays the theme. It’s Mozart being very cheeky.
The second movement is like an operatic aria and it is so beautiful. The last movement has a lot of banter between oboe and orchestra so I think that will be a lot of fun to play with my colleagues.
This piece is positioned perfectly within this programme. We start with Sibelius Symphony No.7, which is an emotional tug at the heart strings and some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear in 20 minutes. Then there’s the joyful Mozart that’s really good fun. Then we end with Nielsen Symphony No.1, which is like Danish Dvořák on Red Bull. It should be a fantastic concert!
You’re sadly leaving RNS at the end of March. How does that feel? What has the orchestra meant to you?
I’m going into this trying to think of it as a celebration of seven years with amazing colleagues. Its going to be emotional and sad. I got this job in my late twenties and I feel I have really grown up musically and personally here.
I saw this orchestra when I was 15 and to be a member of it for this amount of time has been truly special.
The job as Sectional Leader wind here is unique, with the solo and chamber opportunities you have, and I’ll miss everyone dearly.
Thank you, Sage Gateshead and Royal Northern Sinfonia. You’re all close to my heart – I will miss you all dearly. All the very best for the future.