Stephanie Childress performs as solo violinist in Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday 25 January at Leeds Town Hall.
She tells us about the five pieces of music, book and luxury she would take to a desert island below.
For me Beethoven represents the pinnacle of the symphonic form (he is to conductors what Bach is to violinists). I honestly believe that he was able to compose nine absolutely wondrous, perfect symphonies, which keep revealing more and more of their mysteries whenever one returns to them. I will be conducting the Eroica a couple of times this year so am currently immersed in its pioneering form and dazzling mastery. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving!
I first came across Thomas Adès’ music as a fourteen-year-old during my second year playing in the NYOGB. We were performing Asyla and it struck me how the piece sounded so alien and yet so familiar (I’m not just talking of the famous ‘nightclub’ passage during Ecstasio!). For me, Adès has the ability to assimilate older musical techniques and radically reinterpret them for traditional groups (such as a piano trio, or a symphony orchestra) which is what has drawn me to his music ever since.
Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia was the first opera I ever conducted at university. Perhaps the trauma of my first steps as a conductor is the reason why I’ve included it in my top five, but Britten’s operas helped introduce me to the operatic form in the first instance.
After writing my dissertation on the opera’s musical and textual portrayal of gender I put it away for many years but have recently started listening to it again - time heals all!
I’ve recently started listening to a lot of jazz (particularly bebop), and in the spirit of my being cast off to a desert island, I would love to have Anita O’Day’s Cole Porter album at hand, or at least her version of What Is This Thing Thing Called Love. Her scatting would keep me entertained for days and I’d enjoy trying to mimic her incredible sense of harmonic flow (at the risk of frightening off any potential island inhabitants/rescuers!). There’s something incredibly refreshing about good bebop and I would recommend it to any classical musician (notably Charles Mingus’ album Ah Um).
I was recently reminded of my first ‘Wagner experience’ as a rather inexperienced ten-year-old watching Die Walküre and being perplexed by the incestuous plot-line and trying to remember who was a god, demi-god, norm etc. Ten years on, I can safely say that I’m a convert and have chosen Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s production of Parsifal. Parsifal is the apotheosis of Wagner’s output, and the many philosophical themes (the death of Christianity, its redemption, humanity’s redemption etc.) which Laufenberg tries to tackle in his production are enough to keep anyone busy for a couple of decades at least.
As my book/play I would choose Shakespeare’s King Lear. It’s one of his only plays which I haven’t yet read and I’m constantly reminded by friends that it’s an absolute must!
I’ve been meaning to catch up on my piano practice recently so would probably ask for a nice baby grand as my luxury item. I could finally learn Robert Schumann and Schubert’s song cycles, Clara Schumann’s Lieder, and play through some operas too (although I might then ask for a friend to be parachuted in … what’s the fun in learning all the accompaniments if you have no one to sing them with you!).
An extremely adaptable young musician, Stephanie Childress performs regularly as conductor, director, soloist and chamber musician. Her conducting highlights of the 2018/19 season have included her debut with the Chineke! Junior Orchestra for the Southbank’s Imagine Children’s Festival and a programme of Prokofiev and Brahms with the Cambridge University Sinfonia. Stephanie performs as part of the Leeds International Orchestral Season 2019/20.