This month, we catch up with our Principal horn, Michael Thompson, who’ll be featured as soloist in our concert on Saturday 12 May when he’ll be performing Ligeti’s Hamburg Concerto.
What has been your favourite London Sinfonietta experience?
Can I pick two? Performing Hans Werner Henze’s Voices at La Scala, Milan is particularly memorable. I was still a student and as such it was one of my early London Sinfonietta experiences. The work is scored for 15 instrumentalists, plus tenor and mezzosoprano, and all of the players are required to play additional instruments, and sometimes sing – so I can claim to have sung in La Scala!
I’d also pick out performing Messaien’s Des canyons aux étoiles (From the Canyons to the Stars) which is famous amongst horn players for the sixth movement scored for solo horn, but the whole piece is an incredible journey.
What is the most unusual thing you’ve been asked to do in a musical work?
I was asked to burst balloons once during a BBC Proms performance!
What, or whom, inspires you most?
By now, I’ve reached the point in my career where I am inspired by my students.
Soon you’ll be revisiting Ligeti’s Hamburg Concerto, which you gave the UK premiere of with the London Sinfonietta in 2001. Can you tell us a little about the work?
It’s a challenging work (which I’ve enjoyed revisiting a number of times since the UK premiere), with the soloist being required to play both natural and valved horns. The ensemble itself contains 4 horn natural horns, each in a different key, which results in the most extraordinary harmonies which include quartertones.
I think Ligeti was a composer who really understood the capabilites of the horn- his writing is challenging, but very idiomatic.
And finally, what upcoming London Sinfonietta performance are you most looking forward to?
In Portrait: George Benjamin on Saturday 12 May, including the Hamburg Concerto, of course!