Player Conversation: Toby Thatcher, Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble

Ahead of our performance of Stockhausen’s monumental work Gruppen at the Royal Festival Hall this coming Sunday, we spoke to one of the performers about their experience. Toby Thatcher is an oboist from the Royal Academy of Music’s Manson Ensemble, whose musicians will perform alongside the London Sinfonietta, helping to make up the 100 plus players needed on stage.

What instrument do you play? Which year of study are you currently in?

I am an oboist, currently commencing my second year of a Masters Degree at the Royal Academy of Music. I am also somewhat of an aspiring conductor.

Is this the first time you’ve played Stockhausen’s Gruppen?

Yes, it is.

How are you preparing for it?

A work like Gruppen demands a particular brand of individual preparation; one of exceptional mathematical precision and attentiveness. With tempo markings such as ♩ = 75.5 a knowledge of tempo relationships and fluctuations is more important than in most other music I have yet to perform. Knowledge of what else is taking place around my own entries is also vital, so a great deal of time with a recording/score and pencil has taken place in order to ensure I know where I sit within the entire work.

What do you most admire about Stockhausen’s compositions?

Prior to this project Stockhausen was someone whose music I knew little about, however I have been struck by his insatiable desire to explore different techniques in each of his works. It seems hard to trace a common thread through his output, and each work appears as a study of something new.

What can the audience expect on Sunday?

A spectacle, and quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime musical experience. Suffice to say this is a work which frequently exhibits moments of thunderous power, so it is possibly counter-intuitive that some of the most effective moments are created with silence. The way that the concert is organised, as to allow the work to be performed twice in succession, should allow the audience the opportunity to challenge themselves to identify the inevitable differences (and similarities) between each rendition.

Toby Thatcher

Stockhausen’s Gruppen is a landmark in 20th century composition, scored for three independent orchestras and bringing over 100 musicians together on stage: see it to believe it. Click here for tickets or phone the Southbank Centre box office on 0844 875 0073.

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