is a British conductor and pianist, studied with Prof. Mark Stringer at the Universität f. Musik u. darstellende Kunst, Vienna.Jack made his debut with Glyndebourne Touring Opera in November 2013, conducting The Rape of Lucretia in Canterbury, having worked on it as Assistant Conductor. With the conductor falling sick at the final rehearsal, Jack jumped in to conduct the
work publicly for the first time at
Glyndebourne since 1946, when the opera was premiered. An immediate re-invitation followed, to work on La finta giardiniera in 2014. Other professional engagements of note include La Clemenza di Tito at Drottningholms Slottsteater (2013) and Punch and Judy with Neue Oper Wien (2014). A graduate of Oxford University, Jack was a
choral scholar at Wadham College, where he revitalised the dormant music scene, setting up a college Orchestra. A distinguished pianist and accompanist, Jack studied with Prof. John Barstow in London. In 2011, Jack reached the finals of the Hans von Bülow Klavierwettbewerb where he conducted Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in C minor from the keyboard with the Meininger Hofkapelle.
Tell us about the V E.
The Valsassina Ensemble is a very exciting young group, relatively new on the scene, but that is already starting to make waves, which is wonderful to see. I think that what I find exciting about the Valsassina Ensemble is that the musicians are friends outside it, very clearly believe in it, and carry great passion and enthusiasm into the projects. To have an orchestra which is already so willing, energetic and responsive is a joy for any conductor!
Tell us about your collaboration with the V E.
I have worked with the Valsassina Ensemble twice before on recording sessions, in both working on repertoire which was new territory for me. In February, I’ll be performing my first concert with the ensemble at the Schönbrunn Palace, conducting works by Britten (one of my favourite composers), and Lukas Medlam (the Valsassina Ensemble’s concert master, and my former flatmate!) I’m really looking forward to collaborating with the Valsassina Ensemble again!
What does the "city of vienna" mean for you?
Above all else, it stands for a tradition of musical excellence. There’s almost something in the air (hopefully I’m breathing it too!) that is a constant reminder of the works of geniuses who have lived and worked in Vienna over the past few centuries. There’s also a huge pride among the people today for their heritage, and that is something that really carries into both the style and the quality of performances today. It’s impossible to escape.
Does one always have to perform Mozart, Schubert and Brahms in Vienna?
No, absolutely not! That’s not to say that those composers aren’t wonderful, and that it’s not a huge privilege to be able to perform their work (particularly in Vienna, because they have such a strong connection here), but there will always be a market for those composers in Vienna, and there will always be concerts where their work is performed as a result. But it would be a shame to limit ourselves to those composers, particularly when there are large areas of classical music which continue to receive little attention in Vienna. Exposing those works to a new audience is very exciting, and the duty of any artist who is interested in pushing boundaries.
How is life as a young successful musician?
A mixture of bohemian and extremely privileged. Bohemian in the sense that, like for most young musicians, success doesn’t offer security and there are plenty of elements of my existence which are basic. On the other hand, I live in Vienna, study on one of the most prestigious conducting courses in the world, and spend most of my time making stunning music with other extremely talented people: I can’t really imagine swapping it for anything.
Do you play an instrument?
Piano and clarinet. I can sort of find my way around a viola too, though there aren’t many witnesses who have lived to tell the tale...
With which composer would you like to go for a coffee?/ Which
composer would you have liked to go for a coffee with?
Probably Liszt – he was such a champion of music and of composers who weren’t necessarily very fashionable, and as a composer and performer himself he really broke new ground. Bernstein, perhaps, as well – I reckon he’d be a good one for anecdotes. Of living composers, Birtwistle would be pretty high up on my list, not least because I’m working on an opera of his in the spring, and he could give me some extra insight into it!
Where would you most like to perform?
Obviously there is huge prestige attached to performing in certain concert halls or theatres: I would love to conduct at the Royal Albert Hall because the BBC Proms Festival was such a big part of my childhood. But I’m also interested in performing in more unusual spaces – places where people wouldn’t necessarily expect classical music to be performed, such that it reaches more people, and is released from the concert hall where it is framed as an “event”, rather than simply something which is part of everyday life. I think that if concert producers were willing to take more risks with venues, it could go a long way towards shedding the stuffy connotations which are sometimes associated with classical music.
With whom would you ideally like to collaborate?
I love collaborating with friends – like with the Valsassina – because nothing is off-limit and there
is an innate trust, which really allows you so much freedom. So far I’ve not had any problems
with any musicians that I have worked with, and I’ve had huge fortune to work with some fantastically talented people, all of whom I would love to work with again. There are lots of contemporaries of mine, both in Vienna and London, with whom I have not worked yet, so I hope that can be rectified. Of “star names”, Daniel Barenboim would probably be top of my list, but I have an almost endless list of artists who I have grown up in awe of, and with whom it would be a dream to make music.
Which work would you like to conduct?
There are so many that it’s lucky that I have the rest of my life to work on them! High on my list is Britten’s The Turn of the Screw; symphonically I absolutely adore Shostakovich Symphony No. 7 (so much so that I’ve lost any critical capacity towards it), so that would be well up there too. Tristan und Isolde deserves a mention too, but I think it will be a long time before I’m ready for it...
What was your finest moment on stage?
Technically in the pit, rather than on the stage, but conducting The Rape of Lucretia with Glyndebourne Touring Opera – both on the main stage at Glyndebourne in the dress rehearsal and on tour in Canterbury – was very special for me. Also at university, I conducted a performance of Haydn’s Nelsonmesse, which wasn’t of a remarkably high standard, but which used soloists, singers and players all from my college, both staff and students, and was a really historic and cohesive event.
Can music change the world?
I think that anyone who is touched by music is necessarily changed by it, so of course yes – music is constantly changing the world, only if a little bit at a time. I find it very inspiring that because music is a fundamentally good thing, it tends to change the world for the better, and there are great examples of it doing just that in very significant ways, from the strength which artists like Bob Dylan added to the civil rights movement in the USA, to El Sistema in Venezuela, which has had a huge social impact in addition to its artistic one. It would be naive, however, to hope that music is the answer to all our problems; as much as I would like to believe it that it could, music alone isn’t going to end world poverty or stop climate change. It’s important too for musicians not to lose perspective of the bigger picture.
Jack Ridley - Interview - January 2014