A fraternal double-act in the world of classical music hits Symphony Hall next month when the Redmond brothers present Tim and Tom’s Symphonic Adventure with the CBSO.
“Brothers Tim and Tom discover an old suitcase full of mysterious treasures and their imaginations begin to run wild,” we are told.
“With a bit of help they’re all set for an adventure without limits. Music can tell any story they want - or transport them to wherever they want to go”.
And so these two brothers, Tim highly active as a conductor, Tom a much-loved BBC Radio 3 presenter (he interviewed me during the interval of Andris Nelsons’ farewell concert with the CBSO), are bringing this magic to Birmingham.
Tom, who began life as a French Hornist, begins the account of their background. “We grew up in Andover in Hampshire. We went to the local comp which had a pretty good music department and we also both went to the same 6th form college (though not at the same time); Peter Symonds’ in Winchester, which was home to the Hampshire Specialist Music Course.
“We were both members of the local youth orchestra which at the time did some pretty amazing tours. I also studied at the Junior Royal Academy of Music every Saturday. This was life changing as I was exposed to musicians from all over the South of England and the standard was phenomenally high.
“We both studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. By the time I arrived, Tim was just finishing his time as Junior Fellow in Conducting. Because we’re only vowel apart, there was often some confusion as to who did what, for example I would regularly receive conducting schedules for various ensembles and Tim was awarded (quite a high) mark in the concerto auditions – resulting in him being put down to perform a couple of horn concertos!
“Both of us benefited enormously from the old county music award system. If it hadn’t been for that, music lessons would have been incredibly difficult for our parents to afford.”
Tim has been active as a conductor all over the world, and not least with an impressive repertoire in contemporary music. How does he achieve the mind-switch to conduct a children’s concert?
“Conducting contemporary music often involves introducing the audience to music that they’ve never heard before. Conducting a children’s concert is no different,” is his interesting reply.
“It’s just that there’s more music that is brand new to a young audience! Actually, I find that children are both incredibly discerning and refreshingly open-minded when it comes to repertoire – and so I often include contemporary music in children’s concerts when I can.”
Tom Redmonds’ horn-playing activities have involved his performing worldwide with orchestras such as the Halle (of which he was a member for 13 years), the CBSO and London Symphony Orchestra, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the Philharmonia Now that he’s so involved as a presenter, compere and animateur, does he ever feel he’d like to get back among the music-stands and play?
“I’m still very much amongst the stands! I resigned from the Hallé in 2016 after a nine-month sabbatical. The whole orchestra was incredibly supportive of my extra-curricular activities but in the end I simply couldn’t fit everything in so decided to take the plunge and leave.
“I now balance my time more evenly between some work for Radio 3, lots of schools and family concerts, I teach (at Junior Royal Northern College of Music and Chethams’) and I still play the horn! In fact the CBSO are kind enough to let me come and play with them when they do big repertoire. The beauty of paying the horn is that composers like Mahler, Strauss, Bruckner, Wagner etc like to use large numbers of horns, so I still get my fix of orchestral playing. I enjoy plenty of chamber music too. “
How often do the brothers work together? And what is the balance of power like? Tom picks up the baton.
“We’ve worked with each other a few times over the years in a variety of scenarios. The strangest was when Tim came conduct the Hallé shortly after Christmas one year. We had just spent a few days at our parents’ house with all the normal brotherly playfulness and all of a sudden there he was on the podium and I had to be polite! In terms of balance of power, he was very much in charge… on that day!
“As conductor/presenter we’re starting to work together more and more. I did a family concert with Tim’s orchestra in Cambridge a few years ago and we realised that there is an instinctive connection between us that perhaps only siblings can have. Most importantly we share the same humour – and so when we programme a concert or write a script, one can see almost straight away where the other is going with an idea.”
Tim as a conductor works from existing scores. Does he ever feel restricted by that, or does he enjoy the recreation?
“As classical musicians, we’re trained to treat the published score with great respect – but at the same time to scratch our heads and work out what it is we think the composer was trying to say. The process of recreation is endlessly fascinating, particularly when you perform the same music with lots of different orchestras. One of the things I love about conducting is learning to balance one’s own ideas about a piece with an orchestra’s own performing traditions – you can often hear another conductor’s interpretation burnished in the sound.”
And how do Tom’s ideas for creative projects come to him?
“Ideas come from everywhere, everything and anything. Sometimes an idea might come from a piece of music itself, or a composer’s story, or my own emotional response to something I’ve heard or played.
Tim has the last word.
“Having had the privilege of conducting all over the world, one of the things that is brought home to me time and time again is how fabulously creative and imaginative children’s concerts are in the UK.
“It’s easy to take for granted that a world-class symphony orchestras puts on concerts for young people, but actually few countries can match the British orchestras for boldness and innovation. And of course, it’s absolutely vital that we do so – because by welcoming the younger generation into the concert hall,
we’re opening our doors to the audiences of the future and for that matter, inspiring the orchestral players of the future.”
* Tim and Tom Redmond present “Tim and Tom’s Symphonic Adventure” with the CBSO at Symphony Hall on February 12 (2.30pm for one hour, with free craft activities in the foyer from 1pm). Details on 0121 780 3333.
* Tonight: Veteran conductor Yuri Temirkanov brings the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra to Symphony Hall with a mouthwatering Russian programme. Rimsky-Korsakov’s exotic Scheherazadeis followed by Prokofiev’s limpid Piano Concerto no.3, Nikolai Lugansky the soloist, and music from the same composer’s Romeo and Juliet ballet complete the evening (7.30pm).
* Sunday: Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla makes a much-anticipated return to her CBSO with a programme beginning with another of the Haydn rarities she loves digging out (Symphony no.31, the ‘Hornsignal’), continuing with Mozart’s last piano concerto (no. 27 in B-flat, K 595, Francesco Piemontesi the soloist), and concluding with Beethoven’s Fifth (3pm, repeated February 2 at 2.15pm).
* February 1: Another all-Russian programme comes to Symphony Hall, courtesy of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under their popular music director Vasily Petrenko. It begins with Stravinsky’s Jeu de Cartes, continues with Rachmaninov’s rarely-heard Fourth Piano Concerto (Daniil Trifonov), and concludes with Prokofiev’s fizzing Fifth Symphony (7.30pm).