November sees the start of a European tour for extraordinary oboist Cristina Gómez Godoy who has very early on established herself as one to watch (as well as listen to!). The tour features the specially composed commission This other Eden by Charlotte Bray in which she tackles the fraught issue of Brexit. Here there are in conversation with Composers Edition’s Dan Goren.
Dan Goren: Is this the first time you two have worked together? How did this collaboration come about?
Charlotte Bray: Yes, it’s the first time Cristina and I have worked together. Cristina is currently an ECHO (European Concert Hall Organisation) Rising Star, She can tell you more about that 🙂 and it’s through this that we have been introduced to one another. Each artist must perform a newly commissioned piece in their programme for the year and the various concert halls in the organisation suggest the composers. I’m very grateful that L’Auditori in Barcelona and Palau de la Música Catalana suggested me for the commission. Composers who have written works for ECHO Rising Stars in recent past seasons include Dobrinka Tabakova, Péter Eötvös, Olga Neuwirth, Wolfgang Rihm, Nico Muhly, and Johanna Doderer.
DG: Cristina, tell me about the programme you’ll be touring This other Eden in.
Cristina Gómez Godoy: The elaboration of the programme for the tour of concerts as an ECHO Rising Star started with my desire of gathering and combining pieces that are miscellaneous within the oboe repertoire, going from classicism through romanticism to modern – and even adding for some programmes the sound color of the viola for several pieces as a trio (oboe+viola+piano). Since every hall has its preferences in terms of style or length, I had to create several programmes. However, my wish was to choose works of composers that were able to capture the soul of the instrument and in this regard I am extremely happy with Charlotte’s piece, which certainly does!
DG: You’re not pulling any punches here Charlotte – This is a very direct and personal response to the UK leaving the EU. As a British composer living and working in Berlin, what does Brexit mean to you?
CB: This other Eden is quite a raw response to Brexit. I was writing it in January and February this year as the deadline for leaving the EU was approaching and I felt compelled to explore this musically. Brexit has literally meant that I have become German! Having lived in Berlin for 9 years I feel very fortunate to have been able to apply for German Citizenship. But I will still be greatly affected by Brexit since the majority of my work is UK based. I am sure we’ll all be feeling the shock and dealing with the consequences of it for years to come.
DG: Musicians’ lives are often international, yours Cristina certainly is, having performed as principle for some of the most international of orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and West-Eastern Divan. How do you relate to the subject matter here?
CGG: For me, making music with others has been an essential part every since I was first introduced to playing. As you mention, I have played in many different orchestras and every single time I learn from the experience, certainly not only at an individual level but at a collective level, as part of a group of not only incredibly good musicians but humans. If you add the international factor, you broaden even further the learning spectrum which I have always cherished a great deal – being able to embrace the new and break boundaries. That is why I like to also keep chamber music as a relevant part of my musical life, because even at a much smaller level, you need to make music with others, as I am on this ECHO Rising Stars tour.
DG: You’re a highly expressive performer, something I can see Charlotte has responded to in This other Eden with dramatic use of tone, dynamic and phrasing. What is it that drives your creative voice?
CGG: Since the very first time I listened to the oboe, I was fascinated by its sound, its resemblance to the human voice. From that very moment, my biggest aim has been to look for a sound as pure, crystalline and at the same time warm as possible – not such an easy task in such a highly demanding instrument! Despite that, my goal has always been to enter the soul of the listener through that quality, and not simply for the sake of entertaining.
I must say that I am very happy about Charlotte’s work for having written a piece for me which perfectly fits my idea of expressing through my instrument/voice and not only that, but also reflects and responds perfectly to the turbulent times we are living.
DG: This other Eden ends with something of a defiant scream. Tell me Charlotte, what do you want to communicate to all those who hear it as Cristina performs it across Europe in the coming months?
CB: Yes, I suppose it does! The third movement captures a sense of resigned disbelief: the dissonant discourse of a nation. The music is left hanging, high in the air, which is how many Brits feel, I think. I want to present the idea of freedom to the audience. Has freedom been granted or wrested away? With the oboe and piano singing out, like bells tolling, the opening is darkly defiant, strong-willed and resistant. Whereas the second movement is flighty and fragile. Like birds in the air, the music flutters around freely.
It has been brilliant to work with Cristina on the piece, to fine tune it to her incredible ‘voice’. My fingers are firmly crossed that her many performances of the new piece over the coming season will happen. It is truly wonderful to have so many performances lined up all over Europe, including London and Newcastle!
DG: Thank you both for talking with me and I wish you all the very best for the 17 dates over the next 8 months!