Q&A with Benjamin Morrison

What are you looking forward to most about performing with APO?
I'm looking forward to making music with the APO and being able to present great works in Auckland. It's been at least 14 years since we last performed together!

One of the pieces you’re performing is Brahms’ Violin Concerto. What in particular do you enjoy about this piece?
I love the way that Brahms develops the themes he sets out in his Violin Concerto. The seemingly simple melodies come in repeated cyclical layers, starting to interact with and clash with one another, all within the constraints of classical structure.

Major themes then come back in a minor key, making their presence all the more dramatic. The Concerto presents opportunities of interaction between soloist and orchestra and their importance is equal, as the Concerto is very symphonic in its dimensions.

How did you feel when you went on stage with the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time?
It was an exhilarating experience! The orchestra is rather sombre during rehearsals and as such, I felt somewhat underwhelmed during the rehearsal phase. The concert, however, was a completely different tone, as it always is, with every member of the orchestra giving their all.

There is a certain element of unity when the orchestra performs. It takes risks; pushing the boundaries of outward expression – but always in good taste.

Vienna is such an important musical city; it must have been really strange to be locked down and not perform for long periods over the last 18 months. How did you find that?
It's been difficult in Europe, as no performing arts have been able to take place at all. We have been fortunate to perform broadcasted concerts for radio and TV, as well as livestreamed concerts, but this is just not the same as a live concert with a live audience. The audience is an integral part of the music and the hall sounds empty without the buzz of the audience; not to mention the positive vibe we get on stage from eager listeners!

We also made a video of the Overture from Mozart's Magic Flute, where many colleagues played and recorded their parts which were then all stitched together. We had many meetings (on Zoom of course) discussing the future and of course the rescheduling of concerts. We were fortunate recently to be able to go on tour again in Denmark.

And what was it like when the first wave hit back at the start of 2020?
Back in March last year, we were on a tour in Germany, which we had to abandon. It was towards the end, thankfully. Just thinking about it – all these things run through your mind. Am I going to get home safely? How bad is it? No one was wearing masks yet. From that point on, up until today, it's really been quite a different world.

It's probably going to be the biggest tragedy of our lifetimes, given that there hasn’t been any major worldwide war that has affected us in the western world directly. It made me think a lot about the fragility of the music scene as well...we really took that for granted.

Is there anything positive for you that has come out of the pandemic?
I've now been presented with an opportunity to learn new skills. I don't think I’ve never cooked as much as I did during the lockdowns! I built up a few skills, photography being one of them.

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