Beneath the Score with Orpheus Sinfonia

Cellist and conductor Thomas Carroll on the joy of discovering the letters of Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann and Clara Schumann

Beneath the Score with Orpheus Sinfonia

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a classical musician is getting the chance to introduce new people to incredible music and the lives of the great composers. Too many concert goers are too modest when it comes to feeling able to relate to these great works. There is no question that many composers had minds of genius and that their works are filled with riches and beauty more profound than we mere mortals could ever fully comprehend. But even if we never fully understand Beethoven's most intimate moments or Bach's spiritual world, Schumann's feverishly ecstatic spirit or Shostakovich's musical and political resistance, there is so much to inspire us, and a surprising amount that we can relate to. Bringing this music to life for new audiences is extremely exciting and is one of the driving forces for going out on stage.

I have always found that the more I feel I know what a piece is saying, the more attached to it I become, like getting to know a friend better. We can't always be sure what was in the minds of the composers, but music opens itself up with a little exploration. I was privileged to study with Steven Isserlis at Prussia Cove for many years – he's a musician whose inquisitive mind was always delving into the background of every work. Bernstein's Young People's Concerts have also been a huge inspiration. They inspired me to create a series called Beneath the Score, designed to bring music to life through narration. Alongside performances by the Orpheus Sinfonia, actors read from letters and writings, investigating the minds of the composers who wrote them.

Our next concert will explore the relationship between Johannes Brahms (pictured above) and Robert and Clara Schumann.The letters between them reveal their personalities to such a degree that the music comes to life in a whole new light. Brahms's melancholy spirit makes so much more sense in the context of this very complex triangle. Schumann's creative nature is also made clearer when you read his notes to Clara, her diaries and his own writings. The second half of the concert will consist of a complete performance of Brahms's First Symphony, the piece in which both Clara and Robert Schumann played an important role in encouraging the composer to overcome the forbidding ghost of Beethoven.

I am excited to welcome new audience members to experience the works and lives of these brilliant composers at our next Beneath the Score concert. The beauty of walking out on stage and sharing this music is that it is so captivating and so full of emotion that no one can leave unaffected by its powers. This is the magic of classical music: be in its presence for long enough and it will win you over every time, of that I am sure.


– Thomas Carroll, artistic director of Orpheus Sinfonia


Beneath the Score: The Love Traingle takes place on Monday 23 March at St George's Church, Hannover Square at 7.30 pm. Visit to find out more




The art of impromptu

Following in the footsteps (BBC NGA Kitty Whately)

A guide to Johannes Brahms

A guide to Robert Schumann


  • Article Type: | Blog |
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