HRH Prince Charles has been reflecting on his time in the cello section of the orchestra of Trinity College, Cambridge, with poet Simon Armitage. He joined Armitage on the BBC Radio 4 podcast The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed, with the recording taking place in the barn of his Welsh home Llwynywermod, in Llandovery. ‘I loved playing in the orchestra at Trinity – albeit rather badly,’ admitted the Prince of Wales. ‘I remember playing in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and trying to practise in my room at Cambridge to an old record conducted by Herbert von Karajan, who was the great conductor in those days, in the sixties. There was me sitting with my cello and my tuning fork, and I put this thing on, and of course he took it at an incredible lick – you’ve no idea how fast!’.
He’s right. Karajan’s Beethoven is particularly swift. Have a listen here.
The Prince of Wales is a major supporter of classical music, earlier this year becoming the new patron of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2019, he appeared as a guest on BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions, joining the programme’s presenter Michael Berkeley to discuss the music that has influenced his life. He chose a wide-ranging selection of music, from Haydn’s First Cello Concerto to Leonard Cohen’s ‘Take This Waltz’. He started with the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, making reference again to his time with the orchestra of Trinity College, Cambridge. ‘I was a very bad member of the cello section, I can assure you,’ he told Armitage in this latest interview.
With Simon Armitage, the Prince of Wales shared his love of the cello and regret for having stopped playing. ‘When I joined the Navy, I found it wasn’t so easy to take a cello in a ship,’ he admitted. ‘It got abandoned for a bit, and I never managed to take it up again.’
‘You suddenly realise how incredibly talented people are – the really good ones, that is – when we struggle away ourselves.’ He stressed the importance of children learning a craft. ‘It anchors you and connects you. It’s a useful antidote to sitting in front of a screen everyday.’