Lancing College has long been renowned for being the perfect setting for chamber music – as we all found out at a celebrity concert on 4 November
This special concert featured two sensational talents. Guy Johnston, a Classical Brit award winner and former BBC Young Musician of the Year, is one of the most exciting and versatile British cellists of his generation – and Lancing College was delighted to welcome him to perform with virtuoso pianist Simon Lane. The recital featured Schumann Fantasiestücke; Beethoven Sonata in G minor op.5; Fauré Élégie; Brahms Sonata in F op.99.
Guy, who is Professor of Cello at the Royal Academy of Music, has been described as ‘an impeccable soloist’ (Gramophone), whose ‘playing is searchingly beautiful and accurate’ (BBC Music Magazine). He has performed in major concert halls throughout the world, including the Elgar Cello Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the First Night of the Proms, and the Brahms Double Concerto at the Philharmonie with the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester in Berlin. Guy has toured as Principal Guest Cello of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and has been Guest Principal Cello of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, while continuing to perform the core cello concerti with orchestras such as City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Britten Sinfonia.
Guy is also an enthusiastic chamber musician, appearing at major festivals in the UK and Europe. He is an inspiring leader of young musicians as a patron of several charities, which promote music education with schoolchildren and young people, and he has recorded extensively to great acclaim.
Lancing College is privileged to have the pianist Simon Lane, whose playing has been described as ‘brilliant’ by Strad Magazine, on their exceptional music staff. Simon has also performed internationally, with a host of leading musicians.
Great School at Lancing College has wonderful acoustics and an intimate atmosphere for both performers and the audience. At the heart of a Grade I complex of Victorian buildings, it is the perfect setting for chamber music.
Ahead of the event, Guy took time out to talk about his lifelong commitment to music, fostering young talent and his excitement about visiting Lancing College. ‘My earliest solo experience was performing the Lalo Cello Concerto with the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall when I was 14,’ he recalls. ‘I had started playing the cello when I was five and it was after an experience at the age of 16 at Tanglewood in the States that I realised how hard I was going to have to work to perform at the top level.
‘I am now privileged to enjoy a professional career, both performing as a soloist with international orchestras, and also in chamber ensembles. I enjoy these two very different experiences. In both, one is constantly searching to make something special which involves a collective energy. It’s somewhat easier to work in smaller groups and share ideas. When playing with an orchestra, there is often less time to rehearse and one communicates with the other musicians via a conductor. In the end, we all have to use our ears and respond to the music.’
How does he feel about helping the younger generation develop their musical talents? ‘I am passionate about giving music opportunities to children and talented young musicians,’ he says. ‘I’m a patron of Future Talent, which helps aspiring young musicians to fulfil their dreams and ambitions. I also run a music festival in Hatfield House, where we also focus on educational concerts for local schools and give opportunities to other young musicians to perform during the festival. It’s hugely important to support the next generation.
‘When I am asked to give advice to young musicians wanting to start out on a musical career, I remind them that it is a marathon, not a sprint! It’s important to work hard and also remember to have fun; to be patient and always learn from, and open oneself up to one’s teachers and colleagues. It’s all about communication.’
Finally, what does he make of performing at Lancing College? ‘Lancing College has an outstanding music department. Simon Lane and I decided on presenting a mainly 19th century programme at Lancing. It is extraordinary when one thinks of the amount and quality of music that was created during the 19th century. The early Beethoven Sonata that we performed begins to explore the dialogue between cello and piano, but the piano is still first among equals if you like. The Brahms Sonata is a different beast altogether with the cello entering like a hero in the opening bars. Schumann offers a more inward searching world, which gradually evolves into a joyful last movement in the Fantasistücke. They all have their own story to tell.’
Lancing College, West Sussex BN15 0RW; 01273 452213; lancingcollege.co.uk