On Thursday 25th April, the final Purvis Society lecture of the academic year was presented by cellist Oliver Coates, winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award 2011 and Artist in Residence at Southbank Centre, where he programmes and curates a run of cross-arts events called Harmonic Series.
In the afternoon, our cellists had the opportunity to play to Oliver and one another within a workshop setting. This was an extremely positive and purposeful experience for all concerned. Oliver worked closely with each performer, offering astutely considered advice and enabling personalities and musical strengths to shine through in authoritative performances.
The evening session for academic and music scholars explored interrelationships between music, art, and performing environments, as well as considering the nature of artistic inspiration and ways to address the inherently abstract nature of music as a performer. The lecture deliberately posed more questions than it answered, challenging students to reflect on the extent to which music and art can/should be interpreted for their audiences.
Oliver’s musings on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from Britten’s relationship with nature to Agnes Martin’s life-long aspiration towards abstract expression through the rejection of scientific thinking, were interspersed with his own masterful readings of works from the unaccompanied cello repertoire, as well as a pre-recorded track exploring physical and emotional responses to resonant and dry sounds within contrasting acoustic ‘spaces’.
The evening, and indeed the lecture series, was rounded off in characteristic style with a formal dinner and entertaining after-dinner speeches by Masters of the Scholars past and present, Alan Smith and Christopher Mann.