Interview: Alec Frank-Gemmill

Ahead of his performance with Associate Artist La Nuova Musica at Baroque Horn Concertos,BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist Alec Frank-Gemmill tells us a bit more about himself. He also opens up about his relationship with the great instrument that is the baroque horn…

nuova musica baroque

For people who don’t know you, could you introduce yourself?

My name is Alec Frank-Gemmill and I am a professional horn player. My main job is playing principal horn in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Edinburgh. However, I spend half my time away from Scotland doing other projects, including on historical horns – instruments without valves that make a wilder, less civilised sound.

How did you first get started playing music/the horn?

Although they don’t play themselves, my parents are big classical music fans and encouraged us to learn instruments. I started having lessons on piano and recorder but there was a tenor horn in the corner of the teaching-room and since I could get a sound out of it straight away it seemed like the right match. Tenor horn (which looks like a baby tuba) is a brass band instrument so in order to play orchestral music I later swapped to French horn. However, for many years I continued to play recorder and it’s probably through that instrument that I really got into baroque repertoire and eventually began playing music of that period on the horn as well.

What is it that makes the baroque horn a remarkable instrument?

Above all the sound of the baroque horn is incredible – it can be both shrill, almost aggressive and also wonderfully lyrical, veiled, poignant. It is simultaneously an instrument of the great outdoors, the hunt, totally unsophisticated and also of intimate, singing beauty.

Do you have a ‘must hear’ piece in your Summer Festival programme? If someone was only going to hear one work in the concert, what should it be?

Well, interestingly, my favourite piece is one I’m not playing in!  I didn’t want to steal all the best bits of the programme so relinquished the first horn part in Vivaldi’s “Dopo un orrida procella” from Griselda. At least this means I get to listen to it. Right from that the start of this piece you enter a different, better, more amusing world.  It’s four of my favourite minutes in all music.

Do you have a musical inspiration?  (A composer/performer/piece?)

All sorts of music and musicians inspire me (see, for example, the aria mentioned above). However, I would say that the early music scene is especially important in my musical motivation. An attitude of always striving to discover something new and presenting pieces of music in the freshest, most exciting way is totally brilliant!

What do you hope that people who come and hear the concert will take away from it?

Ultimately I hope that people enjoy the experience so much that they take away a sense of well-being which will improve their lives and everyone they meet. Which is why I’m going to go and practise now…

La Nuova Musica: Baroque Horn Concertos
7.30pm, Friday 12 June
Shoreditch Church (St Leonard’s)
Book tickets now >>

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