Russian Delights – 29th October 2017

For the Russian Delights concert on 29th October 2017, the NRSO warmly welcomes guest conductor, Neil Flottmann.  We asked him some tricky questions in Q & A with Mr Neil Flottmann.

Q: How did you happen to take up music as a profession?

A: I was inspired by a number of music teachers, but two in particular: My teacher in junior high school was Clive Pascoe and my teacher in senior high was Brian Stacey. Both were inspirational conductors who showed me what you could achieve working with others to make music.

Q: What/who inspired you to go from the security of a flute position with the QSO to the challenging position of Conductor?

A: Orchestral playing was and still is a great love of mine, but it began as a means to an end. I recall asking one of my conducting mentors, Peter Seymour – director of the Sydney Philharmonic Choirs in the 1970s – ,  what I should do to further my aspirations and he replied “get experience in an orchestra”. From that point I set my sights on getting job in an orchestra. The opportunity to pursue my dream came along in the form of the inaugural Willem van Otterloo Conducting Scholarship in 1985, but of course that meant having to leave the security of the orchestra. The QSO generously offered to keep my position for me for the duration of the scholarship, but I decided to back myself and cast my future on the winds of fortune.

Q: Do you play any other instruments?

A: I learned piano before I began flute and piano was my principal instrument until university. I also learned the tuba briefly as a young child and I can still remember how to play a C scale on valve brass instrument. Please don’t ask me to play it now……..

Q: What do you do full-time outside of music and how difficult is it to juggle your conducting engagements with this?

A: My “day job” is Director of Creative Arts and Extra-Curricular Programs at West Moreton Anglican College, a large independent day school near Ipswich. The job is simultaneously very demanding and equally rewarding and I am blessed to have a very supportive and understanding boss. The demands of the role do mean that I have to be very selective with regard to the  freelance conducting I undertake. That affords me the luxury of only taking on gigs that I really want to do for artistic reasons or to give something back to the community.

Q: Have you got any time for hobbies outside of all of this?

A: I enjoy recreational road cycling when I get the opportunity and I love spending time with my family – two grown up daughters and twin 15 year old boys. My wife is a musician as well, so we share a love of music but our time together is limited and therefore very precious.

Q: Name one of your favourite orchestral pieces and why it’s your favourite.

A: This is always the most difficult question as there is so much fantastic music in the orchestral repertoire. It tends to change according to what I am working on at the time. However, one enduring favourite is the seventh symphony of Antonin Dvořák. I conducted the work for the QLD Conservatorium Orchestra back in the late 1980s. It has an irrepressible rhythmic energy which, combined with Dvořák’s wonderful gift for melody, keeps me yearning for another opportunity to conduct it.

Q: Your most memorable performance?

A: Without doubt the season that I conducted in Newcastle in 1989 (or was it 1990) of Verdi’s La Traviata. I was Chorus Master at The Australian Opera at the time and I took over the production of  La Traviata  relatively late in the rehearsal season from another conductor who was taken gravely ill. The principals were all Australian Opera artists, including Amanda Thane, Anson Austin and Geoffrey Chard. The high-pressure circumstances dictated that the entire cast and orchestra were very attentive to the musical direction I brought to the work and I was able to shape the music like never before or since. The performances were just magical, and a significant critical success, and I treasure their memory.