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Elspeth Dutch My First, My Last, My Everything - November


Artist for November : Elspeth Dutch.

We are delighted to welcome CBSO Principal Horn Elspeth Dutch as our first horn player to be featured on My First My Last My Everything.

Elspeth was born in Colchester and started studying horn aged 9 with Simon de Souza. Elspeth studied with Simon until she attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where she studied with Richard Bissill, Hugh Seenan and Jeff Bryant.

Elspeth was on trial for 1st horn at RLPO at the same time as her trial with CBSO during her last term at GSMD. She says “these trials were my first professional work along with a concert with the LSO playing offstage for about 6 bars!”

As Section leader horn Elspeth’s highlights to-date include playing Ein Heldenleben at the Lucerne Festival with Simon Rattle as part of her trial – “a pretty special concert”.

Outside of the orchestra Elspeth says she is kept rather busy by her two little girls.


First Live Musical Experience You Can Recall?

Lying in bed as a very young child listening to my Mum rehearse in the room below with her string quartet. I’m amazed how well I know certain pieces of string chamber music even now!

First Musical Instrument Owned?

The first instrument bought just for me was a Hoyer double horn but before that I played my parents’ piano and on various violins leant to me by my teacher.

First Music Lesson You Can Remember and Who Taught You?

I started learning the violin at the age of 6 with a lovely lady called Elizabeth Copperwheat who was a family friend and played in the string quartet with my mum that I used to listen to while lying in bed as a child.

My older sister was already learning the violin with her and I used to sit at the back of her lessons pretending to play on a toy frying pan. I think she eventually took pity on me and let me have a go on a real violin.

First French Horn Owned?

Hawkes F Piston Horn

I briefly borrowed a Vintage Hawkes F piston horn from my teacher Simon de Souza until my parents bought me a Hoyer double horn. I remember it had a brown case which was sky blue inside. I can even remember what the case smelt like but can’t remember much about the actual horn!

First Music Ensemble You Played In?

I started singing in Central Berkshire Junior Choir when I was around 6 or 7 and then joined the Central Berkshire Training Orchestra on my violin. The first ensemble I played the horn in was in south Berkshire – they had a series of different brass bands that were named after modes. I think I was in Ionian band and Lydian band. I remember getting very confused about transposing the Eb tenor horn parts to begin with and wondering why I was so out of tune!

First Concert You Can Remember Performing in on the French Horn?

I had to ask my Mum for help with this question. She said I played O Come all ye Faithful at my local church and had to sit on a piano stool so I could balance the edge of the bell on it as I was too small to stand up and play. Mini horns hadn’t been invented back then.

First Record You Can Remember Buying?

The first piece I played when I joined Reading Youth Orchestra was Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. I can remember going in to town on the bus to buy a CD of it from Virgin megastore. I’ve no idea which orchestra it was – I think I just bought whichever was the cheapest!

Who Was The First French Horn Player To Really Inspire You?

Without a doubt, Simon de Souza, my brilliant teacher. He taught me from when I started the horn age 9 all the way through to going to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama age 18. I loved my weekly lessons with him and am forever grateful to have had the chance to learn with him.

First Professional Orchestra You Performed With?

In my final year at GSMD I got booked to play in the offstage band with the London Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet conducted by Rostropvich. There were at least 4 other horn players in the band all playing in unison and several other brass players as well. We all had to wear long black capes and walk on to the stage while playing (so much for being an offstage band!). The main challenge was not to stand on the cape of the person in front as the capes were so long they trailed across the floor! Although the music was straightforward, I’ve never practiced anything quite as hard and I felt pretty petrified beforehand.

First Recording Session You Played On?

Not sure I can remember but I think it would have been something as part of my CBSO trial.

First Brass Teaching Post?

A few months after joining the CBSO in 2002, I was asked by David Purser, the head of brass at the time, to join the horn department at the Birmingham Conservatoire. It was an interesting journey and a steep learning curve for me as I’d not done any teaching prior to that. I still teach there (it now has the grander title of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire), having had a bit of time off when my 2 children were very young.

First Overseas Tour You Took Part In?

When I was 16 I toured America for 2 weeks with Central Berkshire Girls Choir conducted by Gwyn Arch (father of Dave Arch of Strictly fame). It was an amazing experience staying with host families and performing a concert every evening. We had a reunion 20 years later and after 1.5 day of rehearsals performed a concert of 22 songs, all from memory!

I was a member of the European Youth Orchestra in between my 2nd and 3rd years as a student at GSMD and spent 2 weeks rehearsing in Italy followed by a 2 week European tour.

My first professional tour was playing at the Lucerne and Lubeck festivals as part of my trial with the CBSO. We played Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. It was August and I remember the air conditioning in my hotel room not working and having to lie on the bathroom floor to get cool enough to sleep! Not the best preparation for a big concert, but it all worked out ok as Rattle walked through the orchestra and gave me his flowers during the applause at the end.

First Ensemble/Orchestra You Appeared with as a soloist?

I played Mozart 3rd horn concerto with the school orchestra in a local church when I was about 14 or 15 wearing a dress borrowed from my sister. I can remember my Dad walking up the aisle of the church during the applause to present me with a basket of flowers.

First Ensemble You Conducted?

When I was in sixth form I conducted the school clarinet choir! I’m not really sure why, but a lot of my friends played the clarinet and conducting an ensemble may have been part of my A level music course.

Can You Recall Your First Paid Playing Job ?

I played in a wind quintet when I was a teenager and we were sometimes booked to play background music gigs at the Civic Centre in Reading, for which we were each paid £5. That seemed a lot to me then.

First Car You Owned?

While I was learning to drive, my Dad bought me a very old, white Ford Fiesta. It was very temperamental and the engine used to cut out if I had to wait a while at red traffic lights. By the time I got it started again the lights would have turned back to red! It lasted about a year, and then one day when I was driving to work (I had a temping job during the summer holidays before I left home), smoke started coming out of the bonnet. I was about to come off the motorway so I decided to keep going and chugged along to a side road before it finally gave up. I remember the breakdown people being amazed that the car had driven at all and saying that the chassis was so rusty it had almost fallen through.


Last Instrument You Purchased?

My eldest daughter’s ½ size violin.

Last Concert You Performed In?

I feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to start playing again at CBSO after so many months of nothing. We managed a few chamber concerts to small, distanced audiences during October and then managed one orchestral concert in Symphony Hall before Lockdown 2.0 started. We’re now continuing with weekly concerts but all without audience and filmed for streaming. On the 10 Nov it was the 100th anniversary of the CBSO’s first concert in Birmingham Town Hall conducted by Sir Edward Elgar. We marked the occasion by filming a concert conducted by our current music director Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla featuring Sheku Kanneh-Mason as the soloist in Elgar’s cello concerto which was performed at the inaugural concert 100 years earlier.

Keep an eye out here for details of our filmed concerts which are being released each week.

Last Recording You Bought or Downloaded?

I can’t remember. We tend to stream music in our house now.

Last Recording Session You Played On?

We’re currently filming everything we’re doing at CBSO, so I guess I’m constantly playing on recording sessions at the moment which certainly adds an extra level of intensity to being at work.

Last Tour You Undertook?

It was in October 2019 and was a European trip with a mini residency in Hamburg in the middle. The biggest highlight of the trip was discovering that Hamburg is the Escape Room capital of the world – I along with some of the other horns really enjoy doing Escape Rooms and try to fit at least one in on tour when we can. CBSO have had 5 tours cancelled since March and it doesn’t look like any touring will be happening anytime soon.

Last Book You Read

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, especially when I’m driving, and have just finished listening to White Fragility – why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin DiAngelo. I highly recommend it – it’s really challenging but so relevant. I’ve almost finished reading a book which my Dad (Dr Andrew Taylor MA) published during lockdown called Life In All Its Fullness. It’s based on his PhD thesis and is the story of his journey towards a model for organisations. I’m finding it really interesting and I think there’s a lot that orchestras could learn from his ideas.

Last Film You Watched?

If Beale Street Could Talk. (Based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name)

Last Concert You Attended As An Audience Member?

The CBSO at Symphony Hall on 10th March performing Bartok Piano Concerto no 3 (soloist Pieter Anderszewski) and Bruckner 6th symphony conducted by Omer Meir Wellber. The orchestra was due to set off on a European tour a few days later which was cancelled due to the pandemic. I’d taken the patch of work off due to family reasons, but decided to go and watch this concert. I’m glad I did as it was the last concert in Symphony Hall with a full audience before the chaos of the pandemic really hit and the hall was left empty for so many months.


Favourite Instrument(s) You Own

I only have 1 horn which I’ve had for 23 years. It’s a Paxman 20 and I’m pretty fond of it.

Paxman 20

Proudest Musical Moment

When I was very young I took part in a performance of Haydn’s toy symphony with the Woodley String Orchestra conducted by Elizabeth Copperwheat (my violin teacher). I had to play some kind of squeakers that made a bird noise when I squeezed them. I took them to the concert in my empty violin case and can remember feeling huge pride at being like a real musician because I was carrying a case!

Which Concert Venue(s) In The World Did You Use To Look Forward To Playing In?

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of playing in Symphony Hall. But thinking further afield, I really like the

the Elbphilharminie in Hamburg – an amazing building right on the edge of the river Elbe which opened in 2017. The CBSO was the first British symphony orchestra to play there in July 2017. It has an amazing backstage area with lots of space, sofas and a lovely café in the green room, separate warm up rooms for each section and hooks on the wall to hang every instrument. It’s also an unusual and striking building architecturally and has a great acoustic.

The Elbphilharminie

Who Are/Were The Conductor(s) You Enjoyed Playing For And Why?

During my teenage years I was a member of Reading Youth Orchestra and Berkshire Youth

Orchestra both of which were conducted by a wonderful man called Robert Roscoe. He’s an incredibly kind man and a great musician. I learnt so much from him and have very happy memories of being in those orchestras.

Sakari Oramo

Sakari Oramo was the music director of CBSO when I joined in 2002.

I loved working with him and still clearly remember his interpretation of particular pieces. We also did some incredibly exciting concerts with his successor Andris Nelsons - I wish they both had more time to come back and work with us more often.

Ed Gardner (previous principal guest conductor) and Kazuki Yamada (current principal guest conductor) are both conductors who have a special connection with CBSO and who know how to bring out the best in us. I’ve enjoyed many concerts with both of them.

If You Could Play One Last Piece of Orchestral Music Now What Would That Be?

Strauss Four Last Songs.

What Are Your Favourite Venues To Perform in the UK and Why?

I guess I’m biased but Symphony Hall in Birmingham is definitely my favourite concert hall. I feel very lucky that the CBSO is resident there and we get to play there so much. It has a brilliant acoustic and still looks new and shiny despite being nearly 30 years old.

Which Countries Did You Enjoy Performing In and Why?

It’s always great playing in Germany as concerts are usually really well attended and most of the halls are pretty good. We went to China a few years ago and found it very amusing that the hall stewards had laser pointers which they used to zap audience members mobile phone screens to stop them filming during the concerts. That was certainly a new concert experience!

What Book, Recording and a Piece of Art Work or Photograph Would You Most Like To Have Forever

During the first lockdown we enlisted the help of my Mum to give my daughters online art lessons. Between them they produced some amazing pieces of art which we have framed and put up on the wall in our kitchen. We’ve called it our “gallery wall” and I’d like to keep it forever.

The Best Piece Advice You Were Given?

Richard Bissill who was my teacher at GSMD told me it’s important to make sure you can play without needing to do a thorough warm up, so that if your train is late or you get stuck in traffic and arrive at a rehearsal or session with only a couple of minutes to spare you can play straight away. Really helpful advice as that’s happened to me lots of times.

The Best Piece of Advice You Would Give To Young Musician Just Starting Out?

Go for it!

What Do You Wish You Knew When You Were Young That You Know Now?

Looking back, I’d quite like to rethink some of my fashion choices as a teenager but it’s probably best that I didn’t know then how funny I looked sometimes!

Is There Anything You Would Have Done Differently In Your Career?

I don’t really know. I haven’t planned any of my career so far, it’s all just sort of happened. I applied for my job at CBSO during my 4th year at GSMD to get audition practice so to end up with a trial and then the job was a complete surprise – albeit a very happy surprise!

If You Had Not Become A Professional Musician What Career Would You Like To Have Followed?

I’m not sure…I’ve not really given it much thought. I’m just very glad that I have managed a career as a musician so far. I home schooled my two daughters during the first lockdown and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected, so maybe if there was the option to be a teacher in a school that only had two pupils and was in my kitchen I might go for that!

What Musical Performer From History Would You Like To Have Met?

I’m not sure about anyone from history but I’d love to meet the members of Mnozil Brass and spend some time with them. I’ve seen them perform live a number of times and am amazed by their musicianship, ability, stamina and creativity.

Which Non Musical Famous Person Would You Most Like To Meet Living or Deceased? What Would You Ask Them?

Michelle Obama. I read her book Becoming and loved it. She seems to be a very grounded person and I think it would be really interesting to chat to her about her life and her perspective on the world.

Marmite Love it or Hate It?

Hate it!

Thank you Elspeth for taking time out from your busy family and professional life to be interview. Working alongside Simon de Souza for 34 years it feels like only yesterday that he was telling me about you as a young outstanding aspiring player and to watch this space as regards your career. How right he was.

I hope many who read this will tune into to hear you with the CBSO in their weekly online concerts and in time return to live in the magnificence of Symphony Hall. I will be there for sure.

Thank you once again for your time in providing a fascinating glimpse into your career to date through my first, my last, my everything.


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