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Homecoming concerto beckons for Highgate-raised Graham Waterhouse

PUBLISHED: 16:51 26 November 2015

Graham Waterhouse. Picture: George Todd

Graham Waterhouse. Picture: George Todd

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Sam Warner talks to the composer about his early cello concerto, which has never been performed in London before.

Although he has spent the last few decades living between Germany and the UK, composer and cellist Graham Waterhouse is very much a Highgate boy at heart.

Since moving to Munich after studying at Cambridge in the late 1980s, he has become an established composer, much of his work focusing on chamber music, alongside more experimental offerings.

The 53-year-old has been widely performed by everyone from the Munich Philharmonic to the Mexican National Symphony Orchestra, including works such as Three Pieces for Solo Cello.

Yet one of his earliest pieces, Cello Concerto, has never been performed in London before, despite drawing inspiration from his upbringing in Highgate.

It’s appropriately set to get its London premiere at Highgate United Reformed Church, around the corner from Waterhouse’s alma mater Highgate School. “It’s nice bringing that particular piece back here, it’s sort of like a homecoming in a sense,” Waterhouse says of the performance.

He wrote the piece when he was still a student, after a friend from Switzerland encouraged him to try and compose a concerto.

Despite being more focused on symphonic composition, a hestitant Waterhouse gave it a shot, and has since performed the finished work numerous times around the world.

The weight of it being a “growing up piece” though makes performing back on his old stomping ground all the more heavy.

“It was my first big attempt to write for the larger forces, with a nearly 30 minute work. It was the largest project compositionally I had ever tackled up to that point.”

Although he has revised it over the years – describing it as “an old-timer car, with a very powerful, modern motor” – Waterhouse admits that there remains a lot of his early upbringing in the piece, elements of which are not necessarily shared in later compositions. Although he says: “For a composer the creation of something new stems directly from one’s past tradition.”

To give it a local feel, Waterhouse will perform his Cello Concerto with amateur orchestra the North London Sinfonia.

Despite being more used to professional musicians, he’s enthusiastic about working with non-professionals, especially given their eagerness and passion.

“Deciphering notes and working the connections of solo instruments to the orchestra takes a bit of time,” he admits.

“But having achieved that, then there are often advantages with the non-professional orchestra in that they are very keen in projecting the piece, and making it work, and giving an exciting performance, which a rather hardened professional orchestra are not sometimes.”

Even if there are nerves about the London premiere, he genuinely seems excited about debuting his piece – playing the solo himself, it should make for a homecoming indeed.

The concert programme also includes Beethoven and Mozart on Saturday November 28 at Highgate Reformed Church at 7pm. Tickets £10 (£8 in advance).

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