Proms at St Jude’s: Baton-waver Oliver Zeffman is one to watch

PUBLISHED: 16:38 16 June 2015

proms at st jude's oliver zeffman

proms at st jude's oliver zeffman

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The young conductor has the kind of whizzkid business skills you find in future chief executives of Google, says Michael White.

It’s easy to feel slightly crushed when you meet young musicians bursting with ambition, energy and enterprise: just listening to their plans can be exhausting.

But the job of a critic is to spot and celebrate new talent. And one that strikes me as worth watching right now is a young conductor called Oliver Zeffman who runs his own ensemble, the Melos Sinfonia, with the kind of whizzkid business skills you find in future chief executives of Google.

He’s just finished at Durham University where he wasn’t even reading music (it was Russian & history), and he’s only now about to start a year of serious conducting lessons with Sian Edwards at the Royal Academy. But he’s already out there with a vengeance, touring concerts and operas to Edinburgh, Italy and Russia.

He does things on a grand scale. He raises the money and does most of the marketing himself. He has a peculiar knack for getting people onside and sweet-talking musicians of real talent to work with him. And the shows he puts on are seriously impressive. So I’m expecting a lot from the St Jude’s concert in which he conducts the Melos Sinfonia in a programme of Debussy, Poulenc and Schubert.

The Melos players are all young, fresh out of music college, but hand-picked. They play at serious venues – later this year they’re at LSO St Lukes and the new Milton Court. And last autumn Zeffman took them to St Petersburg where by all accounts they made a big impression.

People walked out - but the piece was Peter Maxwell Davies’s notorious Eight Songs for a Mad King. If you drive your audience to the exits with that, you’re doing it exactly as intended. And with impact.

Oliver Zeffman conducts the Melos Sinfonia, St Jude’s, Thurs 25th, 7.45pm

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