Sam Hornby reminds us of the often overlooked flourishing classical music scene to be found under our Dreaming Spires
Like most students I believe I work better when there’s music on, and like most students the reality check that is collections confirms I don’t. So in order to still live the dream American TV instils of work being a relaxed activity done sprawled across the bed listening to music instead of facing the harsh reality that working hard is hard work, I started working to classical and quickly developed a passion for it.
It’s lucky that I discovered this in Oxford as it is one of the best places in the UK for live classical music.
The incredible thing is that most students go through their university life without ever realising it, even those who love classical. This is particularly hard to believe when any idiot armed with Google and the common sense to type “classical music, Oxford” will find as much as they could want in links 2 to 5 (particularly 4 and 5).
What makes Oxford so special? Well first there are the venues which are fantastic. They range from the grand Holywell music room which is England’s oldest concert hall and designed with acoustics specifically for chamber music.
At the other end of the spectrum there is St Mary’s church which allows a very personal performance as you can be a metre away from the conductor, completely immersed in the music.
More importantly though it is the quality of the music that makes Oxford special and this is typified by the Oxford Philomusica (link 4). They are Oxford’s only professional symphony orchestra and have the calibre to attract some of the biggest names in music. Recently they performed with conductor Valery Gergiev and the world’s most famous living pianist, Lang Lang. It’s not all over either as later this term they are doing a series of concerts with the violinist Nicola Benedetti. However it is the standard of the orchestra itself that attracts these big names and it is the standard of the orchestra which is why they are well worth going to. After five concerts last term, each of which was excellent, I’ve only grown keener to see them this term. They generally perform in the Sheldonian and all this only costs £5 with Bodcard (including the Benedetti concert).
The Philomusica is one of many orchestras and chamber series in Oxford that can boast to excellent music, grand venues and incredibly cheap prices and this is why being in Oxford is such a great opportunity to listen to live classical that you won’t get anywhere else. So I recommend next time you essay crisis, give Schuberts Unfinished symphony a try.