Navona Records’ acclaimed PRISMA series continues with a fifth installment, again showcasing the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra’s riveting take on contemporary composition. With a focus on innovation and imaginative performance, the orchestra brings the program to life, including 3 Flights of the Condor by composer Anthony Wilson, a piece that captures the wonder, majesty, and wisdom of a bird’s journey.
Today, Anthony is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to hear his thoughts on Led Zeppelin as an early influence, and his favorite post-concert treat…
Who was your favorite artist(s) growing up?
I think one of the wonderful things about music is that you can spend your entire life discovering new favorite artists. Having said that, the favorites that we discover in our youth do seem to leave a particularly significant and lasting impression on us. As a teenager, the music of Led Zeppelin had a huge impact on me. Their music was nothing like any other music that I had heard. I could not get enough of their raw energy. Their innovative and unique sounds always left me intrigued and wanting more.
Shortly after that I discovered the world of Beethoven. When I first heard Beethoven’s orchestral music — particularly his 7th symphony — I was transfixed by the energy that he was able to create. I also admired the way in which he structured his ideas, from his small motifs to his large and complex movements.
Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” also made a huge impact. I found this work to be wonderfully creative in the way Stravinsky dealt with rhythm, tonality, and orchestration. I have also been a long-time admirer of the music of Bach. I look forward to discovering my next favorite artist!!
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I have wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. The problem was that I had no idea how to make it happen. As a result, I fell into a career in IT – but I was always aware that it was music that I was most interested in.
I do vividly remember a significant shift occurring in my thinking one night while I was improvising on the piano. This shift came as a result of becoming increasingly frustrated about not being able to put my energy into the thing that I was most passionate about, because so much of my time was taken up in a career that I only had a mild interest in. And so I made the decision to take a leap of faith. I simply needed to take the first step. It did not even matter if it was the wrong step, so long as I was prepared to learn from my mistakes. I would give myself the opportunity to gradually discover the kind of artist I wanted to become, and find out how to make that happen.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I think I might have a few of them!! There is one that I reserve for special occasions though. Sometimes, after a special concert for example, we go out for dessert and liqueur. My favorite is Chocolate Mousse with a generous portion of Baileys Irish Cream. Due to the pandemic, it has been a long time since I have enjoyed that pleasure. I am looking forward to enjoying it again sometime in the future!!
If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?
The short answer is that I am already doing it. It has been my dream to work as a musician on my own terms — without a boss in other words. The reality though, as I have discovered, is that in order to ensure that I am consistently getting what I want from my work, I need to continually re-evaluate what I do and how I do it. I enjoy teaching music, so that always needs to be a part of my work. I love writing music, but it is important to me that I feel that I am developing as an artist, so I need to be able to set myself new challenges with each creative project. I like to be learning all the time, so I need to be able to find ways to educate myself as needed. So I see my job as being very fluid — always changing — and the challenge is to make sure that it is changing in the most rewarding way possible.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Like many people, I am fascinated with the musical geniuses of the past. I think it would be an interesting experience to create music in the same places as they did. Places like Vienna, Paris, Prague, and St. Petersburg all hold a special personal interest for that reason. If I had to pick one, it would probably be Vienna — the place where composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and many others wrote many of their masterpieces.
There are many places in the world, particularly in the cities of Europe, which seem to exude a sense of artistic creativity. Working in cities like that would be a great thrill for me, and it would be fascinating for me to discover the effect on my own creativity while I was there.
What does this album mean to you personally?
Music, like all art, is a form of expression to be communicated between people. After a composer has written a piece of music, the challenge is to find and reach an audience for that music. In recent years, I have come to realise that a piece of music is not truly complete until it has reached an audience. This is the last, but very important step in the process of creating new art. It has often been my experience that this last step is indeed a lot more difficult and frustrating than writing the music itself.
This album presented me with a solution to that challenge. It has provided me with a high quality recording of my music played well by highly skilled performers, which has been released and publicized all over the world.
I feel privileged to have my music included on this album, which features the works of some fine composers.
After this experience, I found that I was more motivated and excited to begin new compositional projects. It allowed me to simply get on with the job of writing new music, which should be the primary focus for any composer!!