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Duncan Riddell

Duncan Riddell

Duncan Riddell

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) is one of the UK's most prestigious orchestras.

With a reputation for first-class performances and the highest possible standards of music-making, the RPO have been delighting audiences across the world for 65 years. We were very lucky to get the opportunity to interview Violinist and Concert Master, Duncan Riddell who gave us a great insight into his life as a professional musician. Here's what he had to say...

Can you tell us what inspired you to become involved with music?

I was born into a musical family. My father was a music master in a grammar school and my mother was an amateur violinist. It was normal to be hearing classical music all the time and my parents encouraged me to take up the violin.

Have you ever come up against difficulties when learning to play? How did you overcome them and what would be your advice to any one in the same position?

I have been lucky to receive very sound guidance in my violin studies but have not been entirely spared physical problems along the way. In my own personal experience, it is the thoughtful and patient application of this knowledge during practice that helps me overcome the difficulties as they arise.

How did your experiences playing with the European Union Youth Orchestra help you in your career as a professional musician?

The ECYO was an unforgettable experience in so many ways. Apart from giving me the confidence that comes from having been a member, I was inspired by the enthusiasm and sheer ability of my contemporaries. As far as orchestral playing is concerned, it taught me just how rewarding the team spirit can be in music performance.

What have been your highlights from what you have achieved so far as musician?

Too many to list here, but apart from ECYO, leading Tennstedt's last concerts at the LPO (while on trial for Co-leader), Solti's last recording (live concert performances of Don Giovanni) with LPO, Symphonie Fantastique with Dutoit (RPO) and also, getting to the final of the Portsmouth String Quartet competition (when not expecting to!)

Do you have any particular ambitions that you are looking to fulfil in the future?

At this stage in my career, my ambition would be simply to continue improving on the standards that have got me this far.

If you were able to go back to a point in time when you were just embarking on a career in music what advice would you give yourself and why?

Work harder. It's worth it!

What is the best thing about being a member of the RPO?

There are many great things about being part of the RPO such as enormous variety in the kind of work we do, touring fascinating places with artists such as Charles Dutoit and Pinchas Zukerman and also a very special team spirit.

If you could learn to play another/different instrument, which would it be and why?

I can't really imagine playing anything else, but the horns do sometimes get the most amazing melodies!

What was the first recording you ever bought?

Katchaturian Violin concert with Igor Oistrakh! I was about 10 and used my birthday money. In those days you could listen to a record in the shop before buying, and I thought it sounded great. I must get round to learning it sometime!

What do you listen to in your spare time?

Apart from studying, I often put my ipod into shuffle mode. There is so much on there I forget what I have. Rippingtons, Dream Theatre, Porcupine Tree, etc (all introduced to me by my son) are an enjoyable diversion, but you can't beat great orchestras playing great repertoire conducted by great conductors. Very uplifting.

What are your thoughts on the Take it away scheme?

I support the scheme wholeheartedly.

It is so important to provide better opportunities for young people to get started and particularly, keep going with learning a musical instrument.

Many thanks to Duncan for his answers. To find out more about the RPO and to see concert listings, check out the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra website.

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