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Gold Badge Awards 2018: Martyn Brabbins

Ahead of The Gold Badge Awards on Friday 19th October, we meet acclaimed conductor and Music Director of the English National Opera, Martyn Brabbins, who will be collecting an Award in recognition of his work.

ENO 30 March 2017

How do you feel about receiving a Gold Badge Award from the songwriting and composing community?

“In my understanding of the world of music, the composer is at the top of the food chain. Without composers…..well, it is pretty obvious isn’t it! There would be no music. I spend my Conducting life supporting composers, both living and dead, thus to be honoured by BASCA is a huge privilege and something of a vindication of the musical priorities I espouse. I am delighted!”

What has been the most pivotal moment in your career?

“I guess had I not won the Leeds Conducting Competition in 1988, none of what I have done would have been possible.”

Which person has been the most influential figure in your career and why?

“Karen, my wife. We met at Goldsmiths in December 1977, and she has been the rock, the calm, the wisdom and the love in my life ever since.”

What one piece of advice would you give your young self, starting out in music?

“My young self made many mistakes, but the one I regret the most was refusing to take piano lessons from an early age. It didn’t seem relevant to a fairly high flying young brass player, but I now know what I missed!”

The conductor’s course you founded in 2013 has inspired a new generation of exciting directing talent. What attracted you to make a home for this course in Scotland?

“The Orkney Conductors’ Course was the brainchild of Glenys Hughes and myself. Glenys was the Festival Director of the St Magnus Festival and woman who understood so well the value of music in a community and could really make things happen. Of course, behind the St Magnus Festival was the amazing spirit and personality of Max – Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. He had led a composers course for many years on the island of Hoy, and the precedent he set, led me to suggest to Glenys the establishment of a Conductors Course to run alongside the Festival. Around 100 aspiring Conductors are now OCC alumni, and it is wonderful for me to see so many of them active here and across the world stage. (I should mention my teacher, Ilya Musin, with whom I studied in Leningrad from 1986 to 1988. It was his extraordinary teaching that gave me the tools to teach myself!).”

Having gained a wealth of experience in the recording studio working with several record companies, what’s your favourite aspect of the recording process?

“The constant striving for perfection and the energy generated in a recording situation, between all the performers, the engineers, the producer, are so stimulating. And then, one hopes, that a wonderful expression of musical creation is given to posterity!”

You have worked with several orchestral ensembles and opera companies in your career. Is there an ensemble or company that you haven’t worked with yet, but would like to and why?

“I am a strangely non-ambitious conductor….but am happy to work with anybody that would like to work with me. So I hope to make many new musical acquaintances in the future, as well as cementing existing relationships.”

As an award-winning interpreter of contemporary British classical music and supporter of creative performance and composition talent, what makes you positive about the future of contemporary classical music in the UK?

“The wealth of composing talent that the UK nurtures is extraordinary. All performing groups commission new work, the BBC support new talent to an unparalleled extent. The teaching of composition is stronger than ever. The only thing needed is an open minded public for all this incredible creativity. I am optimistic by nature, and given the quality of work that is produced by so many musical outfits in the UK, music will go on to provide levels of artistic excitement and stimulation that no other art form can reach.”

The 45th Gold Badge Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PPL and PRS for Music, taking place at The Savoy in London from 11.30am to 4.30pm on Friday 19th October.


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