Factory Classical > Robin Williams > FACD 236 Robin Williams
FACD 236 Robin Williams; front cover detail
Title: Robin Williams ('236')
Release date: September 1989
LP: Factory Fact 236
CS: Factory Factc 236)
CD: Factory FACD 236)
DAT: Factory Fact 236d)
Francis Poulenc: Sonata1
1. Elegie 4:34
2. Scherzo 3:53
3. Déploration 4:12
Benjamin Britten: Six Metamorphoses2
4. Pan 2:19
5. Phaeton 1:18
6. Niobe 2:18
7. Bacchus 2:06
8. Narcissus 2:56
9. Arethusa 2:26
10. Munter 4:02
11. Sehr Langsam 8:16
12. Prelude and Variation 9:36
1 published by S.D.R.M./Chester
2 published by Boosey & Hawkes Ltd.
3 published by Schott & Co., London
4 published by Nova Music Ltd.
Digitally recorded at All Saints Church, Petersham, June 1988.
Produced by Trygg Tryggvason, Robin Wiliams, Julian Kelly and Marion Freeman.
Engineered by Trygg Tryggvason and Marion Freeman.
Edited by Trygg Tryggvason and Marion Freeman, London
Project co-ordinator John Metcalfe.
Distributed by Pinnacle Records for the UK, Dureco for the Benelux, Rough Trade Deutschland for West Germany and Polygram for Canada.
Cover photography: Phil Cawley.
Photographic art direction: Trevor Johnson for Johnson Panas.
Design: Peter Saville Associates, London.
A Factory Classical Compact Disc.
© 1989 Factory Communications Ltd.
Conversation between Anthony H. Wilson of Factory Records and the oboe player Robin Williams:
Anthony Wilson. How did you get involved with the oboe?
Robin Williams. I started off with the recorder when I was ten. My uncle who wanted to teach me music first got me interested.
AW. Your college friends talk about your technical prowess. Was it unusual to have this technical ability as such an early age?
RW. I think it was probably more prodigious than it is now because almost everything I do I excel at very quickly and then level out. Obviously if all you have is technique and nothing else it's pretty useless. You get more musical as you get older. When I was younger I never used to think about life, never really question anything. So, when you do start questioning things then you can become a bit more profound and more musical.
AW. You're always talking about practical things, practical philosophical things in life. Does great classical music refer back to real life like that?
RW. You're implying that music can actually teach us something. It's not abstract really. I always think that a certain piece or certain phrase relates to something in life.
AW. Have you read...
RW. ... No, I never read.
AW. You don't read much?
RW. No, the only thing I've ever read is Macbeth. I've never read a book in my life.
AW. But you can read music?
RW. Oh I can read music, there's no problem about that. But if I hear something and then play it, that means more than just the dots on the page.
AW. You missed out not reading any books.
RW. Oh I'm sure I will have done. I try now. I occasionally buy a newspaper and read the sports page and stuff but even that's...
AW. ... A new thing for you! It's almost as if you're an influential experiment or something. It's fabulous, you don't appear illiterate. So who invented the oboe?
RW. I haven't a clue.
AW. You don't know anything really do you? All you know is how to play your instrument! At the Royal Northern College of Music don't you have to study your instrument?
RW. No, there are several types of course there and I did ...
AW. ... the one that had no books to read!
AW. You went to Wells Cathedral School on a scholarship. To what age did that take you to?
RW. From twelve to eighteen.
AW. What was the most important thing in your life?
RW. I really don't know. I was ... I was a bit crazy at school.
AW. Did your wild reputation continue at the Royal Northern College of Music?
RW. Maybe for some things.
AW. There is a story about you being rescued from jail by the principal of the music college. What was all that about?
RW. It's a long story about a show I was doing in Liverpool. We had trouble with the car park and had to get assistance from the Hotel who owned it. We couldn't get into the hotel so I started banging the door. I eventually put my hand through the glass and the police came and pressed charges. So it was off to the cells for the night.
AW. You do get into scrapes and stuff like that but the general impression is that oboe players are a very meek crowd. You're not seen as being a meek person so you're seen to be a little bit different.
RW. Most oboe players tend to be a bit neurotic or maybe introvert. Anyway I'm not.... I just give the impression that I don't care, but in fact I do.
AW. I remember that in one of his books - which I can be absolutely sure you haven't read! - T.S. Elliot says there was an author who took him from being a child who vaguely liked poetry into someone really deeply involved in it. Was there any particular composer or performance that took you deeper?
RW. Mozart I suppose. The first classical record that I owned was string music by Mozart.
AW. At what age?
RW. When I started the oboe - twelve. Mozart's music has a kind of translucent quality that is hard to place with an ordinary flesh and blood human thing.
AW. In a way this record label is like being brought up in a family where there's no classical music. One of the ideas of the label is to provide an entry point for people who would not normally have access to classical music. Classical music doesn't really relate to people who go to discos, it doesn't have anything to say to them and yet the people on this label are people from this generation, who are part of the ordinary modern world.
RW. I don't know what it is that stops people from enjoying classical music. It would be good if we could try to get people involved in it. I'm not upper class or something unusual, and I like it.
AW. You mentioned class there. It's a strong class thing isn't it? I always thought of it as class art. I found pop music exciting because it was a popular art form that had a resonance for all people. If you go to the opera you'd see the same people as you'd see at the Finals Day at Wimbledon. Someone said that if you put a bomb one the centre court of Wimbledon on the women's Finals Day you'd achieve more than 25 days of revolution. It's no wonder then that the general public are intimidated?
RW. I don't know, it's a bit crazy.
AW. What do you think about the state of classical music today?
RW. I don't know much about it to be honest.
AW. Are you put off by modern stuff then?
RW. No. Basically I like all sorts of music.
AW. Tell me about some of the choices on this album then.
RW. Well, Poulenc's Sonata is a nice piece. It shows off the romantic qualities of the oboe. If the ordinary person on the street has heard the oboe it would be in the theme music for tv programs like Emmerdale Farm.
AW. Do you like Britten?
RW. Yes I do, he has a very special sound. I like him because he is more specific than most composers in the way he puts his music down on paper.
AW. Is it post romantic?
RW. Yeah, I think it was written in the 1940's.
AW. Tell me one of the stories.
RW. Well the third one is about Niobe lamenting the death of her 14 kids, so you know exactly how to play the music.
AW. One of the theories of this record label is that young people play slightly differently from people who spend their lives in orchestras, that there is a kind of life to the music making that usually isn't there. What do you expect of a piano player when you're working with Julian? Do you just play and it works?
RW. It depends what you're playing I suppose. I found the Hindemith in a pile of music I was given and Julian and I played it through and we liked it and thought it would be a good piece to do. I like his playing. Whenever I had a concert or recital I always used him - if he was sober!
AW. Tell me how you earn your money.
RW. I do any work that comes my way but I haven't played in England for two years.
RW. Because there isn't enough work. I've been playing with an orchestra recently.
AW. Which one is that?
RW. The Heidelberg Chamber Orchestra - a band of 10 people.
AW. You get a lot of gigs?
RW. Yes, every day.
AW. Every day. For how long?
RW. For however long you're on tour.
AW. Months and months?
RW. It can be, yes.
AW. How do you get about?
RW. We all travel in a mini bus. There are ten seats but we have to fit all the instruments in too.
AW. Do you charge admission to your concerts?
RW. Yes, and we sell our records at the back of the hall or church. We all get paid the same amount.
AW. Sounds like a good communist idea to me. This is the last question. Do you have any ambitions?
RW. I would like my life to be a bit more stable. Now it's too extreme. My ambition is to lead a more stable life and to play music.
AW. I hope that this record will help you a little towards that goal.