Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Prince Charles reveals romantic moment he turned conductor for Camilla's birthday

Hannah Furness

© Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attend the Prince's Countryside Fund Raceday at Ascot.When your wife is celebrating a landmark birthday, it is as well to put in an extra special effort to find the perfect gift.

When you are the Prince of Wales, of course, there is no excuse for a present that it little short of show-stopping.

Fortunately for the Duchess of Cornwall, her 60th birthday was marked not with a token scarf or scented candle, but an arrangement of one of the most romantic classical compositions in history, conducted by the future king himself.

The Prince has told how he joined the Philharmonia Orchestra to conduct Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, described as “possibly the most romantic music almost of all time”, as a surprise.

Appearing on Radio 3’s Private Passions, the Prince shares the musical moments that have shaped his life and which, he admits, he finds “a vital part of surviving the daily round”.

Choosing music from Haydn and Beethoven to Leonard Cohen and “Sadie the Shaker”, the 1930s favourite loved by his grandmother, the Queen Mother, the Prince also shares memories of his own orchestral adventures, playing the trumpet at school and cello at Gordonstoun.

© Steve Parsons/PA Wire/PA Images The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive for a tea party at Spencer House in London to celebrate 70 inspirational people marking their 70th birthday this year.Speaking of the key role that music plays in his life, he told presenter Michael Berkeley: “It’s very important to have another world to go through a door into.

“I find that the marvelous thing is to paint and have music at the same time. It’s so requires concentration that before you know where you are it becomes almost meditative in an extraordinary way.

“For me it’s a vital part of surviving the daily round. Having music in the background, particularly in the evenings; I’m one of those people who likes having music on when I’m working.”

One of the eight pieces the Prince chose was the Siegfried Idyll, composed by Wagner in 1870 as a birthday present for his second wife after she had their baby, and played by musicians who stood on the stairs of their house to wake her up with the melody.

The Prince confirmed that he had tried his hand at conducting a professional orchestra in order to replicate the music - if not quite the intimate staircase setting - for the Duchess of Cornwall for her 60th birthday.

“[It was] Entirely at the suggestion of the Philharmonia, of which I’ve been a very proud patron for nearly 40 years,” he said, adding that it happened thanks to the persuasion of lead violinist and conductor Christopher Warren Green.

Gallery: Things you probably didn’t know about Prince Charles (Photos Services)

Slide 1 of 18: In 1975, Prince Charles became a member of the Magic Circle, a society of stage magicians in London, after passing his audition with a ‘cup and balls’ trick.Next Slide
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1/18 SLIDES © Tim Graham/Getty Images

In 1975, Prince Charles became a member of the Magic Circle, a British society dedicated to endorsing and extolling the magical arts, after passing his audition with the classic “cup and balls” trick.

“They are a remarkable orchestra,” said the Prince. “He was terribly keen I should conduct it. I said: you must be out of your mind.

“Finally he persuaded me against my better judgment and we did it as a special surprise.”

Asked whether the musicians made it to the end of the piece at the same time, under his baton, he laughed: “Well roughly, yes. The orchestra were terribly polite. I do love it. There’s something very romantic about it.”

For a second piece of music, he chose the Creed from Russian Orthodox Liturgy, played at his wedding to Camilla Parker-Bowles in 2005: “one of the best wedding presents you could imagine” from the Mariinsky Theatre.

The Prince also pays tribute to his late grandmother, the Queen Mother, who introduced him to the ballet at Covent Garden, and concerts at the Kings Lynn festival when he was a small boy.

“She was wonderful, my grandmother, because she understood that at that age, you don’t want to have too long,” he said.

© Joe Giddens/PA Wire/PA Images The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the presidential villa in Abuja, Nigeria, on day seven of their trip to west Africa.Relaying how he learned the trumpet at school in Scotland, he disclosed that he was taught by “marvellous music teachers who had escaped the Holocaust in Germany, who came to Gordonstoun”.

“I remember playing in the orchestra with them and one of them stopped and said ‘stop those trumpets’,” he admitted. “So I thought it was time to try something else.”

He went on to play the cello while at Trinity College, Cambridge, “desperately” trying to keep up with the “fiendishly fast” record of Herbert Von Carrion conducting Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.

“I wasn’t very good at it but it was great fun,” he said. “The magic of playing in an orchestra, even if you’re not very good, is very special.”

He also shared the “horror” of auditioning for a college amateur dramatic group, going on to perform “completely dotty” reviews.

Although the majority of the Prince’s choices are classical, he offers two more unexpected insights: his love of Leonard Cohen, choosing ‘Take This Waltz’ as a favourite song, and his “passion” for 1920s and 30s dance music.

“I was lucky enough to met all those characters like Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire,” he said, crediting his grandmother. “The redl greats. I put these marvellous old tunes on in the evenings and they make me feel better.”

The special episode of Private Passions will be broadcast on BBC Sounds from Boxing Day and on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday, December 30 at midday.

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