Andrew Young is one of three OPL musicians who have recently been confirmed by the orchestra. Get to know them in our series Justarrived@OPL!
When did you first hear about the OPL?
I had known about the OPL for a little while because Miklos Nagy and Kerry Turner are actually very well-known horn players. Kerry is also an important composer, especially of horn music. He himself plays in an amazing horn quartet, the American Horn Quartet – I even have their CDs.
Of course as a keen young horn player, I had googled both Miklos and Kerry to find out more about them and to see which orchestras they played in. I can still remember the first Youtube video I watched of Miklos. I was sitting there thinking: Wow, this guy is just ridiculous!
Yes of course! He can play two octaves higher than anyone and still make it sound beautiful! I continued on watching all his videos, and googling him to find out that he was also playing in the OPL. And then years later when I was looking at upcoming auditions, I saw the orchestra’s name and made the connection.
What was it like to audition in front of those two role models?
Very strange. I didn’t see them until afterwards, but when I met Miklos after the audition, I just thought: Well, this is exciting! He shook my hand and told me he liked my audition – that was a huge compliment for me.
How does it feel now to be a colleague of the horn players whom you have admired, whose CDs you have listened to when you were little?
It feels very good, especially now that my trial period is over. But even during the trial, they were very supportive and made the trial – well, not easy, but made me feel very comfortable during it. It’s so nice to see how they are just relaxed normal guys.
Which concerto did you play at the audition?
In the first round, I played the Horn Concerto No 4 by Mozart which went fine, although I thought it could have been better. Then in the second round, the piece was Bagatelle by Hermann Neuling, and I was very happy with it.
At what age did you start playing the French horn?
At the age of 14. Before that, I’d been playing the piano since I was 6, then I started the trumpet at 13 and then, one year later, I swapped to horn.
Why did you choose to play the horn after you played the trumpet?
My teacher told me they needed a horn player in the school band. I had no idea what a horn was, and when he took the instrument out of the case I remember being impressed with how shiny and curly it was, and I’ve played it ever since!
Does your teacher know where you ended up?
I don’t know if he knows that I’m here in Luxembourg actually, but he knows that I studied the horn and became a professional musician.
Were there any special moments during your trial?
At the OPL, my position in the orchestra is called ‘Wechselhorn’, which means the job requires me to play both ‘high horn’ and ‘low horn’ parts. In my previous job, I was a ‘low horn’ player, so I didn’t really have any experience playing ‘high horn’ in a professional setting. During the first few weeks in particular, it was a little scary. You have a different role and occasionally have some solos. On our tour in January, there was one piece where we were quite exposed: at the end of Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture and Venusberg Music there is a horn chorale. This was quite a nervous moment but all of the performances went well and it was a very satisfying experience. Also, we recently played Brahms’ Piano Concerto No 2, in which the 3rd horn has a number of solo parts. In Brahms, it is very common that there are some solo passages for 3rd horn. These solos are often asked for in orchestral auditions, so it was very exciting to get the opportunity to play some of these in their real context.
And this particular Brahms concert was during the last week of your trial, wasn’t it?
Yes it was. During this week they announced that the voting period for my trial would be beginning, and I was just thinking: why does it have to come now? I was still looking forward to playing the piece of course, but I also wondered at times what would happen if I made a mistake. But mistakes happen anyway, you just have to let go and play.
Would you happen to have a piece of advice for musicians who are about to start their trial?
I don’t know how a trial is for the other instruments, but as a horn player, we are often worried about splitting the notes or missing an entry. The simple things are often the hardest for us and when something goes wrong, you start thinking a lot and you might even begin to doubt your ability. But you have to keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes. It might feel like it’s the end of the world at the time, you’re thinking about your colleagues, thinking that they’re judging you, but they’re not – they want you to do well, and for me, knowing that I have their support helps get me through stressful situations.
Which musicians were especially important for your musical development?
My teachers. We learn to play our instruments from a young age and during these years before entering professional life, it’s so important to work on and improve your mental strength, especially as a horn player. My professor Esa Tapani was very good at getting me settled in my mind. He helped me believe in myself and believe that I could do it, even when I had some doubts. People like him, who stay focused, looking like there is no problem whilst performing, are very inspiring. As a wind player, I’m in awe when somebody sits there, takes a breath and just plays.
Where have you lived before coming to Luxembourg?
I was born in Bendigo, a small regional city in Australia, and later lived in Melbourne, which is a big city with almost five million people. Then I moved to Frankfurt and thought: oh dear, Frankfurt is small. Then I won a job in Wiesbaden and moved there, which was even smaller and now here I am in Luxembourg.
Do you miss something about Australia?
Sometimes I miss the general laid-back and relaxed attitude of Australian people, but don’t get me wrong, the people in Luxembourg are great too! Of course I also miss my family - and my Mums cooking - and friends who I don’t get to see so often. Now I’ve been living in Europe for about 6 years and am enjoying my work and the opportunities that have been presented to me it is hard to really imagine going back to live in Australia any time soon.