Joe Crouch is principal cello of The English Concert.
When, where and what did you play the first time with the English Concert?
Air Studios, as an extra player, deputising in the orchestra for Alison McGillivray while she moved to the front of the band to record a C.P.E. Bach Cello Concerto as part of a disc with Andrew Manze
What has been your most memorable TEC concert and why?
Alcina at Carnegie Hall, 2014.
It’s a wonderful opera and an especially wonderful cello part. Our Carnegie Hall show came after a run of sell-out concerts in Europe, so the piece was already in our bones, and our previous opera performances at Carnegie had already proved such hits that there was a palpable excitement in the hall even before the first down beat. This excitement was magnified – for audience and orchestra alike – by the cast of soloists. Led by Joyce Di Donato, they were always going to be individually outstanding, but the real magic came from their collective chemistry and their interplay with us; the drama inherent in these interactions more than made up for the lack of staging, and had the added benefit of pushing the orchestra further into the spotlight.
Most memorable of all for me was the sight of my oldest two boys in the audience. At the ages of 7 and 8 they had made their first trans-Atlantic trip for the concert. They would no doubt list Times Square, Central Park, hot-dogs and pizzas as the trip’s real highlights but they smiled their way through a 4-hour opera too.
What’s one of your favourite pieces of music and why?
It’s an obvious answer, but I always look forward to Passiontide for Bach’s twin settings. I couldn’t put one above the other, because each one contains not only music and text of inexhaustible beauty. Each time we come back to these works we find new things: in the music, in our colleagues’ interpretations, in the audience’s response. At the same time, we are reminded of our previous encounters with the works; for me, that means being transported back to the choir stalls where I spent my childhood and student years, and to the playing and singing of colleagues from 35-odd years’ worth of performances.
Do you have a secret interest or hobby that would surprise people?
It’s hardly a secret to anyone who has sat near me on a long flight or bus journey, but I like setting cryptic crosswords. I’ve done a few for friends and family, usually on musical themes and invariably too puerile and filthy to share here.