5 Minutes with… Howarth Artists | Patrick Flanaghan

We are excited to bring you a new series of interviews with our Howarth Artists from across the globe. Each fortnight we will introduce to you one of our artists and they will answer a few questions about how they started with the oboe, where they are now and why they chose Howarth.

To start, we would like to introduce Patrick Flanaghan. Patrick has been playing Howarth instruments for many years and is a regular visitor to our London Showrooms. He is a well-known and respected Cor Anglais player, having performed with major orchestras across Germany and the UK.

Would you like to introduce yourself!

I am principal cor anglais with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Occasionally I’ll also be seen and heard on principal oboe or second oboe if my colleagues are having a deserved day off!

Although born in London, I moved to Wiltshire aged nine to become a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral, where I first started playing the oboe. As a teenager I spent three years at the Purcell School of Music, studying oboe with Melanie Ragge before winning a Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music where I studied under Celia Nicklin and Geoffrey Browne and won the Leila Bull Oboe Prize in my second year.

After graduating from RAM I won a DAAD scholarship to study with Prof. Emanuel Abbühl in Mannheim, Germany, and lived in Germany for several years after, appearing regularly as guest principal cor anglais with the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester Hamburg as well as guest principal oboe with the Southwest German Chamber Orchestra (SWDKO).

I left Germany in 2016 to take up my position with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and while back in the UK I have appeared as guest principal cor anglais with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and Aurora Orchestra. I am also cor anglais and oboe tutor at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and in 2017 I was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.

Although appearing on many orchestral and commercial recordings with the RPO, my solo recordings also include solo oboe on La Folia’s The Vivaldi Files, cor anglais in Rob Keeley’s Triple Concerto and solo cor anglais in Copland’s Quiet City with Septura Brass.

Where are you based?

In London, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Tell us about your early musical life, where did it start and what made you choose the oboe?

I had to learn an instrument whilst a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral. I had heard the oboe on the radio and decided it was for me. I also learnt the trombone for a few years – although it didn’t do my formative embouchure many favours… I feel for some of my teachers who had to try and put this hybrid wind/brass embouchure back together….

Did you always want to be a musician? If you had another career what would you have done?

I don’t think that I’ve always wanted to be a musician. There’s certainly been times (mainly after failed auditions) where I’ve wanted to pack it all in, but fundamentally I can not imagine a life without music. Performing on stage with my colleagues is a huge privilege and enormous fun at the RPO – why would I want anything else?

I have always harboured ambitions of being a sports journalist, although this is definitely more of a wish to be jetted around the globe to see all of the sporting events that I love – the Olympics, Rugby World Cup & Heineken Cup, and pretty much any Cricket tournament. Wishful thinking more than anything…

What has been your musical highlight?

Ravel Piano Concerto (multiple performances) on a European tour with Martha Argerich and the RPO. No debate.

What are favourite/worst things about playing the Oboe/ Cor Anglais?

I love playing the cor, there’s nothing bad about it! I get all of the beautiful solos and none of the hard work – sorry oboists! I don’t think there’s a “worst” thing about the job. I even enjoy reed making which rules out most players’ main dislike.

Where are you playing currently?

Mainly at the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall and the Royal Festival Hall. The next few months are very busy with the RPO and we will also be touring Germany in May which gives me a chance to catch up with some old friends and colleagues – as well as sampling some excellent German beer post concert.

Favourite composer/piece? New piece?

Shostakovich. Probably his 8th Symphony if I have to choose. I’m also partial to some Strauss & Rachmaninov. Symphonic Dances by Rachmaninov is there or thereabouts as an all time favourite.

What Howarth instrument do you play and why did you choose it?

I actually play the full range of Howarth instruments: I have the most beautiful S5 Cor Anglais, an XL Oboe and an XL d’amore. Why did I choose a Howarth? Hmmm, that’s tricky. My first ever oboe was a third or fourth hand Howarth B model. As a teenager I had an XL and I guess this influenced my sound and how I heard myself. On each occasion that I’ve since looked for a new instrument I’ve always tried as many different instruments as possible. The three instruments that I currently own I decided on within seconds – the Howarth sound must be deeply ingrained! I also don’t want to upset Mike Britten by buying elsewhere!

Favourite holiday destination?

Greek islands

Favourite touring destination?

Italy (for the food and drink!)

Listen to Patrick

RPO Latest Concerts

Aaron Copland’s Quiet City on Spotify

RPO Player Profile

About Howarth of London

Woodwind Specialists - Howarth are leading suppliers of oboes, bassoons, clarinets, saxophones and flutes. Makers of fine oboes, cors anglais & oboes d'amore.
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