Magazine article Gramophone

Joanna David: The Actor on How Studying Ballet as a Teenager Led to a Life-Long Love of Music

Magazine article Gramophone

Joanna David: The Actor on How Studying Ballet as a Teenager Led to a Life-Long Love of Music

Article excerpt

I started ballet lessons when I was about three and went on training more seriously as a Royal Academy of Dance scholar, and then went to Elmhurst Ballet School when I was 12 and stayed there until I was 16.1 was hopeless in the 1960s when pop music was everything and I just didn't really have an ear for it because I was so steeped in classical music! You're trained with such an ear to listen acutely to music because you have to dance to it--even when you're doing your actual exercises at the barre in a studio you're still listening acutely to music and I'm very, very lucky that I had that as part of my upbringing.

In the early '70s I went to a little arts festival at a place called Upottery in Devon, where the actress Penelope Lee had been left a house by an aunt and she'd decided to have an arts festival. And, believe it or not, at this festival Murray Perahia was performing, and Jacqueline du Pre, who had just lost her ability to play, was doing With Great Pleasure, the BBC choice of prose and poetry which was being recorded there, and Moray Welsh the cellist who was a great friend of hers was there too.

Jacqueline and I became friends. She used to like listening to her recordings with you when you would go to have supper with her, and I used to take my daughter Emilia and she would listen too. I'm passionate about Jacqueline's music, and luckily the cello repertoire isn't quite as vast as others so I must have listened to as many recordings as I possibly could.

I was on location in Hungary making a film of Anna Karenina in the '80s. My daughter came out to see me and I took her to the newly restored opera house in Budapest where there was a children's performance on a Saturday morning of Madam Butterfly and one of La boheme, so I was able to introduce her to the opera at 11. They had so many concerts at the Franz Liszt Academy and so I used to go to hear Dezso Rinki and Zoltan Kocsis playing in their very early days.

I went to hear my husband [Edward Fox] read the Four Quartets by TS Eliot--this was about 15 years ago--and Lucy Parham was in the audience, and we started to talk and really had a rapport. She'd just done a performance of Clara and Robert Schumann at the Wigmore Hall with words and music, and she was giving another concert in the quite near future and asked me if I would consider doing it. …

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