‘On the Rach’ with pianist Marc Corbett-Weaver

What’s it like to prepare a solo concerto solo concerto  for a performance with orchestra in a central London venue?  Artistic director of the London Firebird Orchestra, Marc Corbett-Weaver is doing just this as he prepares the solo for Rachmaninoff’s famous second piano concerto for their forthcoming concert on Thursday. Here he talks to Nicholas Keyworth from Revolution Arts.

Tuesday 18th June 2013 @ St Pauls Covent Garden Firebird Orchestra © Copyright Huw Jennings

Tuesday 18th June 2013 @ St Pauls Covent Garden Firebird Orchestra © Copyright Huw Jennings

I caught up with Marc in a rare break from his busy schedule to find out why he has chosen such an immensely popular work from the classical repertoire. His initial response: ’I simply love it to bits’ will chime with most of us I would imagine, but he went further:

“It is of course a work of immense popularity, perhaps owing to its compelling melodies, both dark and stately and passionately romantic; excitingly driven structure and enormous power. It will be Firebird’s first performance of the work and my own first performance with the conductor Michael Thrift, both of which make it a real treat and special opportunity.”

Marc has performed ‘Rach 2 ‘ on several occasions. I asked him about some of his happy memories from past performances…

“My first performance of Rach 2 was at a black tie gala concert I was involved with at the wonderful purpose-built Unicorn children’s theatre on Tooley Street, which raised £14,000 for the charity – I’ll never forgot Joanna Lumley bidding loudly and competitively for a diamond brooch we auctioned off after the interval!“

Marc 4

“Another happy occasion was a performance at the Cadogan Hall with my friend the conductor Toby Pursers, as well as performing it in my home county of Yorkshire, with local musicians in Ackworth in the heart of the countryside.”

I wanted to know more about the rehearsal process with the orchestra and working with a young conductor like Michael Thrift. Marc explained:

“We rehearse with the orchestra the day before and on the actual day of the concert, so there isn’t really enough time to do anything really whacky with the interpretation. Anyway, I prefer to stay fairly true to the composer’s intentions outlined in the score. That said, I do tend to lean on the more romantic side of things when it comes to interpretation. That may be less close to what Rachmaninoff might have done but I feel the piece lends itself so naturally to more lyrical and poetic kinds of expression. I also have one of two ideas of my own, but for those you’ll just have to wait and see!”


This work has been popularised through so many different media. Films like the 1945 David Lean film Brief Encounter immediately spring to mind – and there have been many others where the musical themes have been reworked in popular music such as in Frank Sinatra’s I think of you and Muse’s 2001 song Space Dementia. I wanted to know if Marc thought this devalues the work in any way – or distracts the audiences by setting up expectations of how it ‘should’ sound?

“No, I don’t feel it devalues the work – it’s more of a compliment to the piece’s huge popularity and adoration. You’ve missed out Celine Dion’s All by myself I notice, which is a must in every teenager’s school-disco! What I hope though is that listeners will reflect on the real messages in the piece, as opposed to allowing it to evoke memories from films etc, which in my view would be a distraction from what the music really has to offer.”

Marc 7

Marc Corbett-Weaver will be playing Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto at St Paul’s Covent Garden with the London Firebird Orchestra conducted by Michael Thrift on Thursday 16 June at 7.30pm.