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Meet Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor

6 March 2023

Photograph of Margarita Mikhailova

Margarita Mikhailova answers questions about directing the university’s largest ensemble and invites staff to the orchestra’s concert in Llandaff Cathedral on 18 March.

Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra (CUSO) is the largest ensemble at the School of Music and regularly performs in prestigious venues such as St David’s Hall and Hoddinott Hall.

This academic year, the orchestra welcomed a new conductor, Margarita Mikhailova.

What first drew you to conducting?

This happened very unexpectedly at my music school, which was primarily focused on choral training. We had a large choir divided into several age groups. When I entered the senior group, I was asked by our conductor if I would like to help her to rehearse junior members. She explained the basics of conducting to me and that was it! I still can't believe that she showed so much trust to a 12-year-old, and probably without realising herself "kicked off" my future professional life.

Your first concert with the orchestra will be on 18 March. What were your thoughts behind the programme?

The choice of the repertoire for our first concert was not straightforward at all. I hadn’t met our orchestra members, which was a challenge by itself, however, a romantic symphony was in focus from the very beginning. Kalinnikov is a lesser-known name among the Romantic composers, and I included his work to enrich the experience for both the orchestra and our listeners.

We paired the symphony with a lively Opus 46 of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances, bringing in specific styles and rhythms of Bohemia.

The programme is completed with a taste of Welsh music from Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. I wanted to create an emotional bridge to the upcoming Easter time, however, the music might evoke additional feelings, bearing in mind that it was written in 1999, intended to commemorate those who died in the recent Kosovo conflict.

What has been your highlight in working with the orchestra so far?

I have absolutely enjoyed every rehearsal since we began. It’s encouraging to see we have a strong string section as well as the woodwind and brass positions covered after the long audition process. I am passionate for the orchestra to provide excellent opportunity for students’ musical development and a valuable social experience in their university life.

What would you like to work on with the orchestra in the future?

My wish is to explore more Welsh music - both from the classical period and contemporary composers. I also hope we will build stronger connections with professional orchestras in Cardiff and will certainly invite great Welsh players to perform some concertos together.

The orchestra will perform in Llandaff Cathedral on 18 March. Free tickets are available for university students and staff.

Find out more about the wide range of ensembles run by the School of Music.

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