EX CATHEDRA | Margaret Faultless - violin

From our ‘Bach, Christmas Oratorio’ programme , December 2015

Margaret Faultless performs music from Monteverdi to the present day, but is best known as an interpreter of eighteenth-century repertoire and a specialist in historical performance practice . As well as being a leader of Ex Cathedra, Margaret is co-leader of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and regularly directs the orchestra including a recent project performing Beethoven Symphonies from early editions. She also plays a significant role in their education programme for young professionals, designing and directing the OAE Academy each year.  For twelve years, Margaret led the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under Ton Koopman, as concert-master and soloist in their ten-year project to perform and record J.S Bach’s Cantatas. She is a regular director of the European Union Baroque Orchestra (for whom she is Director of Studies), Philharmonie Merck, and is the Artistic director of the ensemble Music for Awhile. A passionate chamber musician, she was a member of the London Haydn Quartet for ten years.

Margaret also lectures on performance practice, her special interests being leadership before the age of silent conducting and the relationship between notation and the performer. A graduate of Clare College, Cambridge, she is Director of Performance at the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge, Artistic Director of the University Collegium Musicum, a Bye-Fellow of Girton College, and Musician in Residence at St John’s College. She is an Honorary Fellow of Birmingham Conservatoire and Head of Historical Performance at The Royal Academy of Music.

1. How long have you been a member of Ex Cathedra and why did you join?

I have been performing with Ex Cathedra since I was in the sixth form at King Edward’s High School for Girls in the late 1970s. My father was one of the very first singers in the group and I have enjoyed going to concerts as well as playing in the orchestra ever since the ensemble was founded. It was exciting to have a professional choir and orchestra so passionate about historical performance right on the doorstep in Birmingham, and the instrumental programming was a real revelation at a time when I was very curious to experience music outside the mainstream repertoire…

2. What does a typical day look like for you?

One of the things I most value about my life is that there isn’t really any typical day! The challenges of running the department at the Academy, and of looking after all the students at the University of Cambridge who wish performance to be a significant part of their studies and extra-curricular activities means that it’s crucial to expect the unexpected on a daily basis. I balance practice with directing and performing, with creating projects and meeting people in a wide variety of circumstances throughout the music profession. Alongside this it’s also vital for me to be engaged with new areas of research and to stretch my own ideas of what it means to perform and connect with colleagues on the platform as well as with audiences. Running my own ensemble and putting together a very special festival each year in my local community keeps me in touch with the value of music for people living in rural communities and this is particularly satisfying.

3. If you could choose to perform again any piece you have performed before with Ex Cathedra, what would it be, and & why?

That’s hard, because Ex Cathedra projects are never “run of the mill” and always throw up new excitements each time we meet. Jeffrey is a very enabling director and I look forward to each performance. If I have to pick something it’s going to have to be the Bach Passions, and the St Matthew in particular. For personal reasons this piece is very close to my heart and the Ex Cathedra performances are a real joy to be part of.

4. What’s your musical “guilty secret”?

I did go through a phase of going to heavy metal concerts at the Birmingham Odeon until I began to wonder if it was good for my hearing, but it was thrilling at the time! I do sometimes relax to James Taylor, and I still get a curious wave of nostalgia if I hear a track by David Essex. It’s interesting how potent the music of one’s teenage years can be…