Behind the scenes at CUCO

Aditya Chander, Leader of CUCO, talks about his experience in Cambridge University’s Flagship orchestra

Aditya Chander. Photo: Constance Reid

Aditya Chander. Photo: Constance Reid

Being in CUCO
CUCO has been an absolute rock during my time at Cambridge. Since depping for them in 2013 under the baton of Sir Roger Norrington, I was inspired to audition for the orchestra the following year, and since 2014 I’ve been playing with CUCO full time. As a chamber orchestra, we are a really tightly-knit group of people, and I’ve met some of my best friends and favourite musical colleagues through the ensemble. We also get to work with top professional conductors, so you can always guarantee an incredibly high standard of music making.
The rehearsal schedule is designed to be intense – we practise for three hours nearly every night in the week before our Saturday evening concerts, including sectionals. This is tiring, but it pays dividends when it comes to the quality of our concerts, which is consistently excellent. It’s also refreshing to play repertoire that isn’t traditionally tackled in full symphony orchestras.
I’d say my most memorable CUCO concert was our concert at Kings Place in London with Howard Shelley last November, playing Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Even though the orchestra was relatively new at this point, we really came together as a cohesive unit, and inhabited the sound world of the repertoire with great enthusiasm and a sophisticated musical understanding. One of my friends at UCL came to watch, having never been to a classical concert before, and is now hooked!

Leading CUCO
I feel hugely privileged to be leading CUCO for the 2016-17 season – it feels like a fitting culmination to my time with the ensemble. In my view, being a leader of a chamber orchestra is slightly different to leading a symphony orchestra. Since there are fewer players, it is much more critical that each member takes responsibility for their contribution to the overall sound; hence, I need to be more attuned to when things aren’t gelling quite as well as they should be. Also, it’s hugely important to have good communication with not just the other string principals but also the wind players: in particular, there aren’t as many violins and violas sitting in the way of being able to make eye contact with the oboes and flutes, so it promotes tighter ensemble playing between sections. The orchestra is very flexible and responsive to suggestions from conductors, as well as contributing many of their own musical insights, so it’s an absolute joy to lead.
This year, I’m excited to be directing a Mozart symphony from the violin in a conductorless performance. I’m also particularly looking forward to playing the second violin solo in Tippett’s Fantasia Concertante on a theme of Corelli with Thomas Gould directing from the violin and playing the first violin solo, and Wallis Power (our principal cellist) playing the solo cello part. It’s an amazing piece that I played in King’s College Music Society at the start of the year, and I can’t wait to play it with CUCO.


Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra


CUCO’s next project: Saturday 26 Novembercuco
The repertoire for this project is characterised by wit and charm, particularly the Haydn (Symphony no. 103) and the Bizet (Symphony in C). The Brahms (Variations on a theme of Haydn) is a more serious work, but has some more cheeky elements written in as well, particularly the lilting Grazioso variation, which sounds like it has come straight out of The Sound of Music! The Bizet in particular is very technically challenging, and the main task for this week is to make it sound gracefully shaped despite all the intricacies. The Haydn is a great concert opener, and its peculiarities are bound to pique the audience’s interest.

It’s been really interesting working with David Watkin so far. He is very well-versed in the performance practice literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and is getting the orchestra to engage with this information as a way of expanding our expressive palette. We’ve been expressly banned from note-bashing in rehearsals, which is a welcome relief in a sense, although we can’t hide from the fact that we will have to do some in our own time! I’m excited about how the project is going so far and can’t wait for the concert on Saturday.



Don’t miss CUCO’s second performance of the 2016-17 Season this Saturday, 26 November, in West Road Concert Hall. Book your tickets online here!

You can also read Declan Kennedy’s programme notes in advance of the concert on our blog.


Registered Charity No. 1149534

Cambridge University Musical Society
West Road Concert Hall
11 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP
Principal Guest Conductor
Sir Roger Norrington CBE
CUMS Conductor Laureate
Stephen Cleobury CBE
Director, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
Martin Ennis
Artistic Advisor
Sian Edwards
Associate Directors, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
David Lowe, Nicholas Mulroy