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Ensemble Connect: Preparing Winterreise

Ensemble Connect flutist Rosie Gallagher reflects on preparing Hans Zender’s Winterreise with conductor Sir Simon Rattle.

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Every moment of this project felt like a spectacular gift. It began the second Sir Simon Rattle flew in the door, windswept with his score in one hand, victoriously announcing, “I was held up in an anti-Trump rally!”—and it lasted through our performance in Zankel Hall, which was the first concert for 2016 Ensemble Connect fellows. As I reflect on this surreal week, I am struck by a feeling of gratitude: to Schubert for turning his darkness into musical poetry, to Hans Zender for having the courage to reimagine such an iconic work, to the Ensemble Connect team—both colleagues and staff—for always bring their best, and to the magnificent Sir Simon and Mark Padmore for their sincere humility and infectious joy.

In true Ensemble Connect style, Hans Zender’s Winterreise proved to be an ambitious first project. It called for several members of the ensemble to double on melodica and wind machine, use extended technique, and move around the hall. Sir Simon worked diligently with us to ensure that these sounds were not gimmicks and were instead tools used to paint a landscape full of emotional nuance and dark color. Upon tenor Mark Padmore’s arrival, his voice told us a mesmerizing story, challenging the ensemble to respond to his ideas and phrasing. It was a joy to watch Sir Simon and Mark Padmore work together. Often, no more than a couple of words were exchanged between the dynamic pair as the collaboration was one of musical osmosis and unconditional trust.

It is a rare and wonderful thing to truly feel “in the moment” during a musical performance. I find that there are often distracting voices, both internal and external, that pull focus from the task at hand. There were times, both in rehearsal and on the stage of Zankel Hall, that I could feel Sir Simon existing in this moment and the ensemble coming with him. I hope to bring this experience with me as I continue to work with my remarkable colleagues over the next two years.

Sir Simon left us with this advice: “The people need your spirit, now more than ever. Go out and give it to them.” I do not take this responsibility lightly. It is a privilege to be part of a group that strives to do this on a daily basis. For all that music has given me—a sense of belonging, perspective, curiosity, and empathy—I am more than happy to share this incredible world with anyone who wants to escape inside of it.

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Rosie Gallagher, flute

Ensemble Connect performed Schubert’s Winterreise—A Composed Interpretation for Tenor and Small Orchestra by Hans Zender on Sunday, October 16. Watch a replay of the performance on

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