Prince Charles: ‘We shoot ourselves in the foot by ignoring music’


In this article Classic FM explores how The Prince of Wales has revealed his passion for the arts in a wide-ranging interview, saying music makes an ‘enormous contribution’ to the UK economy. The MIA strongly believes in the importance of children retaining curriculum-based music as part of the school day, and the points made in this article by Prince Charles back this up...

His Royal Highness also revealed he once conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra as a surprise for the Duchess of Cornwall on her 60th birthday.

“People forget – or may not realise – what an enormous contribution the creative arts make to the whole economy. It’s immense,” he said.

“So we slightly shoot ourselves in the feet if we ignore [music] altogether. When you go to schools which still have it, it is wonderful to see the enthusiasm on the part of the children in their orchestras.”

In an in-depth interview Prince Charles also revealed he can play the cello (“and the trumpet, can you believe it?”).

He recalled how much he enjoyed music lessons at his school, Gordonstoun: “In those days, the early ’60s, we had these marvellous music teachers who had escaped the Holocaust in Germany and came to Gordonstoun and taught music there.”

After taking up the trumpet at Gordonstoun, he went on to play cello at Cambridge University with the Trinity College orchestra: “The magic of playing in an orchestra, even if you’re not very good, is very special”.

The Prince of Wales revealed his love of music was nurtured by his grandmother, the Queen Mother, who took him to see the Bolshoi Ballet at the Royal Opera House when he was seven: “I remember being so completely transfixed by the magic of it. I’ve loved Covent Garden ever since.”

The prince listed some of his favourite works, including Jacqueline du Pré playing Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1, Herbert von Karajan conducting Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll.

His Royal Highness also shared the story of a romantic musical gesture for the Duchess of Cornwall’s 60th birthday: he arranged for the Philharmonia Orchestra to give a private rendition of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll – and he even picked up the baton himself.

The special performance mirrored the very first performance of the work. Wagner wrote the work for his wife Cosima’s birthday and she was awoken on her birthday (which also happened to be her Christmas Day, 1870) by the sound of an orchestra playing the new piece.

The Prince of Wales also spoke about his love for Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Take This Waltz’, a setting of his the singer’s own translation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem Pequeño vals Vienés.

“I’ve always loved Leonard Cohen’s voice and his whole approach to the way he sang,” he said. “He was obviously incredibly sophisticated in the way he sang, but also wrote. I find it very moving, the words are so extraordinary, sort of Salvador Dalí-like, they lead you into this remarkable Dalí-like world.”