NICHOLAS COLLON is one of the fastest rising stars in the business. Still only two years past his 30th birthday, he’s already co-founded an orchestra and seen it perform at the London Proms, has been appointed conductor of one of Holland’s top symphony orchestras – and is in demand as guest maestro.
He’s also got to know Manchester’s orchestras, conducting the Camerata in 2011 in a programme of American music, the BBC Philharmonic last December in Berlioz, Brahms and Stravinsky (he’s back with them next February), and recording music by Colin Matthews with the Hallé last year.
But now comes his concert debut with the Hallé – in the popular ‘Opus One’ series, performed three times over in the Bridgewater Hall (November 11 at 2.15pm and November 12 and 15 at 7.30pm).
He’s directing them in Richard Strauss’s tone poem about Till Eulenspiegel, Saint-Saëns’ cello concerto and Dvořák’s Silent Woods (both with soloist Jian Wang), and finally Beethoven’s dynamic Symphony no. 7.
Nicholas comes of musical stock. His grandmother was his piano teacher, and his mother his violin teacher. He joined the youth orchestra in his home county of Surrey … and the conducting bug bit.
“The first thing we ever played was the overture to Die Meistersinger by Wagner,” he says, “and at that point I think I first wanted to be a conductor.”
Educated at Eton, he went to Clare College, Cambridge as organ scholar and got his first real experience of musical direction. “It was a fabulous college to be at, musically. I conducted the choir and I learned a tremendous amount there.”
Aged 20, he founded the Aurora Orchestra with friend and Clare College contemporary Robin Ticciati (now making his own meteoric career).
“My way of learning conducting was simply to do it,” says Nicholas. “The orchestra began with people we knew from the National Youth Orchestra, Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Music – there was a whole generation of musicians who created a real buzz.
“To begin with, we just put on a concert. I went round with cap in hand and about 60 people became our ‘friends’ and patrons. It all picked up from there – now we have a permanent structure.”
Nicholas has just been made principal conductor of the Residentie Orkester in The Hague, a job he’ll take up next winter season.