The day young American maestro James Feddeck first visited the Hallé is one I won’t forget. I don’t think he will, either.
“I got a phone call, and I was on the plane within an hour and a half,” he recalls. Feddeck was called in two years ago when another conductor pulled out through illness. He took on most of the prepared programme for three concerts here and scored a personal triumph.
Now he’s back in Manchester, to conduct the Hallé (in the May ‘Opus One concerts) and before that the BBC Philharmonic.
Since appointment as assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra (one of the USA’s finest) from 2009 to 2013 he’s become known for saving the day elsewhere, too.
“But I’m also happy to come to an orchestra with advance notice!” he quips – and he’s getting those bookings, too – from Berlin, The Hague, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, Toronto … the list goes on.
James Feddeck grew up in New York in a family who loved music but were not professional musicians. “My grandfather thought every civilized home should have a piano,” he says, “and he bought each of his three sons a grand piano.
“When I was very young I started to play by ear – music really did find me.”
He was a church organist at the age of eight, and at 11 was asked to train the choir.
“It was miraculous that I was even allowed to try,” he says. “I had to plan things and run rehearsals. So I came to all this through choral music and singing – I often try to encourage orchestral players to be more like singers.”
He’s an instrumental player as well, having taken the oboe through music college (as well as organ, piano and conducting – he went to the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio because it was one of the few that would let him have four principal studies at once).
He started his own orchestra there (“by begging friends – I bribed them with pizza and do-nuts,” he says), and it grew to the point where there were over 80 and he was conducting major symphonies.
“Musically there’s always my favourite moment with an orchestra, when we’ve been looking at each other and thinking ‘who is this?’ – and then we’re just in the music together.”
l James Feddeck conducts the BBC Philharmonic on April 1 at the Bridgewater Hall.
James Feddeck credit Terry Johnston (l) and Benjamin Ealovega (rt)