Meet the players: Hugh Kluger

A native of Sydney, Australia, Hugh joined the LPO in March 2018 as Sub-Principal Double Bass. We talked to him about his first impressions of the LPO, and life in London both on- and off-stage.

Hugh Kluger smallHow did your career as a double bassist begin, and what have been the defining moments so far?

When I was four, I went to the Sydney Symphony’s Baby Proms and sat on stage at the feet of the principal double bassist. After that I apparently wanted to play double bass, probably because it was big and loud! My parents eventually bought a half-sized bass, and my dad and I were playing jazz very soon after. Growing up, I mostly played jazz and rock and roll with my school mates. I found the energy created while improvising or playing a composition for the first time infectious; an excitement only eclipsed by a full symphony orchestra playing in a great hall with great musicians. I remember playing Pictures at an Exhibition at my first music camp, and thinking it was incredible to be part of making such a big sound. I also remember one of my first professional concerts, playing Beethoven’s Seventh, and thinking that the amazing build-up of the slow movement was a good reason to be playing in symphony orchestras.

Why did you decide to relocate from Australia to London?
To join one of the best orchestras in the world! I started playing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra when I was 19, and over the next few years played everywhere I could in Australia and New Zealand. I loved going to different cities, meeting new people, and trying new bars and restaurants. Eventually I started working my way from the north of the UK down to London, and found the speed with which the LPO worked thrilling. London is so international, busy, and constantly changing. I went to plays, gigs, galleries, bars, when the LPO plays, it is going to be worldclass. There aren’t many orchestras in the world that can do three programmes in one week, and keep creating such incredible performances.

What have been the highlights of your first few months with the Orchestra?
I’ve always loved Germanic orchestral and operatic music, so it was no surprise that performing Das Rheingold with Vladimir Jurowski in January was an incredible experience. I’ve been lucky enough to play eight Ring cycles already, but to finally experience one out of the opera pit, on stage with a symphony orchestra, brought out colours and sounds I’d never heard in it before. Another highlight was playing Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony in the amazing acoustic of Tokyo’s Suntory Hall. You could hear every individual player, as well as a perfectly blended orchestral sound. As a bassist, it’s a real joy to be able to hear yourself properly!

As a relative newcomer to London, what have been your favourite discoveries in the city so far?
I live in Peckham, and love the colour and life of all the shops stocking things from Nigeria to Poland. The Peckham Levels is an old car park that has been transformed into seven storeys of art installations and a rooftop bar with amazing views. It’s a great place to go on a sunny day. I’ve also discovered bar billiards – dangerously addictive and chaotic! A few of my South East London colleagues and I have developed an addiction to it ...

What’s the best thing about life as an orchestral musician?
It sounds obvious, but playing some of the greatest pieces of art ever created. I also love getting on a plane on day 3 of a tour, and not even knowing which country I’ll be going to that day, but knowing the food will definitely be interesting and the beer will probably be cold.

Which LPO concerts in the 2018/19 season are you most looking forward to?
I can’t wait to play Die Walküre on 27 January: Wagner wrote so well for the basses that the whole opera is full of really juicy bits that keep us challenged and excited. I’m also looking forward to playing Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 on 27 February. I feel Brahms was an early contributor to heavy metal, with lots of great head-banging bits where the timpani and strings build up grooves which are released into amazing brass chorales.

How do you relax when you’re not working?
When I’m not at work I love going to rock and metal gigs around the city, searching for that special moment that you walk into a bar and find your next favourite band. I’ve always played guitar in rock bands, and if I get a free moment I’ll definitely see if I can get one going in London. I also love having a BBQ in my backyard with my friends when the weather holds out (fingers crossed!)