I learnt this week that whilst an undergraduate of Trinity College Cambridge, our current King Charles III, once studied the Cello. In joint interview with the Poet Simon Armitage on Radio 4, King Charles reflected on a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
King Charles III is a long-time supporter and patron of the arts world, with patronages at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Royal College of Music and beyond.
And it all stems, it appears, from His Majesty’s early years spent going to the ballet with the Queen Mother – and playing in the cello section of his university orchestra.
While modestly describing himself as “hopeless” at the cello, His Majesty recalled:
“I loved playing in the orchestra at Trinity – albeit rather badly,” he admitted. “I remember playing in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and trying to practise in my room at Cambridge to an old record conducted by Herbert von Karajan, who was the great conductor in those days, in the sixties.
It has to be said that Herbert von Karajan does tend to favour an up tempo performance of the Beethoven Symphonies so all credit to His Majesty for playing along with that!
Alongside the Cello, our new King learned to play the trumpet and piano as a child, making his public debut aged 15 as a trumpeter in St Giles’ Cathedral, playing with the 80-piece orchestra at his school in Gordonstoun, Scotland.
As a child, Charles III was a regular audience member at classical music concerts, alongside his grandmother, the Queen Mother, at many the country’s opera houses and concert halls. He still credits those evenings to nurturing his long-lasting love for the arts and music-making.
“It anchors you and connects you. It’s a useful antidote to sitting in front of a screen every day.”
In an interview with Classic FM’s Alan Titchmarsh in 2020, the then-Prince of Wales said: “It’s so important, I think, for grandparents and other relations to take children at about the age of seven to experience some form of the arts in performance.”