Flourishing at Oxford during lockdown

Flourishing at Oxford during lockdown

Anhad Arora’s continuing studies at Oxford combine his love of Music with his passion for German.

After leaving QE with straight A*s in Music, German, French and English Literature A-levels, Anhad (OE 2009–2016) read Music at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, graduating with a First.

He moved on to a Master’s thesis looking at elements of orientalism in Robert Schumann’s Myrthen song cycle, op.25 (‘Myrthen’ means ‘myrtle’, the flowering evergreen shrub native to the Middle East). “My Master’s in Musicology was completed with Distinction just down the road at St Cross College, where I was funded by the Humanities Division of Oxford University,” he says.

After recently delivering a paper in German to the Henrich Heine Gesellschaft on Schumann’s interpretation of the orientalist flower in the work, Anhad won the Düsseldorf literary and artistic society’s prize for best lecture. Parts of his thesis are set to be published in the 2021 issue of the Heine-Jahrbuch, the society’s annual publication.

And Anhad is now delving deeply into German literature for his interdisciplinary doctorate (DPhil) project, which similarly investigates orientalism in nineteenth-century German song.

He has made good use of his time since the beginning of lockdown, with professor of Medieval German at Oxford Henrike Lähnemann giving him a crash course in German Romantic literature. This is helping him grapple with works including Goethe’s West–östlicher Divan, which Schumann and “all the big-hitting Lied composers” drew upon. These studies are supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Clarendon Fund, underwritten by Merton College.

With Prof Lähnemann, he runs a blog, called Lieder Spiel, and a YouTube channel “for fun”.

Anhad says he has “enjoyed balancing a busy performing career on early keyboards with academic research” and “hopes to continue researching and performing in equal measure”.

“As an undergraduate, I was one of two répétiteur scholars for New Chamber Opera, a professional opera company based in Oxford. With their support, I put on two fully staged operas (Haydn’s Lo Speziale and Handel’s Xerxes) and assisted on Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. We took Lo Speziale to the British Embassy in Paris in November 2019 for a one-off concert performance, which was good fun.”

“During my undergraduate years I was also the director of the university’s premier Early Music ensemble, the Bate Players, and was (and still am) the principal keyboard player of the Oxford Bach Soloists, who are performing all of the Bach’s cantatas in chronological order.

“I didn’t do much apart from music – and drinking! But I was drafted in somehow to act in French-language play, Jean Cocteau’s La Machine Infernale, the success of which is better left to speculation.”

He stays in touch with a number of friends from School. “Particular shout-outs to Thomas Archbold, who is pursuing a PhD at King’s College London in Computer Science, and Youssef Zitoun, who is flourishing as a corporate analyst in London.

“I’m also in contact with members of the Barbershop group: Simon Purdy is enjoying a varied, freelance career as a violinist and Kavi Pau as a hybrid consultant-musician. Kavi has recently started The Third Culture Collective, a collaborative music group.” Anhad says he is looking forward to seeing how Kavi’s work develops.

Anhad enjoys cooking – “when I can be bothered” – and reading satirical newspapers. “I’ve always had a soft spot for irreverence – ask any of my former teachers at QE!”