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Culture vulture

Ian Nimmo-Smith has a passion for Mahler and Muck. Summer reading

I'm reading The Periodic Table by Primo Levi (pictured). One of my daughters said I must read his If this is a Man and since then I've wanted to read more. I think he was an astounding conscience for us in the way he witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust and Auschwitz and yet somehow transcended that and brought humanity to writing about it.

Summer project

I chair Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra, which runs courses for about 200 children three times a year. We have two string groups, two bands, a symphony orchestra and two choirs. This year, our 50th anniversary, we'll run our course for four days. We've invited our old members for another two days - we've mailed several thousand and we're expecting more than 100.

With the older children we'll base this part of the course around Mahler's "Third Symphony", with a choir of youngsters, and parts of Holst's "The Planets". One of the great features of Holiday Orchestra is that parents can play alongside their children.

Summer sounds

I'll listen to the Proms on Radio 3, and go to the Cambridge Summer Music Festival. I want some recordings of music by a Hungarian composer I recently discovered called Nicholae Bretan. He writes richly coloured songs in Hungarian, Rumanian and German. His melodic sense is captivating.

Are you going away?

I will stay for two weeks with my mother, who has lived on the Isle of Muck off the west coast of Scotland for 20 years. It's a rocky island with sandy beaches. There are seals, puffins, wild birds and little motor traffic - about 30 people live there and you can't take a car. I shall sketch and paint, walk and sleep. I shall feel relaxed and restored internally: you find yourself thinking about your life, issues of the spirit and so on, which you don't get a chance to do every day.

Ian Nimmo-Smith, a medical statistician and Liberal Democrat councillor, has been a governor of schools in West Cambridge for over 20 years. He chairs the Cambridgeshire Holiday Orchestra Association. He was talking to Karen Gold. For details of CHOA's 50th anniversary celebrations, running August 24-29, contact Cambridge Summer Music Festival, July 16-August 14, see

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