Sunday, May 03, 2015

Musicians set out to raise £10k for Nepal


The pianist Alicja Fiderkiewicz and the cellist Corinne Morris are collaborating to bring together a number of classical stars to give a fundraising concert in aid of the Nepal Disaster. Taking place on 29 May in St Barnabas' Church, Ealing, the event brings together the pianists Murray McLachlan, Artur Pizarro, Viv Mclean and Carlo Grante, along with Corinne and Alicja themselves, and will also include a world premiere by composer Keith Burstein. 


Alicja and Corinne write:
The entire proceeds of this fundraising concert will go to the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) Nepal Earthquake Appeal. Nepal needs 2 things: manpower to help get things up and running and money to access this help, to start rebuilding their lives.
With our fundraising concert, we hope to provide the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) with a contribution of £10,000.
If you can support our project, either by attending the concert, or making a donation via this page and sharing this with all your friends, then together we will make an impact and via the aid agencies already in Nepal, offer some much needed support and comfort.

Our sincere thanks for your help and support.
Please book tickets via the Indiegogo page, where you select them as your 'perk': https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/classical-music-gala-concert-for-nepal-disaster 

Friday, May 01, 2015

A choreographer and his muse...

Coming up fast at Covent Garden: Wayne McGregor's new ballet Woolf Works, based on three Virginia Woolf novels and her life story. More of this soon. Meanwhile, here is Wayne working with his regular muse, the incredible Edward Watson, who is Orlando. Amazing to watch their connection as Wayne imagines something and Ed immediately knows how to make it real.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Join us at Classical:NEXT for this!

Gearing up for the cutting-edge trade fair Classical:NEXT, which this year is being held in Rotterdam at De Doelen. It runs 20-23 May. On 21 May at 3.30pm I'm chairing a "network meeting" on the topic of gender equality in the music world, under the title "Music to our ears?".

We have three fabulous speakers: Gillian Moore, head of music at the Southbank Centre; Susanna Eastburn, chief executive of Sound and Music; and Vanessa Reed, chief executive of the PRS for Music Foundation. I'll be asking each of them to say a few words on the issue from their perspective, then we'll discuss it a bit, then open up to the floor for discussion en masse. It's the perfect chance to compare notes with our colleagues from all over the globe - male as well as female, please (it is your equality too!). Do put the session in your diaries if you're coming along to Rotterdam. We have 45 minutes - but with any luck, that'll just be the start.

Pleased to say that the course at Morley College for young women conductors has also found its way onto the list of 21 nominees for Classical:NEXT's Innovation Award, which will be presented during the fair.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bashing and boring? The Chopin Competition 2015: a juror's words...

Professor Andrzej Jasinski. Photo by Marek Ostas
The preliminary rounds of the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw have been and gone. Three Brits are through to the contest proper: Ashley Fripp, Kausikan Rajeshkumar and Alexander Ullman. In addition, Dinara Klinton of Ukraine, who has been studying at the Royal College of Music, is admitted to the competition without tackling the preliminaries; and RCM student  Hin-Yat Tsang of China is through too. The full list of 84 pianists can be found here.

Professor Andrzej Jasinski, who is a member of the jury, has been talking to the Chopin Society about the story so far, and here's what he has to say on the Soc's Facebook page:

"Yes,they have emerged! I am pleased to say that in my notes I put the letter "W" against the names of three potential prizewinners. This was an interesting round. Compared to previous editions the standard was very mixed.   
"What surprised me was that a good number of participants sent in excellent DVD's, whereas their live performances turned out to be disappointing. Some applied too much physical strength, ignoring the potential of the piano and the ears of the listeners. Then there were those whose playing was quite simply boring enough to put the audience to sleep.
"Fortunately there were also artistic personalities who combined truly exquisite piano playing with Chopin's aesthetic. To see that someone applies technical skills to a higher purpose rather than in order to show-off makes one very happy. 
"Another ingredient which will be needed in the finals is luck: a competition is different to a normal concert. It's a very stressful environment, the desire to do well creates a lot of pressure. One of the ways of relieving it is to have positive attitude. Each time I'm asked about it, I always say: Try to win the 1st prize. Express what you really feel and be spontaneous. 
"But in the end accept the verdict of the jury. Nothing ends with winning or losing one competition. The real competition is your life afterwards. It will decide your place as an artist in society at large"."Fortunately there were also artistic personalities who combined truly exquisite piano playing with Chopin's aesthetic. To see that someone applies technical skills to a higher purpose rather than in order to show-off makes one very happy. 
"Another ingredient which will be needed in the finals is luck: a competition is different to a normal concert. It's a very stressful environment, the desire to do well creates a lot of pressure. One of the ways of relieving it is to have positive attitude. Each time I'm asked about it, I always say: Try to win the 1st prize. Express what you really feel and be spontaneous. 
"But in the end accept the verdict of the jury. Nothing ends with winning or losing one competition. The real competition is your life afterwards. It will decide your place as an artist in society at large".

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Proms Proms Proms



This year's Last Night of the Proms promises to go out on a somewhat surreal note as Danielle de Niese and Jonas Kaufmann lead us all in a SingalongaSoundofMusic. Yes, we get to sing together with Danni and Jonas. And we are instructed to do this wherever we are, whether in the hall or in Birmingham or in the bath.

Moreover, at the press launch t'other day it was confirmed that it is Jonas who gets to sing Rule Britannia and it's all gone wonderfully quiet about him being, like, German. Good to see that he's the World's Greatest Tenor first and only. I hope that this is an indication from the Proms of support for the view that opera is international, music is international, people are international, the Last Night Hall is always full of flags of many, many hues, and fantasy nationalism in the end shall have no dominion.

The programme is up and running now and you can browse it all here. They're having a focus on the piano, big choral works and a heap of Nielsen and Sibelius for the anniversaries, and quite a lot of Mozart. There are 13 BBC commissions among more than 30 new music premieres of one sort or another; Marin Alsop is back to conduct the Last Night; and that evening has another soloist besides the singers, and it is Benjamin Grosvenor, who will play the Shostakovich Second Piano Concerto.

One has a slight sensation that everyone is treading water. The Proms as yet have no permanent new director to replace Roger Wright, who is a very, very hard act to follow. Alan Davey has barely got his feet under the desk as controller of Radio 3, Edward Blakeman is doing his best as the 2015 Proms director under difficult circumstances, the entire BBC has become more than a tad risk-averse of late and meanwhile we're awaiting a new government, to say nothing of the likely effects of the licence fee decision, whatever it may be, which is due next year.

So if there's a certain retrenchment into things like Belshazzar's Feast (opening night), The Dream of Gerontius (with Rattle conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, yes, that's Vienna) and yummy Mozart and Beethoven piano concertos, one can't be wholly surprised. As for the complete Prokofiev piano concertos, with the LSO conducted by Gergiev and starring Daniil Trifonov, his teacher Sergei Babayan and the pianist Alexei Volodin, I for one don't particularly want to hear the five Prokofiev concertos on the same night. It's a circus trick and it's music of which a little goes a long way.

Meanwhile, out there it's Groundhog Day as the one pop-focused event grabs all the headlines. This time the presence of an Ibiza club night is giving people high blood pressure and inducing the opinion that the end of the world is upon us. By this time next year, nobody will remember that. Because last year it was the Pet Shop Boys, and it seems nobody remembers that now. Aren't we used to this yet?

I'm more concerned that there are not very many women conductors other than Marin. There are eight female composers among the premieres. You might consider this a relatively good representation. Then again, you might not.

My top Proms? Sir András Schiff playing the Bach Goldberg Variations late at night; John Eliot Gardiner conducting Monteverdi's L'Orfeo; Yuja Wang playing Bartok's Piano Concerto No.2; Nicky Benedetti playing the Korngold Violin Concerto (only I'm away then); Bryn Terfel in Grange Park Opera's Fiddler on the Roof; and a lunchtime Prom in which pianist Christian Blackshaw will perform the Mozart Quintet for piano and wind instruments with a fine ensemble of colleagues. And probably that Last Night...

Note: I've written another, rather stringsy piece on the programme over at Amati. Thing is, it's not a very stringsy season.

[UPDATE: Earlier I said there isn't a free Prom this time. A kind reader points out that in fact there is, so I've corrected the post. It's Carmina Burana. I think I must have blanked that out. It's my least favourite music ever.]