Showing posts with label Cambridge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cambridge. Show all posts

Friday, June 21, 2013

There would be Wilbye

One of my favourite moments in the Cambridge calendar used to be Singing on the River.

In mid-June, after all the exams were over and everyone was letting off steam in "May Week", the audience assembled on the river bank on the Backs behind Trinity College and the University Chamber Choir would take to the waters on a raft lit by Chinese lanterns.

They'd sing a glorious selection of a cappella works. The programme varied, but there were two constants. One was Stanford's The Bluebird; the other, John Wilbye's madrigal Draw On, Sweet Night. This last ended the concert. By then it was around 10pm, or shortly after; overhead the midsummer stars were starting to glow (somehow, it was always clear); and at the conclusion the raft lifted anchor and drifted away downstream, the music fading with the lanterns into the darkness. Wilbye lived from 1574 to 1638 and published his two sets of madrigals in 1598 and 1608 - a total of 64 pieces - yet sometimes, with this one, I find myself thinking of Brahms, wondering if he had heard it too...

The former director of music at Trinity College, the brilliant, kind and exacting Richard Marlow, died last week aged 74. (He was chief examiner for my MusB, as it happens.) As a tribute, here is a film of Singing on the River's Wilbye conclusion from 2005.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Shock news: good-looking violinist can really play

Dodging our diligent builders who work on bank holidays, I turned on BBC Breakfast to see what the hurricane news was from the US, only to find myself witnessing some pretty bloody amazing Paganini instead. The culprit: Charlie Siem, a young British violinist fresh out of Cambridge and, uh, the modelling world. When I read that he was the 'global face' of Dunhill, I thought that meant the cigarettes and I was all ready to write an Outraged Non-Smoker of Sheen piece about the iniquities of young musicians having to get ahead by modelling for a filthy habit that kills people. But it turns out that Dunhill is actually a James Bond-ish designer menswear label...I wouldn't know; my husband is, like, more of a Ralph Lauren man.

When a fresh-faced, square-jawed, youthful supermodel type emerges with violin in hand and one painted fingernail, the knee-jerk music-critic reaction is to yawn and switch off; the knee-jerk Gidon Kremer-style reaction could be to walk out of the festival. But this guy can really play. And not just because he has Menuhin's Guarneri del Gesu, nor just because he's related to Ole Bull (have tweeted him to ask how so, but am not currently convinced he does his own tweets), nor just because Lady Gaga likes him. Seems he can talk the talk, walk the walk and, best of all, play the Paganini.

Have we turned full circle? Now that almost every young musician who pops up does look good, they need more than ever to be differentiated by their playing. Rather than one photogenic fiddler standing out from the crowd of technically adept ones because of his or her appearance, do we have a case in which the really fine musicians will emerge from the crowd of photogenic ones because of their playing after all? Hmm. He's got a new album out (hence BBC Breakfast), so see what you think.

Here's Charlie in something a little different (?! pink shorts) - two years ago, in Cuba with the Royal Ballet...



...and some Wieniawski.