Showing posts with label Gabriel Faure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gabriel Faure. Show all posts

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday catch-up and Friday historical...

Busy patch. Here are some highlights of days past and the weekend ahead.

>> I was on BBC Radio 4's Front Row the other day, in discussion with Klaus Heymann, founder of Naxos Records, about the way the record industry has changed since the company launched 25 years ago. If you missed it, you can catch it on the BBC iPlayer until Tuesday: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01h75d9#p00s959x

>> Pianist Anthony Hewitt, "The Olympianist", has set off on his big ride from Land's End to John O'Groats and was lucky enough to encounter a strong west tail wind to get things started. He made it from kick-off to Truro in three hours, with his trusty BeethoVan close behind. Follow his progress via his website here. He's already raised more than £4000 for his seven musical and sporting charities.

>> The Royal Philharmonic Society Awards ceremony was held on Tuesday night at the Dorchester. Highlights included a gold medal for Mitsuko Uchida, whose speech was as vivid and genuine as her playing. So was Gareth Malone's - as keynote speaker he was gloriously positive. We are representing the best music in the world, so let's celebrate that! He stopped short of getting us all to sing, though. Maurizio Pollini was Instrumentalist of the Year and Claudio Abbado scooped the Conductor prize. Cellist Olly Coates was selected as Young Artist, heading off extraordinary competition from a shortlist that also included Benjamin Grosvenor and Sophie Bevan. It was an extremely good night for ENO, which won the Opera award for its Eugene Onegin. With them was Toby Spence, who won Singer of the Year, a prize that incidentally was decided upon well before the distressing news reached anybody that he has been having treatment for thyroid cancer. He tells me he is on the mend, supported by a superb team of doctors and vocal coaches. And he was wearing some spectacular leopard-print shoes. A fine time was had by one and all. Full list of winners here. A Radio 3 broadcast is coming up on

>> I've just attended a special screening of John Bridcut's new documentary about Delius. It's fabulous. Exquisitely shot, full of insights and containing one or two considerable surprises - not least, some unfamiliar music that has no business being as neglected as it is. A few familiar faces on board, too (hello, Aarhus!). Don't miss it. It will be on BBC4 on 25 May.

>> My latest piece for The Spectator Arts Blog is about the unstoppable rise of the modern counter-tenor. I asked Iestyn Davies to explain to us how That Voice works. Read the whole thing here.

>> Tomorrow the LSO is giving a free concert in Trafalgar Square, complete with Valery Gergiev on the podium. Expect lots of Stravinsky, big screens and a London backdrop second to none. And the weather forecast says that, for once, it is NOT going to rain. Even Prince Charles will tell you so. Apparently he's always wanted to be a weatherman. Now his guest appearance on BBC Scotland has gone viral...

>> On Sunday Roxanna Panufnik has the world premiere of her new choral piece Love Endureth at Westminster Cathedral, during Vespers, 3.30pm. You don't have to be Catholic to go in. Here's an interview with her about this multi-faith project that I wrote a few weeks back - for the JC.

>> Apparently Roman Polanski is making a film about the Dreyfus Case. In the Guardian he comments: "one can show its absolute relevance to what is happening in today's world – the age-old spectacle of the witch hunt on a minority group, security paranoia, secret military tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, governmental cover-ups and a rabid press." (Quite.)

And so to Friday Historical. Tomorrow is Gabriel Fauré's birthday. Here is Samson François playing the Nocturne No.6 in D flat.



Friday, August 19, 2011

A quick dart to Dartington


Revisiting the Dartington International Summer School of Music after more years than I'd like to admit, I've had an absolute ball. I was only there for a few days, but am now experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms, just as I used to when I was a starry-eyed piano student knocked sideways by proximity to such musicians as Schiff, Keller, Perlemuter, Imogen Cooper et al. But the biggest surprise was to find myself recognising the same people I saw there in 1982. I asked the familiar-looking gentleman opposite me at lunch whether he would indeed have been there 29 years ago. The reply? "Of course. I've been here every summer for 40 years." He was far from being the only one.

Some things are different, of course. The make-up of the masterclasses is unrecognisable: instead of Americans, Japanese and Canadians queuing up to audition in droves, everything's organised in advance and Stephen Kovacevich's class involved just five students, each of whom played to him most days. They came not from the US and Japan, but Poland, Lithuania, France and Russia-via-UK. The situation in the singing class with the irrepressible Della Jones seemed similar, and involved both eager amateurs and good students. Meanwhile keen attendees of all levels, including the basic, can take intensive classes with top-level pros like Helen Reid and Gemma Rosefield.

I'm promised by the new DISS artistic director, John Woolrich, and the Dartington head of arts, David Francis, that the summer school is secure, it's not moving, it's not closing, it has funding and access to more - being dropped by the ACE has given it a 10 per cent shortfall, but they regard this as manageable - and it will continue to delight its regulars and newcomers alike in the years ahead. Composition and contemporary music remain vital, but early music won't be banished. The mix is everything - and why shouldn't it be? That's what creates the magic.

One institution that's disappeared is the tradition of morning coffee and afternoon tea-break on the courtyard lawn - now you can get your beverages in paper cups anytime and take them into classes. It's a pity in a way, though presumably it frees up the schedule. The whole summer school is also much more integrated into the year-round Dartington activities, focused strongly on issues of social justice, sustainability, literature, poetry (the original Dartington was the brainchild of Rabindranath Tagore) and much more. And let's not forget the cider press. Powerful stuff, that home brew.

But what has not changed is the atmosphere. Partly it's the place - the medieval hall, which must be haunted up to the back teeth, never mind the back stairs - and the gardens with their gigantic, ancient trees and mysterious tiltyard. Still, what makes it so very special is that the audience at the concerts are all themselves performers, and vice-versa. Everyone is there to make music in whatever way they can. When we walked into Nick Daniel's oboe recital on Tuesday night, we bumped into a friend who's a retired cancer specialist and plays the clarinet. He greeted us in great joy. "I've just had the greatest day of my life!" he declared. "I played first clarinet in the Mozart Gran Partita."

The whole thing is completely infectious and life-enhancing. I took myself to the music shop (provided by good old Brian Jordan's, from Cambridge) and bought the Faure C minor Piano Quartet, which happens to be my favourite piece and is possibly the only thing that can tempt me back to some serious piano practice after a five-year hiatus (writing Alicia's Gift proved cathartic, but it got "the piano thing" out of my system that bit too thoroughly). Tom and I came back yesterday evening and the first thing we did was bash through the thing on violin and piano together. We haven't done anything like that in years. Somehow I don't think it will be another 20 years before I go back again.

Here are just a few of the musicians we've been hanging out with.







Saturday, May 14, 2011

After the outage...

Our host site was down all yesterday and there's a lot to catch up on now. (Is the John Lewis warranty system also powered by Blogger? Today their system is down...as I know because our fridge is bust...)

First, the 'Classic Brits'. Whatever you think about their abandonment of those two little letters '-al', they had a handful of really good winners the other night. Best of all, Tasmin Little won the Critic's Award for her CD of the Elgar Violin Concerto (on Chandos). As you will know, dear readers, she also got a JDCMB Ginger Stripe Award for it last winter solstice. The disc is seriously, highly recommended. And since other awards went to Tony Pappano and Alison Balsom, things can't be quite so dreadful and doom-laden without those two little letters as many would have us think.

Next, James MacMillan's new chamber opera, Clemency. Fascinating to hear this so soon after the Berlioz Damnation of Faust, since it proves that less really can be more. A co-commission between the ROH, the Britten Sinfonia and Scottish Opera, it's spare, concentrated, highly characterised, and packs an extraordinary number of difficult questions into just 45 minutes of music. My review is in The Independent.

Over in Hungary, JDCMB favourite conductor Iván Fischer has given a warm endorsement to JDCMB other favourite conductor, Gábor Takács-Nagy (right), who has just been appointed principal guest conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra. The news comes via the lucky old Manchester Camerata, where Gabor takes over as principal conductor in the season ahead. Iván says: "There will be a very important change in the life of the BFO from next season onwards. Gábor Takács-Nagy, who was our former concert master, has been nominated Principal Guest Conductor of the orchestra. There are many conductors in the world who can get orchestras to play together but there are very few who can profoundly inspire. Gábor Takács-Nagy is one of them."

TODAY there's a live cinecast from The Met of Die Walkure starring Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund. Coming soon to a cinema near you, but if you can't get in there are a few 'encore' showings tomorrow and even Monday. Oh, and it also stars Deborah Voigt as Brunnhilde, Bryn Terfel as Wotan and Eva-Maria Westbroek (aka Anna Nicole) as Sieglinde. Playbill Arts has 20 Questions with Jonas Kaufmann, in which our tenor says rather charmingly that "every composer has weak und strong points". Intermezzo disapproves of his admission that he likes Dire Straits.

Faure fans who play the piano will be very glad to see Roy Howat's spanking new Urtext edition of Glorious Gabriel's Beautiful Barcarolles, all 13 of them, clearly and readably presented by Peters Edition and correcting all manner of mistakes, misreadings and misapprehensions that apparently crept into earlier publications. Roy's Faure editions have been arriving thick and fast over the past - well, probably a decade, come to think of it - and they're evidently a labour of love. This one may well tempt me back to the piano for a long-overdue wallow. Read more about it here.

And last but absolutely not least, my interview with the lovely South African soprano Pumeza Matshikiza was in The Independent yesterday. Pumeza grew up in the townships of the Cape Town area in the last decade of apartheid. Next week she'll be singing at the Wigmore Hall in a showcase concert of the Classical Opera Company, and will be doing a duet with white South African soprano Sarah-Jane Brandon. That wouldn't have been possible in South Africa a couple of decades ago. Go hear them.

Now, about that fridge...