Showing posts with label Olivier Messiaen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Olivier Messiaen. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Marvels of Messiaen



It's Messiaen's birthday today. Above,  the last movement of the Quartet for the End of Time, 'Louange à l'immortalité de Jésus' played by Gil Shaham and Myung Whun Chung. One of the most heavenly pieces I know.

Next year my play A Walk through the End of Time, which centres on the quartet, is due for a couple of performances. It's a one-act two-hander and is usually followed - either after an interval or in some cases in a related event soon after - by a complete performance of the music. Will post performance details in due course.

This extract relates to the final movement:
Christine: But can I tell you what I thought I was looking for? I wanted the depth of tenderness I discovered that night in the Messiaen. I think the tenderness in the violin solo represents the greatest possible strength. It takes unbelievable courage to be still and show love and vulnerability. Expose your heart and you’re laughed at, or trampled on... I had a longing for an emotion that I knew must exist – because it’s in the music. ...Love is an ultimate freedom, isn’t it? And if freedom is within you, then perhaps love is, too. If it isn’t already in your heart, if you don’t know how to give it…It was something in myself, some unfulfilled capacity, but I didn’t understand. I got it the wrong way round.  

Monday, April 28, 2014

Meet Music Of Our Time - Sounds of War, Instruments of Peace

OK, there's self-interest here - next week, on Friday 9 May, they are doing my Messiaen play. I'm more than thrilled that the founder of MOOT, Brighton-based musician Norman Jacobs [pictured below with literary companion], wanted to include the play and the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time in his varied, exciting and intriguing festival on the Brighton Fringe. Do please come to St Nicholas's Church, Brighton, on 9 May to see A Walk Through the End of Time performed by Dame Harriet Walter and Guy Paul and the Messiaen played by the Ether Quartet. Book for all MOOT events here.


JD: Norman, please tell us about MOOT. How did you start the series and what are your aims with the programming in general?

NJ: The idea came to me one New Year’s Eve after thinking that although so many good musicians live in Brighton there was no one facilitating innovative contemporary music events on a regular basis.

Several musician friends I spoke to said that they had had enough of ‘background’ gigs and only wanted to play foreground music. After a few months of just playing records (starting with Berio’s ‘Sinfonia’!) and having a reasonable sized number of attendees our very first concert took place: Travels with my Theremin with Sarah Angliss We managed to get and audience AND pay the musicians. MOOT – music of our time had come of age.


JD: For this year’s series, themed around war, you've got a wonderful variety of events - how did you arrive at this? Point us towards a few highlights?
 
NJ: Music’s role during times of war is multifarious: a tool to lift morale at home and in the field, as a form of protest, witness, remembrance or documentary.

I hope that the series will provide audience with a view of music at the start of the First World War, specifically on the music and lives of soldier-composers, pacifists and women – three very important parts of British society of that time which continue to have resonance in our lives and thinking today.

For me the highlights are A Walk Through the End of Time (Messiaen and a play with the brilliant Harriet Walter and Guy Paul!) [thank you!! JD] , the Heath Quartet and Nigel Cliffe in A Letter from Private Joe with music by Roxanna Panufnik, and the Post War Orchestra (weapons transformed into musical instruments). I am also looking forward to hearing music across ten concerts by our featured composer Frank Bridge, the Brighton-born composer and pacifist.


JD: Is 
Brighton a good spot for a series like this? How does it work in terms of support, funding, interfacing with the festival, etc?
 
NJ: I seem to spend a third of my year completing funding forms. Thankfully, the effort was not wasted as we have been successful in receiving funding from Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Sussex Community Foundation, Brighton & Hove City Council and half a dozen other organisations. If only it were easier so I could spend more time on the creative side of concert planning, which is what I enjoy most in what I do.

JD: What are your plans and hopes for MOOT in the future? 
 
NJ: In September, the legendary American pianist Ursula Oppens is visiting the UK and she has agreed to play inBrighton a programme of Ravel and American modern masterpieces. Definitely one not to miss!

Next year marks Pierre Boulez’s 90th birthday. As one of our patrons we will definitely include his music. I also want to include more music by women composers in next year’s series. Watch this space.
 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Countdown to my play...

Here's the latest news regarding A WALK THROUGH THE END OF TIME at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, this weekend. http://www.orangetreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/walk-through-the-end-time

As you know, the scheduled performance at 2.30pm sold out about six weeks in advance. Due to popular demand, the theatre and the International Wimbledon Music Festival decided to put on a second one, beginning at 5.15pm. This, too, is now sold out.

If you want to go and you still haven't booked, please call the box office and ask to be put on a waiting list for returns. Phone number: 020 8940 3633.

I've been having fun, meanwhile, working out how to incorporate some actual music. Originally the play was designed as a curtain-raiser for a complete performance of the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time, but for practical reasons the Messiaen itself this time will be part of the festival concert by the Nash Ensemble the following evening, 19 November. So we need a little sonic illustration. Hopefully what I've cooked up may find favour with Anthony Wilkinson, Henry Goodman and Harriet Walter; we'll see the outcome soon.

There's not much point my being nervous, because there's nothing more I can do - it is over to our expert team to make it all real. My calming-down mantra normally goes: "I don't have to play the piano... I don't have to play the piano... I don't have to play the piano..." Hope it works.






Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Aces ahoy at Wimbledon

Amid sighs of relief and big cheers for President Obama, back home in Blighty the countdown to the International Wimbledon Music Festival has begun. Coins have been tossed, warm-ups enacted, the end of the court selected, Federer is set to play Murr...oh, well, maybe not yet... Actually, Roger Federer (pictured right) is rumoured to be a major enthusiast for classical music. But even without him, there are some aces to be served in SW19 in the weeks ahead. Because we have here a festival director, Anthony Wilkinson, who's determined to move heaven, earth and a lot of amazing people to transform south-west London into a magnet for marvellous music-making.

Now, there's some amazing news about my play A Walk Through the End of Time, concerning Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, the festival's performance of which at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, has been sold out for weeks. (Article about it from the Independent, here.) It seems that such is the demand for tickets that they have decided to offer another performance, later the same afternoon! It will start at 5.15pm. We are immensely grateful to Henry Goodman and Harriet Walter for agreeing to do this, and to Anita Lasker-Wallfisch too. Box office: 020 8940 3633. Website is here - if the extra show isn't on it yet, just call the box office and ask to be put on the waiting list for tickets.... Here's Anthony announcing the glad tidings last night:



The play is in seriously good company. The festival kicks off on Saturday 10 November with a glorious Purcell jamboree starring Susan Bickley, Robin Blaze, Njabulo Madlala, James Bowman and Malin Christensson. And it's beginning as it means to go on, because every concert is a highlight in its own right. Catch the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time itself the night after the play in the expert hands of the Nash Ensemble; thrill to the wonders of Christine Brewer singing Strauss and Wagner (yes, in Wimbledon!); enjoy celebrity recitals by violinist Alina Ibragimova and her family, as well as cellist Zuill Bailey and starry young guitarist Xuefei Yang; and absolutely don't miss Piers Lane and Patricia Routledge in Admission: One Shilling, the story of Dame Myra Hess and the National Gallery Concerts in the Blitz. Twenty-three events in all, and the whole lot are world class. Here's the full programme, so have a browse and book soon.

Perhaps the most exciting, though, is the Petrushka project, specially created by the IWMF with the pianist Mikhail Rudy. "Micha" is one of the last of the true old-school Russian artists, having trained at the Moscow Conservatoire with Jakob Flier and subsequently defected with a flood of international attention, to say nothing of some brushes with the KGB, in 1977. His autobiography (left) is fascinating, and reading it is excellent for polishing your French. In recent years Micha has taken in a big way to multimedia projects - I've already reported extensively on his marvellous theatre version of Spilman's memoirs in The Pianist (soon to return to Britain, we understand) and the beautiful animated Kandinsky film for Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, which he brought to Wimbledon last year.

Petrushka goes even further. Some years ago, Micha took the three pieces from the Stravinsky score than already exist in transcription for piano solo, and set about transcribing the rest of the work. Now he, Anthony Wilkinson, choreographer Claire Sibley and the Little Angel Theatre have collaborated to bring together all the elements that feature in the original concept of Petrushka: live music, ballet and puppetry. I've had a sneak preview of the entire film, produced and directed by Anthony, and can bring you an extract, below - and there is some truly extraordinary stuff in it. I will never understand the magic by which expert puppeteers can appear to infuse a piece of wood and string with actual life - and that magic, of course, is what Petrushka is all about. See it on 14 November.



On the night, Micha performs the music live to the film. The costumes, incidentally, are designed by students of the Wimbledon College of Art. And the whole thing was made possible by a grant from the Arts Council England, the Lottery Fund, the Tertis Foundation and a donation from Mr and Mrs Kutsenko. This Wimbledon performance should be the first of many, as the plan is to tour this project nationally, and internationally too.

Next step? What about a world-class concert hall for Wimbledon? I'm not joking. Watch this space.




Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Historical: Messiaen talks about Debussy



This is a special treat for anyone who came to the showcase evening for our Messiaen project The End of Time on Monday (and for everyone else too). Footage from Olivier Messiaen's analysis class at the Paris Conservatoire. The great composer talks to his students about the work that he often referred to as the most profound influence upon his own music: Debussy's opera Pelléas et Mélisande.

Monday, by the way, went really rather well. We had the most fabulous evening. My profound and profuse thanks to our hosts, Bob and Elizabeth Boas; the six expert performers, actors and musicians alike; and the indomitable Yvonne Evans, who made it all happen. It may have been the first 'real' London performance of my play, but I hope it won't be the last.