Showing posts with label Roxanna Panufnik. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roxanna Panufnik. Show all posts

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Time for the Queen to have a musical mistress

Brilliant piece in today's Independent on Sunday by Claudia Pritchard: as Max steps down as Master of the Queen's Music, it's time that a woman held the job. Judiths Weir and Bingham, Sally Beamish, Roxanna Panufnik and plenty more could all be in the running.
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/why-its-time-that-the-queen-had-a-mistress-9129190.html

Monday, December 09, 2013

"Sacred space" syndrome

Or...an afternoon at St Mary's, Perivale. 

We used to hear a fair bit about the concept of a "sacred space": a place that builds up an atmosphere over years, decades, centuries - and that transmits this special energy to people who enter it and breathe it in.

I well remember reading a particularly beautiful book by lutenist Anthony Rooley which went into this idea in some depth and discussed the question of what it adds to musical performance. The short answer was "a lot". The epitome of this sacred space, if I remember right, was Dartington Hall.

In recent years - at least since the financial crash - the notion of something sacred has become inordinately tied to associations with fundamentalism (in many forms) and the question of experiencing something perhaps "psychic" or "esoteric" has become somehow old-hat new-age.

Fortunately for us, though, these matters don't cease to exist just because we stop taking notice of them.

In the past week, I've encountered two manifestations of sacred-space energy in musical performance. One was at St Bartholemew the Great - probably the most beautiful church in London, part of which dates back to 1123. Last week Peters Edition held its Christmas concert in there, candle-lit and featuring a cappella contemporary choral pieces from Britain and the Baltics, performed by the choirs VOCES8 and Lumina. Such composers featured as Morten Lauridsen, Vytautas Miskinis (from Lithuania), Eriks Ešenvalds (from Latvia), Alexander Levine (Russian-born British resident), our own Roxanna Panufnik and a fine organ piece by Judith Bingham. Anyone who thinks that beauty in music is dead should have been there. Some of the pieces were breathtaking in their use of original harmonic language and sonic imagination that - especially in the case of Ešenvalds's The Long Road - could stretch our consciousness out towards the most unexpected of developments, blending tradition with absolute originality. In the audience, it was magic.

Then yesterday Viv McLean and I went to perform Alicia's Gift at St Mary's, Perivale, and got more than we bargained for. Pictured above, Viv warming up...

St Mary's is a tiny 12th-century wooden church tucked away behind a west London golf course and the A40 just north of Ealing. For the past few years Hugh Mather - a retired medic and devoted pianist himself - has been running a concert series here. The place seats about 80 and admission is free; the audience can give a donation at the end if they wish. It's small, white, wooden-beamed, with 15th-century brasses in the floor stones protected by a carpet; and the platform area is currently dominated by a small but excellent Yamaha and a large and lovely Christmas tree. It is a comfortable, intimate space for a performance; speaking without a microphone is no worry, and the exchange between us in the cosiness of the space made unifying the two mediums of words and music remarkably easy.

But then, sitting close to the piano while Viv played Rhapsody in Blue, I noticed something extraordinary taking place. It is hard to describe, but I think some might call it "grace". It's a feeling of being suspended within the flow of time and space and breathing something lighter and purer than oxygen. A form of happiness, perhaps. Joy in its purest form: motionless and light and lacking in any worldly element. It resembles the state of a very good meditation session, yet it's spontaneous, not striven for;  something that lands on you, and you accept it because it feels so astonishing. And it is definitely to do with the space, because I've only experienced anything like it a few times before, and always in places that contain deep resonances and/or long-rooted dedications. Jerusalem, Lincoln Cathedral, that kind of place. And, yes, St Bartholemew the Great.

I told Hugh about this impression and he remarks that prayers have been said in that church for 800 years, "around 30 generations in which people have assembled there in good times and bad, and the accumulated spirituality soaked into the walls".

Incidentally, I'm supposedly an atheist. You can be as cynical as you like, but that doesn't change the fact that these things happen sometimes.

Anyway, the audience seemed to love the concert, we had a completely adorable day and it was lovely to finish the show and be greeted, heading off stage, with a nice cup of steaming hot tea.






Sunday, February 03, 2013

Valentine, plus brief Vale



I'm pushing off for a week to work on my new novel, which needs this before it can go out into the big wide world. So I'll leave you with a Valentine's Day gift recommendation. Love Abide, a brand-new CD of choral pieces by Roxanna Panufnik, is not only pink and sunbursty in aspect, but also contains some truly gorgeous music.

Roxanna, in case you haven't come across her work before, is the daughter of Sir Andrzej Panufnik and was a student of Hans Werner Henze at the Royal Academy. She has developed a distinctive musical language drawing on bitonality and world music of many traditions and her choral music is in especially great demand. Love Abide is the latest in her series of idealistic multifaith projects, in this case bringing together settings of sacred love poetry from traditions Christian, Jewish, Zen, Sufi, etc: "Be certain in the religion of Love there are no believers or unbelievers. Love embraces all" - Rumi.

The CD is out this month on Warner Classics and there's more info here at the project's designated website.


The artist Mischa Giancovich has produced beautiful animations for two of the tracks. Above, the Zen Love Song, sung by VOCES8 with Kiku Day (jinashi-shakuhachi), conducted by Barnaby Smith.

Have a good week.


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, March 09, 2012

Fanfare for uncommon women

As promised, for International Women's Day #2: ten women composers of now. A small selection and a personal one - kicking off with Joan Tower's Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman. Enjoy.


JOAN TOWER



JUDITH WEIR



KAIJA SAARIAHO



LERA AUERBACH



ERROLLYN WALLEN



SOFIA GUBAIDULINA



ROXANNA PANUFNIK



ANNA MEREDITH



SALLY BEAMISH



ELENA FIRSOVA

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

How to be part of Rox's Love album

We had a high old time on Saturday at the London premiere of Roxanna Panufnik's Four World Seasons. It's a far-flung take on the Four Seasons concept, integrating folk styles from around the world with Rox's distinctive, often bitonal harmonic voice. It manages to be original, imaginative and listenable without sacrificing one jot of character; and while demanding for the performers, it also looks and sounds enjoyable for them to play. Written for Tasmin Little and the London Mozart Players, it suited them down to the ground, and the Fairfield Halls audience gave it a warm welcome.

"Autumn in Albania" is full of Balkan rhythmic quirks and delicious folksy-Gypsyish slides; "Tibetan Winter" is an icy landscape haunted by a Tibetan "singing bowl"; "Spring in Japan" wakes up the earth from deep-rooted double basses through to the Japanese bush warbler on the fiddle; and "Indian Summer" is colourful, catchy and clever, transforming pizzicati on low strings into the flowing rhythms of the tabla, and turning Tasmin's violin into a singer. A terrific concert piece to put alongside those other Seasons from Vivaldi and Piazzolla - it's for the same forces, give or take the Tibetan singing bowl - and if recorded pronto, it ought to do well on Classic FM. Three days left to hear its world premiere from Basingstoke last Friday on BBC Radio 3's Listen Again, here.

Rox's fans might like to be part of her next album, Love Abide, which is devoted to 12 choral works on the theme of spiritual love as expressed through an eclectic variety of faiths and traditions. Here's what she has to say about it.
'Each work has a particular mood or sentiment around the theme of love, expressed in a musical language that echoes the origin of the words. I’ve drawn on writings from different faiths, from the 15th century Zen Master Ikkyu¯ So¯yun to the well-loved 1 Corinthians 13; from the Christian mass setting to the 14th Century Sufi poet Rumi to the ancient Psalm 102. The CD encapsulates the very contemporary ethos of multicultural spiritual devotion, in a world which is populated by different faiths – all feeling, as deeply and as aesthetically, the compelling potency of music with love'. 
Every piece on the disc will be dedicated as a personal gift for - or perhaps in memory of - a loved one. Sponsors/dedicatees could have the opportunity to be present at the recording session, where said loved one's photo and name can be circulated among the musicians so that they can perform with that person in mind. A dedication will be printed in the CD booklet and sponsors receive a signed, framed first page of the score as well as a signed recording.

The recording will be made by a top team including the LMP (of which Roxanna is composer-in-association), the London Oratory School Choir, Heather Shipp (mezzo), Roderick Williams (baritone), the Colla Voce Singers, conductor Lee Ward and Kiku Day (Jinashi Shakuhachi).

It's worth noting that, as the designated website explains, these days many classical record companies will only agree to put out a CD if they are provided with the finished master first - ie, they won't pay for the actual recording to be made. In a way, this matches the concept of "artist-led" labels, for which musicians have to fund their own recordings; the results are then marketed and distributed under the reputable umbrella tag of a team that exercises expert quality control over who/what it accepts. Now, the artist-led labels let everyone know from the start that that's what they're doing. But in hard times, this model has quietly become more widespread. Rox has invented a way to raise the necessary funds while also giving the sponsors a real stake in the result. Something that Count Razumovsky would have approved of, I think. Or you could see it as crowd funding with a difference.

If you want to sponsor the recording, or just learn more about how it works, all the details are here: http://www.loveabide.com/

Friday, March 02, 2012

Girl Power

Hooray for music's powerful women! 

1. JUDITH WEIR AND EMMA BELL ON MISS FORTUNE


Judith Weir's latest full-length opera is heading for Covent Garden, opening on 12 March, and it's the first opera ever to finish (as far as I'm aware) with the heroine winning the lottery. Emma Bell is in the leading role of Tina, conquering a number of different stratospheres (left, Emma atop "the shape"). I talked to them both about creating what Bregenz Festival director David Pountney called "an opera for an entirely normal audience". See my feature in today's Independent, here.





2. DANIELLE DE NIESE TO STAR IN OPERA OF ANN PATCHETT's BEL CANTO


The Lyric Opera of Chicago has commissioned the young Peruvian composer Jimmy Lopez to write the work, which is scheduled for the 2015-16 season. Ann Patchett's novel describes a terrorist attack in a South American jungle in which a group of opera lovers, politicians and a singer, Roxanne Coss, are taken hostage: over the months, attackers and hostages form unexpected alliances. RENEE FLEMING, Lyric's creative consultant, chose the book as the perfect topic for the opera. The libretto is by playwright Nilo Cruz, the director is Stephen Wadworth and Sir Andrew Davis conducts. And Danni, who's much more than Glyndebourne's fabled Cleopatra, takes the lead as Roxanne. More here.

“It’s about terrorism on one level, but it’s also about what happens when people are forced to live together for a long time, and how art can raise their level of humanity as a group,” Fleming said. “Most of us crave a cathartic emotional experience when we’re at the theater, and I believe Bel Canto has the components to do that... I was struck by Jimmy Lopez's intelligence and the way he understands both the problems in bringing this piece to the stage, but also the possibilities that opera as a medium offers for illuminating a story. For example, the orchestra can accentuate the dramatic situation onstage, but it can also convey the underlying turmoil that one might not see. This is something that many composers miss and that Jimmy understands completely.” 


3. JD TO SPEAK AT CLASSICAL:NEXT


The new classical music trade fair Classical:Next, taking place in Munich from 30 May to 1 June, has announced its initial line-up of events and speakers, and I am happy to report that JD is to be on a panel discussing the future of music journalism, along with BBC Music Magazine editor Oliver Condy and the editor of the German magazine PIANONews, Carsten Durer. Classical:Next is a sister production to WOMEX, and if that event is anything to go by, we want to be there.

4. DON'T FORGET TAZ AND ROX's BIG NIGHT


Tonight at the Anvil, Basingstoke, and tomorrow night at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon, the London Mozart Players and TASMIN LITTLE (left) give the world premiere of the complete Four World Seasons by ROXANNA PANUFNIK. Having had a sneak peek for Classical Music magazine, I reckon Vivaldi wouldn't know what's hit him. Rox writes:
"In early 2008, the violinist Tasmin Little rang me to ask whether I’d write a series of short pieces for her, accompanied by chamber orchestra. Considering a world where global concern for climate change and seismic shifts in international political landscapes affect us all, we decided to take Antonio Vivaldi’s much-loved 1725 Four Seasons and give the concept a 21st-century twist, creating an entirely new work with each season (lasting approximately 5 minutes) influenced by a country that has become culturally associated with it."  Spring in Japan, an Indian Summer, Autumn in Albania and a Tibetan Winter form the music in this celebration of music across the world, reflecting the many cultures that descend on London for the 2012 Olympic Games." 


5. JUST FOR THE HECK OF IT, HERE'S DARCEY BUSSELL AS SYLVIA


Ahead of her time, Frederick Ashton's Sylvia was created for Margot Fonteyn in the 1950s. Diana's top nymph is not exactly your typical 1950s ideal housewife. I love the power, joy and freedom in Darcey Bussell's interpretation, filmed at the ROH in 2005. Girl Power if ever we saw it! Roberto Bolle is her lovestruck swain. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

SPECIAL OFFER FOR JDCMB READERS, from CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE


CLASSICAL MUSIC, the magazine of the music business, is offering JDCMB readers free access to its online digital edition until 31 August 2012.

The magazine, produced by Rhinegold Publishing, reports fortnightly on the latest news, views and events from around the musical world and is a must-read for everyone in the industry and beyond - packed with insights, interviews, notices, job ads, etc.

To take advantage of this offer, simply go to http://www.rhinegold.co.uk/cmdigital/ and sign up at "Register below to access the digital editions". Use the access code CMJD12 and add your email address and a password of your choice. The code works until 31 August, so if you sign up now you get six months of free reading - 14 issues of the magazine.

In the earlier February edition you can find, among other things, a biggish piece by JD about Roxanna Panufnik's new suite of pieces for violin and orchestra, Four World Seasons, which Tasmin Little and the London Mozart Players are performing complete for the first time tomorrow in Basingstoke and on Saturday at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon.