Showing posts with label Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. 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, October 21, 2013

Felix is back...

I'm preoccupied with Felix Mendelssohn at the moment. Right now, am between the first two of three pre-concert talks that I'm giving for the CBSO's Mendelssohn symphonies series, which is being conducted by Ed Gardner, and the glories of the music seem endless - galvanising, thrilling, visceral, quicksilver. There's nobody like Felix. Yet I'm still gnashing teeth with frustration over the way that those old slanders keep getting repeated and repeated and repeated, often by people who ought to know better.

The view of Felix as glib and shallow needs to be scotched once and for all. It comes from Wagner, who was finding reasons to damn the Jewish-born composer with rootless-Cosmopolitan syndrome. Poor old Felix was excoriated on the one hand by certain Jewish lobbies for having abandoned his faith - like he had much choice, as his parents converted and had him baptised when he was about six years old; and condemned on the other hand by anti-Semitic musicologists for the sake of it.

Glib, nothing. He was a perfectionist; he took years to polish up some of his smoothest-sounding works, among them the 'Italian Symphony' and the Violin Concerto. Even the Octet, that utterly perfect masterpiece, didn't emerge that was first go when Felix was 16, as is often thought. Yes, he was lucky, privileged, well-educated, deeply cultured; yes, he was a favourite of Queen Victoria; no, he was not spoiled, nor was he immune to suffering, as the Jenny Lind story has proved.

In my talk the other day, on Saturday afternoon, I suggested that Mendelssohn is, as Peter Maxwell Davies has called him, "the Prophet of Light": the ultimate enlightened musician, grandson of Moses Mendelssohn - philosopher father of the Jewish Enlightenment - in every way, a man and musician who reconciled apparently conflicting ideas as if they barely existed. Thus he's the shining beacon that proves to us that such a thing is possible.

Come along to Birmingham Town Hall on Thursday at 1pm for the next episode, in which I'll be looking at Mendelssohn and Victorian Britain - from the very stage on which he conducted the world premiere of Elijah. Ed and the orchestra will perform a wonderful programme including the 'Scottish' Symphony and the Piano Concerto No.2, with Martin Helmchen - another work written specially for premiere in Birmingham.

Meanwhile, have a listen to the Ebene Quartet's marvellous recording of the Mendelssohn siblings, Felix and Fanny. Anyone who needs reminding that Mendelssohn was as prone to crises of the soul as anybody who ever lived simply needs to hear the F minor Quartet. End of story.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Meet "Max" next week at Kings Place

Kings Place from 7-9 October is hosting a festival entitled Notes and Letters, a super example of the type of event that has really put this doughty venue on the map. Music and words meet and mingle in a panoply of intriguing events - you can see the full programme here.

On Sunday 9 October at 12.30pm I will be in the interviewer's chair to talk to Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, aka "Max", about the focus on myth and madness in his music. Come along and meet this astonishing composer (pictured above), whose output as listed on his website runs to a cool 54 pages and ranges through everything from Classic FM favourites such as Farewell to Stromness to the stunning inventions of Eight Songs for a Mad King, operas, masses, the series of Strathclyde Concertos, heaps of chamber music and a slew of symphonies, including an Antarctic Symphony that is still waiting to be recorded.

Here's an extract from Eight Songs for a Mad King...the sort of piece that can make you feel like a child with a clock, itching to take it apart and find out how it works and how it fitted together in the first place, without necessarily having a clue about how you might build it yourself.