Showing posts with label Tasmin Little. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tasmin Little. Show all posts

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Little at Large: why our busking day changed Tasmin's life

Over at Independent Towers there's a certain pride in this piece. A few years back, when Josh Bell did his famous busking-in-the-Washington-CD-subway experiment, the arts ed called me and said how about we ask Tasmin Little to have a try.

We did; she was, by some miracle, in town and free; and I went along with a notebook and a photographer to document the fun. But what came out was a revelation. It resulted in a light-bulb moment for Tasmin that literally changed her life.

As Tasmin approaches her 20th appearance at the Proms - she is playing the Moeran Violin Concerto on 25 July - I asked her to tell all. here's the full story in today's Independent.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lucky Little



Tasmin Little has just learned that she's both Artist of the Week all this week on Classic FM and Artist of the Week all next week on BBC Radio 3. Comparisons with buses come to mind, but she certainly deserves an accolade or many, even if they do all arrive at the same time. We can hear her in recital tomorrow at Milton Court - London's newest concert hall, clocking up a fantastic series in the new building of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama - when she and Martin Roscoe play, among other things, my very favourite sonata, Fauré's Op.13 in A major and much more besides... Above: Tazza plays Kreisler's La Gitana with a rose...and John Lenehan (piano).

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hold on to your hats...it's the R3 Girls



It's BBC Children in Need again and Radio 3 is pitting girls against boys as their competitive star turn. So here are the girls. Singers are Ruby Hughes, Clara Mouriz, Charlotte Trepess, Elizabeth Watts and Kitty Whately, with the ladies of the BBC Philharmonic and The Halle conducted by Sian Edwards. And look out for special guests in the ranks: violinist Tasmin Little and pianist Kathryn Stott. (Why not a woman composer too? As for Pudsey Bear - we don't know about that...)

Happy Friday. I am chopping a script, and it hurts. Cuts are a vicious matter. I'm wondering if this is how our prime minister feels sometimes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Newsround...

* Hungarian Dances yesterday at the St James Theatre Studio was a fabulous experience. A treat, a privilege and a joy to perform with amazing musicians in such a great venue. Huge thanks to everyone concerned! More Hungarian Dances later in the year at the Musical Museum, near Kew Bridge, on Sunday afternoon 8 September and Pen Fro Literary Festival, Pembrokeshire, on 12 September. Watch this space for further dates...

* Please read this eloquent piece by Tasmin Little in the Telegraph re sexism in the classical music. She tells it like it is.

* If you're near a big screen tomorrow, go and see the FREE, live, open-air relay of Mayerling from Covent Garden. It is top ballerina Mara Galeazzi's farewell performance with the Royal Ballet and features Edward Watson as Prince Rudolf. I went to see them both in action in the ROH a couple of weeks ago and emerged utterly wrung out by the combination of intense emotion and astonishing dancing. Is Mayerling the greatest ballet drama ever created? Personally, I think it might be. Don't miss it. Take a brolly if you must, but just don't miss it.

* Please support the ISM's campaign to secure funding for music education beyond 2015. There's a petition to sign, here.
Every little helps, or we hope it does.

* Here's a discussion from Voice of Russia radio that I did last week with Alice Lagnado and John Riley about the lasting importance of The Rite of Spring. The writes, the rights, and sometimes the wrongs too. http://ruvr.co.uk/radio_broadcast/77030634/115272201.html


* And here's a Friday Historical in advance, because I will be otherwise occupied this week: Fritz Kreisler and his cellist brother, Hugo, with pianist Charlton Heath, playing one of my favourite pieces from the Hungarian Dances concert: Kreisler's Marche miniature viennoise. (Did you know Kreisler had a cellist brother? Neither did I. They're a gorgeous team.)



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Save creativity in our schools - before it's too late

Tasmin Little has been speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education and sends these vital words about just how loudly we need to shout for this message to be heard, and what we stand to lose if it is not.

"Hi everyone. For those who have been following the EBacc saga, the meeting yesterday went well - however, it is becoming clear that we really need to galvanize as many people as possible as there is a long way to go with this situation.
What you can do: PLEASE get everyone you know to sign the Bacc for the Future campaign. It takes about 3 seconds to do and we are at 36,000 signatures but need
50,000.

Next and just as importantly, please ask every parent you know to write to their MP stressing the importance of including the creative subjects in the Ebacc, and asking their MP to take this up and ask a question in the House.

Schools are ALREADY cutting funding to music etc, because they don't feel there is any point if it's not going to give the children any marks in an exam.

And this is before the ink is even dry with the proposal!!!

The biggest problem is that most people don't understand the huge implications of these measures for, not just our own enjoyment of the Arts, but the tourism industry, job losses and our whole cultural identity."
Here is the link to the Bacc for the Future petition. If you haven't already signed it, we urge you to do so right away. The consultation itself is now OVER, so now all we can do is sign this petition and write to our MPs as Tasmin suggests.



Saturday, June 16, 2012

A good honours day for musos

It's a bumper year for classical music and opera in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for the Diamond Jubilee. As if perhaps someone suddenly realised there were all these amazing people who deserved honours and hadn't yet got them, so they're having a little catch-up? Arise, Sir David McVicar, just for starters. 

Violinist Tasmin Little has been awarded an OBE (and about time too!). ENO's own lightning conductor, Ed Gardner, also gets one; so does pianist Joanna MacGregor. Harry Christophers, conductor of The Sixteen and more, is given a CBE, as are composer and broadcaster Michael Berkeley and TV choir supremo Gareth Malone. Andrew Jowett, chief exec of Symphony Hall, Birmingham, receives the OBE just in time for that fabulous venue's 21st birthday and one also goes to Elaine Padmore, formerly director of opera at the ROH. Nor has ballet been left out: OBEs for Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, founders of BalletBoyz. Conductor and composer Douglas Coombes is given an MBE; so is Katie Tearle, formerly head of education at Glyndebourne and now on board as opera and ballet specialist at Peters Edition; and Ernest Tomlinson, that usually undersung composer of "light music". Meanwhile, down under, pianist Piers Lane has received an AO - Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia. 

As it's not easy for classical musicians to be noticed and honoured in this day and age, etc etc, they all deserve a big cheer! BRAVI, FOLKS!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

International Women's Day - a little listening

As you know, it's International Women's Day - a concept I'm not all that mad about, since it implies that the men get the other 364, and this time 365 because it's a leap year.

Nevertheless, it's a great opportunity to note that great musicianship transcends all those issues. There's a major and ongoing problem with the bimbo-isation, if you'll pardon the term, of young musicians in particular: nobody has any illusions any more that young women have to be selected by agents, record companies and so on for their musicianship above their looks. The standout ones, however, can still win through. Here are an initial selection of just ten of my favourite musicians at the top today: solo instrumentalists at different stages of life whose artistry is exceptional. Please note that no particular order of ranking is implied in this selection - and I could easily have added another ten at the very least. Tomorrow: composers!

Meanwhile, at the Southbank Centre, the festival Women of the World is underway - more details here.

Now, prepare to be wowed...

MARTHA ARGERICH



MITSUKO UCHIDA



IDA HAENDEL

The Sibelius Violin Concerto. Embedding has been disabled - please click through for this amazing 1981 performance. http://youtu.be/BCvs_eWVw7g

ALINA IBRAGIMOVA



JULIA FISCHER



ALISA WEILERSTEIN



ANGELA HEWITT



YUJA WANG



JANINE JANSEN



TASMIN LITTLE

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.




Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Around St Martin's Lane...

Before I hand you over to today's Independent for my piece about Fiona Shaw and The Marriage of Figaro, I have to tell you a little about last night.

I went along to Myra Hess Day at the National Gallery, where the Menuhin School Orchestra, Piers Lane, Andrew Tortise, The Fibonacci Sequence and Tasmin Little gave a strong, varied programme in tribute to Dame Myra Hess, in front of the Gainsboroughs and Goyas. A huge plaudit to Piers and Tasmin for playing Howard Ferguson's superb, gutsy and inspired Violin Sonata, which was written just after the war - before that, apparently, he'd been too busy organising the gallery concerts to compose anything much, and this was a sure statement of intent.

But first, Tasmin played the Bach Double with a student from the Menuhin School as her partner soloist. Louisa-Rose Staples is 11, but looks 9, and is blessed with real composure and aplomb. From the first note it was clear that she was utterly secure with the task in hand - you knew at once that she couldn't put a finger wrong. She played like a complete pro: musical, responsive, accurate... And of course, this is where Tasmin herself started. Louisa-Rose, like Tasmin, became a pupil at the Menuhin School when she was 8. An auspicious evening, perhaps.

Round the corner from the National Gallery sits ENO, and tonight its new Figaro opens, directed by the one and only Fiona Shaw. I interviewed her, Paul Daniel, Iain Paterson (Figaro) and the youthful American soprano Devon Guthrie (Susanna) about what they're doing with it. Read it all here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/features/figaro-a-marriage-made-in-heaven-2365484.html

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Henry Goodman reads from 'Hungarian Dances' at the Proms!

Tasmin Little's Proms Plus literary talk with Anne McElvoy was broadcast in the concert interval on BBC Radio 3 yesterday, with extracts from her four chosen books read by no less an actor than the utterly lovely and amazing Henry Goodman. Catch it on the BBC iPlayer until 10 September, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01460bs/BBC_Proms_2011_Proms_Plus_Musicians_Literary_Passions_Tasmin_Little/


Tasmin talked about her passion for Hamlet, Hesse's Siddartha and the verses of Hillaire Belloc, as well as terming Hungarian Dances "gripping" and "very exciting", and telling a wonderful story about how she inadvertently made her debut in Budapest in a restaurant, playing Monti's Csardas with the resident folk band's cimbalom player after half a bottle of Bull's Blood... And she said some rather nice things about my writing about music that I am waaay too modest to repeat on my own blog, though you can hear them in the broadcast. What you won't hear, though, is Anne's priceless Freudian slip when, signing off at the end of the session, the wrong word emerged instead of "Belloc"! A fine time was had by one and all.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Triple Paprika! 'Hungarian Dances' is in Proms Lit Fest

Stop-press news: I'm reliably informed that my novel HUNGARIAN DANCES is to feature as one of Tasmin Little's chosen books in the Proms Literary Festival this afternoon. Tasmin will be discussing her literary favourites at the Royal College of Music at 5pm and the talk is broadcast the interval of tonight's Prom on BBC Radio 3. An extract will be read - I understand they've picked a passage about Gypsy music and the violin in particular. Catch it at the college, on the radio or later on the iPlayer (or catch the book here). That is Paprika part 1 - or chronologically speaking, part 3.

Paprika part 2: Today comes hot on the heels of a truly fabulous evening with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer last night. It's all true: Ivan Fischer did indeed become the first conductor at the Proms ever to throw a toy animal from the podium into the arena.

The BFO is unmistakeable for its characteristic mix of suave, smooth sound and absolutely direct, deeply engaged musicianship; as I said in the feature yesterday, when they play you feel the love. This was no exception: they made me fall in love with Mahler in earnest. After two years of head-bludgeoning Mahler-anniversary overkill, that takes some doing.

The first half was unusual for its mix of irony and magic: first, fizzing, demonic Liszt. Mephisto Waltz for once was convincing, seductive, genuinely sensual - and whatever did that harpist do towards the end? Whatever it was, she deserves a medal. Mahler's Blumine blossomed gently and suavely as the concert equivalent of a 'prequel'. And the Liszt Totentanz - usually a bit of a waste of space - proved a brilliant vehicle for the pianism of Dejan Lazic (right). He is a seriously classy player with a singing, certain touch and a terrific feel for Lisztian flair. He also brought along an unusual encore: a spoof fugue by an Italian composer, Giovanni Dettori, which would seem familiar to the younger members of the audience. It did. Fortunately I'd taken my niece with me; she kindly explained that this brilliantly-wrought Bach-style piece was based on a Lady Gaga song. (Now Neil Fisher of The Times has tweeted a link to the sheet music - so you can see it is real!)

And so, Mahler 1. Empathy, detail, brilliance, flow and energy: everything was there. Fischer's was a Mahler straight from the heart and guts, tempered by a sensible and incredibly perceptive brain. Shaping of narrative couldn't have been more convincing if it tried - especially the final movement, with its gradations of dynamic in the distantly approaching triumph. I'm a great fan of the orchestra configuration preferred by Fischer at this concert, with the double basses raised in a row along the back providing a solid, oaky depth across the board and the first and second violins opposite each other at the front of the stage. The tone produced is balanced, clear and homogeneous. And this Mahler symphony, for the first time, felt too short. I could happily have listened to it all night.

But that's where the third part of 'triple paprika' enters: the late-night Prom, complete with flying bunnyrabbit. The orchestra summoned us back from interval fun with one of the violinists playing some Transylvanian folk music while everyone settled down. The orchestra appeared in its everyday clothes and Fischer took up a microphone to explain how the event would work. We each had a raffle-ticket; the tuba player perambulated through arena and stalls asking punters to draw a number. Three numbers, three pieces, and sometimes a flying rabbit to catch, to choose another. Then the vote, which got everyone beautifully heated as we shouted for our favourites and hissed when someone tried to pick the Ravel Bolero.

Everything came off very slickly and rapidly - obviously the band, its conductor and its librarian are a dab hand at the logistics - and between numbers, while the parts were found and distributed there were chances for small groups of musicians to strut their solo stuff: a brass ensemble piece from the movie Eight and a Half, a Telemann piece for four string players, some Bartok violin duos, some more folk music, four percussionists doing a brilliant body-percussion turn and, last but not least, the tuba player with a didgeridoo.

So what did we end up with? Kodaly Dances of Galanta; Bartok Romanian Folk Dances; Strauss Music of the Spheres Waltz; Glinka Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila; and the Hungarian March from Berlioz's The Damnation of Faust. The idea is that the orchestra has no idea what it's going to play beforehand and has had no rehearsal, so anything can happen. Obviously, they knew certain of these numbers inside out and backwards. They gave the Hungarian pieces a terrific workout; the most challenging item seemed to be the Strauss waltz, involving sensual and well-calibrated ebb, flow and old-world rubato.

Two conclusions to draw: first, that this was an inspired format for orchestral display of the first water. The solo spots let the individuals shine as they can and should, and if the BFO plays like that unrehearsed....pas mal, hein? Ivan proved a great showman too: "Pass the tuba to somebody who thinks it's all a trick," he instructed. Secondly, the informality of the event made it terrific fun and the music and musicians shone all the brighter for that.

Once again, it was the usual Budapest Festival Orchestra achievement of sending you home walking on air, feeling glad to be alive. Could we do Audience Choice here? Well, whyever not?

No video available from last night, but here they are playing The Blue Danube in Heroes' Square, Budapest. The Danube, taken literally, is much bluer in Budapest than Vienna.








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...

Monday, April 04, 2011

SHOUT OUT! MUSIC EDUCATION FOR ALL #1

Music education in the UK is facing a shaky future due to financial cutbacks. Despite an apparently positive response from central government to Darren Henley's recommendations in his official report, local authorities have already begun to slash their music services and budgets for music teaching. Some are putting fees for instrumental tuition up to levels way beyond the recommended MU rates, pricing the non-privileged out of the market. This discrepancy between apparent central intent and what's really happening "on the ground" needs to be recognised and spotlighted. And it needs noticing now. 

I, for one, don't want to see music-making in the UK barred to those who can't afford to pay for lessons. Yet while authors jumped forward with alacrity and tough words about the iniquities of closing libraries, and were instant fodder for headlines, even the most prominent musicians seem to lack suitable outlets to speak out. An entire musical country has therefore been feeling voiceless and hopeless. 

Enter JDCMB. I've asked some of the prominent British musicians I know to please consider voicing their concerns via my site and I'll be running their responses throughout the week ahead. Today we begin with no less a team than Tasmin Little, Barry Douglas and Julian Lloyd Webber. 



"My point is short and far from sweet.  If we do not keep music education high on our agenda, it is not just the current generation of children who will be deprived of profound experiences which can affect their whole lives, but future generations, who will wonder why they cannot understand emotions which lie deep within themselves.  

I have had so many experiences of the power of music on children of all ages, nationality and social background - from kids with communication disabilities in UK, to groups of Chinese children who have never heard a note of any live music, to young Zimbabwean children whose animated faces at their discovery of music will never leave my memory.  However, a teacher in Yorkshire emailed me recently and her words sum it all up for me:



“I also teach minority ethnic children English, and thought you would like to hear this story:  one of these children had selective mutism, and it was only when I took my guitar in to her English lesson and gave it to her to hold that she said her first sentence to me, which was 'I'd like to learn the violin'!  From that point she has begun speaking, and after I arranged violin lessons for her, it turns out that she has musical talent and is doing well.  This is the power of music!”

"We like to define society by the expressiveness and achievement of its people. OK - fine.  But in this era of cutting mercilessly, it's not 'just about the economy, stupid!' The wealthy class always hold all the cards and the rest try 'their best'; and here is an amazing example of, potentially, a whole generation of young people being barred from the fulfilment and delight of music and the arts. When all other European countries except Ireland are freezing or increasing funding, the one-time hub of the music world is cutting and imploding.  How short-sighted and how cruel. Even when I was growing up during the conflict in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, the concerts, festivals and music education available helped sustain us. Think again, please, for the sake of your children and grand-children." 


"It is extremely frustrating when the Coalition has given its support to the importance of music in schools – having recognised the huge social benefits music brings both to children and their communities - to then discover slash-happy local authorities lagging far behind in their thinking. It is so easy to make a knee-jerk ‘cut’ to provisions for music and so hard to reinstate it later.

"Music is a universal language which brings people together and which provenly enhances children’s skills in so many other ways. There is no better way to build a ‘Big Society’ than through music – one thing EVERYONE can share together."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sticking up for Edu

Everyone else is busy writing about Elgar now. His birthday isn't until next weekend, but here's conductor Sakari Oramo in The Guardian with a ream of good sense. What Elgar needs, he insists, is foreign champions. Dead right. With the same peculiar nationalist whateveritis that insists you have to be Russian to play Rachmaninov, English musicians have tended to prevail in Elgar - whose fault? Promoters? Record companies? Elgar's perceived 'Englishness'? Sakari says something I've been saying for a while, which is that Elgar's music is not particularly English: his principal influences are Strauss, Schumann and Wagner.

Michael Kennedy takes the Englishness line in a different direction in The Telegraph, but I guess he/they would. He begins with 'Windflower', Alice Stuart Wortley, talking about Elgar coming from the heart and soul of England etc etc.

Oh lordy, and The Times says we're wrong to downplay his love of Empire. That's all he needs... but at least they are offering free downloads (only short ones, mind).

Pay your money and take your choice. Or alternatively have a look at my angle on the matter in my archive.

Tasmin Little is going off to the Far East and Australia next week to tour the Elgar Violin Concerto around Kuala Lumpur, Perth, Adelaide and, appropriately enough, Tasmania (which is what will take over Launceston and Hobart when they hear her play!). Meanwhile I missed Philippe Graffin's performance of the piece in its pre-Kreislerised version in Liverpool with the RLPO and Tod Handley on Thursday night. I had to give about a talk about Schumann and Brahms down the road in Manchester at the same time - this went well, by the way. It was in the Bridgewater Hall, one of my favourite venues, combining good modern design, excellent acoustics and a relatively intimate atmosphere. My fellow Indy journalist Lynne Walker and I discussed the cross-currents between the composers and persuaded the resident CD player to cooperate with illustrations now and then.

I'm still overwhelmed with relief when I walk on to a concert platform and find that I do not have to play a piano.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Speaking of busking

Apparently Nigel Kennedy was heard discussing Tasmin's little excursion with Sean Rafferty on Radio 3's 'In Tune' yesterday and quite fancies the idea of having a go himself, though he used to do it for real as a student in New York. Meanwhile rumour has it that at least two other national newspapers are (or were?) planning to carry out similar stunts.

On a slightly more serious note (no pun intended), the violinist David Juritz, leader of the London Mozart Players, is going to busk his way around the world for four-and-a-half months. He's calling his project 'Round the World and Bach'. He starts in June and plans to play solo Bach through Europe, Asia, Australasia and the Americas, with a stint in his native South Africa. The project will raise money for a new charity, Musequality, which aims to finance community music projects in deprived areas and is administered by the Musicians' Benevolent Fund. Follow his progress, and sponsor him, at roundtheworldandbach.com.

Friday, April 20, 2007

When Tasmin went busking...





I spent part of Tuesday afternoon standing under the Waterloo railway bridge watching Tasmin Little playing Vivaldi and shouting "Give us a copper!" to the passing builders - and (above) performing 'Happy Birthday' for a celebrating child. Yes, the boss asked us to do a London edition of the Washington Post/Josh Bell experience - and it was fascinating to see where the results were similar and where they differed. Although the actual statistics were in the same general ball park, we found the experience anything but relentlessly depressing.

Londoners like music, their children really love it and many people knew they were hearing something special. I think they just didn't want to have to pay for it.

Read all about it in today's Independent, here.

BTW, the coverline is FIDDLER ON THE HOOF. But guess which musical, opening in May, is advertised on the back?!? I'm assured that this is complete coincidence.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Fiddleblog?

Tasmin Little is on tour in South America and is ALMOST blogging it. She's writing 'Letters' chronicling the trip on her website. To me, that looks like blogging, Tasmin - welcome aboard the blogosphere! In just a few days her experiences have included an earthquake, an almost equally alarming cocktail, some astonishing-sounding food and some fantastic audiences at her recitals. But does Roger Moore do the Spanish cryptic crossword? To read the latest, click here.

Monday, March 21, 2005

In today's Indy...

I had a lot of fun writing this article about Hans Christian Andersen's musical associations, which appears in today's Independent. The CBSO is doing a new piece by Denmark's leading composer, Per Norgard, on 2 April...all is explained therein! I had an interview with the marvellous Norgard and also with the American professor and author Anna Harwell Celenza, who's just brought out a book about Andersen and music. And Tom, resident Danophile, is thrilled that I suddenly got interested in all things Danish! Especially ducks.

Very fired up today by Tasmin's glorious performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto last night with the LSO and Richard Hickox. What an extraordinary piece it is - with an intensity that transmutes from mood to mood but never really lets up. Tasmin really went for it: wonderfully secure, beautiful eloquent tone, deeply involved in every moment of the work, and with a particularly impressive sense of ensemble with orchestra and conductor. She did indeed make the piece very much her own, as I thought she would; the result was that it seemed part of her and she seemed part of it. Fabulous.

I just wish the Barbican was a nicer place to spend a Sunday evening.