Showing posts with label Viv McLean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Viv McLean. Show all posts

Monday, September 01, 2014

September: some gigs and a song

Hello, it's September. How did that happen?!

Here are a few things I'm doing this month: do come along if you're in the vicinity of any of them!

14 September, 3.30pm:
HAMPSTEAD AND HIGHGATE LITERARY FESTIVAL: JOHN OGDON. I interview Ogdon's biographer Charles Beauclerk about the life and work of the troubled musical genius. LJCC, Ivy House, North End Road, Golders Green, London NW11.

21 September, 4pm:
ALICIA'S GIFT, the Concert of the Novel. Viv McLean (piano), me (narrator). Chopin Society, London, Westminster Cathedral Hall.

24 September, 6.15pm
PANUFNIK CENTENARY Pre-Concert Talk at the CBSO, Symphony Hall, Birmingham. I interview Sir Andrzej Panufnik's daughter, composer Roxanna Panufnik, about the life, legacy and influence of her father and his music. Concert includes A.Panufnik's Piano Concerto (with Peter Donohoe) and Sinfonia Elegiaca. 


September is one of the most beautiful months of the year. Here is its eponymous song by this year's top anniversary man, Richard Strauss, from Four Last Songs. The soprano is Nina Stemme, and it's the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Tony Pappano. 

I am sick as the proverbial parrot about having missed Nina's Salome at the Proms on Saturday night. I was in Salzburg to interview a VIPianist and was travelling back at the time. Apparently it was totally sensational and you can hear it on the iPlayer here: click on Listen Again, even if you haven't listened before.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bartók's birthday talk


I'm doing a talk at the Balassi Institute Hungarian Cultural Centre, Covent Garden, on Tuesday to mark Bela Bartók's 133rd birthday. It's called: "How I learned to stop worrying and love Bartók."

It's part of the HCC's Magyar Mind lecture series in which British academics and writers speak about Hungarian cultural topics. I'm intending to give a rather personal introduction to the magic of Bartók, skewering the silly preconceptions about him that seemed to be doing the rounds during my mis-spent youth and looking, too, at what makes the Hungarian tradition of musical training so very special. My friends David Le Page (violin) and Viv McLean (piano) will be there to perform a few key pieces. All welcome and admission is free, but please call the HCC and book a place in advance. More details here: http://www.london.balassiintezet.hu/en/events/current-events/559-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-bartok/

Meanwhile, there's an amazing new biography of John Ogdon out, by Charles Beauclerk, and I've just reviewed it for the Sunday Times. It's here (behind paywall).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A filmed interview with...me.

The lovely Melanie Spanswick has uploaded to her Classical Piano and Music Education Blog a filmed interview with me for her Music Talk series, complete with forthcoming concert dates for my stage projects and some wonderful Ravel played by Viv McLean at one of our Alicia's Gift concerts. Please pop over to her site, here.

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.






Wednesday, November 13, 2013

TONIGHT: Alicia's Gift goes to Leighton House

Tonight: we are delighted that Alicia's Gift: The Concert of the Novel will be presented by the Kensington & Chelsea Music Society at Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Road
London W14 8LZ. It's an amazing venue, the former home of Lord Leighton and his art collection, where east meets west...

Kick-off is 7.30pm and Viv and I, much encouraged by Saturday's successful outing (unexpectedly alongside a Mighty Wurlitzer), are looking forward to it immensely. Enormous thanks to the doughty Peter Thomas and the enthusiasm of KCMS for this project. I read; Viv plays Chopin, Falla, Debussy, Ravel, Granados, Messiaen and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue; and we finish with eine kleine piano duet...
BOOK HERE: http://www.kcmusic.org.uk/alicia_concert.htm

Friday, October 18, 2013

A trailer for the ALICIA'S GIFT concert



Here is my Alicia's Gift Concert partner, Viv McLean, playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which will feature in our programme in a big way. This was at the gorgeous 12th-century church of St Mary's, Perivale, where the tireless Hugh Mather runs an exceptional concert series - Viv is a regular there. Enjoy.

Alicia's Gift will be at St Mary's on 8 December, but don't forget we kick off on 9 November at the Musical Museum, Brentford, with Kensington & Chelsea Music Society to follow on 13 November, Vernon Ellis's Queen's Gate Terrace salon on 27th, and finally before Xmas a performance for our North London fans at Burgh House, Hampstead, on 15 December.

Monday, October 14, 2013

My autumn & winter schedule

Here are some dates for your diaries, fresh from my writing desk: a brand-new words&music concert, a brand-new play, more HUNGARIAN DANCES. Please come along! (The info is also in the sidebar, but certain people are telling me to put it somewhere more prominent...)

ALICIA'S GIFT: THE CONCERT OF THE NOVEL - new!

Starring Viv McLean (piano) (left) & Jessica Duchen (narrator).

A concert adaptation of my novel, lifting the lid on the world of a child prodigy pianist trying to grow up. Music includes Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Viv's famous performance of Rhapsody in Blue, and a little surprise to end (clue: I have to practise...). News story in International Piano, here.

World premiere: 9 November, Musical Museum, Kew Bridge.To book tickets, call Houben's Bookshop, Richmond-upon-Thames, 020 8940 1055 or Yvonne Evans, 07889 399862. Ticket price includes a tour of the museum's amazing collection plus a glass of bubbly.

13 November, Kensington & Chelsea Music Society

27 November, Vernon Ellis Foundation, 49 Queen's Gate Terrace, SW7. Info from Yvonne: 07889 399862.

8 December, St Mary's, Perivale

15 December, Burgh House, Hampstead, NW3. Tickets from Yvonne: 07889 399862.

18 January, Soirees at Breinton, Woking


SINS OF THE FATHERS - new!

World premiere of my first full-length play, exploring the relationships of Wagner, Liszt and Cosima: rehearsed reading starring John Sessions (right) and Sarah Gabriel. 24 November, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond-upon-Thames. Part of the International Wimbledon Music Festival. NB - the performance is sold out, but please watch for returns/standing room!


HUNGARIAN DANCES: THE CONCERT OF THE NOVEL

A dazzling journey in words and music through the 20th century, following the story of Mimi, a Hungarian Gypsy violinist who becomes a famous classical soloist, but at a terrible personal price... Works by Bartok, Dohnanyi, Brahms, Ravel, etc.

27 October, 7.45pm, Teesside Music Society.
Bradley Creswick (violin), Margaret Fingerhut (piano), Jessica Duchen (narrator). (Team pictured left)

27 January 2014, Hungarian Cultural Centre, Covent Garden
David Le Page (violin), Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (narrator). Special performance for International Holocaust Memorial Day.

2 March 2014, St Mary's, Perivale: again, Dave, Viv & muggins.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dame Harriet Walter and Guy Paul to star in A WALK THROUGH THE END OF TIME, Friday


[UPDATE: PLEASE NOTE NEW BOX OFFICE NUMBER BELOW....]
A quick alert for our friends in the north... Chetham's Piano Summer School, founded and directed by Chet's tireless head of piano, Murray McLachlan, is currently in full swing. On Friday I'm heading up there with the fabulous actors Dame Harriet Walter and Guy Paul for a performance of my Messiaen play, A Walk through the End of Time. (Pictured: Harriet in A Walk at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, in last year's International Wimbledon Music Festival.)

It's a big evening. We start at 5pm with me giving a talk about how and why I wrote it. The play begins at 7pm - it is about an hour long. Finally, at 8.30pm pianist Kathryn Page leads an expert team of soloists in a complete performance of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time.

Contact Information
Tickets: £12 and £6 concessions. Free to summer school participants
Box Office Tel No: 
07814 989913  
Email info@pianosummerschool.com

This is going to be a hectic autumn for JD, with a number of concerts of Hungarian Dances, and a brand-new Alicia's Gift words&music programme with the terrific Viv McLean (piano). Next up: we'll be at Houben's Bookshop, 2 Church Court, Richmond-upon-Thames, to talk about it all on 3 September at 6.30pm. Please join us for a chat, drinks & crunchies. Admission is free, but we'd love it if you'd book a place: to do so, please call Yvonne on 07889 399862. More concert & play details in the sidebar...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Alicia's Gift concert is up and running

The ALICIA'S GIFT concert-of-the-novel is up and running. Viv McLean and I have five dates in the diary for November-December, and more on the way.

I've started a Facebook page to help keep everyone in touch. Please feel free to like us if you like liking things, like; and, dear promoters, check in for details of how to book us for your concert series. You want this one, y'know. It's topical. It's all about what a talented child does to the family, and what the family - and her teachers - do to her. And it's stuffed full of some of the loveliest piano music on earth.

Here's the page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alicias-Gift-the-Concert-of-the-Novel/552320611466414

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year Fireworks!


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As a disembodied voice said over the firework display by the Thames, "London 2012: we did it right". Wonder if we can keep that up in 2013? 

Here are a few handy points for starting the year with best foot forward.

1. Feel free to enjoy the New Year's Day Concert from Vienna. Whatever those self-righteous moaners say about the Vienna Philharmonic, I love it and New Year's Day would feel all wrong without it...
UPDATE, 11.55am: woops. This year's, conducted by Franz Welser-Most, really is "frankly worse than most" and I have SWITCHED IT OFF for the first time in living memory. There's no point grumbling about the number of women in the orchestra if there is an elephant on the podium.

Solution? Make Your Own New Year's Day Concert. Here's Willi Boskowsky, leading a Csardas with violin, smile and real pizzazz in 1967. This, dear friends, is more like it...



2. Make some fun resolutions. Yesterday the Royal Opera House asked us on Twitter for our best operatic ones. Mine include recognising that gold rings are overrated, especially when sourced in the Rhine - stick to platinum in future. And do not write unsolicited love-letters to handsome visitors, even if they can sing in Russian.

3. Then there are non-operatic resolutions, such as practising the piano, going back to ballet class, finishing the new novel, and other things that are probably doomed if you have to make a resolution about doing them.

4. Invest in some good carpet shampoo. Handy for cleaning up others' mess. (I think Solti must have overindulged at the cat party last night.)

5. Ring out the old, ring in the new. What's past is past.

6. Speaking of the Ring, this year there will be so much Verdi, Wagner and Britten around that it's tempting to board up the windows and say GONE SOMEWHERE SUNNY, SEE YOU IN 2014. Which of the three birthday boys will you still want to hear in 366 days' time?

7. While V, W and B are carpet-bombing us (or should that be BWV? is it all a plot by Bach?), please don't forget Lutoslawski. Luckily the Philharmonia is celebrating his centenary. Krystian Zimerman is performing the Piano Concerto that Lutoslawski wrote for him - RFH, 30 January.

8. I have a new concert-of-the-novel in the works, this time based on Alicia's Gift, with the lovely pianist Viv McLean. The story of a child prodigy trying to grow up, it includes piano music by Chopin, Ravel, Granados and others. I read, Viv plays and we'll launch it in the autumn. Ideal as a coffee-concert with a difference. Book us!

9. The Hungarian Dances concert and A Walk through the End of Time are expecting more airings - watch this space. I'm also looking forward to some seriously exciting interviews and various things that are currently queuing up in the ether, waiting to be written and performed.

10. It's tough out there. We'll all have to be positive and ingenious to navigate through '13. But if we have music, love and laughter in our hearts, we can do that. We need to invent, communicate, inspire and do good things. And you know something? We intend to. Please join us.