Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year Reset

Welcome to JDCMB. If you're new, welcome aboard. If you're a regular, welcome home. At new year, it's a good moment to realign the mission statement and explain who I am, what JDCMB is, and so on. Here we go...

New Year Fireworks in London. Photo: PA

JDCMB is my personal blog. I'm based in London, UK and I've been a writer and editor in the music business for about 27 years. My first music journalism job was as assistant editor on The Strad, way back when we still used cow-gum to stick down cut-out galley proofs. After that I was assistant editor on Classical Music Magazine for three years, persuaded the company to found the first independent piano magazine in the UK which I edited for five years, then went freelance, working for BBC Music Magazine, the British Council, the Guardian and others. I started writing regularly for The Independent in 2004. My first books were biographies of Korngold and Fauré for the Phaidon 20th-Century Composers series and my first novel came out in 2006, with Hodder. Ghost Variations  is the fifth. I've written a couple of plays, words&music projects and an opera libretto for the composer Roxanna Panufnik, Silver Birch, coming up at Garsington in July. I regularly google 'How to become a plumber', but haven't enrolled yet...

I studied music at Cambridge in the mid 1980s, but my formative musical education happened in my piano lessons with Joan Havill at the Guildhall, playing in masterclasses and chamber music courses, listening to lectures by Hans Keller at the Dartington International Summer School, and some informal but crucial contact with a circle of extraordinary musicians in New York.  

What happens on JDCMB? I started blogging in 2004 because the concept was new and thrilling. It isn't extensively planned. I write about things that seem interesting and try only to post when there's something worth saying. You'll find responses to news, the occasional artist interview, a concert or opera review now and then, sometimes an e-Q&A or guest-post from someone who's doing something noteworthy. I sometimes post about my own stuff, our opera, etc.

What JDCMB tries to do: JDCMB has been called "the voice of reason". I'd like to keep it that way.

What it tries not to do: porn, clickbait, jealousy, "stirring", comment boxes, giving platforms to hate speech, encouraging witch-hunts. 

Excited by: really wonderful artistry, great music and writing, inspiration, idealism, creative thinking, and matters that help us live more fulfilling lives, from Mozart to heated blankets.

Bored by: concert-wear, gimmickry, mobile phones, crossover, marketing, toeing party lines. 

Furious about: Brexit, sexism, racism, "post-truth" (it means "lies"). 

Aims: To uphold the artistic ideals I've been lucky enough to have in my life, but that might vanish under the morass without a positive effort. And to puncture the occasional idiocy.

You can get in touch by contacting my Facebook page. I'm available to provide talks, coaching, consultations, programme notes, articles etc.

Happy new year!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year!

Brexit island.

A very happy new year 2017 to all you lovely readers of JDCMB, from all of us lost in the Hampton Court Maze that is Brexit Island. At least we know we're in it now. The challenge will be getting out again. Let's hope that this year will be a little more positive than last. Meanwhile, enjoy the Johann Strauss this morning.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

JDCMB Top 10 Posts of 2016

1. Vivat Enescu, 23 May

George Enescu. Photo: Enescu Festival, Bucharest

This is my highest-scoring post ever. I think three-quarters of Romania must have logged on. Seriously, though, I'm delighted so many of you enjoyed discovering the life and work of this extraordinary musician, and if you went to see Oedipe, I hope you loved it as much as I did.

2. Meet Cecilia Bartoli, Opera's Renaissance Woman, 26 July
I enjoyed talking to the great Cecilia in a rather chilly trip to Salzburg.

The excellent Kathryn Stott has a very nice new post, taking over the artistic directorship of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville from Piers Lane. 

4. Chineke! Riding High, 5 September
The Chineke! Orchestra is not only a splendid multicultural force in classical music, but a truly excellent ensemble, drawing together BME players from all over the world and pulling together with a splendid unity of musicianship. 

How Murray Perahia and Bach saved my soul.

What it says.

If you were looking for good Christmas presents, they were here, and going like hot chestnuts.

8. Cold Light, 25 June
A large post-Brexit-vote post about its implications for the arts. This is not a pretty tale. Brexit is the biggest con-trick in the history of the British Isles.

Mark Wigglesworth stepped down as music director of English National Opera after not very long at all. A grim sign of the state of the place, and a major loss to London's musical life.

As a 60th birthday tribute to Krystian Zimerman, I re-ran an interview I did with him ten years ago for Pianist Magazine. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The ultimate survivor

Zuzana Ružičková at home in Prague. Photo by jd
She survived disease, three concentration camps, communism and its associated anti-Semitism in Czechoslovakia, yet plays the most life-affirming Bach you could hope to hear.

My articles about Zuzana Ružičková are out now, one in the JC and one in the January issue of BBC Music Magazine. The interview transcript following my visit to her in Prague a couple of months ago runs to the length of a small book, so it was great to be able to write two different pieces (the BBCMM one containing more of the Bachy, harpsichordy material). The JC's is out this week and online now, here. You can order a copy of BBC Music Magazine here.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Here is a rare moment of harmony. 
Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings and many purrs.
And, I hope, a very happy new year 2017.
Much love to you all.