Sunday, January 11, 2009

A few January highlights

I don't know how any musician gets any listener out of their warm home through freezing temperatures and shaky bank accounts to a concert hall just at the moment. But here, for those inclined to brave the elements, are a few things that my muso-friends and I are doing this month.

Tonight, 11 January, Kings Place, 6.30pm, part of London Chamber Music Series: the Allegri String Quartet gives its first concert in the shiny new venue, starring the Schubert String Quintet with guest cellist Colin Carr and the London premiere of the redoubtable Matthew Taylor's String Quartet No.6.

Friday 16 January, Royal Festival Hall: The LPO is back, welcoming one of my favourite younger pianists as soloist for Mozart's E flat concerto K482: Jonathan Biss, who not only has an astonishing musical pedigree (mother Miriam Fried, grandmother Raya Garbusova, etc) but possesses the heart, mind and hands to match. His playing has regularly set me hunting through thesauri for rare words of praise. His Schumann CD on EMI is absolutely to die for. And guess what? He's got a blog. ...oh yes, the concert... Marin Alsop conducts and is throwing in not only Till Eulenspiegel and the Daphnis and Chloe Suite but the Firebird Suite as well, so if that doesn't brighten our winter, nothing will.

Next Sunday, 18 January, Royal Festival Hall, 3pm: Stephen Hough, multiple award-winner, startlingly original and insightful musician and, now, fellow blogger (yay! another great pianist joins the blogosphere! even if it is for the Telegraph...) gives a wonderful recital programme to banish the Sunday afternoon blues - lots of Chopin, Franck and Faure, among other things, focusing on the theme of Paris and paying tribute to one of Hough's piano gods, Alfred Cortot. I've been drafted in to be his interviewer for a post-concert may have some difficulty shutting us up when we get into our stride.

Tuesday 20 January, Symphony Hall, Birmingham: The CBSO is taking to Korngold! This adorable programme conducted by Michael Seal features not only the happily-ubiquitous Violin Concerto with soloist Anthony Marwood, but also the enchanting Incidental Music to 'Much Ado About Nothing'. Yummy stuff, rounded off with Brahms's First Symphony. And I will have to get my voice back fast after Sunday to do the introductory talk at 6.15pm. (This is, so to speak, my Symphony Hall debut.)

Wednesday 21 January, Wigmore Hall: Philippe Graffin and the London Sinfonietta mark the Darwin Anniversary with a brand-new work, 'Age of Wonders' by Michael Stimpson, plus Mendelssohn and Chausson. They are brave: it is sad but true that getting a Wigmore Hall audience to attend new music is almost as difficult as getting a new music audience to attend the Wigmore Hall, though the super-classy venue is currently making a valiant effort to change that by instigating an ongoing series of new commissions. Come on, chaps, give it a go! Besides, the Chausson in question is the Poeme in the rare chamber-music version that Philippe discovered lurking in the Parisian shadows some years ago; and the Mendelssohn is the Violin Sonata that our Felix wrote when he was all of 11 years old: two pieces that we don't hear every day.

Thursday 22 January, East Sheen Library, Sheen Lane, London SW14, 7.30pm: fresh from the Wigmore, Philippe Graffin heads south-west to East Sheen Library for an evening devoted to our 'Hungarian Dances' projects. Full details are already at the top of the JDCMB sidebar, but just to remind you...admission is a modest £2 including wine, and places can be reserved on 020 8876 8801. Tom joins Philippe to play Bartok Duos live in library, I'll read some extracts of the book and, as novelists and starry fiddlers don't work together every day, we'll be discussing what happens when we do. (Our virtual Sir Alan has already given the prize for this task to the dynamic East Sheen Library adminitrative team...)

Thursday 22 January, Wigmore Hall: the above prior engagement means that I have to miss the latest flying visit from the legendary Ida Haendel to the Razumovsky Ensemble and Academy! At this all-day event, the great lady will be giving masterclasses to the students and young artists of the RA, of which she's now the Patron, and at the 6pm concert she'll present the Ida Haendel Scholarship to one of them. She will also be performing with them, notably the Devil's Trill Sonata by Tartini. The 7.30pm concert finds the Razumovskys performing an all-Schubert programme, with the B flat Piano Trio and the 'Trout' Quintet.

Tuesday 27 January, Royal Opera House: The British stage premiere of Korngold's Die tote Stadt! It's true! The acclaimed Willy Decker production, already seen in Vienna and Salzburg, opens at Covent Garden starring Nadja Michael as Marietta/Marie, Stephen Gould as Paul and Gerald Finlay as Frank/Pierrot, with Ingo Metzmacher on the podium. I'll be at the 2 February performance and will make a full report after that. Performances up to 13 Feb. Meanwhile, catch our ROH podcast on the website...if I can get them to fix the faulty link.

That should keep us all busy, and January will be over for another year before you can say 'Erich Wolfgang Korngold'.

Meanwhile, over in the Mendelssohn camp, prepare to light the red touchpaper...