Sunday, October 31, 2010

'Alice Dancing Under the Gallows'

There's a new documentary about Alice Sommer Herz, the musician and now the world's oldest Holocaust survivor. She's about to turn 107. I've blogged the trailer - please watch it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Burnt out? Try Improvisation

This is my music column from Standpoint magazine's November issue: would a bit more "play" in "playing" improve everyone's game?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Please turn on your sound to see a) a protesting Dutch orchestra turning into a flashmob at The Hague Central Station, b) an utterly adorable toddler who knows *exactly* what to do with Beethoven 5, and c) something that should be a joke but, tragically, is not.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A true love of thine?

The latest news on cuts to the arts budget, and why it's all a bit too much like Scarborough Fair...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ongoing discussions

While you worry about the future of your foot, someone might be removing your leg...

Friday, October 22, 2010

"A universal consciousness..."

Meet Gabriela Montero. Plus more rumblings from Warsaw and a bit of fairly useless handwringing about the forthcoming plunge of the UK into an age of misery (quite apart from anything to do with the arts world).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shock Win in Warsaw

Whatever are they playing at at the Chopin Competition? I am fairly appalled listening to Youtube of the winner.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

George...don't do that...

The beginning of the cuts, with chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne's big speech today. Now everyone's trying to work out what's really going on, and it ain't gonna be pretty. Joyce Grenfell provides a little light relief while we wait for the nuclear fallout.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Play your shoe-size, not your age

Stephen Kovacevich, Martha Argerich and friends party like there's no tomorrow last night...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Appropriate Names at the Piano Olympics

The names of the finalists at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw have to be seen to be believed...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Please have a listen...

Reports emanating from members of the audience at Benjamin Grosvenor's lunchtime recital of Chopin at St Luke's the other day are utterly remarkable. My pianophile friends who were there have offered levels of superlatives that you don't hear every day -- at least, not from these guys. Words like "moved to tears", "couldn't believe my ears", "some of the greatest Chopin playing I've ever heard" and comparisons with musicians like de Pachmann, Cherkassky and even Horowitz are being liberally bandied about by those who are seriously in the know. I am kicking myself for being unable to go, but fortunately the concert is due for broadcast on R3 on 3 December. If you didn't see my interview with him from The Independent last week, here it is again.

To tide us over, I've found on Youtube three extracts from Benjamin's debut CD of selected showpieces, This and That. Here they are: Scarlatti, Moszkowski and Gershwin. I can quite understand the comparison with Golden Age playing: Benjamin has a similar mix of natural musicality, virtuoso relish, the feel for "turning" a phrase, and a sense of artistic freedom that fulfils an individual personality while nevertheless serving the composer and the work's inner structure and making them shine... This would be equally astounding playing from someone twice his age. Every time I hear him I feel I'm witnessing some kind of miracle.

There's a lot more audio on his website - extracts of recitals from the past 6 years...
If you enjoy the extracts, do buy the recording. Here's the link. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

RIP Dame Joan Sutherland

Dame Joan Sutherland has passed away at the age of 83. I've posted a set of links to an in-depth, five-part interview with her filmed in 1972 (sadly, I am not the interviewer - I might have asked rather different questions. But I was only 6 at the time...).

Playing with Fire

Sarah Chang is caught in the middle of a very sad industrial dispute at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra...

Friday, October 08, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dear Hyperion!

Great party last night, thrown by the music industry's favourite record label to celebrate its 30th birthday. *hic*.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Rattle: Give Abreu the Nobel Prize

Why Sir Simon Rattle thinks Jose Antonio Abreu deserves a Nobel Prize; why he's right; and why what's going on in the Netherlands proves it.