Thursday, February 28, 2013

Farewell, Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn, the American pianist legendary for winning the Tchaikovsky Competition in the USSR in 1962 despite the Cold War , has died at the age of 78. Here's a colourful obituary from the Telegraph. The story goes that Krushchev said "Is he the best? Then give him the prize..."

Here are some tributes.

First, thanks to Mark Ainley of The Piano Files for sharing this link of unusual footage from France. After it, the last movement of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 from Moscow in 1962, conducted by Kirill Kondrashin. Van Cliburn may have played his last movement now, but he will never be forgotten.

AND - UPDATE - in our final selection, Van Cliburn appears as a Mystery Challenger on What's My Line?, stumping the team with a brilliant fake Hungarian accent...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Keith Jarrett is coming to town

Tonight Keith Jarrett plays the Royal Festival Hall. I've been a bit snowed under and a bit under the weather this past week and managed to miss my own article about him in the Indy the other day. Here it is. Director's cut below. It isn't an interview, regrettably. Not for want of trying...he just wasn't up for it, and if he's not gonna talk he's not gonna talk, so there we go. But I'm grateful to Jazz Record Requests presenter Alyn Shipton and super multigenre pianist Simon Mulligan for giving their insights into his nature and influences. 

To me Jarrett is more than a jazz pianist; he is a pianist to put beside any of the greats in any genre.  So it's really a shame that he clashes tonight with Andras Schiff playing Mozart concerti next door at the QEH. Wouldn't it be nice if we could persuade them to do a duet later?

Keith Jarrett is giving a solo concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Spread the word! Except that the word has already spread and the tickets have flown. 

What makes one man and a piano fill a hall for solo improvisation, let alone an individual with a reputation for stopping mid-flow to harangue his audience? Well, Jarrett, 67, is a legend for a good reason. His improvisations well forth from heaven knows where, driven by a depth of conviction that’s unmistakeably his, producing sounds that won’t have been heard before and won’t be repeated. It’s as if he is plugged in to a celestial battery charger, and we, listening, connect to that astounding energy by proxy. 

He performs not just with his hands and arms, but with his whole body, his shoulders curving towards the keyboard as if microscopically examining every squiggle of melody. He emits hums, whines, groans. He sits, he stands, he wiggles. Some find him mesmerising. Others say he is best experienced with eyes closed. 

He reaches audiences that other jazzers don’t. Hardcore classical pianophiles, those who flock to hear artists such as Martha Argerich or Krystian Zimerman, are often drawn to Jarrett for his extraordinarily expressive musicianship and the variety of colour he draws from the instrument. Jarrett had a top-level classical training in his native Pennsylvania, and the virtuoso technique he developed has certainly fed in to the unique way he uses the instrument. He thinks contrapuntally, horizontally, involving many lines and layers of music, often embedding a theme in the middle of a wide-spun texture, and allowing a new section of thought to grow organically out of a small pattern in one that’s gone before. And he’ll squeeze every drop of potential out of that motif before moving on to another. 

Unlike most jazz pianists (Chick Corea excepted), he has recorded classical repertoire too: solo Bach, Mozart piano concertos and Handel suites. He has even made discs playing the organ and the clavichord. This year, while his schedule includes solo improvised recitals and trio performances with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette, the loyal ECM label with which he has long worked is also tipped to be releasing a new album in which he performs the Bach sonatas for violin and keyboard with the violinist Michelle Makarski.

ECM has put out his solo improvisations from Vienna, La Scala Milan, London/Paris (Testament), Carnegie Hall, Tokyo and Rio, to name but a few, helping to widen his already huge cult following. Of his massive discography, though, the Köln Concert of 1975 is still perhaps the best-loved recording, having become the biggest-selling solo album in jazz history. Strange, then, to think that, looking back, Jarrett has said he would have done certain things about it differently. He doesn’t stand still. Turbulent episodes of his life affect his creative bent; he has been remarkably open about this, saying in interviews soon after his divorce in 2010 that difficult times were “a source of energy” that he could draw on in his music-making.

But even times when he had no energy at all have made a difference. Stricken with ME (chronic fatigue syndrome) for about two years from 1996, he found himself scarcely able to play. When he returned to his instrument in gradual stages, he effectively relearned his technique, assessing his sound and style and developing a less “aggressive” touch. Once his recovery was underway he spoke of how the illness had forced him to concentrate on the deeper “skeleton” of his music and remarked that he felt he was “starting at zero and being born again at the piano”.

The aims remain simple, though. Jarrett has said that his intention in his solo recitals is, first, to come up with interesting music and, secondly, to make sure that that interesting music isn’t something he has come up with before. 

Alyn Shipton, presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Jazz Record Requests, made a series of radio programmes about Jarrett soon after the pianist had recuperated from ME. “He always says he has no idea what is going to happen in the concert,” Shipton relates. “And with the neurotic perfectionism that only he could apply, he records all his performances, listens back to them, then says he tries to erase them from his mind so that they won’t affect his future ones.” 

His influence on successive generations of jazz musicians has been immeasurable. Simon Mulligan, a British pianist who plays both classical concerts and jazz, says that Jarrett is prime among role models for him and his peers. “It’s Jarrett and Herbie Hancock,” Mulligan remarks. “We all call them Keith and Herbie. I know I’ve been influenced by the way he shapes the arc of his music, and the detail, such as his ‘portamento’ playing when he decorates the run-up to a melodic note like a singer. And in terms of touch, he is one of few people who can really make the piano sing.”

But Jarrett’s outbursts against his audience are no fun (although there’s a spoof Twitter account, @AngryJarrett, that apes them). “He’s convinced that coughing is a sign of boredom and that if you’re really concentrating on the music, you don’t cough,” Shipton comments. “He doesn’t cough while he’s playing, so, he thinks, why should they cough if they’re listening? What people dread is that moment when something that’s going well suddenly falls in on itself and he jumps up and says ‘I’ve seen a red light, there’s a camera! If you want to remember a concert, you remember the music, you don’t remember it visually...’”

Audiences today, accustomed to social media-savvy performers who encouraging filming, uploading and sharing, sometimes forget that musicians are well within their rights to demand to control their own material, and to concentrate on creating it. Distraction can wreck everything they are trying to do. According to Shipton, Jarrett’s CD Radiance, recorded live in Japan, is missing a section “because he lost his rag so badly with the audience, three quarters of the way through, that the last part was no good and he couldn’t issue it”.

ECM might record this London appearance too. So, if you go, remember: don’t cough, don’t take photos and for goodness’ sake don’t attempt to smuggle in a recording device. Another tip: don’t leave too quickly at the end. Sometimes his encores of jazz standards can be almost the most entrancing moments of all.  

Keith Jarrett, The Solo Concert, Royal Festival Hall, 25 February. Box office: 0844 875 0073

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My first opera...

I've enjoyed taking a trip down an operatic memory lane for Sinfini, plus talking to a range of celebs about their first experiences of opera and what got them hooked - among them ballerina Zenaida Yanowsky, actor Henry Goodman and comedian Rainer Hersch. Read the whole thing here:

What follows is a further ramble on the topic...

Thinking back, I owe my whole opera thing to my parents, who never talked down to me about music when I was a kid. They seemed to know how to encourage an enthusiasm without piling on undue pressure and when I picked up that Magic Flute box (tempted by the picture: left) and wanted to know what was in it, my mum showed me how to follow the translated text as if it was the most natural thing in the world (it was the classic Klemperer recording, in German, without dialogue). It was good of them to put up with my unfortunate singalongaluciapopp tendencies, too.

I’m not surprised they bought me an alternative. This was easier: just one LP, in English, much of it positively designed for singing along. It was The Little Sweep by Benjamin Britten: the story of a group of children and their nanny who rescue a small boy chimney sweep from his abusive employer. It was easy to follow and impossible to forget. Nobody ever seemed to perform it, though. At the time, I had no idea there could be anything sinister in a song about a boy in a bath and I still find myself humming that syncopated, swingy waltz melody now and then. I’ve never once seen this opera live. A footnote: one of the child singers on that recording turned up in my year at university and we used to have a whale of a time playing violin and piano music together (he’d swapped the voice for the fiddle long before). I enjoyed the notion that I’d cut my musical teeth by inadvertently listening to my duo partner singing.

I fell for Eugene Onegin on the car radio, but seeing it in the theatre aged about ten (starring a young soprano named Kiri Somethingorother) left me colder than I'd hoped it would. It was all a bit static, it was hard to hear the words and I couldn't work out why on earth Tatyana fell for Onegin in any case, as he wasn't exactly an appealing kind of chap. 

Eventually live performance did enchant me – but not as you might expect. It was comedy, courtesy of English National Opera. The gods in Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld perching on their clouds; Lesley Garrett stripping off as Adele in Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus; and above all, the sight of my father reduced to complete screeching, weeping helplessness over the nuns in drag in Rossini’s Count Ory. This could only happen in the theatre. And when it happened, there was no point resisting. 

Interesting to see that while a lot of my interviewees cite Mozart and Puccini as their ways in to opera, Ed Gardner thinks those aren't such a good place to start. He plumps straight for Shostakovich and Janacek. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Historical: purple Brahms patch with d'Aranyi, Hess and Cassado

This extraordinary recording from 1928 has finally popped up on Youtube. Here's the second movement of Brahms's Piano Trio in C, Op.87 played by Jelly d'Aranyi (violin), Myra Hess (piano) and Gaspar Cassado (cello).

As I understand it, these sessions - this Brahms and also the Schubert B flat Trio (with Felix Salmond on the cello) - were Hess's first recording. She and Jelly d'Aranyi worked together for some 20 years, giving countless recitals at the likes of the Wigmore and Queen's Hall, but these trios seem to be the only surviving example of their collaboration.

Sometime in the war years, it appears that they must have had a massive fallout. Serious enough that in Hess's biography by Marian McKenna, d'Aranyi - her duo partner for two decades - is afforded just one mention, in passing. I've met a number of people who knew one or the other, sometimes both, yet nobody seems sure exactly what went wrong.

The music world is full of these situations, of course, and in the end it's immaterial since the result, unfortunately, was the same whatever the cause. But when you hear the fine blend of their sounds, d'Aranyi's mellifluous charm sparking against Hess's wit and intelligence, the flow of detail and infinite shading of ideas that takes place in their music-making (it's even more obvious in the Schubert, incidentally), it seems little short of tragic that their every move was not captured by microphone - and that their partnership has somehow been wiped from history.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mantel-piece explains a key principle of story structure

Anyone who's been on my Total Immersion or Kickstart writing days will recognise, from the part where we talk about story structure, the concept that the Hollywood screenwriting guru Robert McKee terms 'the negation of the negation'. This, essentially, is a double-and-then-some twist of the knife in the guts of your story's principal theme. It can be difficult to pull this off - but here's a perfect example, from real life. 

Supposing your story is, at background level, about freedom of speech in a western democratic country. That is the value, the ideal, that is at stake. The opposite of that, obviously enough, is censorship. But the negation of the negation goes a twist or two further than the opposite, and here it is to have the leader of that free country publicly rebuke a writer for writing something that she never actually wrote

Get it? Yes, thought so. Oh, and compound it by having the leader of the opposition do the same thing.

It's one thing for the Mail to misrepresent a thoughtful article by a great novelist; but it's quite another for the PM himself to weigh in, on the side of the tabloid, without checking the author's actual text, which is freely available to read, and doesn't take that long, and doesn't require a doctorate in astrophysics to understand in its proper context. Sensible perspective in an editorial from The Guardian here. 

What does this mass hysteria say about our "culture"? How can people be persuaded to look at empirical fact, rather than rushing en masse to throw verbal stones at the latest individual at whom The Finger Has Pointed? Often it turns upon innocent people who are trying to do the right thing yet find themselves on the receiving end of trumped-up, mendacious, manipulative and usually self-interested claptrap. Is this really so far from the Manchester cover-up, notably the alleged attempt in 2002 to blacken the character of Martin Roscoe for whistle-blowing?

I would like to write an episode of British Borgen (yes, it sounds better in Danish) in which a top UK author sues the Prime Minister for defamation and wins. 

Letter to The Guardian

Here is a letter published in today's Guardian, spearheaded by the Chetham's-educated pianists Paul Lewis, Tim Horton and Ian Pace and signed by hundreds of musicians and others (including some critics). It calls for "a full independent inquiry into the alleged sexual and psychological abuse by Chetham's staff since the establishment of the institution as a music school in 1969. Such an inquiry would ideally extend to other institutions as well, some of which have also been the subject of allegations of abuse."

A full list of signatories can be found here, on Ian Pace's website.

[Update] Those concerned by the sexing up of young female musicians throughout the industry - something we've written about extensively in the past here - might also be interested to read this piece from Ian's site:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kaufmann sings Parsifal

I'm not a well Jess right now (spring lurgy) and haven't got anything very useful to blog about. While the Guardian says that 9 (nine) former Chet's/RNCM teachers are under investigation, Sarah Connolly as Charpentier's Medea is producing the sort of rave responses you see once in a lilac moon and all sorts of wonderful people are giving fantastic concerts all over the place (try pianist Jean Muller at Kings Place this evening), I regret that I don't feel up to doing anything except curling up with peppermint tea, an indignant cat and a hot laptop.

So there is only one thing for it...indulge in a spot of Kaufmania. Jonas Kaufmann is singing Parsifal in NY and the Met has posted on Youtube an extract from the final dress rehearsal. Reviewing his new CD the other day for Sinfini, Warwick Thompson sounds the question we've all had in mind since hearing JK's voice for the first time: is he going to sing Tristan someday? 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ed goes north

Edward Gardner, music director of ENO, is to be the new chief conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic. He starts his three-year tenure in 2015 with the orchestra's 250th anniversary season and will be the successor to Andrew Litton. He'll continue at ENO. 

Ed says: “I have been thrilled with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra from the very first time I worked with them. They have such an unique quality of sound and a hunger for new experiences and ways of making music.  The orchestra plays with the energy of a team of chamber musicians wanting to explore the symphonic repertoire with passion and commitment."

Dear Ed, do you know how much a good pizza costs in Norway?!? And please get someone to knit you one of these: you're going to need it...

Seriously, though, congrats from us all - it's a great orchestra and they're lucky to have you.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

No contest, really

Verdi or Wagner? We shouldn't have to choose between them and, thank goodness, we usually don't. But if we do, because people keep on asking, which will you keep in the balloon?

Sorry, folks, but for me it's no contest. Yes, Verdi's great. But Wagner changed his own world, he changed the world of music and he can change ours too. No contest, really.

Oh, and look who's got a new Wagner album out.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pop goes the Rachmaninov

How do you fill a large hall for 20th-century repertoire? Play Rachmaninov. Composers who lived through these turbulent and violent times but composed in their own styles, rooted in romanticism or not, rather than the supposedly prevailing avant-garde, should be indivisible from our complete artistic picture of their age. Yet it's taken a startling amount of hindsight to reach the idea that someone who died in the 1940s is not "really 19th-century". (Sergei Rachmaninov: 1873-1943.)

These composers - Strauss, Rachmaninov, Korngold, et al - were as much of their specific era in their own ways as anyone else. Well done to The Rest is Noise for taking such a radical step - which should have been obvious years ago, but, well, you know how it goes in this funny little world...

Tonight at the RFH it's Sergei's turn. The fabulous Simon Trpceski plays the Third Piano Concerto and the LPO top it off with the Second Symphony. Yannick Nezet-Seguin is sadly off sick, but Mikhail Agrest has stepped in to save the day. Oh, and it's full (might be some returns, though, from Yannick fans). Yes, 20th-century music is popular when it's allowed in from the cold.

The fact that Rachmaninov is a man for more recent years is all too obvious...

Brief Encounter, 1945

Eric Carmen, 'All By Myself', 1975

Dana, 'Never Gonna Fall In Love Again', 1976

It's also true that the greatest music has something indescructible about it. Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Chopin are just a few of the other towering figures whose works have been set, reset, ripped off, shredded and otherwise bowdlerised, and still survive and often sound as good as ever. That puts Rachmaninov in excellent company.

Try Chopin. Once a Parisian sophisticate, always a Parisian sophisticate.

Serge Gainsbourg/Jane Birkin, 'Jane B', 1969

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Today The Guardian has run Charlotte Higgins's interview with Martin Roscoe, who talks in depth about what really happened when he tried to blow the whistle about Layfield.

But also, they report that another Chet's/RNCM teacher, violinist Wen Zhou Li, has been "arrested on suspicion of sex offences".

Elsewhere, there is slightly better news.

While we were away last week, Harriet Harman intervened to stop Newcastle Council's plans to cut its arts budget by 100%.

Also, education secretary Michael Gove was forced to drop his noxious EBacc project and is now looking instead at a reformed version of GCSEs with an eight-subject base that may even include music. Triumph is scented over at the brilliant and tireless ISM, but the fight won't be over yet.

And much better news: Benjamin Grosvenor has been nominated for The Times Breakthrough Award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards. Over the Pond, David Patrick Stearns has been listening to the star wars of the 20-something new generation pianists and lets us know that Trifonov's Carnegie Hall debut recital last week was sold out. But he picks Benjamin as the tip-top "artistic space alien": "Never have I not heard him boldly re-imagining the music he plays in ways that made complete sense, had conviction right down to the smallest detail but was completely unlike anything I’ve previously heard. How such depth of brilliance could be housed by somebody so young is enough to make you believe that reincarnation can come with accumulated wisdom." 

Urgent call for support for Fazil Say

English PEN, which works to defend freedom of expression in literature and beyond, is throwing its weight behind the cause of Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say, who is due back in court on Monday for comments posted on Twitter. His crime? Saying that he's an atheist and proud of it. And now six of PEN's colleagues in Turkey are under investigation for "insulting the state", having voiced their concerns about his ongoing prosecution. 
Fazıl Say, an outspoken critic of Prime Minister Erdoğan, has been charged with religious defamation under Article 216/3 of the Turkish Penal Code in response to a series of messages posted on Twitter, including one which simply states: “I am an atheist and I am proud to be able to say this so comfortably.” He has also been charged under Article 218 of the Turkish Penal Code, which increases sentences by half for offences committed “via press or broadcast”. Say denies the charges.
Say first appeared in court in Istanbul on 18 October 2012, where his lawyers demanded his immediate acquittal. The acquittal call was rejected and the case adjourned until 18 February 2013. He faces up to 18 months in prison if found guilty.
Please visit the English PEN site for information on how to join their Thunderclap project to support Fazil Say. If they reach the target of 100 supporters by Monday, a simultaneous message is activated and sent simultaneously from the participants' social media accounts. The page also provides addresses to which letters of protest should be sent.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Anoushka rising

Please listen to Anoushka Shankar.
Yes. Let's rise.

More of it

Depressing news today that two more teachers from Chetham's and the RNCM are being accused of abusing their pupils in the 1970s-80s. See The Guardian. One has not been named (yet). The other is the late Ryzsard Bakst (who died in 1999) - a pianist and professor who used to be revered as a living legend, if a difficult and eccentric one, and who taught some of the finest pianists in the country. No doubt there is more of this to be revealed.

An interesting comment reached me from a musician on social media after I vented my thoughts on the whole principle of boarding schools. It wasn't the schools that were to blame, he said, it was the people in them. Ah... a bit like guns, then?

Note, all these events took place several decades ago. One hopes profoundly that the different climate, culture and awareness that has sprung up since makes such matters a thing of the past. All the places involved have new administrations these days, as well as many, many devoted, honourable and top-notch professors. As we said the other day: keep calm and ask the right questions.

More reports here:
and here:
and here:

Monday, February 11, 2013

An appeal for calm

As further allegations surface of sexual abuse at Britain's top music schools, it's becoming clear that we've only seen the beginning. It has taken the suicide of a fine violinist and mother of four to bring to light the scale of exploitation, mismanagement and cover-ups within the various establishments through which she was unlucky enough to pass. As a result, everything that contributed to the death of Frances Andrade is under scrutiny: the legal system that she felt accused her in court of lying, the police that allegedly advised her not to seek psychological help during the arduous two-year trial of Michael and Kay Brewer, and, of course, the educational institutions in which it all happened in the first place.

The wider domino effect began with the publication the other day of Martin Roscoe's correspondence with the then head of the Royal Northern College of Music, Edward Gregson (who has since retired), pertaining to the appointment of Malcolm Layfield as head of strings - an appointment over which Martin and some other professors in his keyboard department resigned their posts, after expressing concerns about the nature of the violinist's relationships with some of his students. It appears that the college was more eager to defend its decision than to retain the services of some of the best-respected pianists in the country.

Martin has now claimed that after he chose to make a stand over Malcolm Layfield's appointment, he was subjected to a vicious smear campaign against his own (unimpeachable) character that has had long-term repercussions on his health. "For the next 2 years I had panic attacks, agoraphobia, claustrophobia and heightened performance anxiety. I have been on medication for high blood pressure ever since," he has stated.

Expect more about this soon in The Guardian. It's a clasic case of "shoot the messenger" and, unbelievably, it has taken nearly 11 years for the truth to be publicly revealed, even though many of us could see exactly what was going on back in 2002.

Now ten women have come forward to allege that they suffered sexual abuse by yet another teacher at Chetham's around the same time, this time a violinist named Chris Ling. More on this here. Rumblings offstage suggest that there is yet more to come, involving other top music schools in the UK.

Amid this disgraceful state of things, people are inevitably asking: what is wrong with these musical establishments that such events could take place there?

I think that isn't quite the right question - at least, not completely. And while the inevitable witch-hunt commences - there'll be finger-pointing, hysteria, 'lists of shame' and so forth - we should appeal for calm and look beyond that at the underlying problems of culture, attitude and atmosphere if any of this is to be healed in the long term.

First of all, the combination of the intensive one-to-one relationship necessary between a music student and his/her teacher and a boarding situation in which the student is far from home and, in certain cases, in an isolated setting, is undoubtedly noxious. But the vital question is not only about ths music: it's about the boarding. After all, sexual abuse of the young and vulnerable is anything but confined to the music world.

Britain. as you know, is famous for its boarding schools. I can think of no other country in which the finest education is supposedly achieved in places which families pay through the nose for the privilege of sending their children away from home into the "care" of strangers. I don't need to remind you of the number of people at the top of British establishments of all kinds that have been through these places. When I was preparing the ground for Hungarian Dances, I decided, in order to give the heroine's husband a measure of verisimilitude, to interview a few people who'd been sent away to boarding school as young boys, in some cases aged only five. What was the worst thing about it, I asked. The sense of abandonment, entrapment, betrayal? "Being buggered," said my first interviewee, loud and clear. But this strand never quite made it into the book: apparently being buggered at boarding school is so common that to include it in a novel would be "a cliche".

But why are UK music schools, on the whole, boarding schools too? Other countries around Europe don't have this situation. We have very, very few music schools. In France there's a structured national system of local conservatoires. In Russia, local specialist music schools cater for gifted youngsters. Supposing Britain were to encourage more music schools, spread around the country to take in the local gifted children without necessitating boarding?

In a country where the boarding school culture is ingrained at the very top of society, along with other organisations that have been exposed for their cover-ups of sexual abuse, notably certain branches of the Catholic Church, it's perhaps no wonder that a sense of entitlement pervaded the decades of permissive atmospheres that preceded the advent of AIDS. It's about power; it's about corruption; it's about celebrity, adulation, talent, charisma, woolly ideals and structural failure.

There are no easy answers, of course.; only many, many questions to ask. And many of these remain about why the abusers were so often protected instead of the vulnerable young people around them, why some individuals at the RNCM - apparently fearing that its name would be "brought into disrepute" if the situation was discussed - preferred to exercise power over good sense. It's that other endemic matter in Britain: bad management. Beware those mealy-mouthed words "bring into disrepute" and "moving on" - they are often employed by organisations that are afraid of the former (rather than actually suffering it) and unable to do the latter. Several motivations are possible in such cases: a) headless chicken syndrome, where a management simply has no clue how to handle the situation; b) cover-ups and scapegoating that mask deeper, still more sinister issues; c) as Schiller wrote, "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain."

But it shouldn't take a death to make society listen. It shouldn't take a death to make us wonder why it is easier for establishments to accuse women of lying rather than to investigate properly. It shouldn't take a death to bring so much iniquity out of woodwork in which it's been gnawing away for the better part of 30 years. If Frances Andrade is not to have spoken and died in vain, we need to keep calm, ask the right questions and make sure it never, ever happens again.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Guardian publishes Roscoe's correspondence with Gregson

Today the Guardian has published the correspondence between Martin Roscoe, Edward Gregson and other concerned parties - including Frances Andrade - pertaining to the appointment of Malcolm Layfield as Head of Strings in 2002. There are 45 pages. Please read.

I will write something more about this shortly. (I'm still "on holiday", btw. If anyone wants to contact me, my phone isn't working here, but I'll be back on Tuesday.)

Friday, February 08, 2013

A hideous history with far-reaching implications

The British music world has been shaken to the core today by news that Frances Andrade, the violinist at the centre of the case against Michael Brewer, has died by her own hand after giving evidence in the trial.

Brewer and his wife have been found guilty of indecent assault.

The Guardian has now revealed that this incident is the tip of an iceberg with far-reaching implications - one that will undoubtedly require further and ferocious investigation.

I refer you to this new report about a second teacher at Chetham's around the same time, an individual who subsequently won a very important post at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2002. He was appointed despite a number of individuals voicing serious concerns. Some, including the college's head of keyboard, Martin Roscoe, resigned in protest. Many of you will remember this all too well.

More on the tragic history of Frances Andrade here:
and here:

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Trifonov signs with DG

I interrupt my Nile-side G&T after a day of basking by the pool intensive work on my novel to bring you the news that Daniil Trifonov, 21-year-old winner of the Tchaikovsky Competition and general piano marvel of the best kind, has been signed by DG.

Yes! They got him. Whatever were they waiting for? Recording contracts are few and far between, these days, and it's good to see a good one going to someone who really deserves it.

His first album for the Yellow Label is to be recorded TODAY: ie, it's his Carnegie Hall debut recital. The programme is the same one he performed in London in early December: the Scriabin Sonata No.2, the Liszt B minor Sonata and the Chopin 24 Preludes. Hopefully there will be no intrusive of the Fon by the Phone at the climax of the Liszt, though - unlike that memorable evening at the QEH. So if you're in NY and going to hear him, please remember: Trifonov...Try.Phone.Off.