Thanks to a doughty reader for sending me this today. Sometimes we all need a dose of Martha Argerich playing Scarlatti, to prove that, despite everything, something so totally flippin' astonishing still exists.
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Friday, February 26, 2016
Thursday, February 25, 2016
The actors are Caroline Dooley and David Webb and after the play the complete Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time will be given by Colin Bradbury (clarinet), Richard George (violin), Adrian Bradbury (cello) and Gillian Spragg (piano). Gillian is artistic director of the festival and it is thanks to her indefatigable dedication to making this project happen that it is indeed taking place.
The drama is designed to illuminate the quartet from a creative, philosophic and aesthetic perspective, exploring the ideas behind the music and the circumstances of its composition. Through the story of two people whose lives have been deeply touched by the quartet it pays tribute to the enduring power of music, love and the human spirit. Messiaen's quartet is not only a work of genius; it is in many ways a message of hope, composed and first performed in a prisoner-of-war camp in Silesia in January 1941.
More information at this link. Do come along if you can - at present this is the only performance planned for 2016.
Book now! Tickets via Eventbrite here.
Monday, February 22, 2016
Sunday, February 21, 2016
|Viv and muggins, delivering|
It's the musical equivalent of...having tea at the Ritz. You're in there with the ghosts of the finest music-making in the history of London. In the Green Room you're surrounded by the dedicated photographs of musicians who have been there over the past 115 years, from Edwin Fischer, Daniel Barenboim, Jessye Norman, Christa Ludwig, to Stephen Hough, Angela Hewitt and - the final photo you see just before you walk on to the platform - András Schiff standing beside a bust of Beethoven.
|Viv McLean in rehearsal yesterday|
Nor can you imagine a more helpful team of people. There's even someone whose job it is to look after the performers backstage - not that Viv and I need a great deal of looking after, as we always bring our own gf chocolate muffins etc, but it's nice to be offered tea, and there's a quiet room upstairs where Viv was able to go for a pre-concert snooze.
It's scary. You bet it's scary. I don't usually suffer nerves for our narrated concerts - only a little bit for the duet at the end - but when you're sitting on a stage and you can almost see Jelly d'Arányi three feet away playing Tzigane, and you can picture your parents up there in the balcony where they always used to sit, waving and being proud, and you're remembering all the hundreds of times you've been in there listening to the great and good, but now you have to deliver, that's another matter. Even so - what an unimaginable treat it was to do so.
We had a lively panel discussion in the Bechstein Room downstairs after the performance: cellist Guy Johnston, pianist and Chet's head of keyboard Murray McLachlan and RNCM artistic director Michelle Castelletti joined me to talk about what makes a prodigy, what special challenges face them and what the peaks and pitfalls of prodigydom can bring. Excellent questions from a capacity audience, especially three young musicians in their teens whose eager participation made the whole event extra rewarding.
Things we learned that are to the advantage of this concert project as a whole:
• Age range of audience is basically unlimited and this is quite valuable;
• Format with discussion to follow works brilliantly;
• It may be a newish and unfamiliar way to listen to music, but people do seem to like it, so if you are a promoter who hesitates to give something different a whirl, don't be scared. Apart from anything else, it's stuffed with absolutely wonderful music.
Dearest Wigmore, THANK YOU.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
All details here: http://wigmore-hall.org.uk/artistic-series/alicias-gift
Please join us if you can!
Friday, February 19, 2016
At Dartington in 1982 I shared an extraordinary experience with a group of very talented young pianists. We spent a week immersed in the masterclasses of a lively young Hungarian pianist, a rising star in his late twenties, whose performance of the Goldberg Variations in the Great Hall mesmerised everybody on day one. His name was, of course, András Schiff. For some of us it was a life-changing experience - including me, and also including Graham Fitch, who as luck would have it now lives up the road and is busy with some extremely engaging piano teaching projects.
Notably, he has been running an excellent piano practise blog entitled Practising the Piano (I love sites that do what they say on the tin). Now he is turning the idea into an online academy for pianists of all levels - student, professional or amateur - and he's launched an Indigogo campaign to help make it happen. If you play, or want to, do take a peek and pledge your support via the links below. He's sent me a bunch of info about it, so here it all is. JD
The Practising the Piano Online Academy is an extensive, searchable, and regularly updated library of lessons, articles and resources which will:
- Illustrate my methodologies and approach in more depth with multimedia content, interactive features and resources including musical examples, worksheets and annotated scores which can be downloaded and printed.
- Expand on practice tools and strategies with masterclasses and tutorials applying them to popular pieces in the repertoire, exam syllabuses and specific technical challenges.
- Share the expertise of guest experts on subjects including applied theory, improvisation and healthy piano playing.
- Be regularly updated, easily searchable and allow for personalisation with bookmarking and notes.
- Be shaped by your input, responding to your questions and suggestions for new content to meet your needs.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
The Philharmonia Orchestra here in London fortuitously made a short film in which Stucky and his friend and fellow composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, the orchestra's chief conductor, discuss the music of Witold Lutosławski. As a tribute, here it is.
• On Saturday afternoon, 20 Feb, Viv and I are performing ALICIA'S GIFT at the Wigmore Hall, 2pm. The concert is an hour long and at 3.30pm I'm chairing a panel discussion about child prodigies, with Murray McLachlan (head of keyboard at Chetham's), Michelle Castelletti (artistic director of the RNCM) and Guy Johnston (cellist par excellence). Tickets are going fast - and you need to book separately for the two events - so do grab 'em now. Here's the link.
• At fairly short notice, thanks to an heroic effort on the part of the Ealing Autummn Festival's devoted artistic director, Gillian Spragg, a performance of my play A Walk through the End of Time is being given in Ealing on 5 March, together with the complete Quartet for the End of Time by Messiaen. It takes place at Christ the Saviour Parish Church, New Broadway, Ealing, London W5 2XA (a few minutes walk from Ealing Broadway tube) and starts at 7pm. The actors Caroline Dooley and David Webb present a rehearsed reading of the play and the Messiaen Quartet features a group of local celebrity musicians from Ealing: Colin Bradbury (clarinet), Richard George (violin), Adrian Bradbury (cello) and Gillian herself on piano. Details here and booking through Eventbrite here.
• Ghost Variations is steaming on apace and I am delighted that we'll give the first public presentation about the book, with words and music, at the Hungarian Cultural Centre, Covent Garden, on 21 March. Viv (piano) and David Le Page (violin) join me to play music associated with Jelly d'Arányi, including Ravel's Tzigane and music by Bartók, Brahms and...Schumann. I'll be introducing the topic and reading some extracts from the novel. Admission is FREE, but you need to book a place in advance. The plan at the moment is for the book to be released in July. Meanwhile I am desperately trying to get the manuscript brushed up properly for the editor to tackle with red pen in March. http://www.london.balassiintezet.hu/en/events/current-events/983-0321-ghost-variations-by-jessica-duchen/
Back to the desk...
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Around half the staff are being made redundant - according to the editor Amol Rajan on BBC news, that means more than 100 jobs will be lost. Again, we are talking here about some of the most professional, experienced, sharp-minded, knowledgeable editors in the UK. I have no idea what will happen to the splendid arts team, but I have loved and still love working with them and have endless respect for my "boss" there, David Lister, who has been with the Independent since the very beginning.
I hope this is not the end of the line. It may be. It may not be. I just don't know yet.
This piece is how I feel about yesterday and I offer it to them all with love and solidarity. It's Franz von Vecsey's Valse triste, played by Philippe Graffin and Claire Désert.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Over to Melanie:
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Most people who go to ENO or who have performed with the company are all too aware that the chorus is the absolute life-blood of it - and it is not least their magnificent singing that has made so many of ENO's performances so outstanding over the past years. Some singers have remarked that the planned cut amounts to a good deal more than 25 per cent in practice, and that with the costs of family life, accommodation and travel in the capital, such a cut would make it unviable for them to continue in their jobs.
Meanwhile, a change.org petition is gathering signatures, including many from leading singers who have starred on the Coliseum stage, not least Sarah Connolly and Stuart Skelton. Soprano Susan Bullock has commented: ‘So much damage has been done to this wonderful company in recent years, and it is now time for it to stop. Wake up ENO Board before it is too late and fight for the company you are supposed to represent. Do not allow the heart to be ripped out of it by administrators who have no clue about opera. You can’t expect high quality performances from a broken company, nor do you deserve them if you persist in making these cuts.’
Mark Wigglesworth, who is in his first season as music director, has strong words about the company's present and future in today's Guardian. He is at the helm for a revival of The Magic Flute, in Simon McBurney's edgy and fascinating production. Do read this.
And the company is currently advertising for an artistic director...
Meanwhile, I've been having a look back at where the company used to be. It has been very easy for people to use John Berry's artistic directorship as a punchbag, and ditto for Peter Bazalgette, who has recently announced his resignation from the chair of ACE (in a former life he was on ENO's board himself). But things have been volatile at the Coli for decades. It seems an endless cycle of boom and bust. Mostly bust.
Have a look at this, from the Telegraph in 1997. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/4711225/How-ENO-got-its-act-together.html
Go down to the Coliseum after dark and you get swept up in pre-revolutionary ferment. The place is packed out, even for non-pops such as Verdi's Falstaff and Janácek's From the House of the Dead. The lobbies heave with men in windcheaters and ladies in print frocks, solid Labour types who come to the Coliseum two nights a week, no matter what's playing. There are schoolboys, unchaperoned by teachers, booked in of their own initiative. There are young couples of every gender-pairing and whole families, grans to tots, out for a birthday treat. No one has paid more than £25 a seat and some are in for less than a fiver.Inside the auditorium, the tension that mounts with any good drama explodes in roars of solidarity as, during curtain calls, a company member steps forward to advocate the case for survival. These appeals began spontaneously on the night of Smith's statement, when the new music director, Paul Daniel, delivered an emotional defence speech. "We have a very special platform of work," said Daniel, "and a very, very strong case for making opera as we do."
Monday, February 08, 2016
An historic venue with beautiful gardens and mysterious grottos, it is now home to an adventurous independent school, whose headmaster, Guy Holloway, has been much in the news of late for advocating a later start to the school day for teenagers, whose natural body rhythms make it seriously difficult for them to get going in the early morning.
Viv McLean and I, fresh from a gorgeous afternoon at St Mary's Perivale yesterday, are off there tomorrow evening for an Alicia's Gift performance - at a place in which the pressures facing gifted youngsters is all too relevant. The hour-long concert will be followed by a discussion in which Guy and I will be joined by Hugh Mather, artistic director of St Mary's Perivale, to consider the whole matter of child prodigy musicians.
Do join us - and you can book in advance here. Hampton Court House is about ten minutes walk from Hampton Court Station and you can arrive for a pre-concert drink any time from 6.45pm for a 7.30pm start.
All details here: http://www.formseven.co.uk/products/alicias-gift-tuesday-9-february
In short: was Monostatos Mozart's revenge upon the person who was probably the only man of colour he encountered within his own circles as a young man - someone happier and more successful than he was, someone of whom he had reason to be jealous at one of the most terrible times of his life? Namely, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges? Here's my theory and the reasoning behind it in the Independent. (Incidentally, this could put a slightly interesting slant on the Queen of the Night, too.)
First, here's Covent Garden's solution to the Monostatos problem. We find many remedies for that in the opera world - but little explanation of why they might have been there in the first place.
Saturday, February 06, 2016
|Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla. Photo: Nancy Horowitz|