Showing posts with label Culture Kicks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture Kicks. Show all posts

Friday, March 22, 2013

Three easy ways to get into opera

La Voix Humaine from washmedia on Vimeo.

1. Combine exploring opera with your passion for the piano. If you're heading to the Institut Francais's big three-day keyboardfest, It's All About Piano - starting today and running through Sunday - catch the screening of Poulenc's one-woman opera La Voix Humaine, filmed with the one and only Felicity Lott - with piano accompaniment, in which version it's been recorded for the first time, delivered by the brilliant Graham Johnson. Sneak preview above. The screening is tonight at 8pm - and if you turn up at 6pm you can hear Nick van Bloss play the Goldberg Variations and a four-hands programme from Lidija and Sanja Bizjak at 7pm.

2. Pop over to CultureKicks for my latest post, which is called "How to get into opera in under six minutes". You'll find a quick guide to Rigoletto, a film of its astonishing quartet 'Bella figlia d'amore' and a short explanation of why it shows to perfection what opera can do that just cannot be done nearly so well in any other art form... (Lovely editor there then said "What about Wagner?" to which the response can only be: "Well, what about Wagner...?" Watch that space.)

3. Listen to Andris Nelsons conducting. I've just been in Birmingham doing some pre-concert talks for the CBSO's Beethoven Cycle, which he, their music director, is doing for the first time. Honest to goodness, guv, this guy is amazing. Not sure I've seen anything so purely energetic and with so much warmth since...well, who? Jansons? Solti? The atmosphere in Symphony Hall - which was sold out - really had to be experienced. Nelsons, who hails from Latvia, cut his musical teeth as an orchestral trumpeter and started off, as so many great maestri do, in the opera house, and he's married to the soprano Kristine Opolais, who's currently wowing ROH crowds in Tosca.

He conducted his first Ring Cycle at the age of 26 and is now a favourite at Bayreuth. Hear his Beethoven and you can tell why. The structures are clear, but the emotion is allowed to blaze: there's enough rhythmic strength to build a castle, but enough flexibility to let in the sunshine. The characters and personalities that shine out of each of Beethoven's symphonies are as distinct as those of any opera. Perhaps, in this conductor's hands, music is inherently operatic?

It was an absolute privilege to have introduced this extraordinary concert. Great turnout for the talks, too, especially for yesterday's matinee, where a door-count estimate suggested we had nearly 500. Thanks for your warm reception, dear friends, and I hope you all enjoyed hearing about the slow movement of Beethoven 7 through the narrative of Rosa Parks and the American civil rights movement. 

Last but not least, it was a special treat to run into our old friend Norman Perryman, the musical "kinetic artist", whose beautiful paintings and portraits are part of the Symphony Hall visual brand. Here he is beside his magnificent picture suggested by Elgar, Gerontius, which hangs in the foyer at level 4. Glad to say he was in town to start work on a portrait of Nelsons.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

As easy as A, B, C?

I've written a post for the site about why we need urgently to address the issue of language for talking about music. The term "dumbing down" is essentially a misnomer: a more correct term is "de-skilling". With a whole generation forcibly removed from musical literacy and terrified of learning the necessary bits and pieces - however easy they really are - how are we to keep talking about music at all? Read it all here:

Culturekicks, btw, is created by the same team that used to run the late lamented and daftly dumped Spectator Arts Blog, and it has kept the latter's archive of brilliant posts by brilliant writers...including yrs truly. More power to their elbows.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Welcome, Culture Kicks

Many of us were a bit unhappy, to put it mildly, when The Spectator Arts Blog shut up shop last year. The good news is that now its editors, Pete Hoskin and Simon Mason, have started a new arts webzine called Culture Kicks. You'll find it at 

Mission statement? "What we want to do is share our enthusiasms, and we hope to do so with articles that read like magazine features. Sometimes they’ll be topical, sometimes they won’t, but we hope you’ll always find them well-written, informative and—crucially—unpretentious." Glad to see they also have an archive made up of the old Speccy Arts Blog pieces, mine included.

They asked me for a new piece about The Rest is Noise festival. I reckoned that as most of us have twigged what it's doing, it was time to look at why it works, why it matters and why I love it.