Showing posts with label National Gallery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label National Gallery. Show all posts

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Sexism with strings attached. Plus a tribute to Dame Myra

Sexism in classical music. It's everywhere in the industry and it's time someone said so and started to come up with something to begin solving the issue. So I have. Here is the piece, which is in today's Independent. Please pop over and read it.

I can't help wondering how musicians such as Clara Haskil, Maria Yudina or Dame Myra Hess would have fared in today's climate if a slinky picture was a pre-requisite. We'd be missing out on some of the greatest pianism of the 20th century. Hopefully an enlightened company like Hyperion or harmonia mundi might have taken them up - but doesn't it make you wonder who's being overlooked now?

Yesterday was the annual Myra Hess Day at the National Gallery. I couldn't go because I had a gig to do at the Linbury Studio, but it's something I'm always sad to miss. Here is some amazing footage of her playing Mozart's G major concerto K453 in her National Gallery concerts with the orchestra of the RAF.

Listen to the life she gives to every note and the wit and intelligence in her phrasing. Then ask whether she would not be struggling in the 21st century as a woman in the public eye, since her preferred concert dress probably wasn't a size 8 (British version thereof). Then ask yourself whether what we currently face in the music world is an acceptable situation. And then ask yourself what we're going to do about it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Around St Martin's Lane...

Before I hand you over to today's Independent for my piece about Fiona Shaw and The Marriage of Figaro, I have to tell you a little about last night.

I went along to Myra Hess Day at the National Gallery, where the Menuhin School Orchestra, Piers Lane, Andrew Tortise, The Fibonacci Sequence and Tasmin Little gave a strong, varied programme in tribute to Dame Myra Hess, in front of the Gainsboroughs and Goyas. A huge plaudit to Piers and Tasmin for playing Howard Ferguson's superb, gutsy and inspired Violin Sonata, which was written just after the war - before that, apparently, he'd been too busy organising the gallery concerts to compose anything much, and this was a sure statement of intent.

But first, Tasmin played the Bach Double with a student from the Menuhin School as her partner soloist. Louisa-Rose Staples is 11, but looks 9, and is blessed with real composure and aplomb. From the first note it was clear that she was utterly secure with the task in hand - you knew at once that she couldn't put a finger wrong. She played like a complete pro: musical, responsive, accurate... And of course, this is where Tasmin herself started. Louisa-Rose, like Tasmin, became a pupil at the Menuhin School when she was 8. An auspicious evening, perhaps.

Round the corner from the National Gallery sits ENO, and tonight its new Figaro opens, directed by the one and only Fiona Shaw. I interviewed her, Paul Daniel, Iain Paterson (Figaro) and the youthful American soprano Devon Guthrie (Susanna) about what they're doing with it. Read it all here:

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

It's Myra Hess Day

It's wonderful when they name a day after your musical heroine and make it an annual event. Today at the National Gallery it is Myra Hess Day, in tribute to the great pianist who, with the composer Howard Ferguson, started the now legendary series of lunchtime concerts there during the Blitz.

Three concerts are held during the course of the day in the same space that the musicians used in the 1940s - though now the paintings, which were removed somewhere safe at the time, are there too. The concerts are devised by Piers Lane, who's a sort of grand-pupil of Dame Myra via one of his mentors, the late Yonty Solomon. More about the history of the wartime series and its guiding lights on the National Gallery site, here.

Today kicks off at lunchtime with the Ionian Singers conducted by Timothy Salter in a programme of English music for choir. Afternoon brings a performance of Admission: One Shilling, by Nigel Hess (great-nephew) in which actress Patricia Routledge and pianist Piers Lane tell the story of the gallery concerts in Dame Myra's words and lots of music; and finally this evening Piers is joined by Tasmin Little (violin), Andrew Tortise (tenor), Fibonacci Sequence and the Menuhin School Orchestra to perform some Ferguson alongside Bach, Schubert and Mahler, plus a world premiere from composer Benjamin Wallfisch.

Afternoon and evening are sold out, but I think you can still get in at lunchtime.

Listen to Dame Myra playing her famous transcription of Bach's 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring', plus a spot of Scarlatti...