Showing posts with label Viv McLean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Viv McLean. Show all posts

Monday, November 11, 2019

ODETTE AND TCHAIKOVSKY

Dear all, please come to the Barnes Music Society at the OSO, Barnes Pond, London SW13 this Wednesday, 13 November 2019 (7.30pm) for this:

ODETTE: A CELEBRATION OF SWAN LAKE
A narrated concert

Fenella Humphreys (violin)
Viv McLean (piano)
Jessica Duchen (author/narrator)


“Enthralling…an unpredictable and original voice and a dazzling perceptiveness” -- Joanna Lumley

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet score for Swan Lakecasts a powerful spell over generation after generation. It has had innumerable reimaginings and retellings, balletic and otherwise. The latest is author and music critic Jessica Duchen’s magical-realist novel Odette, in which the enchanted swan princess meets 21st-century Britain. 

This remarkable narrated concert mingles selected readings from the book with the story behind Tchaikovsky’s creation ofSwan Lakeand its passionate, tragic inspirations. Award-winning, ballet-loving British violinist Fenella Humphreys embraces the great violin solos with which Tchaikovsky embroidered his score, as well as the closely related Violin Concerto; pianist Viv McLean evokes the influence of Chopin and Liszt on Tchaikovsky; and there’s plenty of humour, with works by Saint-Saëns and Gershwin. Share the enchantment through this joyous celebration of a beloved ballet, its composer, its fairy tale and what they can mean to us today.




THE MUSIC
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake – Introduction
Saint-Saëns: Danse macabre
Liszt arr. Achron: Liebestraum No.3
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake – Odette’s Solo
Gershwin: The Man I Love
Chopin: Polonaise-Fantaisie 
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake – White Swan Pas de Deux
Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake – Adagio from the Black Swan Pas de Deux
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major - finale



FENELLA HUMPHREYS - VIOLIN

Winner of the 2018 BBC Music Magazine Instrumental Award, violinist Fenella Humphreys enjoys a busy career combining chamber music and solo work. Her playing has been described in the press as ‘amazing’ (The Scotsman) and ‘a wonder’ (IRR). 

A champion of new and unknown music, a number of eminent British composers have written for Fenella, including a set of 6 new solo violin works by composers including Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Sally Beamish and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. She has been fortunate to record these over 2 critically acclaimed CDs for Champs Hill Records, both chosen by BBC Music Magazine as Instrumental disc of the month with 5 Star reviews, and the second also picked as Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine.  

Described on BBC Radio 3’s Record Review as an ‘absolutely exquisite album’, Fenella’s new CD, ‘So Many Stars’ with Nicola Eimer has just come out on Stone Records. Summer 2019 sees the release of Max Richter’s Four Seasons Recomposed on Rubicon Classics. Her teachers have included Sidney Griller CBE, Itzhak Rashkovsky, Ida Bieler and David Takeno, studying at the Purcell School, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Robert-Schumann-Hochschule in Düsseldorf graduating with the highest attainable marks. 



VIV MCLEAN - PIANO

Viv McLean won First Prize at the 2002 Maria Canals International Piano Competition in Barcelona and has performed in all the major venues in the UK, as well as throughout Europe, Japan, Australia and the USA. He has performed concertos with orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Viva, Orchestra of the Swan and the Northern Chamber Orchestra under the baton of such conductors as Daniel Harding, Wayne Marshall, Christopher Warren-Green, Owain Arwell Hughes, Carl Davis and Marvin Hamlisch. 

Viv plays regularly with the Adderbury Ensemble and has also collaborated with groups such as the Leopold String Trio, Ensemble 360, the Ysaÿe Quartet, the Sacconi String Quartet and members of the Allegri and Tippett Quartets. Viv has appeared at festivals including the International Beethoven Festival in Bonn, the Festival des Saintes in France, Vinterfestspill i Bergstaden in Norway and the Cheltenham International Festival in the UK. He has recorded for labels such as Sony Classical Japan, Naxos, Nimbus, RPO Records and future releases include a Gershwin cd for ICSM Records. Viv has also recorded regularly for BBC Radio 3 as well as for radio in Germany, France, Australia, Norway and Poland.

“ Viv McLean revealed extraordinary originality, superb simplicity, and muscles of steel hidden by fingers of velvet. He plays with the genius one finds in those who know how to forget themselves, naturally placing themselves at the right point to meet the music, this mystery of the moment.” Le Monde (Paris)


JESSICA DUCHEN - AUTHOR/NARRATOR

Jessica Duchen's novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Odette, published by Unbound in November 2018, is her sixth, but has occupied her for over 26 years. Ghost Variations(Unbound, 2016) was Book of the Month in BBC Music Magazine and was John Suchet’s Christmas Choice for the Daily Mail's Best Reads of 2016 ("A thrilling read" - John Suchet). 

Jessica grew up in London, read music at Cambridge and has devoted much of her career to music journalism, with 12 years as music critic for The Independent. Her work has also appeared in BBC Music Magazine, The Sunday Times and The Guardian, among others. She was the librettist of Silver Birchby composer Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for an International Opera Award in 2018, and she works frequently with Panufnik on texts for choral works. 

Her further output includes biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré, her popular classical music blog JDCMB, and the play A Walk through the End of Time

Monday, April 15, 2019

More shows on 17 and 27 April!




We had a whale of a time at Kings Place, performing the UK premiere of Being Mrs Bach on Saturday afternoon. Left to right: Ben Bevan (baritone), Steven Devine (harpsichord), me, Jonathan Manson (cello and gamba) - what an absolute privilege to work with them! Totally knocked out by the brilliance of Steven's harpsichord playing, which provided the effect of an entire orchestra or two, the apparently effortless beauty of Jonathan's solos and the way he switched between instruments as if simply taking another breath, and the warm, gorgeously tender tone of Ben's baritone, which we understand will be gracing Opera Holland Park this summer.

Onwards... next up is Odette: A Celebration of Swan Lake, which takes wing on Wednesday. The award-winning Fenella Humphreys (violin), also-award-winning Viv McLean (piano) and I will be at Bob Boas's series, Music at Mansfield Street, London W1, on 17 April, and St Mary's Perivale on 27 April. St Mary's will be LIVE STREAMED! If you would like to come along on Wednesday, there are still places available (it clashes with a) the Easter hols and b) most annoyingly, the Proms launch) and you can email boas22m@btinternet.com for further details. If you want to come to St Mary's, just turn up on the night - more details here. And if you want to watch the live stream, it will be here (but is only available at the actual time, not online thereafter.) The concert is an hour and a half without an interval.

More stuff below!

Fenella Humphreys (violin)
Viv McLean (piano)
Jessica Duchen (narrator)


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet score for Swan Lake casts a powerful spell over generation after generation. It has had innumerable reimaginings and retellings, balletic and otherwise. The latest is author and music critic Jessica Duchen's magical-realist novel ODETTE, in which the enchanted swan princess meets 21st-century Britain.

This remarkable narrated concert mingles selected readings from the book with the story behind Tchaikovsky's creation of Swan Lake and its passionate, tragic inspirations. Award-winning, ballet-loving British violinist Fenella Humphreys embraces the great violin solos with which Tchaikovsky embroidered his score, as well as the closely related Violin Concerto; pianist Viv McLean evokes the influence of Chopin and Liszt on Tchaikovsky; and there's plenty of humour, with works by Saint-Saëns and Gershwin. Share the enchantment with this joyous celebration of a beloved ballet, its composer, its fairy tale and what they can mean to us today.

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake – Introduction 

Saint-Saëns: Danse macabre 

Liszt (arr. Achron): Liebestraum No.3 

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake – Odette's Solo 

Gershwin: The Man I Love 

Chopin: Polonaise-Fantaisie 

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake – White Swan Pas de Deux 

Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake – Adagio from the Black Swan Pas de Deux 

Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major - finale 


Fenella Humphreys (violin) enjoys a busy career combining chamber music and solo work, performing in prestigious venues around the world. Her first concerto recording, of Christopher Wright's Violin Concerto with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra was released in 2012 to great critical acclaim. Her recent Bach to the Future project, a set of six new unaccompanied violin works by eminent composers was a huge success, garnering performances at acclaimed UK venues, and has now been recorded over two CDs for Champs Hill Records. Both have received huge critical acclaim, and the second received the BBC Music Magazine's 2018 Instrumental Award. Her new disc with Nicola Eimer was released in February 2019. Fenella is a passionate chamber musician and is regularly invited by Steven Isserlis to take part in the prestigious Open Chamber Music at the International Musicians' Seminar, Prussia Cove. Concertmaster of the Deutsche Kammerakademie, Fenella also enjoys guest leading and directing various ensembles in Europe. Her teachers have included Sidney Griller CBE, Itzhak Rashkovsky, Ida Bieler and David Takeno at the Purcell School, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Robert-Schumann-Hochschule in Düsseldorf. She plays a beautiful violin from the circle of Peter Guarneri of Venice, kindly on loan from Jonathan Sparey.

Viv McLean (piano), the winner of the First Prize at the 2002 Maria Canals International Piano Competition in Barcelona , has performed at all the major venues in the UK as well as throughout Europe, Japan , Australia and the USA . He has played concerti with most major UK orchestras, performed chamber music with leading groups such as the Ysaye String Quartet and the Leopold String Trio. Viv studied at the Royal Academy of Music and was the piano winner at the Royal Overseas-League Music Competition and one of three winners of the National Federation of Music Societies' Young Artists Competition, leading to various recitals and concerto appearances throughout Great Britain . Viv has recorded regularly for BBC Radio 3 and recorded for Sony Classical Japan and Naxos , as well as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's own label. Viv lives in Harrow and has been a huge supporter of concerts at both St Mary's Perivale and St Barnabas in recent years.

Jessica Duchen's books have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Odette, published by Unbound in November 2018, is her sixth novel, but has occupied her for over 26 years. Ghost Variations (Unbound, 2016) was Book of the Month in BBC Music Magazine and was John Suchet's Christmas Choice among the Daily Mail's Best Reads of 2016 ("A thrilling read" - John Suchet).   Jessica grew up in London, read music at Cambridge and has devoted much of her career to music journalism, with 12 years as music critic for The Independent. Her work has also appeared in BBC Music Magazine, The Sunday Times and The Guardian, among others. She was the librettist of Silver Birch by composer Roxanna Panufnik, which was commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for an International Opera Award in 2018, and she has worked frequently with Panufnik on texts for choral works. Her further output includes biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré, her popular classical music blog JDCMB, and the play A Walk through the End of Time , which won the town medal of St Nazaire in France, where its commissioning festival was based. Jessica lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

And yesterday was...

Jelly d'Arányi: Schumann heroine
...the 80th anniversary of the UK premiere of the Schumann Violin Concerto, given by our own Jelly d'Arányi with Sir Adrian Boult and the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Queen's Hall, London. If I remember right, the second half contained the UK premiere of Sibelius 5. As this event forms the climax and final chapter of my Ghost Variations I really should have flagged it up on the day, especially as I had been intending to do so for months on end.

Fortunately, the Royal Northern Sinfonia did notice, and planned ahead, and got Alina Ibragimova to come up and play it, and Radio 3 noticed too and broadcast the concert, so it is now, happily, available to listen to on the BBC iPlayer, here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09r7vb0

The full history involved a surprise "spirit message" ostensibly from Schumann; a hunt - by the Swedish Minister in London - through the music libraries of Berlin; a propaganda exercise by the Nazis, who wanted the Schumann concerto to replace the banned Mendelssohn in their people's affections; a reworking of the piece because it didn't, er, quite fit the bill - mostly assigned, unbeknownst to the authorities, to Hindemith; the intervention of Yehudi Menuhin, the young Jewish American violin superstar to whom the publishers from Nazi Germany sent a photostat of the manuscript; and a scandal when the story of the "spirit messages" broke just weeks before Jelly was supposed to give the London premiere, which was then delayed for about four months, though mostly because the Nazis kept changing the date of the German premiere... The saga took some disentangling, but much of it is in Ghost Variations.

...which is not a "romantic story", as one lady I met at a party fondly imagined, but is about the rise of facsism and a warning from history. Eighty years ago does not seem such a long time, being easily within living memory. Several years after the performance, the Queen's Hall was flattened in the Blitz. Tovey died in 1939, as did Jelly's brother-in-law. Myra Hess became a national heroine. Things change. Things can change fast when balance is lost. This was the edge of madness - for Schumann, for Jelly, for the world itself - and we shouldn't forget, because we may be at another edge of madness now.

David Le Page, Viv McLean and I are also doing a Ghost Variations concert this week, the nearest thing we have to an anniversary performance: it will be under the auspices of the Leicester International Music Festival which runs a series of lunchtime concerts year round. It's at the Victorian Art Gallery, New Walk Museum, Leicester, on Thursday 22 February, 1pm. The programme has been adapted for a one-hour format and includes some pieces new to our programme, not least by Gluck and Elgar. We do hope you'll come along if you're in the area. More details here.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Mixed Double: Ghost Variations and Alicia's Gift

Viv, Jess and Dave
And that's just for starters. Bit busy in these parts.

David Le Page, Viv McLean and I are performing Ghost Variations at Burgh House, Hampstead, London NW3, next Sunday, 19 November, 6.30pm. And the day after, at Barnes Music Society, London SW13, Viv McLean and I are bringing Alicia's Gift to the Old Sorting Office (OSO) Arts Centre - Monday 20 November, 7.30pm.

Meanwhile Viv is also playing the Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto in Southampton on Saturday night, 18th; and Mozart's A major Concerto K414 in Cockermouth on Tuesday 21st. Blimey, guv. But as he says, "It's going to be FUN." And Dave is busy too, with the Four Seasons in Gloucester Cathedral on Friday night, 17 November.

Here are the booking links.

GHOST VARIATIONS at Burgh House, 19 November

ALICIA'S GIFT at OSO Barnes, 20 November

Vivaldi, The Four Seasons: David Le Page and the Orchestra of the Swan, Gloucester Cathedral, 17 November

Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto: Viv McLean and the City of Southampton Orchestra, conducted by Philip Hesketh, 18 November

Mozart Concerto K414: Viv McLean and the Northern Chamber Orchestra, Cockermouth, 21 November

I think between us we seem to have a good bit of England covered, so do come along to anything and everything you like and can!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

This week...

This is one busy week.

MONDAY. It's this:


You'll find me and the fabulous musicians David Le Page (violin) and Viv McLean (piano) at the Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel, Sherwood Street (just off Piccadilly Circus), with the words&music story of Jelly d'Arányi and the Schumann Violin Concerto, starting 7pm. Music includes Bartók, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Kelly, Ravel, Hubay and, uh, Schumann... Book here: https://www.brasseriezedel.com/live-at-zedel/ghost-variations-oct-2017/112243587

TUESDAY and FRIDAY. I'm honoured to be serving on the jury of the London Bach Singing Competition. We have the semi-finals on Tuesday evening and the final on Friday, both at St George's, Hanover Square. After the first round the other day, I can promise you we've found some simply glorious voices and we're looking forward to hearing ten of them again in the semis, singing recitatives and arias from the St Matthew and St John Passions. Four will go through to the final. Both these rounds are open to the public, so do join us for a spot of Bachian glory. Details of the events and names of the semi-finalists are now up, here.

WEDNESDAY So, Wednesday is looking a bit packed... I'm very excited to be going on BBC Radio 3's In Tune, where Katie Derham will be interviewing me about Ghost Variations and the Schumann Concerto, ahead of our Artrix Bromsgrove performance (3 Nov) and Burgh House Hampstead (19 Nov). Straight out of Broadcasting House, I must leg it to Cadogan Hall, where I'll be doing a spot of actor interviewing about Mozart and Salieri for the London Chamber Orchestra's concert, which culminates in the Mozart Requiem. Christopher Warren-Green conducts. Booking here.

SATURDAY Off to Leipzig for the first time ever, to see all sorts of amazing things relating to Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and maybe even Wagner...

I also have to write a feature and some sleeve notes. So I'm now off to have a quick nap.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

TONIGHT we're at Leighton House


TONIGHT: We're thrilled to be giving the 'Ghost Variations' concert to open the Kensington & Chelsea Music Society's new season, at the gorgeous Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Road, London W14 8LZ. Music by Ravel, Bartok, Mendelssohn, Brahms, FS Kelly, Hubay, Schumann, played by the fabulous David Le Page (violin) & Viv McLean (piano), narration by muggins based on 'the strangest detective story in music'. Leighton House is home to an incredible Turkish-style foyer and exhibits including paintings by the pre-Raphaelites, notably 'Flaming June' (above). 7.30pm start. Book signing to follow. Do join us if you can. Booking at WeGotTickets, here.
David Le Page. Photo: Natasha Bidgood




Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Please come to St Mary's Perivale on 7 September!

Ghost Variations is nearly here. Just three more days, I believe....and next week my performance partners David Le Page and Viv McLean - an absolute knockout of a violin and piano duo - join me for the first of four concerts we are giving through the autumn based upon 'Ghost Variations'. I narrate, they play the appropriate music and thus we tell the story together. 


The first concert is on Wednesday 7 September at the exquisite 12th-century church of St Mary's, Perivale, tucked away behind the A40. It's an intimate venue with a magical atmosphere and a marvellous concert series. Admission is free and seats unreserved (though you may make a donation at the end). 

The "pilot" for the project took place, to a very warm reception, at the Hungarian Cultural Centre back in March and  we have now extended it a little and added an interval, creating a full-evening recital. Incidentally, there will also be a shorter version, available for coffee concerts in the new year. Every piece has been chosen with forensic care to match the story, its protagonists and the necessary atmosphere.


(Above, Dave plays at the premiere...)

You'll have the chance to hear music written for Jelly d'Arányi - Ravel's Tzigane; Brahms Hungarian Dances arranged by her great-uncle, Joseph Joachim; music she played a great deal, such as the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto; a piece by Frederick Septimus Kelly, whom she had hoped to marry before he was killed at the Somme; 'Hejre Kati' arranged by her teacher, Jeno Hubay; and, of course, plenty of Schumann, including a juxtaposition that makes clear how close the slow movement of the Violin Concerto is to the theme of the Geistervariationen. Songs from the Thirties will welcome the assembling audience, creating the ambience in which the story unfolded (and I'm on the lookout for some vintage clothing...).

More details of the concert and how to get to St Mary's are available at the website: http://www.st-marys-perivale.org.uk/events-2016-09-07.shtml

PLEASE COME ALONG AND JOIN US!

Further performances very soon...watch this space...

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ghost Variations: the world premiere

Viv McLean, JD, David Le Page and the HCC's director Eszter Pataki

David Le Page, Viv McLean and I gave the first-ever performance of our new concert, Ghost Variations, based on my forthcoming novel, last night at the Hungarian Cultural Centre in Covent Garden. It's a gorgeous venue - as you'll see from the pics - and we felt very thrilled to be part of their Monday Musical Soirée season. Moreover, a packed house and the huge enthusiasm of the audience proved most encouraging.


The concert traces the story of the great Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Arányi and her rediscovery of the Schumann Violin Concerto, mingling shortened extracts of the novel with some explanatory links and, of course, the music that she used to play. We feel this is a words&music programme with a difference - because without the music, there wouldn't have been any words at all. Dave and Viv played works including the Bartók Romanian Dances, extracts from the Mendelssohn and Schumann violin concertos, Ravel's Tzigane, Hubay's Hejre Kati, Schumann's Violin Sonata in A minor and the theme from the Geistervariationen...

Afterwards: time for some Hungarian wine

Enormous thanks to the HCC for an unforgettable evening! Meanwhile: this concert programme really works, so is now available for booking. Happy to say it is supremely well suited to festivals and music clubs: it's 100 per cent accessible due to its storytelling nature, the words and the music are 100 per cent integrated, and the story has the added benefit of being based on real events.



The novel will be published in the summer. You can still get your name into it as patron if you pre-order it via Unbound.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

So what's it really like to perform at the Wigmore Hall?

Viv and muggins, delivering
What's it like to perform at the Wigmore Hall? I doubt I'd ever have found out if I'd kept on with my piano studies...but in one of those weird twists of fate I found myself up there yesterday, with wonderful Viv, presenting Alicia's Gift: the Concert of the Novel to an extremely well-sold auditorium, full of people aged from what looked like 3 to 93, who listened attentively, applauded Viv's playing with great enthusiasm, and laughed at the jokes.

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
The platform itself, under the famous cupola depicting the Soul of Music, feels protected, intimate and reassuring, bathed in golden light. It's neither slippery nor intimidating, and from the front of the stage the hall looks smaller than it really is, rather than bigger, so you feel safe and happy. The Steinway we met there yesterday was new just over a year ago and if you're me - playing it for three minutes at the very end of the concert - it's like taking a ride in the most luxurious car you could imagine, only far better; one of those pianos where you only have to think of what you want it to do and out it comes. If you're Viv, of course, it's even better.

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.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Booking is now OPEN for OUR WIGMORE HALL GIG

A tastefully sepia adaptation of Alicia's Gift's cover
Thrilling stuff for me and my wonderful pianist colleague Viv McLean: we are performing ALICIA'S GIFT: THE CONCERT OF THE NOVEL at the mighty and marvellous Wigmore Hall, on 20 February at 2pm. You can find all the programme details and online booking here.

The seriously scary thing about this is that the final number in the concert is actually a duet, so this means I have to play the piano in the bloomin' Wigmore Hall and even if it is three minutes of slow and gorgeous Ravel it's still...a bit terrifying. But hey.

This version of the concert lasts one hour and it will be followed at 3.30pm by a panel discussion, which I'll chair, on the topic of child prodigies - which is what the novel is all about. On our panel are Murray McLachlan, head of keyboard at Chetham's School of Music; Michelle Castelletti, artistic director of the Royal Northern College of Music; and Guy Johnston, cellist par excellence, who was something of a child prodigy himself. Book for the panel discussion here.

Alicia's Gift explores what the presence of a child prodigy can do to a family, and what a misguided family can do to a child prodigy's talent. And that is not always a pretty or painless tale. The novel is therefore not suitable for children, but the concert (mostly) is, and has often been enjoyed by those aged 10 upwards.

Alicia's Gift is published by Hodder and can be found as an e-book or paperback here.

Here's what's in the concert...



  • Viv McLean  piano
  • Jessica Duchen  narrator
Author Jessica Duchen and pianist Viv McLean unite to tell the story of a child prodigy pianist trying to grow up, exploring her talent’s effect on her family and her family’s effect on her talent. 
Jessica’s readings from her novel Alicia’s Gift alternate with Viv’s performances of the relevant music to create a compelling joint narrative in words and music.
    • Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
          • Ballade No. 3 in A flat major Op. 47
    • Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
        • Estampes
          • Jardins sous la pluie
    • Fryderyk Chopin
          • Etude in C minor Op. 25 No. 12
    • Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
        • Goyescas
          • Quejas, o La maja y el ruiseñor
    • George Gershwin (1898-1937)
          • Rhapsody in Blue
    • Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
          • Sonatine
        • Ma mère l'oye
          • Le jardin féerique. Lent et grave


    Monday, October 12, 2015

    Clap us in Clapham! Special offer on concert tickets

    Viv McLean
    SPECIAL OFFER FOR JDCMB READERS

    Viv McLean and I are performing Alicia's Gift, the concert of the novel, at the Clapham Omnibus on 8 November at 4pm. This terrific and innovative multi-arts centre is five minutes stroll from Clapham Common tube station and plays host to all manner of thrilling events across the genres - music, literature, comedy, painting, you name it - on an intimate scale.




    Rebecca Clarke
    A week later, on 15 November, the Lawson Piano Trio will be there to perform a programme of music entirely composed by women - from Clara Schumann to Cheryl Frances-Hoad, with the fabulous trio by Rebecca Clarke as centrepiece - and including an introduction and Q&A session with Diana Ambache.

    Thanks to my involvement with Diana's Ambache Charitable Trust, which supports the promotion of music by women, the Clapham Omnibus is offering our friends and readers of JDCMB a special deal: a ticket to both concerts for only £16.

    To claim this, please email box-office@omnibus-clapham.org or phone 0207 498 4699.

    See you there.

    Here's Viv in a certain party-piece that always goes down a storm during Alicia's Gift...

    Sunday, May 03, 2015

    Musicians set out to raise £10k for Nepal


    The pianist Alicja Fiderkiewicz and the cellist Corinne Morris are collaborating to bring together a number of classical stars to give a fundraising concert in aid of the Nepal Disaster. Taking place on 29 May in St Barnabas' Church, Ealing, the event brings together the pianists Murray McLachlan, Artur Pizarro, Viv Mclean and Carlo Grante, along with Corinne and Alicja themselves, and will also include a world premiere by composer Keith Burstein. 


    Alicja and Corinne write:
    The entire proceeds of this fundraising concert will go to the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) Nepal Earthquake Appeal. Nepal needs 2 things: manpower to help get things up and running and money to access this help, to start rebuilding their lives.
    With our fundraising concert, we hope to provide the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) with a contribution of £10,000.
    If you can support our project, either by attending the concert, or making a donation via this page and sharing this with all your friends, then together we will make an impact and via the aid agencies already in Nepal, offer some much needed support and comfort.

    Our sincere thanks for your help and support.
    Please book tickets via the Indiegogo page, where you select them as your 'perk': https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/classical-music-gala-concert-for-nepal-disaster 

    Friday, September 19, 2014

    Better together


    Scotland has decided to stay after all, which is nice. Above, a picture of me and Murray McLachlan finishing the Alicia's Gift concert at Chetham's last month with clear proof that a Scot and an Englishperson can cooperate rather beautifully when given half a chance. Murray hails originally from Aberdeen and is now head of piano at Chet's.

    Speaking of Alicia's Gift, the first of several for the new season finds me reunited with Viv McLean this Sunday at 4pm at Westminster Cathedral Hall, courtesy of the Chopin Society. We're very honoured to be part of such a distinguished series - and are looking forward, additionally, to the wonderful tea that habitually follows these recitals. Do please come along and join us. Info and tickets here. (and more about the book here.)

    By way of a taster, here's Viv playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which features in the programme alongside the likes of Chopin, Granados, Falla, Debussy and Ravel.





    Monday, September 01, 2014

    September: some gigs and a song

    Hello, it's September. How did that happen?!

    Here are a few things I'm doing this month: do come along if you're in the vicinity of any of them!

    14 September, 3.30pm:
    HAMPSTEAD AND HIGHGATE LITERARY FESTIVAL: JOHN OGDON. I interview Ogdon's biographer Charles Beauclerk about the life and work of the troubled musical genius. LJCC, Ivy House, North End Road, Golders Green, London NW11.

    21 September, 4pm:
    ALICIA'S GIFT, the Concert of the Novel. Viv McLean (piano), me (narrator). Chopin Society, London, Westminster Cathedral Hall.

    24 September, 6.15pm
    PANUFNIK CENTENARY Pre-Concert Talk at the CBSO, Symphony Hall, Birmingham. I interview Sir Andrzej Panufnik's daughter, composer Roxanna Panufnik, about the life, legacy and influence of her father and his music. Concert includes A.Panufnik's Piano Concerto (with Peter Donohoe) and Sinfonia Elegiaca. 


    September is one of the most beautiful months of the year. Here is its eponymous song by this year's top anniversary man, Richard Strauss, from Four Last Songs. The soprano is Nina Stemme, and it's the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Tony Pappano. 

    I am sick as the proverbial parrot about having missed Nina's Salome at the Proms on Saturday night. I was in Salzburg to interview a VIPianist and was travelling back at the time. Apparently it was totally sensational and you can hear it on the iPlayer here: click on Listen Again, even if you haven't listened before.

    Sunday, March 23, 2014

    Bartók's birthday talk


    I'm doing a talk at the Balassi Institute Hungarian Cultural Centre, Covent Garden, on Tuesday to mark Bela Bartók's 133rd birthday. It's called: "How I learned to stop worrying and love Bartók."

    It's part of the HCC's Magyar Mind lecture series in which British academics and writers speak about Hungarian cultural topics. I'm intending to give a rather personal introduction to the magic of Bartók, skewering the silly preconceptions about him that seemed to be doing the rounds during my mis-spent youth and looking, too, at what makes the Hungarian tradition of musical training so very special. My friends David Le Page (violin) and Viv McLean (piano) will be there to perform a few key pieces. All welcome and admission is free, but please call the HCC and book a place in advance. More details here: http://www.london.balassiintezet.hu/en/events/current-events/559-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-bartok/

    Meanwhile, there's an amazing new biography of John Ogdon out, by Charles Beauclerk, and I've just reviewed it for the Sunday Times. It's here (behind paywall).

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

    A filmed interview with...me.

    The lovely Melanie Spanswick has uploaded to her Classical Piano and Music Education Blog a filmed interview with me for her Music Talk series, complete with forthcoming concert dates for my stage projects and some wonderful Ravel played by Viv McLean at one of our Alicia's Gift concerts. Please pop over to her site, here.

    Monday, December 09, 2013

    "Sacred space" syndrome

    Or...an afternoon at St Mary's, Perivale. 

    We used to hear a fair bit about the concept of a "sacred space": a place that builds up an atmosphere over years, decades, centuries - and that transmits this special energy to people who enter it and breathe it in.

    I well remember reading a particularly beautiful book by lutenist Anthony Rooley which went into this idea in some depth and discussed the question of what it adds to musical performance. The short answer was "a lot". The epitome of this sacred space, if I remember right, was Dartington Hall.

    In recent years - at least since the financial crash - the notion of something sacred has become inordinately tied to associations with fundamentalism (in many forms) and the question of experiencing something perhaps "psychic" or "esoteric" has become somehow old-hat new-age.

    Fortunately for us, though, these matters don't cease to exist just because we stop taking notice of them.

    In the past week, I've encountered two manifestations of sacred-space energy in musical performance. One was at St Bartholemew the Great - probably the most beautiful church in London, part of which dates back to 1123. Last week Peters Edition held its Christmas concert in there, candle-lit and featuring a cappella contemporary choral pieces from Britain and the Baltics, performed by the choirs VOCES8 and Lumina. Such composers featured as Morten Lauridsen, Vytautas Miskinis (from Lithuania), Eriks Ešenvalds (from Latvia), Alexander Levine (Russian-born British resident), our own Roxanna Panufnik and a fine organ piece by Judith Bingham. Anyone who thinks that beauty in music is dead should have been there. Some of the pieces were breathtaking in their use of original harmonic language and sonic imagination that - especially in the case of Ešenvalds's The Long Road - could stretch our consciousness out towards the most unexpected of developments, blending tradition with absolute originality. In the audience, it was magic.

    Then yesterday Viv McLean and I went to perform Alicia's Gift at St Mary's, Perivale, and got more than we bargained for. Pictured above, Viv warming up...

    St Mary's is a tiny 12th-century wooden church tucked away behind a west London golf course and the A40 just north of Ealing. For the past few years Hugh Mather - a retired medic and devoted pianist himself - has been running a concert series here. The place seats about 80 and admission is free; the audience can give a donation at the end if they wish. It's small, white, wooden-beamed, with 15th-century brasses in the floor stones protected by a carpet; and the platform area is currently dominated by a small but excellent Yamaha and a large and lovely Christmas tree. It is a comfortable, intimate space for a performance; speaking without a microphone is no worry, and the exchange between us in the cosiness of the space made unifying the two mediums of words and music remarkably easy.

    But then, sitting close to the piano while Viv played Rhapsody in Blue, I noticed something extraordinary taking place. It is hard to describe, but I think some might call it "grace". It's a feeling of being suspended within the flow of time and space and breathing something lighter and purer than oxygen. A form of happiness, perhaps. Joy in its purest form: motionless and light and lacking in any worldly element. It resembles the state of a very good meditation session, yet it's spontaneous, not striven for;  something that lands on you, and you accept it because it feels so astonishing. And it is definitely to do with the space, because I've only experienced anything like it a few times before, and always in places that contain deep resonances and/or long-rooted dedications. Jerusalem, Lincoln Cathedral, that kind of place. And, yes, St Bartholemew the Great.

    I told Hugh about this impression and he remarks that prayers have been said in that church for 800 years, "around 30 generations in which people have assembled there in good times and bad, and the accumulated spirituality soaked into the walls".

    Incidentally, I'm supposedly an atheist. You can be as cynical as you like, but that doesn't change the fact that these things happen sometimes.

    Anyway, the audience seemed to love the concert, we had a completely adorable day and it was lovely to finish the show and be greeted, heading off stage, with a nice cup of steaming hot tea.






    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    TONIGHT: Alicia's Gift goes to Leighton House

    Tonight: we are delighted that Alicia's Gift: The Concert of the Novel will be presented by the Kensington & Chelsea Music Society at Leighton House Museum, 12 Holland Park Road
    London W14 8LZ. It's an amazing venue, the former home of Lord Leighton and his art collection, where east meets west...

    Kick-off is 7.30pm and Viv and I, much encouraged by Saturday's successful outing (unexpectedly alongside a Mighty Wurlitzer), are looking forward to it immensely. Enormous thanks to the doughty Peter Thomas and the enthusiasm of KCMS for this project. I read; Viv plays Chopin, Falla, Debussy, Ravel, Granados, Messiaen and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue; and we finish with eine kleine piano duet...
    BOOK HERE: http://www.kcmusic.org.uk/alicia_concert.htm

    Friday, October 18, 2013

    A trailer for the ALICIA'S GIFT concert



    Here is my Alicia's Gift Concert partner, Viv McLean, playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which will feature in our programme in a big way. This was at the gorgeous 12th-century church of St Mary's, Perivale, where the tireless Hugh Mather runs an exceptional concert series - Viv is a regular there. Enjoy.

    Alicia's Gift will be at St Mary's on 8 December, but don't forget we kick off on 9 November at the Musical Museum, Brentford, with Kensington & Chelsea Music Society to follow on 13 November, Vernon Ellis's Queen's Gate Terrace salon on 27th, and finally before Xmas a performance for our North London fans at Burgh House, Hampstead, on 15 December.

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    My autumn & winter schedule

    Here are some dates for your diaries, fresh from my writing desk: a brand-new words&music concert, a brand-new play, more HUNGARIAN DANCES. Please come along! (The info is also in the sidebar, but certain people are telling me to put it somewhere more prominent...)

    ALICIA'S GIFT: THE CONCERT OF THE NOVEL - new!

    Starring Viv McLean (piano) (left) & Jessica Duchen (narrator).

    A concert adaptation of my novel, lifting the lid on the world of a child prodigy pianist trying to grow up. Music includes Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Viv's famous performance of Rhapsody in Blue, and a little surprise to end (clue: I have to practise...). News story in International Piano, here.

    World premiere: 9 November, Musical Museum, Kew Bridge.To book tickets, call Houben's Bookshop, Richmond-upon-Thames, 020 8940 1055 or Yvonne Evans, 07889 399862. Ticket price includes a tour of the museum's amazing collection plus a glass of bubbly.

    13 November, Kensington & Chelsea Music Society

    27 November, Vernon Ellis Foundation, 49 Queen's Gate Terrace, SW7. Info from Yvonne: 07889 399862.

    8 December, St Mary's, Perivale

    15 December, Burgh House, Hampstead, NW3. Tickets from Yvonne: 07889 399862.

    18 January, Soirees at Breinton, Woking


    SINS OF THE FATHERS - new!

    World premiere of my first full-length play, exploring the relationships of Wagner, Liszt and Cosima: rehearsed reading starring John Sessions (right) and Sarah Gabriel. 24 November, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond-upon-Thames. Part of the International Wimbledon Music Festival. NB - the performance is sold out, but please watch for returns/standing room!


    HUNGARIAN DANCES: THE CONCERT OF THE NOVEL

    A dazzling journey in words and music through the 20th century, following the story of Mimi, a Hungarian Gypsy violinist who becomes a famous classical soloist, but at a terrible personal price... Works by Bartok, Dohnanyi, Brahms, Ravel, etc.

    27 October, 7.45pm, Teesside Music Society.
    Bradley Creswick (violin), Margaret Fingerhut (piano), Jessica Duchen (narrator). (Team pictured left)

    27 January 2014, Hungarian Cultural Centre, Covent Garden
    David Le Page (violin), Viv McLean (piano), Jessica Duchen (narrator). Special performance for International Holocaust Memorial Day.

    2 March 2014, St Mary's, Perivale: again, Dave, Viv & muggins.