Friday, September 21, 2007

Krystian speaks...

My German isn't brilliant, but I think that this open letter from Krystian Zimerman explains why he and Gidon Kremer did not appear together as originally planned at this year's Salzburg Festival.

For those of us who rely on the universal language that is music, here is KZ playing two of Gershwin's Preludes in Japan. I'm told that he also made a substantial speech to the audience - in Japanese - about American politics and the war in Iraq, but that has not as yet made it on to Youtube.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

They're back!


The smiles shone right across London last night as the London Philharmonic returned proudly to the spanking, newly refurbished Royal Festival Hall with a spanking [not literally], new principal conductor, Vladimir Jurowski, for the opening night of the new season, which celebrates the band's 75th birthday. And it's full steam ahead.

After 21 years on board the LPO, Tom declares that this is the best time he can remember. Managers, musicians and family members in the audience talk about a sense of renaissance. Glamour and excitement - at the Southbank Centre? Yes, at last it's all there. I'm still adjusting to the remarkable fact that near the back of the rear stalls, I could hear every detail of the music as clearly as if through iPod headphones. More good news: last night's concert was filmed for release on DVD and it will appear in due course on the recently founded Medici label. [update: watch it online free now, until 30 October.]

In yesterday's Indy, Ed Seckerson had this interesting interview with Vlad. Extract:

"For the LPO, the Jurowski era begins with a programme that starts as he means to go on: Wagner's Parsifal Prelude; Berg's Three Orchestral Pieces; and the original version of Mahler's astonishing Das klagende Lied. That's not a programme, that's a manifesto. Indeed, such is the inventiveness and originality of Jurowski's programming in his first season that, for the first time in perhaps a decade, we can predict the unpredictable on the South Bank."

Yes indeed. It was clear from this selection that easy listening ain't the order of the day (and admittedly the hall wasn't as packed as it might have been without that killer word "Berg"), but the electricity and commitment flowing from the platform suggest that an ideal is gathering pace here. With musicianship like Vladimir's at stake, and the inspiration he's bringing to the orchestra, they should soon have the audience eating out of their hands. People will come to hear them no matter what they do, because there'll be trust; everything will be worth experiencing. This was only the beginning.

And as the work of an 18-year-old, the Mahler wasn't bad...

Monday will be the opening night at the LSO over at the Barbican, with Gergiev conducting Mahler 3, and meanwhile I'm on tenterhooks as to whether I may squeeze into a Wagner dress rehearsal at Covent Garden next week. On balance, France with its sunshine, sea and Provencal markets looks more attractive than grey old Blighty, but musical life like this only exists in London. So there is nowhere else to be.

UPDATE: Medici-Arts TV also has webstreamed concerts from this year's Verbier Festival, available to view online until 30 September. I intended to flag this up earlier, but when I tried to log on, the streaming quality was turning Thomas Quasthoff singing Schubert into something of which Stockhausen could scarcely have retrospect, this was probably my computer's fault rather than theirs. Give it a whirl while you can. And the LPO thing seems to be working perfectly.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Et a propos de St Nazaire... are some famous goings-on from up the road in St Marc, courtesy of Jaques Tati a.k.a. Monsieur Hulot, on his holidays. This episode includes the conversational reference to St Nazaire plus...well, you have to see it.

A walk through the end of time...

Back from I'd suspected, my technotwit tendencies (or inadequate laptop) prevented any blogging en route.

My play 'A Walk through the End of Time' was premiered on Saturday as part of the opening night of the Consonances Festival - a privilege indeed, and an astonishing experience.

The Alveole 14 of St Nazaire's former Nazi submarine base eyesore has been renamed LIFE and transformed into a venue for experimental performing arts which turned out to have a startlingly good acoustic; ours was the first show to take place inside it. Actors Marie-Christine Barrault and Charles Gonzales gave their all, director Ilonka van den Bercken from Amsterdam devised some beautiful coups-de-theatre, a young Dutch artist created projected drawings to illustrate the action in real time and the closing performance of the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time by Charles Neidich, Philippe Graffin, Raphael Wallfisch and Claire Desert was unforgettable. And afterwards the mayor of St Nazaire awarded me a medal. :-)

More pics on my permasite. For the moment, above: the American War Memorial on the beach at St Nazaire; the set inside LIFE; and a would-be playwright with Raphael Wallfisch (left) and Philippe Graffin (right).

Saturday, September 01, 2007


It's September - so here is the late Lucia Popp singing 'September' from Strauss's Four Last Songs in 1977, conducted with tremendous panache by Solti. The sound is slightly crackly, but the voice's purity and directness goes straight to the heart. She died much too young in 1993 and is still sorely missed.

Not much blogging last week, due to final work on the manuscript of Hungarian Dances, which went back to Hodder & Stoughton yesterday for typesetting.

Blogging will be scant for the next couple of weeks too, as I'm off to France. Remembering foiled intentions of blogging the Viardot concert at St Nazaire a year ago, let's just say that I'll blog the progress of the Messiaen play if I can, but as it'll involve the same laptop, same hotel and same brain, it mightn't happen.

A bientot...