Monday, April 13, 2009

still off...

I was planning to catch up with everything I've missed writing about today - the Proms in particular - but I've come down with flu, so it'll have to wait. I am in any case so underwhelmed by what I've seen of this year's programme that you're probably not missing much.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

'Hungarian Dances' at Fiddles on Fire, The Sage, Gateshead

Been here, doing this...the most fun I've ever had with anything I've ever written, this blog included - honest, guv. The pictures are from the rehearsals yesterday morning, plus a final one in, er, Pizza Express...

Bradley Creswick's electrifying Gypsy style absolutely brought the house down! You've never seen a Monti Csardas like this one, not even in Budapest... Margaret Fingerhut and our own Tomcat commensurately gave their all on the piano and second violin for the Bartok Duos, and I did my best with the reading (I'm usually happy on stage as long as I don't have to play the piano, but next week I must remember to sit beside, rather than behind, my music stand...). Coloured lighting enhanced the mood, especially blood red for 1956 plus Tzigane. The place was gratifyingly packed and - this being Saturday night in Newcastle-Gateshead, that most characterful and happening of cities, and The Sage being, imho, the finest arts centre in the UK - we had a high old time. Hope everyone enjoyed it as much as we did!

Bob Jones of Classic FM's Arts Daily podcasts recorded an interview with me about the Hungarian Dances projects a couple of weeks ago. It went up on the Classic FM website yesterday and I've now uploaded it to the sidebar podcast box in case anyone wants to listen.

So now we'll catch our breath and prepare for next Saturday's Kings Place concert with the London team, Philippe and Claire.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


So yesterday we get together for the first rehearsal of the Gateshead team Hungarian Dances concert and I meet the marvellous Bradley Creswick at last. Bradley is the leader of the Northern Sinfonia. Philippe is away in Taiwan from today and therefore couldn't do The Sage concert on Saturday, so their inspired admin decided to undertake a little judicious musical match-making; and sure enough, Bradley has such a way with Gypsy music that my idea of running the programme without applause until the end will happily be a non-starter. Monti's Csardas is the third number...

Then Bradley presents me with a little gift: his well-thumbed copy of my book - which has been signed for me by Roby Lakatos.

It took a few moments for this to sink in. The Northern Sinfonia was on tour in South Korea last week, and who should turn up in the same place at the same time?! Bradley got talking to Roby, and this was the result. It's yet another case of coincidences gone crazy. As is often the way with Hungarian Dances.

If you want to come to the Gateshead gig, please book fast because the only seats still available are on the third level up. Online booking here.

For the 18 April London gig, Kings Place seating is unreserved - online booking here. There's more availability for this one, perhaps because we clash with nothing less than the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and Dudamel over at the RFH. owch.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Brahms schokoladefest

I knew it was going to be a good night when I arrived at the artists' entrance of the RFH only to find my route blocked by a CHOCOLATE FESTIVAL. A row of tentlets had sprouted along Belvedere Road in the blazing spring sun, buzzing with stall-holders making, selling and eating all things chocolaty - and someone was giving a talk about why chocolate is good for you...

This was followed by the most astonishing performance of the Brahms German Requiem that it has been my pleasure to hear. It was preceded, to my surprise, by the reconstructed Mendelssohn Third Piano Concerto - see my Mendelssohn blog in a day or two for more on that. But the Brahms was one of those performances where the hair rises on the back of the neck and you can't explain it.

The LPO were playing their socks off for their principal guest conductor, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, with the London Philharmonic Choir and last-minute replacement soloists, including the marvellous Elizabeth Watts. The tempi were slow. Extremely slow. Yet everything shone. An extreme 'innigkeit', an inner fervour, the power of transformation again and again from darkness to light, despair to hope, with harps and cellos and flashes of upturned horns, and the searing certainty that Brahms is just the best. And at the end - a silence that lasted at least 25 seconds. The whole thing was absolutely astonishing. The microphones were up, so hopefully it will be preserved on the LPO record label.

I'm still on cloud 99, and this is not because of the chocolate.