Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oh for some teeth

A few strips of an article I wrote about corruption in music competitions have made it into the Indy today. Most of the piece didn't.

The original would have made your hair stand on end, then curl laughing. The lawyers weren't having it, though. It was all true, nonetheless - I mean, you just couldn't make this stuff up.

Let me tell it like it is: most music competitions *suck*. The outrage they cause among the hapless people they manipulate is phenomenal. The barefaced cheek of certain individuals' behaviour leaves me gasping for adequate words. The psychological damage to gifted young competitors is immeasurable. The public is being cheated - they think that the finest young musicians in the world are being found for them - oh, if only. Yes, a lot of the stories are very funny (the funniest having, of course, been excised from print). And I would laugh harder if they didn't also make me cry.

Nobody has been able to do anything serious to remedy corruption in competitions, for fear of lawsuits. Even if the accusations are true. We have all been rendered toothless.

The various stylistic infelicities in the piece, by the way, are the result of the lawyers' red pen and do not appear in my original. Besides, I never put in the line saying that competitions are one of the best arenas for star-spotting available to whoeveritis. Indeed, I think my actual words were 'please excuse me while I slip out the back way'. As for "Further, there is a juror who adjudicates at contests all over the world and some successful candidates among his students apparently go home wondering what has become of their prize money" - no, they don't. They know exactly where it is, they just pretend, when people ask them, that they don't. My words were that they go home 'slightly cagey about' what has happened to it...

Here's the Facebook group that is mentioned in the piece. And here is a cool petition to sign.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hungarian Dances at Fiddles on Fire, Kings Place

As the line goes in Shakespeare in Love: "It'll be all right." "How?" "I don't know, it's a mystery." After a day of fully expecting that I would a) lose my voice completely, b) faint, c) both, the concert went wonderfully and a voice came along from somewhere, though I'm not sure it was actually mine. ?! An actress friend informs me that 'adrenalin kills all known germs'. She's right. How? It's a mystery.

But over to Philippe Graffin and Claire Desert: the music was what mattered, and they were *amazing*. If you haven't heard them before, I'd like to invite you over to the 'Listen' page of the Hungarian Dances website where you can hear them play Tzigane and the first of the Bartok Romanian Dances.

Left, the London team after the show - Tom, me, Philippe & Claire in the foyer at Kings Place.

Huge, huge thanks to everybody involved in this delicious treat of a project, to the Folkworks team for making it happen at all, to The Sage Gateshead and Kings Place London, to everyone who turned out and cheered us on, and to both my beloved teams of musicians!

Now I am going straight back to bed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Richard Nixon: the piano concerto

Thanks to Daniel Finkelstein in The Times for discovering this little gem on Youtube. He asks 'Is this the most ridiculous political video ever?'

Of course, other American politicians have played the joanna too. A few years back, Tom's orchestra was booked for a recording that was marked Top Secret. OMG. Nobody was allowed to know what it was, so very special was it to be... Some opportunists in the band decided to have some fun and put it about that this recording was to be none other than Condoleeza Rice in Mozart piano concertos. Blood pressure levels instantly soared, there were whispers and growls in the ranks and it was only when protest delegations to the directorate and the Musicians' Union were being planned that the perpetrators said: 'Only kidding!'

The recording was actually a nice opera singer singing nice operatic arias very beautifully, so goodness knows what all the fuss was about.

Kings Place concert is tonight, and I'm still coughing. Please excuse me while I go back to my steam bowl.

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.