Friday, May 06, 2011

The thin end of the epiglottis?

Do opera cinecasts bring us the best of both worlds - live opera plus film - or just the thin ends of two wedges? Can they be more than just radio plus epiglottis? A few questions I'm addressing in today's Independent....

Meanwhile, stand by for a French opera fete as Werther opened last night at the ROH and Ed Seckerson has given it five stars; and La damnation de Faust launches at ENO, directed by Terry Gilliam, this evening...the rapid response unit is out for the latter... 

And finally, hugest thanks to everyone who trekked down to sunny Sheen yesterday for the play reading, and to Bernard and Jeremy for putting so much hard work into making it a very lovely occasion. The full house and warm welcome was greatly appreciated! 

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Russians, power, electric guitars, Messiaen and polling stations

Fascinating report in today's Guardian: in Russia a music critic is going on trial for allegedly insulting a rock guitarist re alleged political affiliations. In the report we also learn that Medvedev is a Deep Purple fan and that a Bolshoi ballerina resigned earlier this year claiming she had been "used" politically... Read the whole thing here.

In other news, it's Big Thursday. Today's the day we vote on for AV in Britain - the Daily Mail is telling people to vote NO, which is a very good reason to vote YES. Werther is opening at the Royal Opera House so we can see if Villazon can still sing (I'm going on 11th). And my Messiaen play reading is at East Sheen Library this evening, conveniently in the same building as the local polling station. A Walk Through the End of Time is in one act, about 45 mins, and afterwards we'll have interval drinks and then reconvene for a discussion, assuming anyone wants to discuss anything. Do come and join us. Here's a map:

After 'auditioning' a range of Youtube clips of the Messiaen itself, I've opted out of adding one here. Incredible number of different interpretations involving dance, film projected behind musicians (flying ducks?) sand pictures, short 'art' film (a dog salon? to the last movement??)... If I look at any more...well, you get the idea.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Meanwhile, back in Croydon

The other day I received two messages. The first was headed simply LONDON MOZART PLAYERS and said "I'd be grateful for your help in publicising the information attached". People Give Concert...? Oh. No. Hang on... The "information" was actually that this doughty chamber orchestra is fighting for its very existence.

While several early music ensembles lick their chops at the prospect of getting their paws on some ACE lolly at long last, the London Mozart Players is threatened with closure. Having lost all its ACE support, it faces the prospect of annihilation unless alternative sources of income can be found. It has launched an urgent campaign to this end.

Its MD Simon Funnell says this:
“This campaign is urgent and vital – if we don’t succeed it is highly likely that the board will have to take the decision to close the orchestra later this year so the stakes are very high indeed. The LMP is one of the finest chamber orchestras in the country and it is crucial that we protect this part of our heritage....
"Many arts organisations face challenging times in the coming years; thanks to the deep impact of the recession, Government cuts to the Arts Council, low interest rates and a gloomy outlook on the economy, the orchestra is facing a squeeze on every side: there are more organisations chasing smaller and smaller pots of money.
“Every time we lose a cultural institution like the LMP, we lose something of our humanity and we cannot allow this to happen. The sums of money the LMP need to survive are relatively small but vital if the orchestra is to survive. The government is calling on philanthropists and companies to do more to support the arts, and now the LMP is asking directly for that support.”
So why do I think the LMP deserves the funding that went instead into early music? Early music ensembles are not generally about keeping music on the pulse of today: they cater for an elite-within-an-elite in musical taste, one that prefers to create fantasies of sounds that may have existed centuries ago (some call it 'Taliban' syndrome...) rather than engaging in the sounds and issues of today. Not many of them make a habit of commissioning living composers to refresh audiences and musicians alike with new, living, breathing music. The LMP does. Supporting the creation of new music should be an absolute pre-requisite.

Or...could the LMP be suffering from a simple image problem: their home base? What are the chances that the yay or nay-sayers in public funding just don't bother going to the concrete compounds of Croydon to hear their completely excellent work? Hmm.

My second message was from a friend who is involved in running a small arts organisation that does rely on private donations. Here's what's happening to them:
"Twice we have been seriously let down by two philanthropists....We spent money on giving two invited superb presentations with artists in private homes, in total to about 60 people, all who loved it and were emotionally moved and promised the earth. Two in particular, both wealthy and one quite well known, offered £30,000 and £150,000 respectively.  In front of witnesses.  Neither of them have come up with a penny.  All sorts of excuses.... But I am flabbergasted and shocked and the more I tell people the more I hear it goes on. Jeremy Hunt et all better be warned.  I also heard via an email this morning that in the States one concert series that annually receives a fund of $100,000 this year got $5000 from the same person."
Philanthropy shmilanthropy.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Im wunderschönen Monat Mai...

Happy May. A special treat for this special long weekend, and something you won't have heard at the royal wedding...

With the fabulous Helmut Deutsch (piano). Enjoy... and many thanks to "operazaile".

n°1 "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai"
n°2 "Aus meinen Tränen sprieben"
n°3 "Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne"

n°4 "Wenn ich deine Augen seh"
n°5 "Ich will meine Seele tauchen"
n°6 "Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome"
n°7 "Ich grolle nicht, und wenn das Herz auch bricht"

n°8 "Und wüßten's die Blumen, die kleinen"
n°9 "Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen"
n°10 "Hör' ich das Liedchen klingen"

n°11 "Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen"
n°12 "Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen"

n°13 "Ich hab' im Traum geweinet"
n°14 "Allnächtlich im Traume seh' ich dich"
n°15 "Aus alten Märchen winkt es"

n°16 "Die alten, bösen Lieder"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Watch with Mother for composer of Royal Wedding work....

It's been a closely-guarded secret, that Royal Wedding music, and on the whole it's very best-of-British. Well, British, anyway. According to BBC Breakfast today, we're promised Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten (!), and Kate is walking up the aisle to the strains of Parry's utterly execrable I was Glad. The London Chamber Orchestra will be doing the honours - more of them soon, I hope... but meanwhile the breaking news is that a work by a little-known Welsh composer, Paul Mealor, 35, has been chosen for performance on the big day alongside all the pomp and circumstance.

The piece, Ubi caritas, was premiered last year at St Andrew's University, meeting place of the happy twain, and will be performed by the choirs of Westminster Abbey and Her Majesty's Chapel Royal, conducted by James O'Donnell. Paul says: “I was thrilled to hear that HRH Prince William of Wales had chosen my music for his wedding. How humbling it is for me to know that Prince William and Catherine will celebrate the beginning of their lives together with my music. The ceremony is going to be, without a doubt, the most emotionally intense and exhilarating hour of my life.’’    

After making the poor guy keep all the excitement under wraps until now, you'd think that the least they could do was make sure he's in the abbey to hear his piece. But no. He's apparently planning to be at home in Wales, watching on telly with his mum. I can't help wondering if he was even invited. Shall we hazard a guess?

About Paul: he studied composition privately from an early age with John Pickard, at the University of York with Nicola LeFanu (1994-2002) and in Copenhagen with Hans Abrahamsen (1998-99). Since 2003 he has taught at the University of Aberdeen, where he is currently Reader in Composition, and has held visiting professorships in composition at institutions in Scandinavia and the United States.

Update: the full list of music for the Royal Wedding is now online at the official site, here. John Rutter has been commissioned to write a brand-new anthem, there'll be a piece by Peter Maxwell Davies who's Master of the Queen's Music, and the happy couple will exit to Walton's 'Crown Imperial', followed by the Widor Toccata and a spot of Elgar. And much more.