Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Off to Munich

Tomorrow I'm heading for the new classical music trade fair, Classical:NEXT, in Munich. On Thursday morning at 11am I'll be speaking on a panel session about the present and future of music journalism, along with Oliver Condy, editor of BBC Music Magazine, and Carten Dürer, editor of the German magazine Piano News. I think we can promise a lively and thought-provoking discussion! Do come along, join in and say hello if you're there.

The Classical:NEXT programme is jam-packed with intriguing talks, showcases, performances and screenings, to say nothing of the odd party or two. A number of concerts are open to the public - details of these can be found here. All being well with computers et al, I hope to blog some updates on the goings-on while I'm there.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The power of laughter

One thing I want to do when I have a spare mo is to go and see Sacha Baron Cohen's film The Dictator. As Channel 4's Lindsey Hilsum says in her blog post here, there's nothing that cuts down to size as efficiently as humour. "The plot was bonkers and the jokes variable, but after 18 months immersed in the horrors perpetrated by Gaddafi, it was good to see him diminished by humour," she says.

Maybe that's why comedy is, notoriously, the hardest genre of all at which to succeed - and probably why it doesn't get into music very often, as we noted not long ago when splitting our sides at Rainer Hersch's Victor Borge show in the West End.

Fauré and his one-time flatmate André Messager managed it, though. Perhaps it was with a coating of laughter that they were able to protect themselves against the great "red spectre" of Wagner that constantly haunted and intimidated their friend Chausson and many other musicians whose personalities were positively overwhelmed by that particular juggernaut. Fauré took what he needed, or wanted, from Wagner, and left the rest. You can hear plenty of Wagnerian influence in his opera Pénélope, where perhaps it was expedient for him to employ a leitmotif system, or in the twizzling, sleight-of-hand enharmonic pivoting of the harmonies in such works as the Nocturnes nos. 6 and 7. But Fauré was able to remain very much his own man. So was Messager - who, incidentally, ended up in London running the Royal Opera House.

You want perspective? Laugh. Here's Souvenirs de Bayreuth for piano duet by Fauré and Messager, played by Pierre-Alain Volondat and Patrick de Hooge.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

On your marks, get set...

...GO! Yet the identity of the extreme cultural bonanza that is the London 2012 Festival is anything but clear. I've tried to unravel it all in today's Independent, but when I tried to draw a Venn Diagram it ended up looking like a psychedelic Mickey Mouse. We probably won't see the likes of this festival again, though. Its existence must not be used as an excuse to relegate the arts, thereafter, to the austerity-bound sidelines. They should always be this central to a civilised society.

Read the whole thing here: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/the-london-2012-festival-the-greatest-show-of-a-great-year-7785745.html

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Music World Fair

Here's that bit of news I promised...

My play A Walk Through the End of Time is to be performed in this year's International Wimbledon Music Festival, starring Penelope Wilton and Henry Goodman. [with all the normal 'subject to availability' clauses.] It will be at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond-on-Thames, Sunday 18 November, at 2.30pm. The following night, 19 November, at St John's, Spencer Hill, Wimbledon, the Nash Ensemble will perform the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time. Alongside the play in the afternoon, there will be a talk by Anita Lasker Wallfisch about her experiences in the Auschwitz Women's Orchestra.

This year's IWMF is 'A Music World Fair' - a tremendously international job, lighting up South West London with performances by the Kopelman String Quartet, Alina Ibragimova, Nicholas Daniel and Sam West, Christine Brewer, Zuill Bailey, Cristina Ortiz, Mark Padmore and many more. Three special highlights are Patricia Routledge and Piers Lane in Admission: One Shilling, a music-and-words theatrical recall of the National Gallery wartime concerts of Dame Myra Hess; a newly co-commissioned work by Benjamin Wallfisch entitled Chopin's Waterloo; and pianist Mikhail Rudy in a new interpretation of Petrushka with the Little Angel Marionette Company and the piano as the ultimate puppet.

The site goes live later today and you can find all the details here.