Saturday, June 29, 2013

Calling musical writers under 30!

Are you a musical writer and/or blogger under the age of 30? A new prize is being launched in memory of the late Robert Maycock, formerly editor of Classical Music Magazine and classical music editor of the Independent. Seeking a new voice in music criticism, the prize, which will become a regular biennial event, will offer its winner £1000.

Classical Music Magazine says:
The biennial prize has been set up in memory of the former CM editor Robert Maycock, known for his independent-minded, perceptive responses to music, his encyclopedic knowledge and sheer enthusiasm.
‘Reading him was … like having a dialogue with someone endlessly curious about music, delighted by his latest discoveries and ever eager to share them with others.’ (Keith Potter)
Submit a review of a live event of not more than 300 words, evoking the event, conveying your interest in the music performed and informing a wider audience of its significance. You may also contrast two events within the same word-length.
Selection will be made by: Helen Wallace (BBC Music Magazine), Fiona Maddocks (The Observer), Keith Clarke (Classical Music), and Richard Morrison (The Times).
Young writers wishing to review a Prom concert may be able to get free tickets to an event.  Please email us with your request.
Prize administered by the Paintal Maycock Family, and supported by Classical Music magazine, BBC Music Magazine, and the BBC Proms.
To reflect Robert’s own work, the event should fall under the category of classical, classical contemporary, opera, music theatre, world or folk music.
Deadline: 30 November 2013
Prize winner/s selected by: 28 February 2014
Entries, with details of your age and contact details via email to:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Historical: Horowitz plays the Chopin Barcarolle

Recorded live at Carnegie Hall on 26 November 1967, this is the kind of performance that proves that it ain't what you've got, it's what you do with it. Vladimir Horowitz had an extraordinary technique, but infinitely more vital than that was the brainpower, the imagination, behind it. That is the seat of true artistry, and to concentrate on the technical side of Horowitz is simply to miss the point: the vital spark was his capacity to reimagine the works he performed and take them to places - yet musically sincere ones, faithful to the composer - of which others can barely dream. As Martha Argerich said when I had my (one and only) interview with her: before you can make that sound, you must be able to imagine it. To that end, I've chosen today his live performance in 1967 of that masterpiece of abstract poetry, the Chopin Barcarolle.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Meet Tamsin Waley-Cohen

The super young British violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen has a delectable new disc out with Champs Hill Records: An American in Paris cleverly puts the sonatas by Poulenc and Ravel side by side with music by Charles Ives and George Gershwin (aided and abetted by Jascha Heifetz). Tamsin's joined at the piano by the composer Huw Watkins. In a lovely launch bash yesterday, Tamsin and Huw rocked that Ravel with graceful phrasing, gorgeous tone and genuine lyricism. As for Gershwin: they got rhythm. Sneak previews and album download available from Champs Hill Records, here.

Here is Tamsin herself, with a spot of Mozart and a few words about music, life, the universe and her Strad, which belonged to the late Lorand Fenyves. She's accompanied in the concerto by the Orchestra of the Swan (and Hungarian Dances aficionados may spot our own David Le Page in the leader's chair - often in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen).

Monday, June 24, 2013


The winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition is Jamie Barton, an American mezzo-soprano whose artistry, as far as I'm concerned, blew the others clean out of the water.

She sang four different characters in four languages - Cilea, Sibelius, Berlioz and, dear friends, the Witch from Hansel und Gretel - mesmerising from note number one and sparking laughter, tears and everything between. She draws you in to the exclusion of all else; she can lift you sky-high with that tone and its massive range; her diction and characterisation can help to twist your heart even in a language you don't know. No wonder she scooped both the overall prize and the Song Prize, which hadn't happened since 2001.

The Audience Prize went to English tenor Ben Johnson, who is of course a fine artist - I enjoyed his performance as a bookish, introverted Alfredo at ENO a few months ago - but might a strange image somehow go through one's mind of Barton bundling him into her magic oven at breakfast time? Argentinian mezzo Daniela Mack drew much acclaim and some of us were especially happy that she chose to sing some Pauline Viardot songs in the Song Prize - this was a brilliant competition in making us appreciate the richness and variety of the mezzo-soprano repertoire. In the week before the final, I was very taken with the Hungarian soprano Maria Celeng, whose lyricism and heart-shredding conviction reminded me a little of the great Angela...

Well, we'll be hearing much more of them all. This was one of those heart-warming moments when the future of great singing looks deliciously secure. Explore all these wonderful young artists on the website, here.

And how fantastic it was, when the Song Prize final arrived, to have a whole evening of Lieder on the TV. This contest is the only time this ever happens, I fear... Special plaudits to the pianists, because singer after singer plumped for Rachmaninov.

Watch the final on the BBC iPlayer here for a week.

Follow Jamie on Twitter at @jbartonmezzo, look out for her singing Fricka at Houston Grand Opera next year... and sometime, when our all-Mahlered-out orchestras have recovered from 2010-11 and want to do some again, perhaps someone could please grab her for Das Lied von der Erde?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Guildhall comes top in UK music studies ranking

Thinking of studying music at university or music college here in Blighty? The Guardian has compiled rankings of all UK universities in all subject disciplines and the music section makes interesting reading. They've taken into account ratio of staff to student numbers, satisfaction with teaching, satisfaction with feedback, job prospects and further study after graduation, spend of £ by instution per student, effectiveness of teaching and more. The statistics are topped by a special "ranking according to Guardian formula".

Out of 77 institutions offering music courses, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama comes out top, scoring 100 on the Guardian ranking - though as no figures are given in this particular case for satisfaction with course, teaching or feedback, it's not entirely clear why. 92% of Guildhall students went on to jobs or further study after 6 months, compared to 95% from the Royal Academy. At Manchester and Durham, 96% of students were satisfied with their courses. The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland ranked 13th, Royal Welsh College 17th and the Royal Northern 25, despite a 90% course satisfaction score. If they are counting Birmingham Conservatoire as part of Birmingham City University, that is no.27. Here's the overall top ten:

1. Guildhall School of Music and Drama
2. Bristol University
3. Royal College of Music
4. Royal Academy of Music
5. Oxford University
6. Birmingham University
7. King's College London
8. Manchester University
9. Durham University
10. Cambridge University