Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Favourite things... Philippe plays Chausson

It's hot out there. Trying to cool my study down for a hard day's writing with some lovely limpid Chausson: the Concert in D for violin, piano and string quartet, as recorded by Philippe Graffin, Pascal Devoyon and the Chilingirian Quartet (on Hyperion). It's a favourite thing in itself - I am potty about Chausson, yet we hear him in concert only once in the proverbial odd-hued moon - but another favourite thing therein is Philippe's violin tone and his feel for colour. Listen to the way he varies the nuance of the little rising figure that's repeated three times towards the end (around 3:44). Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Favourite things: Kaufmann sings 'Die schöne Müllerin'

The other day I was out for a walk in Richmond Park and I spotted a pair of shoes abandoned next to a Bächlein. While I doubt that Schubert or the young miller protagonist in this heart-rending song-cycle would actually have worn blue suede loafers (they're more Elvis, perhaps), I've had this music on the brain ever since. Who better to listen to than Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Favourite things: Osipova and Vasiliev for 14 July

I feel so lucky to be around to watch Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev dance. This is the pas de deux from Flames of Paris (the Bolshoi's production, choreographed by Ratmansky), which the incredible pair will be dancing as guest artists just once in London - 16 August - when the Bolshoi comes to town.

Not long ago, I had the chance to meet them and ask: "How do you do that?" But you'll have to wait for the answer.

Meanwhile, happy "cattorze" Juillet from me and Solti.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Historical: Ignaz Friedman plays Chopin

I'm "under the snow" for July as I have to finish a script as a matter of urgency. To keep things ticking over on JDCMB, I'm planning to offer you some extracts of music that are simply a few of my favourite things. This performance of Chopin's Nocturne in E flat, Op.55 No.2, recorded by Ignaz Friedman in 1936, is prime among them. Eloquent, flowing, gorgeously balanced between passion and finesse, and given with a tone of molten silver.

An article and some interesting links re Friedman from writer Benjamin Ivry, here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A gift to remember

Last week I was lucky enough to be one of the adjudicators at Whitgift School's inaugural International Music Competition. This historic public school in Croydon - which has quadrangles, peacocks and wallabies on location, and amazing facilities all round, including a Fazioli grand piano - has started a contest in which exceptional young musicians have the chance to win full scholarships.

Please note that the intention is for this competition to be a regular event - and though the reach is international, the school would love to have more contestants from the UK!

A panel of the school's own dynamic musical leaders Rosanna Whitfield and Philip Winter and "external jurors" - violinists Ivo Stankov and Remus Azoitei, cellist Guy Johnston, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra development director Huw Davies and myself - listened entranced to a cavalcade of young talents from Romania, Moldova, Kosovo, Bulgaria and the UK, looking for three young string players whose lives are about to change...

The standard was quite extraordinary. Our three grand prize scholarship winners were eventually two candidates from the senior class and one from the middle. Dan-Iulian Drutac (17) from Moldova; Hristo Dunev (16) from Bulgaria; and Ion Mosneaga (15) from Moldova. Left, Guy Johnston, pianist Simon Lane and Ion Mosneaga at the reception after the prizewinners' concert. Ion, having excelled in his virtuoso repertoire, then astonished us even more with his mature and poetic Mozart G major Violin Concerto.

Right: team Kosovo, three youngsters who are working hard in testing circumstances to follow their dreams of becoming musicians. Cellist Arian Zherka (left) and violinists Arsim Gashi (the little one) and Bardh Lepaja touched our hearts very much with their natural musicianship and infectiously spirited playing.

In the meantime, Dan-Iulian joined the orchestra of Whitgift students, parents, music teachers and guest pros in the Dvorak 'New World' Symphony to close the event on a high. I've now found a Youtube video of him performing (in Moldova, about 18 months ago) the Vitali Chaconne, one of the pieces which won him the prize. Below.

I'd venture to hope that we found some young men of whom we'll be hearing a lot more in the future; and we want to encourage each and every one of the competitors to build on their experience at this competition, have faith in the irreplaceable combination of talent, hard work and big dreams and really apply themselves to fulfilling their very considerable potential. It was fabulous and a great privilege to meet and hear all of you and we wish you the very, very best for the future.

And here is Dan-Iulian Drutac (uploaded early in 2012):