Friday, February 06, 2015

On beauty...

'Stars' by VOCES8 from VOCES8 on Vimeo.

There's such a thing as beauty in music. Actually there are many different things such as beauty in music. You can find it in the darkest, most terrifying concepts from Wagner and Mahler, in the electronic eleventh dimensions of Boulez, in the ambivalent, sexy purity of Fauré - and in the music of the young Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds, an increasingly sought-after voice in the spheres of contemporary choral music. He is writing a big choral piece to feature in his fellow countryman Andris Nelsons's farewell concerts with the CBSO in Symphony Hall, Birmingham, in June, and we want to be there.

In the meantime, a gorgeous piece of his called 'Stars' features in a new album from the ace vocal ensemble Voces8, entitled Lux. They have made a rather exquisite snowy dancer video to go with it. The closing word of the piece is 'Majesty' and the film apparently aims to evoke the sense of this word through the celebration of the human form. It's above. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Bryn Plus

I had a wonderful interview with Bryn Terfel last week and it is in today's Independent, here. Bryn sings the lead in Der fliegende Holländer at Covent Garden, opening tonight.

Here are a few bonus bits of the interview.

Bryn on...Andris Nelsons (who conducts the Wagner tonight):

"The first time I met him was in Birmingham - and then I heard the Boston Symphony Orchestra had snapped him up. He’s married to Kristine Opolais,of course, which will only make him an even better conductor of singers – but he can sing! Goodness gracious, you should hear his voice. He's a stunning bass-baritone and he loves to sing from the pit- and he laughs and winks at you. From what I hear, the orchestra loves him as well. Isn’t that a great formula already? Who knows where he’ll go?"

Bryn on...his foundation to help student musicians:

"Whatever I do concertwise now, the money I get for that goes to the foundation. I need to work a little bit harder, maybe, on getting people to invest some of their money into the youth of my chosen career, so I’ve given some nmoney to young Welsh singers, I’ve given some mopney to a young accordionist who's doing really well at the moment, Ksenija Sidorova, I gave her a little foundation money – I’m sure that any student coming out of college would like some help. So that’s something for the future. In the next 10 years I’m going to home in on my foundation. I started it because I heard from students that they were coming out of university with debts and that made me think that maybe they need the money now, while they’re still in college. So the money I’ve given to students, they’re in college now, spending it. And there’s no stipulation about what they can spend it on – they can buy shoes, a car, a dress – and these are things you need as a performer. I’ll never forget Sir Geraint Evans telling me: 'Buy a new suit.' And he was right. Because that generation, thety’d come to rehearsal in a three-piece suit! I’ll never forget who I got money from. Capital Radio gave me £500 once. The Kathleen Ferrier Scholarship I won was £5000 and that was really important for extra coaching and extra language coaching."

Bryn on...the great pianists:

"I’ll never forget going to hear Martha Argerich play with the young Verbier Symphony, full of kids under 25 years old. I sat there with Peter Gelb and he said 'It’ll be brilliant tonight.' I can guess a pianist will be brilliant by the names, but to hear piano music being played I need to study a little more, I think, on the difference between brilliant and mediocre, because I think they’re all fantastic. And Peter said that at the end of Horowitz’s career he was his agent and filmed him playing in Moscow for the last time. He said they didn’t want to film him from the front of the audience, so he had the camera on Horowitz from behind - and looking through into the audience, all these Russian people were sobbing. But he said Horowitz had said to him: 'Only one pianist will take over what I’ve started, and it’s Argerich'. So I was about to listen to this woman – I listen to a lot of Horowitz anyway on Youtube - his White House soirées with presidents are recorded on video. So that was one of the most exciting evenings I’d ever had, having heard that story."

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Gardiner auctions Hogwood's legacy

The late Christopher Hogwood's collection included 26 beautiful historic keyboard instruments, all of which are to go under the auctioneer's hammer in Bath at the Gardiner Houlgate Auction Rooms on 12 March. We can't help loving the verbal idea of Gardiner auctioning off Hogwood's stuff, but are not sure whether they are indeed related to that Gardiner.

Brodmann grand piano, 1815
The collection features early instruments from harpsichords to fortepianos to dummy keyboards and an organ or two, and stretches all the way from 1650 to 1952. One of the star items is this Joseph Johann Brodmann fortepiano from Vienna of 1815 - prime Beethoven territory - thought to have belonged to Weber and once in the collection of the soprano Emmy Destinn. It is estimated at £22-28,000.

Hass clavichord, 1761
One of the priciest instruments is a clavichord by Johann Adolph Hass from Hamburg, 1761. On this instrument Hogwood recorded five albums including works by the Bach family, Handel and Mozart. Likely price is thought to be around £30-40000. There are also several clavichords made in the early 20th century by Arnold Dolmetsch.

You can explore the catalogue online here. Viewings by appointment.

Aw shuks...

A friendly email arrived yesterday from the community manager of Forte Music Notation Software telling me that JDCMB is among 14 sites nominated for their Best Classical Music Website vote. The winner will be able to give away three licenses for Forte software use to his/her readers. The company describes its product as "music notation software for reading, creating and composing sheet music - created by musicians for musicians".

I'm rather touched and appear to be in excellent company. I don't like asking people to vote for me, really, because it seems deeply immodest...but if you do happen to fancy having a look and placing your vote, you can do so here:

Monday, February 02, 2015

Amati: In which I treat a great cellist to lunch

The Amati Magazine, redesigned and under new editorship, kicks off in earnest today with my first Editor's Lunch: a series in which I treat hand-picked luminaries to lunch. Britain's greatest living cellist seemed like a good person for the first one... and I'm pleased to say that the man with the curls and the gut strings accepted my invitation to dine at Baltic. Here is the feature. Enjoy!