Showing posts with label Bradley Creswick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bradley Creswick. Show all posts

Monday, November 02, 2015

A new castle for Lars Vogt

Guilty passion no.1 for a Londoner: loving a place up north. I have a sneaky, enduring and increasing fondness for Newcastle-upon-Tyne and its nearby Northumbrian coast. I first went there as a student and was transfixed by the silver sands, the ruined castles on the horizon, the sea-bound causeway to Holy Island, Lindisfarne; and the city itself is a treat, full of soaring Victoriana and great-arching, east-coast skies. Moreover, it reminds me a little of Budapest, with Newcastle on one side of the Tyne and Gateshead on the other. Add to that possibly the best-designed arts centre in the entire country in the form of The Sage.

The Sage (left) at sunset over the Tyne, seen from the Millennium Bridge. Photo: JD

So the chance the other day to zip up the east coast mainline to visit the Royal Northern Sinfonia and its newly incumbent music director, Lars Vogt, came as a welcome treat. Taking over from Thomas Zehetmair is no small order for this superb musician - and in choosing him the RNS seems to have been seeking an artist of similar type to Zehetmair, a fine soloist who is becoming adept on the podium as well and enjoys, sometimes, doing both at once.

Coincidentally, Vogt just reached a whole new audience when some problems with falling music in a recent concert went viral a couple of weeks ago, making his page-turner abruptly world famous...

Vogt, who's in his forties and hails from Rhineland Germany (though his current base is Berlin), first shot to prominence in a rather different way, winning second prize at the Leeds International Piano Competition back in the early 1990s; he and Simon Rattle, who was conducting the concertos, seem to have 'clicked' at once and Rattle invited him to make recordings soon afterwards. He is a peerless chamber music pianist, his closest collaborator being no less a violinist than Christian Tetzlaff; and his latest solo recording, of the Bach Goldberg Variations, has been a runaway success, refulgent with tenderness. His sheer affection for the music and its many facets shines out - and is shown to marvellous effect in the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

Therefore, on Friday I found myself listening to the best Mozart D minor Piano Concerto performance I've encountered in a long while. It is far from a favourite work of mine, especially as it is programmed so often that many [possibly still better] Mozart piano concertos are left in its shadow
(K453? K482? K491? Come on, people, there are 27 of these beauts...). Vogt first of all treated it as chamber music; secondly, he kept the second movement flowing and poised - it can be a disaster if it's allowed to sag, since it is so repetitive - and when Mozart flings D minor out of the window in the finale and reverts to humorous high-jinks, rather than shying away from the teasing triad figure in the coda and underplaying it, Vogt milked it deliciously. Humour and humanity are part and parcel of vintage Mozart, and this was a real joy.

Lars Vogt. Photo: Neda Navaee
Vogt is still refining his technique as conductor - he's certainly not conventional in podium aspect - but the crucial question is whether or not he is able to infuse the performance with the authentic spirit of the composer as well as he can on the piano. Early in his career, he developed a strong reputation for his playing of Haydn piano sonatas, so would this be carried through into the symphonies? Haydn's Symphony No.103, the 'Drumroll', left no doubt that it is.

Citing among his influences Gardiner and Norrington, yet leaving aside three-line whips on vibrato, Vogt focuses on long lines and vocal, eloquently articulated phrasing; a fine feel for tempo, balance and humour add much heart and soul to the effect and his terrific double-act with leader Bradley Creswick in the violin solo variation in the second movement drew a laugh from the audience - something we should indeed be allowed in Haydn. The two big works were ushered in respectively by Beethoven's Overture 'The Creatures of Prometheus' and Webern's Langsamer Satz - a tender glance forward to a later Vienna.

The RNS has introduced a new idea this season: after sitting as usual for the first half of the concert, most of the orchestra (with the obvious exceptions of cellos and basses) dispensed with their chairs for the second half. This, I sense, has its pros and cons; on the one hand there's more freedom of movement for each player, which some feel is reflected in the sound; but on the other, with considerable differences in height between desk partners, it can't be easy to get the music stands at the right level for everyone, and it probably doesn't do people's backs much good. It will be interesting to see whether they stick with it and whether the freeing-up effect is great enough to justify the necessary compromises. My personal impression was that they sounded so good in any case that the lily was perhaps being gilded. But a "suck it and see" attitude  to new ideas is more than slightly healthy.

You can read my full interview with Lars when it comes out in the new year - more of that anon.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Next few days...

Tomorrow (24th) I am at the Richmondshire Subscription Concerts in North Yorkshire for a welcome reunion with Bradley Creswick (violin) and Margaret Fingerhut (piano) in Hungarian Dances, the Concert of the Novel. Do come along for Gypsy-style virtuoso thrills, gorgeous repertoire and a roller-coaster narrative from the book. Here's the link:

On Monday evening (26th) I'm doing a pre-concert talk at the Wigmore Hall at 6.15pm about MOZART. The Hagen Quartet are continuing their Mozart Odysseyand Monday's concert features the second three of his "Haydn" Quartets. Talking about Mozart quartets at the Wigmore is a kind of a scary thing to do, so please join us in the Bechstein Room and smile - it will help.

On Wednesday evening (28th) I'm in Birmingham to introduce Korngold's Symphony in F sharp at Symphony Hall. The CBSO will be playing it in the second half of the concert, conducted by that Korngold aficionado par excellence, Michael Seal.

Busy. Backson.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hungarian Dances goes to Buxton

Blazing sunshine, teeming crowds in the Pavilion Gardens, a brass band whiling away the afternoon, cupcakes galore and a crowd of delighted festival-goers - Buxton in its festive spirit, a rare and wonderful Buxton, and a very welcoming one. Above, the Hungarian Dances Concert team outside the Pavilion: pianist Margaret Fingerhut, JD and Bradley Creswick, the violin's answer to Bradley Wiggins. Enormous thanks to Stephen Barlow, Glyn Foley, Jeff and all the festival team, the AA for rescuing Bradley from a glitch on the A1, and whoever it was who sorted out the weather - it was truly a day to remember.

If you were there and you need some info or you want a CD or a book (I regret to say I underestimated demand and didn't bring enough), here are the vitalstatistics:

You can order Hungarian Dances on in paperback, hardback, Kindle e-book or large print. You can also get it in Dutch or Hungarian, and I'm promised that the Romanian edition (!) should be out soon.

A CD to accompany the book was specially recorded a few years ago by the brilliant French violin and piano team Philippe Graffin and Claire Desert. It's available on Onyx Classics, on disc or download. Get it here. The music for the book is all credit to Philippe, who not only dreamed up the idea, but found the perfect piece to represent the fictional concerto in the novel (it's the Dohnanyi that opens the programme).

There's much more info on all of this, plus some nice reviews and a few yummy Hungarian recipes at our designated HUNGARIAN DANCES website, here.

And last, but not least, if you want to book us for a Hungarian Dances concert, drop us a line. Yesterday's programme is 75 mins of music and reading with no interval, and there's also a full evening version in two halves. Apart from anything else, it is great fun. Featured works include Dohnanyi's Andante rubato alla zingaresca, Ravel's Tzigane, Vecsey's Valse Triste, Bartok's Romanian Dances, Hubay's Hejre Kati and Monti's Csardas, among others.

Friday, July 20, 2012

HUNGARIAN DANCES, Buxton Festival on Sunday

If you're anywhere near the Peak District this weekend, do come along to our Hungarian Dances Concert of the Novel at the Buxton Festival.

I read extracts of my novel, and the fabulous duo of violinist Bradley Creswick (leader of the Northern Sinfonia) and pianist Margaret Fingerhut perform all the appropriate pieces by the likes of Dohnanyi, Bartok, Hubay, Ravel & co, not forgetting Monti's Czardas and Dinicu's The Lark. We're at the Pavilion Arts Centre, kick-off is at 1.30pm and the concert is 75 mins straight through. We love this programme and hope that you will too!

Book online here.