Friday, December 31, 2010

...and a special Strauss Friday Historical

...apropos of Johann Strauss for new year, it's Friday and time for historical treats. Here's Miliza Korjus, accompanied by the matchless solo violin playing (on the sound track) of Toscha Seidel, singing Tales of the Vienna Woods in the 1930 film The Great Waltz. After this, all we need is a bit of cut-price bubbly and we're ready to meet 2011 and whatever it may do. "Something so sweet and so dangerous..."

BRING IT ON!

On your marks, get set...

...And they're off! It's a race to the finish between Dudamel with the Berlin Phil on German TV's ARD and Thielemann with the Dresden Staatskapelle on ZDF for the big New Year's Eve musical celebration! Who will win the race for the hearts and minds of the German TV viewers tonight?... Norman Lebrecht has more on this extraordinary contest here.

Can you imagine such a thing taking place on these mild, grey shores? Just picture the competition: say, Jurowski and the LPO on ITV versus Petrenko and the RLPO on Channel 4, and maybe even one of the BBC's own orchestras kicking in with a fresh Straussy confection under Belohlavek on BBC2, the broadcasters falling over themselves to pay most to snaffle the best Blue Danube in the land. (Oh look -- there goes another of those flying pigs -- they're quite common at this time of year...)

We'll have the Vienna Philharmonic concert live from the Musikverein on New Year's Day, as everyone else does -- it's broadcast all over the world and it's one of the few seasonal traditions I really love. In Vienna, if you can't get into the Musikverein, you can join the happy throng on the Rathausplatz for the big screen showing. Nowhere else in the world does new year like Vienna. The rest of us can access the concert on radio and TV almost everywhere.

My late father, who was positively addicted to the old Vienna New Year performances under Willi Boskovsky (the VP's concertmaster for many years), always used to comment that the Viennese players didn't need a conductor at all - they could probably play this repertoire perfectly in their sleep. But since Boskovsky's demise in 1991, the maestroship has been taken by a wide range of different conductors, and the results have been demonstrably different. I loved last year's, with Georges Pretre, who brought the music a deliciously light touch and a gorgeous old-world sensibility.

This year the concert is to be conducted by Franz Welser-Most, whom I last saw in Lucerne a few months back with the Cleveland Orchestra. In certain repertoire he's Frankly Better Than Some these days, having had ample time to grow since his unfortunate stint in London some 20 years back. He got it in the neck then partly, I reckon, for being too young (it's odd to think that nowadays, the younger a conductor is when awarded a top job, the better). FWM admittedly wasn't entirely the best in the business back then -- I don't remember his concerts being any too inspiring -- but still he had a rougher run from the press than he deserved and his continuing artistic trajectory has served to prove this. Different artists develop at different rates: while Petrenko and Nelsons in their twenties can compete at the very highest level, this isn't always the case with other maestri, who need time to mature. Think of them as different types of fine wine... I have it on good authority that Johann Strauss is one of the composers at which FWM is finest, along with Bruckner, so it'll be intriguing to see him in action.

One little point he needs to address, depending on the nature of the Musikverein podium: over in Lucerne, he had a peculiar way of leaning back against the wooden bar that encircled his post at roughly hip height. His tailcoat bunched up against it and developed a little buttocks-shaped overhang, which wasn't necessarily what one wanted to look at in the middle of Ein Heldenleben. Dear Franz, if Vienna's podium is a similar design, please watch out for this -- you don't want that image to be the abiding one left by the vast international broadcast you will be undertaking tomorrow.

Have fun, folks! Have as much fun as you can. Then fasten your seatbelts. This new decade may bring us a bumpy ride and we're going to need all the quick thinking, good humour and originality we can muster.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Urgently needed, some very big celebrities

Anyone got Sir Paul McCartney's phone number? Please tell him his country needs him.

Music education in the UK's state schools is likely to be decimated by a fourfold attack involving local council cutbacks on peripatetic music teachers, the withdrawal of £83.5m from central government earmarked for providing music teaching, the exclusion of music from the subjects eligible for the planned new Baccalaureate and the withdrawal of all government funding for arts degrees.

These cuts are ideologically revolting (giving out the message that music is only for the rich) and furthermore represent a complete reversal of policy - it's not so long since education secretary Michael Gove declared that every child should have the chance to learn a musical instrument. (Not that this reversal should be a surprise given track record of coalition to date). Oh, and whatever happened to the enquiry into the provision of music education that was being headed by Classic FM supremo Darren Henley? Did they even wait for him to present his findings?

But these changes are not yet statutory and in our celebrity-obsessed culture, celebrity musicians could make an impact. Earlier this week, all it took to force a u-turn on the plan to stop Booktrust funding from being withdrawn was hard-hitting, dignified and well-worded intervention from celebrity authors including Philip Pullman and Carl Ann Duffy. And the forces for this were marshalled very fast and very effectively. So there's hope, if the right voices could please step forward swiftly and strongly.

We need Sir Paul. We also need, for starters, Nigel Kennedy, Nicola Benedetti, Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Mark Elder, Valery Gergiev (come on, mate, you're the LSO's principal conductor and you can move mountains everywhere else), Paul Lewis, Tasmin Little, Alfred Brendel, James MacMillan, John Tavener, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber & brother Julian, James Rhodes and definitely Katherine Jenkins. And more are welcome, as many as possible, as big as possible. I hope, of course, that the ISM is already trying to marshal such forces, but they need to do so with the greatest of alacrity.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oversexed, overplayed and over here...

Yes, it's nearly 2011: the Liszt Bicentenary Year. For my Jan/Feb column in Standpoint I've written about how this astonishing musician is still hideously misrepresented. Here's the link.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

JDCMB GINGER STRIPE AWARDS 2010

PLEASE DO NOT ADJUST YOUR COMPUTER... It’s the Winter Solstice. It’s the end of 2010. And here at JDCMB, it’s PARTY TIME!

The snowclouds are gathering around the Cyberposhplace. But this being Virtualsville, CyberParkLane is gritted to perfection and we can both enjoy the glittering snow and get from A to B without breaking a leg en route. So no stinting on the glamour, please! I hope you have brought your fake fur and a Trilby. Please step in through the ballroom entrance, leave your snowboots and Yaktrax in the cloackroom and help yourself to some cyberhot-chocolate specially imported from the Café Europejska, Krakow. We’ll be serving borscht, pierogi and poppyseed cake later …

Then please give a special round of applause to our first guests of honour: the first celebrity couple of music, reunited at last in a bicentenary celebration: Robert and Clara Schumann! Clara looks exquisite in pearly silk and Robert is wearing a cravat to match. (We’re hoping Brahms and Joachim may turn up too, but they were last heard of sloping off to hear a Gypsy band in a café, so they may be late.) Happy birthday, Robert, and don’t forget to say hello to... ah, but that’s for later.

First, let’s have a round of applause for every musician who has touched the hearts of his or her audience during the past 12 months.

Thank you...quiet, please. Now, would the following winners please approach the podium where Solti, ensconced upon his traditional silken cushion, will allow you to stroke the ginger stripes and will give you your very own prize purr.

Icon of the year:
Henryk Gorecki, who has passed away aged 76. I first heard his Third Symphony - which really has become “iconic” - through my neighbour’s wall in my first flat: unearthly, haunting, keening sounds that got straight under my skin. I had no idea what it was, but it made a nice change from the noises that used to come in from the flat on the other side… Later I heard the symphony properly. Its beauty and purity has been pathetically maligned since its composer’s recent death, with most people saying everything else he wrote was better. Tough: many of us love the thing. A toast, please, ladies and gentleman, in the Café Europejska chocolate (almost local to the composer but not quite...): here’s to great music that is pure of heart and resonates from soul to soul.

Pianist of the year:
a tie-break between Simon Trpceski and Gabriela Montero has proved…oh. They’re still at it, zipping away at their respective pianos. Simon is accelerating through some dazzling Prokofiev; Gabriela is pulling stardust out of thin air, translating it into spur-of-moment marvels. Each has much to say and everything to give. Both have the energy of three normal people rolled into one. And there’s warmth and communication and charisma -- and insights in every bar. Bravi both.

Violinist of the year:
this choice should be more difficult than it is, but in the event it wasn’t. Please welcome Tasmin Little, for her absolutely gorgeous and deeply moving recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Andrew Davis (Chandos). Nice one, Tazza!

Singer of the year 
Grüße dich, liebe Herr Jonas Kaufmann. A warm welcome to the Ginger Stripe Awards. Your performance of Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin at the Wigmore Hall made me tweet in German. You are the real deal, and one in many million. Please take very, very good care of yourself, your larynx, your lungs and your heart and soul. I can’t wait to hear what you sing next.

Youthful artist of the year
Let’s hear it for the superduper Nicola Benedetti. At 23 she is more active, expressive, dynamic and devoted to music for the greater good than many musicians twice her age. She may well be the figurehead that the cause of music education is going to need in the nasty years ahead. And there’s no arguing with playing like that, either.

Conductor of the year:
It is a great pleasure to offer this award to Semyon Bychkov, who is by all accounts playing the socks off Tannhäuser at the Royal Opera House at present. I’ve long admired his warmth, intelligence and verve; he scooped Record of the Year at BBC Music Magazine Awards back in the spring and his performances leave long-lasting furrows in the mind for their intensity, focus and sheer beauty.

Interviewee of the year: Please welcome Vladimir Jurowski, even though he is, I guess, my maestro-in-law. I’ve had the good fortune to catch him for a number of different projects this year and from Goethe’s Faust to Mahler’s Jewish side, from darkest Russia to family matters (since I also interviewed his little brother, Dmitri), few others would have come up with so many consistently interesting, well-informed, enlightening and eminently chew-overable responses.

Creative Musical Experience of the year:
For the second year running, this award goes to pianist Mikhail Rudy, who’s been having some fun with Kandinsky. To unearth Kandinsky’s drawings and instructions for the Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, find the perfect team to animate them and then perform the lot with perfect co-ordination takes quite a bit of oomph, and I hope the impressive results will be snapped up by festivals around the world very quickly.

CD of the year:
For me, Mitsuko Uchida’s CD of Schumann’s Davidsbundlertänze really has no peers as a listening experience for 2010. I thought I’d died and gone to piano heaven. With piano as paintbox and a brain resembling a repository of understanding of culture in the best sense, she creates a multilayered performance in myriad shades that also serves as an x-ray, probing deep into the composer’s subtleties, allusions and troubled depths. Robert, please come and say hello to Mitsuko…ahhh. I can’t hear exactly what he’s saying to her, but there’s a big hug, a bow and a kiss of the hand.

Lifetime Achievement Award: My dear Frédéric, I can’t tell you what a delight it is to see you here in person, your dark-gold hair carefully brushed, your dove-grey suit and white kid gloves as fine as they were when you had them tailored in, uh, 1840 or so. And you are no longer coughing. Your native Poland pushed out the boat for your bicentenary so heavily that I’m surprised they haven’t yet sent out any vodka-filled chocolate with your picture on the front, but now that it is all drawing to a close there’s a sense of nostalgia. That was the Chopin Year that was.

Now Liszt Year lies ahead, so light the touchpaper and stand well back…

Take a bow, everybody...Thank you. Thank you for your moving, uplifting, inspiring, life-enhancing music-making. You’re wonderful. We love you.

And a few personal highlights:

Proudest moment:
Several of these. Prime among them was turning into a Proms TV commentator for a thrilling if terrifying eight minutes -- another treat of that event was the understanding that all those beautiful people on TV look as good as they do because TV stations employ seriously accomplished make-up artists. Then there was the lovely rain-sluiced trawl around Paris for the Fauré Composer of the Week series courtesy of BBC Radio 3. I was also going to say something about mastering the grand jeté en tournant, but I’ve currently got a suspected stress fracture in my foot.

Weirdest moment:
Stuck at the station in Viareggio, shunting back and forth across the tracks with my suitcase, escorted by a variety of handsome Italians in station uniform, yet missing several trains in the process. I was trying to get from Torre del Lago to Verbier by train in the middle of some exceedingly dramatic storms (the saga is here). The weird thing was that I actually made it. Maybe this wasn’t weird. Maybe it was just…Italy.

Quote of the year
Dame Gwyneth Jones: “NEIN!”

Biggest sigh of relief:
Maybe we should have heeded the notice that said DANGER, MOUNTAIN BIKE TRACK, but back in August I reached the road above Verbier safe and sound in company with Boss and Mrs Boss, only to see a bunch of callow youths on said bikes whooshing at about 200mph down the bumpy mountain path on which we’d just been picking our way forward. Blimey, guv - we were lucky.Very big sigh of relief, and comforting onion soup all round.

Guest stars of the year:
The directors and devoted teachers of Al Kamandjati, Ramallah, and the network of Edward Said National Conservatories of Music that against ferocious odds keep music education alive and free in the Palestinian Territories. Now, they know the true meaning of “music for peace”. Read all about them in my article for Classical Music Magazine, here

Feline of the year:
Simon’s Cat, who has made the big time bigtime and got onto CBBC...owwwch! Solti, kitty, you take yourself too seriously. That’s why we can’t make a cartoon about you. You’re always busy being the maestro (mice-tro?)… Anyway, you’re presenting the prizes, aren’t you? Which means you can’t actually…OK…yes, it’s a deal: you shall have fish when we’re home.

Wonderful Webmaster of the Year:
The award always goes to Horst Kolo, who designs and maintains www.jessicaduchen.co.uk with a patience that few others could muster, now or ever.

Thank you, everyone. Now please relax, keep warm and enjoy the music...


Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas from my Orchestra-In-Law

The London Philharmonic Orchestra would like to wish you...this! As you'll see, they are a multinational lot, and this effort does not include possible further contributions in Russian, Latvian and Hungarian. Tomcat is the one speaking Danish. Actually he's from Derbyshire.

Please stand by for the annual JDCMB Ginger Stripe Awards, which take place tomorrow...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rubinstein plays Chopin

This will probably be the last Friday Historical of Chopin Year, so it's a very special one: Arthur Rubinstein plays Chopin's Etude Op.25 No.1 in A flat major in recital in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire. This was in 1960-something. The picture looks older, the sound seems newer and the playing is a sliver of timeless wonder. I'm not sure that Chopin could be any more perfect.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A sop to our consciences...

Here's my piece from today's Independent on the iniquities of musical organisations that promote themselves with the concept of peace. "If we accept "music for peace" as the panacea of all evils, we are selling short not only everything that music can achieve, which is prodigious, but also the nature of peace itself."

(Update, 23 Dec: the "Quartet for Peace" points out that the four instruments it comprises were actually crafted by the Cape Town-based luthier Brian Lisus. Apologies for misidentification.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Spot of Brahms in the Balkans

Just back from tour with the LPO to Istanbul, Skopje and Sofia. Read all about it...and I hope to upload more pics later on. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3633

Monday, December 06, 2010

Giving .1

Here are my top 5 Xmas pressies. Some are predictable, but others less so. No.1 is especially valuable, but you need to do it *this week*. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3631

Friday, December 03, 2010

Triple Treating

A new show, Rain Dance, from W11 Opera, Cinderella from Matthew Bourne at his best, and a new Nutcracker coming up soon from English National Ballet: who says there's nothing out there but the Messiah? http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3630

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Great Gate of Kiev, by Kandinsky

This is what I went to see in Paris the other day: astonishing evening of live music and living Kandinsky courtesy of Micha Rudy and the Cite de la Musique... http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3629

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Scandals, Sense and Statistics

My top four stories for the weekend: 1) hotting up over oboes in Moscow, 2) Pogorelich is back, sort of, 3) a new prize for professional orchestral musicians, and 4) Norman Lebrecht's latest assault on the ACE - I have to put him straight on the subsidy figures for the four London orchestras... http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3623

Friday, November 26, 2010

A little humility goes a long way

Several people wrote to me asking for a report on my chat with Helene Grimaud at the Institut Francais last weekend, so here it is. What lingers for me is the remarkable humility and down-to-earth good sense of this extraordinarily popular musician... http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3622

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Violin Viking

My interview with that great Dane Nikolaj Znaider is in the JC and you can read it here Lots about his philosophy of music and life, what it's like to play Kreisler's violin and why he is turning into a conductor... Enjoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

D'Aranyi plays Vitali

A very special Friday Historical: Jelly d'Aranyi plays the Vitali Chaconne, recording from 1928. Really amazing. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3566

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Five stars for Faure

My review of Steven Isserlis & co at the Wigmore Hall, plus a bit of good clean fun with silly stereotypes. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3564

Monday, November 15, 2010

Grimaud in conversation

Next Sunday afternoon I'm doing an open interview with Hélène Grimaud at the Institut Francais, South Kensington. Do come and join us! Kick-off is at 5pm (and we're talking in English). Here's a bit more about it, plus a nice pic of pianist and fuzzy friend: http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3563

Friday, November 12, 2010

Elgar for Remembrance

The centenary performance of the Elgar Violin Concerto the other night. Herein is enshrined the soul of...Sir Colin Davis. 


Elgar for Remembrance
"Herein is enshrined the soul of ....."
Those five dots, placed by Elgar at the head of his Violin Concerto, have been causing everyone much fuss, bother and excitement ever since — as the composer no doubt intended. But the centenary of the concerto fell on Wednesday 10th, and the LSO — which Elgar used to conduct himself — celebrated in style with a hotly awaited performance by Nikolaj Znaider, Sir Colin Davis taking the helm. Elgar could have doubled the five dots, for in this performance was enshrined the soul of...C-O-L-I-N D-A-V-I-S.
Sir Colin has had some health problems this year, I understand, as well as suffering the death of his wife. By the end of the Elgar (in the second half) he looked completely shattered. Yet what stood out most of all in the performance, eclipsing even Znaider's playing, was Sir Colin's empathy with the music: for instance the phrasing of the slow movement's second theme, lingering on the topmost notes as if time was holding its breath, involved a rare and precious expertise that comes only with time, experience and the deepest understanding.
Znaider Znaider, when he wasn't playing, seemed transfixed, watching Sir Colin's every move. This brilliant Danish-born violinist — with the looks of a Viking, the fingers of a Heifetz, the brain of a budding Barenboim and a violin (a Guarneri del Gesu) that used to belong to Kreisler — is turning himself into a conductor. We hope he won't stop playing the violin — he insists that he won't — but I hear he has been appointed principal guest conductor at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg, which makes him Gergiev's second-in-command. His chief mentors are Barenboim and Sir Colin, and the warm, deeply connected partnership between soloist and maestro was another rare and precious experience, the antithesis of the fast-food collaborations that occupy 90 per cent of concertos. (I have an interview with Znaider forthcoming — will post it as soon as it's out.)
Kreisler's violin seemed less happy, though, making the occasional grumble and buzz deep down and losing its tuning from time to time — Znaider had to do some hasty knob-twiddling and testing mid-movement. This was the violin that gave the Elgar concerto's premiere 100 years ago exactly; this may be the very sound that was in Elgar's ears as he put the finishing touches to the piece. But of course a violin's sound is only partly down to the instrument; much more of it is about the player. As Pinchas Zukerman once told me, a personal sound is something that a violinist is born with; you can develop it, but the essence of it doesn't change. Znaider has his own violin voice and it is not much like Kreisler's: in place of beloved Fritz's honeyed gentleness and whimsy, Znaider plays Elgar as if he's reciting Shakespeare. He tells the story with tremendous seriousness, drama and finely wrought articulation, yet seems to stand back, looking at the forensics of text and structure and, to my ears anyway, playing from within the score but not always within its soul. (I was surprised, too, to see that he was using the music — he's been playing this concerto all over the world all this year and apparently he frequently conducts from memory. Not that it matters, of course.)
Sir Colin also treated us to a wonderful warm-up act in the Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony, which was such fun that we almost expected them to pipe in the haggis at the end. And to start, Nicholas Collon conducted the world premiere of a new work by the youthful Emily Howard, a UBS Soundscapes Pioneers Commission entitled Solar — a musical portrait of the sun, apparently — which involved compelling sonorities and high-density harmonies, well constructed and strongly imagined.
But what lingered was the sense of impending yet understated tragedy in the Elgar: in the shuddering of the cadenza's accompaniment the icy winds of the 20th century arrived to blow away the composer's world, a premonition, perhaps, of the untold horrors ahead. The eve of 11 November is an appropriate moment for it.
A hundred years on, where are we? Was this a premonition too, a chill wind from a graveyard of dreams? I was too churned up at the end to do anything but head straight home, desperately trying to find a quiet corner of the train in which to keep absorbing Elgar's elegies in search of lost time.
The Barbican was packed out. Apparently even Jeremy Hunt was there — he tweeted about it yesterday... I hope he was listening properly and took note of the fact that our world-class orchestras are at the top of their game, but always need to be sustained by well-trained musicians and educated, enthusiastic audiences. With their odious plans on university tuition fees, the inevitable local authority cuts to arts budgets — Somerset has removed its own completely — and the likelihood that more than a hundred libraries will close in London alone, I have the impression that the coalition is not so much pruning back the branches as doing its darndest to tear our cultural life out by the roots. It is a situation far more insidious and dangerous than the spurious window-dressing of "15% cuts to frontline arts", or whatever they call it in the  knowledge of how easily we are duped. While the LSO played Elgar on Wednesday, some 50,000 of our students were finding their voices. Now the rest of us need to as well.
Please read Charlotte Higgins's passionate defence of the arts, which she gave as a speech at the Paul Hamlyn Foundation awards for artists and composers the other day. If you think the cuts to arts funding will have no effect, she says, you are either deluded, in denial or dishonest.
And finally, here's a little diversion: the musical chain-reaction in the lives and works of Saint-Saens, Faure and Ravel, as described in today's Independent by yours truly, trailing Steven Isserlis's exciting series opening at the Wigmore tonight.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Strange tales from NY

Violinist,60, sues young artists' organisation for alleged age discrimination. How to get ahead in music in the 21st century, lesson 1. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3553

Monday, November 01, 2010

At the feet of Jonas Kaufmann

Kaufmann sang Die schoene Muellerin at the Wigmore Hall last night and I was unexpectedly there, right at the front... http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3552

Sunday, October 31, 2010

'Alice Dancing Under the Gallows'

There's a new documentary about Alice Sommer Herz, the musician and now the world's oldest Holocaust survivor. She's about to turn 107. I've blogged the trailer - please watch it. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3550

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Burnt out? Try Improvisation

This is my music column from Standpoint magazine's November issue: would a bit more "play" in "playing" improve everyone's game? http://bit.ly/cGJoxJ

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

MAMBO!

Please turn on your sound to see a) a protesting Dutch orchestra turning into a flashmob at The Hague Central Station, b) an utterly adorable toddler who knows *exactly* what to do with Beethoven 5, and c) something that should be a joke but, tragically, is not. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3537

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A true love of thine?

The latest news on cuts to the arts budget, and why it's all a bit too much like Scarborough Fair... http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3536

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ongoing discussions

While you worry about the future of your foot, someone might be removing your leg... http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3532

Friday, October 22, 2010

"A universal consciousness..."

Meet Gabriela Montero. Plus more rumblings from Warsaw and a bit of fairly useless handwringing about the forthcoming plunge of the UK into an age of misery (quite apart from anything to do with the arts world). http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3504

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shock Win in Warsaw

Whatever are they playing at at the Chopin Competition? I am fairly appalled listening to Youtube of the winner. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3486

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

George...don't do that...

The beginning of the cuts, with chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne's big speech today. Now everyone's trying to work out what's really going on, and it ain't gonna be pretty. Joyce Grenfell provides a little light relief while we wait for the nuclear fallout. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3485

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Appropriate Names at the Piano Olympics

The names of the finalists at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw have to be seen to be believed... http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3480

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Please have a listen...

Reports emanating from members of the audience at Benjamin Grosvenor's lunchtime recital of Chopin at St Luke's the other day are utterly remarkable. My pianophile friends who were there have offered levels of superlatives that you don't hear every day -- at least, not from these guys. Words like "moved to tears", "couldn't believe my ears", "some of the greatest Chopin playing I've ever heard" and comparisons with musicians like de Pachmann, Cherkassky and even Horowitz are being liberally bandied about by those who are seriously in the know. I am kicking myself for being unable to go, but fortunately the concert is due for broadcast on R3 on 3 December. If you didn't see my interview with him from The Independent last week, here it is again.

To tide us over, I've found on Youtube three extracts from Benjamin's debut CD of selected showpieces, This and That. Here they are: Scarlatti, Moszkowski and Gershwin. I can quite understand the comparison with Golden Age playing: Benjamin has a similar mix of natural musicality, virtuoso relish, the feel for "turning" a phrase, and a sense of artistic freedom that fulfils an individual personality while nevertheless serving the composer and the work's inner structure and making them shine... This would be equally astounding playing from someone twice his age. Every time I hear him I feel I'm witnessing some kind of miracle.

There's a lot more audio on his website - extracts of recitals from the past 6 years...
If you enjoy the extracts, do buy the recording. Here's the link. 







Friday, October 15, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

RIP Dame Joan Sutherland

Dame Joan Sutherland has passed away at the age of 83. I've posted a set of links to an in-depth, five-part interview with her filmed in 1972 (sadly, I am not the interviewer - I might have asked rather different questions. But I was only 6 at the time...). http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3471

Playing with Fire

Sarah Chang is caught in the middle of a very sad industrial dispute at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra... http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3469

Friday, October 08, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dear Hyperion!

Great party last night, thrown by the music industry's favourite record label to celebrate its 30th birthday. *hic*. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3464

Monday, October 04, 2010

Rattle: Give Abreu the Nobel Prize

Why Sir Simon Rattle thinks Jose Antonio Abreu deserves a Nobel Prize; why he's right; and why what's going on in the Netherlands proves it. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3460

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gove calls for music education review

Good words from education secretary Michael Gove re music education in the UK - but how's he going to pay for it? http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3432

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Perryman Videos

Here are the two parts of my split-screen video chat about music&painting and music&words with kinetic artist Norman Perryman.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Flight past the Green Mountain

Meet Mr Monteverdi. And also meet me and kinetic artist Norman Perryman trying to figure out Skype and split screens, and hear a wonderful radio programme about Faure's Requiem. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3395

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Toby Takes the Cake

My write-up of Faust at English National Opera. Please will you welcome: a real romantic tenor who happens to be British? http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3391

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

Marking Spence

My interview from today's Independent with Toby Spence, ace British tenor who's singing Faust from next Tuesday. Also a significant out-take in which Toby voices criticism of the current state of singing graduates from British music colleges. Plus an extract of Fausty music from Gil Shaham. http://standpointmag.co.uk/node/3385