Tag Archives: 1901 Arts Club

Corinne Morris

La Belle Epoque: l’Invitation au Voyage with Corinne Morris

This autumn seems to be about journeys with cellos, surveying some of the best music written for the instrument and performed by some of the finest musicians.

While father and daughter duo James and Joy Lisney take the five Beethoven sonatas for piano and cello on an exhilarating grand tour of Europe and the UK, British/French cellist Corinne Morris curates a three-concert series at the beautiful and intimate 1901 Arts Club focusing on music of la Belle Epoque. Discover the music of the Belle Époque era on a journey through famous works and composers such as Debussy and Saint-Saëns to the hidden gems of songwriters Hahn, Chaminade, Duparc and many more…..

“Divan Japonais” (1893), Henri de Toulouse-Laurec

THE BELLE ÉPOQUE…
…..meaning the ‘Beautiful Era‘ was a period in French and Belgian history that began in the late 19th century and ended when World War 1 began in 1914.  It was characterised by optimism, peace at home and in Europe, new technology and scientific discoveries and intense artistic activity.  France was a cultural centre of global influence and the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889, became the symbol of Paris to its inhabitants and to visitors from around the world.

Besides Impressionism, the visual arts saw various movements flourish including the Nabis, the Symbolist movement, Fauvism, and early Modernism, followed by Expressionism and the beginnings of Cubism and Abstraction, whilst the decorative style known as Art Nouveau became prominent throughout much of Europe.

At the same time, European literature underwent a major transformation during the Belle Époque.  Realism and naturalism achieved new heights with Guy de Maupassant and Emile Zola.  Fiction writers of that time included four Nobel Prize winners: AndréGide, Anatole France, Roger Martin du Gard and Romain Rolland.

Salon Music was all the rage and popular composers such as Reynaldo Hahn, Henri Duparc and Cecile Chaminade produced a large repertory of songs, while instrumental music was represented by famous composers such as Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Debussy and Ravel and by lesser-known ones like Ernest Chausson and Benjamin Godard.  The Parisian musical scene also attracted foreign composers such as Igor Stravinsky whose Rite of Spring was premiered in the Theatre des Chaps Elysées on the eve of World War 1.

This series of three concerts is curated by the British/French cellist Corinne Morris. Corinne is joined by other musicians and each concert has a special theme. The first, ‘Masterworks for Cello and Piano’ introduces familiar and not so familiar French repertoire from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Debussy famous cello sonata, completed a hundred years ago. Corinne is joined by pianist Kathron Sturrock for this programme.

In the second concert Corinne is joined by the Melicus Duo (soprano Marie Vassiliou and pianist Nico de Villiers). Many of the great songs and salon music from the Belle Epoque were based on famous poems of the time and this concert will explore the link between composers and contemporary poets.

And in the final concert, two large-scale works of the Belle Epoque will be performed: Cesar Franck’s Cello Sonata and Ernest Chausson’s  Piano Trio, fine examples of the large-scale works also typical of the Belle Epoque. Corinne is joined by violinist Fenella Humphreys and pianist Viv McLean.

Kathron Sturrock, Melicus Duo, Fenella Humphreys, Viv McLean
Kathron Sturrock, Melicus Duo, Fenella Humphreys, Viv McLean

The unique atmosphere of the 1901 Arts Club, which recreates the ethos and ambiance of the 19th century European cultural salon, provides the perfect setting for what promises to be a lively, varied and beautifully-presented voyage of musical discovery.

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The Salon at the 1901 Arts Club

Described as ‘a triumphant assertion’ by Classical Music Magazine, Corinne Morris‘s relaunch album Macedonian Sessions recorded with the Macedonian Radio Symphony Orchestra, marks the British/French cellist’s return to the platform after a debilitating shoulder injury brought her career to a halt for over 5 years. 

Corinne has performed throughout Europe and beyond. She was chosen by Rostropovich to perform at his festival in Evian, and subsequently invited to the Verbier Academy in Switzerland.  She has made several recordings for the BBC, France Musique, Bayerischer Rundfunk and ORF.  Corinne, a student of Raphael Sommer, obtained an ARCM with honours (Royal College of Music, London) before continuing at the prestigious Conservatoire in Paris where she graduated in both cello and chamber-music.

Corinne’s story has inspired many in the music industry and beyond.  She has given several interviews for publications including International Arts Manager, Classical Music Magazine, Gramophone and Australia’s Limelight Magazine.  Most recently Corinne has been featured on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune programme and she gave a highly successful recital at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

South London Concert Series – 2014/15 season launch

Praised for its ability to combine quality music making, varied programmes and a convivial atmosphere, the South London Concert Series 2014/15 season launches on Sunday 14th September with a special concert at one of London’s most beautiful small venues.

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‘Notes&Notes’ combines music and words in a concert of music by J S Bach and Joseph Haydn by acclaimed pianist and teacher Graham Fitch. Join Graham after the concert for a cream tea and the chance to socialise with other music lovers.

14 September 2014 Notes&Notes: Graham Fitch Craxton Studios, Hampstead, London NW3.

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Greenwich shot3 October 2014 Matthew Sear at the 1901 Arts Club, London SE1.

Classical guitarist Matthew Sear plays works by Benjamin Britten and John Dowland, together with his own compositions from his new album. Matthew is joined by supporting artists Rebecca Singerman-Knight, Muzz Shah, Jennie Barham and Julie Cooper in music by Prokofiev, Bortkiewicz, and Rachmaninoff. Early Bird Tickets now available. Buy Tickets

large12 December 2014Ernest So, piano, at the 1901 Arts Club. ‘Russian Romantics’.

A concert with a special accent on lesser-known Russian romantic repertoire, including works by Bortkiewicz and Medtner. Ernest is joined by supporting artists Rob Foster, Clio Chu, Petra Chong and Claire Hansell. Buy tickets

IMG_228122nd January 2015 Frances Wilson at LASSCO Brunswick House, Vauxhall, SW8. The South London Concert Series returns to the opulent setting of the Saloon at Brunswick House, a magnificent Georgian mansion which is home to an eclectic collection of antiques and salvaged curiosities. Join SLCS Artistic Director Frances Wilson and supporting artists for a concert of piano music by Debussy, Pärt, Schubert, Satie, and Messiaen, plus the world premiere of Preludes for piano by Matthew Sear.

Early Bird tickets now available. Buy tickets

17 September 2015Daniel Roberts, piano, and Hannah Woolmer, violin, at LASSCO Brunswick House. Set in the wonderful opulence of the Saloon at Brunswick House, we present a recital of music for violin and piano and solo piano. Programme and supporting artists to be announced. Buy tickets

Students’ Concert at the 1901 Arts Club

This year my annual student concert was held at the 1901 Arts Club, a beautiful, intimate venue in a former schoolmaster’s house (built in 1901) close to London’s Waterloo Station. The venue boasts a lovely Steinway C grand piano and an informal, convivial atmosphere, thanks in no small part to the very welcoming personalities of the people who run it. I use the venue for the South London Concert Series, an innovative series of concerts which I organise and co-host with my friend and piano teaching colleague, Lorraine Liyanage. I felt the small size of the venue (it seats just 45 people in a gold and red salon redolent of a 19th-century European drawing room) would enable the young performers to feel less anxious and to relax into the special atmosphere of the place.

The music salon at the 1901 Arts Club
The music salon at the 1901 Arts Club

I cannot stress too highly the importance of performing, at whatever level one plays, and I have written extensively on this subject on this blog, my sister blog The Cross-Eyed Pianist, and in my column for Pianist magazine. Music was written to be shared – whether in the home or the salons of other people’s houses, or in recital rooms or concert halls. But on another more important level performing builds confidence, not just in the sphere of music but in many other walks of life, and equips people (of all ages) with an important life-skill.

When I was the age of my students (9-14) I had few opportunities to perform for others. My then piano teacher never organised concerts for her students, not even small-scale events in her home, and as a pianist at school I was always rather sidelined (a solo instrument being deemed the epitome of showing off!), so my only real performance experience was either in the orchestra (where I played the clarinet) or in the choir, both instances where one’s performance anxiety is tempered by performing with others. One of the many decisions I took about my piano teaching when I established my practice in 2006 was that I would give my students performance opportunities. And so from little house concerts (with obligatory tea parties!) to the event this week at the 1901 Arts Club, the annual student concert has become an integral part of my studio’s activities.

Preparations begin many months before the actual date – and I know from my own experience as someone who has come relatively late to performing (in my late 40s) that preparation is everything. Being well-prepared is one of the best insurance policies against nerves and will enable one to pull off a convincing, enjoyable and polished performance on the day. Good preparation, including practising performing in less stressful situations, also means that any slips or errors in the performance on the day can usually be skimmed over and will not upset the flow of the performance.

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Many of my students chose to perform exam pieces – music which they had already played in an exam situation and with which they were therefore very comfortable. It’s always interesting to play exam repertoire after one has put it before the critical ears of the examiner: when I revisit my Diploma pieces (as I am now, in preparation for a concert in January) I notice a distinct sense of relaxation in the music – and my students have commented on this about their own pieces too. Some selected new pieces, and we also had solo clarinet and saxophone performances (it is so gratifying that a number of my students play other instruments – saxophone, trumpet, clarinet and cello – or sing in school choirs).

I always perform at my students’ concerts as well. I think it is important for them to see their teacher performing and to understand that I do my practising and preparation just as they do; also that I am also engaged in ongoing learning of new repertoire or revising previously-learnt music.

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The event at the 1901 Arts Club was really lovely. The young performers all played beautifully (no visible nerves whatsoever, though a number did say to me afterwards that they were really nervous!) and we had a lovely range of music from Arvo Pärt and Einaudi to Bartok and ragtime. Despite knowing my students pretty well now (some have been learning with me almost as long as I have been teaching), I am always amazed at the way they step up to perform with such poise. I don’t know what I do, but maybe by assuring them that their performance will be wonderful, they learn to trust me and this gives them confidence. Each performance was greeted with much enthusiastic applause by family and friends, and at the end of the event another piano teaching friend, Rebecca Singerman-Knight, awarded prizes for Star Performer (Tom Driver) and Most Enjoyable Performance (Eli Hughes). The children were presented with boxes of chocolate grand pianos (which I doubt lasted the homeward journey!). I have had some lovely feedback, from students and parents, and I think the general consensus is that this was a really enjoyable and inspiring event. I certainly felt so!

More about the benefits of performing:

On performing

Performing in a safe circle

Going into the zone

Strategies for coping with performance anxiety

Vatche Jambazian at the 1901 Arts Club

Occasionally one experiences something really remarkable at a concert: Maurizio Pollini playing the Boulez Second Sonata, Marc-André Hamelin making sense of the craggy edifice that is Charles Ives’ ‘Concord’ Sonata. And last night, it was young Armenian-Australian pianist Vatche Jambazian playing Galina Ustvolskaya’s Piano Sonata No. 5 at the season finale of the South London Concert Series. This was not at the Royal Festival Hall, nor the Wigmore, but the 1901 Arts Club, just five minutes from the Southbank Centre, a beautiful small venue in a former Victorian schoolmaster’s house.

Vatche Jambazian
Vatche Jambazian

A graduate of the University of Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music, Vatche is already carving an impressive professional career with a busy concert schedule and an equally full teaching roster, and he has an enthusiastic following, judging by the crowded salon at the venue and the noisy post-concert party upstairs.

Unlike some up-and-coming young artists, Vatche doesn’t play crowd-pleasers: his repertoire choices for the South London Concert Series (SLCS) were challenging and eclectic: it was his choice of repertoire that prompted the organisers of the concert to call it ‘Eastern Accents’, with its special emphasis on music from Russia. But just to prove that he is equally at home with “mainstream” classical repertoire, he opened his programme with Haydn’s B minor Sonata, a darkly sardonic work whose final movement could be mistaken for the work of a youthful Beethoven. The performance was rich in colour, witty and crisply phrased, particularly in its outer movements.

Vatche’s assertion that Galina Ustvolskaya’s Piano Sonata No. 5 was “not for the faint-hearted” was more than borne out in a performance of great clarity and control. Composed in 1986, and initially banned by the Soviet authorities, this is a work which contains chord clusters and violent dynamic contrasts, and makes full use of the range, resonance and sonority of the modern piano. It is not easy listening, challenging and at times brutal, yet Vatche’s powerful communication drew the audience into this extraordinary soundworld with its dissonances and chiming bells. The piece also confirmed one of the key missions of the SLCS: to put lesser-known and rarely performed repertoire before an audience in a salon setting which recalls the European cultural and musical salon of the nineteenth century.

“Absolutely fantastic…..Vatche I salute you! Such control, power and energy!” Lorraine Banning, audience member

Shostakovich followed, fittingly, for he was Ustvolskaya’s teacher, with an exuberant and technically demanding Prelude and Fugue in D-flat from the Opus 87. Returning to the piano after performances by supporting artists Alex Ewan (violin, in de Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance) and Frances Wilson (Takemitsu and Rachmaninoff), Vatche concluded the concert with an energetic and colourful rendition of Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor. It was a rollicking finale to what has been an exciting and popular first season for the South London Concert Series.

There were also performances by supporting artists Jose Luis Gutierrez Sacristan (Villa-Lobos and Granados) and SLCS co-founder Lorraine Liyanage (Khatchaturian and Auerbach), and the audience had the opportunity to mingle with the performers in the bar at the 1901 Arts Club after the concert.

Founded and curated by Lorraine Liyanage and Frances Wilson (AKA The Cross-Eyed Pianist), this innovative concert series offers amateur and semi-professional musicians the opportunity to perform alongside young and emerging professional artists in the same formal concert setting. The series has a special focus on lesser-known and rarely-performed piano repertoire, and has featured young professional artists Helen Burford and Emmanuel Vass in its first season. Praised for its unique and accessible approach to music making, the series combines quality chamber music with socialising to recreate the ethos of the nineteenth-century musical salon.

“A wonderfully creative idea” – Peter Donohoe, internationally-acclaimed concert pianist.

The South London Concert Series 2014/15 season launches in September 2014 with a new concept – Notes&Notes – a music and words event in which acclaimed pianist and teacher Graham Fitch will discuss and perform music by Bach and Haydn. The concert is at Craxton Studios in Hampstead, former home of pianist and teacher Harold Craxton, and will be followed by afternoon tea.

“The South London Concert Series is both innovative and traditional. Events blend an appreciation of fine music and music making with conviviality, and blur the artificial distinctions between professional and amateur”
James Lisney, international concert pianist

Full details of all SLCS events here www.slconcerts.co.uk

View photographs from the concert

 

 

 

A week of music……

A busy week of enjoyable and varied concerts in Brighton and London. Here’s my round up:

Sunday 4th May – Helen Burford, piano, Brighton

Helen has a particular interest in contemporary British and American music, and an unerring ability to create imaginative and eclectic concert programmes which combine her interests with more mainstream repertoire. For her afternoon recital as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival, she opened with Somei Satoh’s haunting Incarnation II, a work which allows one to fully appreciate the full range of sounds and resonance possible on the piano. An extraordinarily absorbing and unusual work. The Japanese connection continued with Debussy’s evocative Pagodes, followed by Haydn’s C major Piano Sonata Hob. XVI No. 50 with two witty and sprightly outer movements enclosing a slow movement played with expression and warmth. In typical style, Helen cleverly paired Hush-A-bye, a work by contemporary American composer Julie Harris, with Debussy’s much-loved Clair de Lune. Both pieces recall nighttime – the first has night sounds combined with fragments from the lullabies, “All the Pretty Little Horses” and “Hush Little Baby Don’t Say a Word”, while the veiled harmonies and rippling semiquavers of Debussy evoke moonlight. Helen closed her programme with a lively and foot-tapping Rumba Machine by Martin Butler.

Monday 5th May – Jonathan Biss at Wigmore Hall

Biss is a musician I was curious to hear live, having enjoyed interviews with him, and his insightful and intelligent writing about Beethoven. His recital opened with an early Beethoven Sonata, Op 10, No. 2, and there was much to enjoy in his nimble and witty rendition of the first movement. However, the second movement lacked shape and the final movement was too rushed. The second Beethoven of the concert was the ‘Waldstein’ which lacked structure and a clear sense of the underlying “four-square” nature of Beethoven’s writing. The end result felt rather superficial. Sandwiched between the two Sonatas were selections from Janacek’s On An Overgrown Path. These were enjoyable but lacked a certain sensitivity to the emotional depth inherent in these miniatures.

Wednesday 7th May – Behind the Lines: Music from the First War, MOOT, Brighton

Another lunchtime concert, hosted by Music Of Our Time, a wonderful music collective organised by the indefatigable Norman Jacobs. This year’s focus is on music and composers from the First World War, and the concert, duets and solo works performed by Helen Burford and Norman Jacobs, was a touching, tender and occasionally humorous tribute to composers such as Cecil Coles (who was killed in April 1918) and Frank Bridge, a committed pacifist who was profoundly affected by the war. There were also works by Debussy and Stravinsky, and the concert ended with a four hands version of ‘Mars’ from Holst’s Planets suite. The concert took place on the 99th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania, which gave the concert an added poignancy.

Friday 9th May – David Braid, guitar & Sergei Pobdobedov, piano

The end of the week and a concert at the delightful 1901 Arts Club, a converted schoolmaster’s house not five minutes from the bustle and noise of Waterloo Station. One of London’s hidden gems, the venue seeks to recreate the ambiance and ethos of the European musical salon, with its gold and crimson decor and friendly, convivial atmosphere. It is the perfect place for intimate chamber music, and this evening’s concert was no exception.

I interviewed David Braid earlier this year and I was curious to meet him and hear him in performance, for his musical landscape and influences accorded, in part, with my own interests. He plays an electric archtop guitar, more usually associated with jazz or rock/pop musicians. He makes transcriptions for this instrument, with piano accompaniment (his duo partner Sergei Podobedov), of works by Renaissance and early Baroque composers such as Byrd and Sweelinck. The concert included music by these composers and Bach, together with piano solos of works by Chopin (two Scherzi, handled with stylish aplomb and energy by Sergei) and Schubert/Liszt, and some of David’s own compositions. Taken as a whole, this was a most intriguing and unusual concert, beautifully presented. It is hard to describe the sound of the archtop guitar with the piano: at times it recalls the Renaissance lute (which David also plays) while also sounding entirely contemporary, thus making the music sound both ancient and modern. David’s own compositions were haunting, delicate, fleeting – the Waltzes in particular had great poignancy and tenderness – and his contrapuntal writing connects his music to the Baroque masters whom he also plays. One of the nicest aspects of the evening, apart from the high-quality music, was that during the interval instead of disappearing upstairs, the musicians stayed in the salon to talk to the audience, further enhancing the sense that this was very much an evening of music amongst friends.

‘Eastern Accents’ at the South London Concert Series

The final concert in the South London Concert Series Spring 2014 season has a special accent on music from Russia and the east, and features guest artist Australian-Armenian pianist Vatche Jambazian in music by Galina Ustvolskaya (a pupil of Shostakovich), Mozart’s popular Fantasia in D minor, and a selection of Preludes & Fugues from Dmitri Shostakovich’s Opus 87. Supporting artists Jose-Luis Gutierrez Sacristan, Lorraine Liyanage (SLCS co-founder), Alex Ewen (violin) and Frances Wilson (AKA The Cross-Eyed Pianist & SLCS co-founder) will perform works by Granados, Villa-Lobos, Rachmaninoff, Khatchaturian, Auerbach, de Falla and Takemitsu. This promises to be an exciting and eclectic evening of music, held in one of London’s most beautiful and intimate small venues, the 1901 Arts Club, close to London’s Waterloo Station. The elegant bar and sitting room at the club will be open before and after the concert for the exclusive use of ticket holders, and guests are invited to join the performers afterwards for drinks and socialising.

“A wonderfully creative idea”
Peter Donohoe, internationally-acclaimed concert pianist

Tickets are on sale now: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/252495

“Events blend an appreciation of fine music and music making with conviviality, and blur the artificial distinctions between professional and amateur.” James Lisney, concert pianist

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pianist Anne Shingler

South London Concert Series Spring recital

“The South London Concert Series is innovative……..events blend an appreciation of fine music with conviviality”

The third concert in the South London Concert Series featured guest artist Anne Shingler, a vibrant and sensitive pianist whose programme reflected her wide-ranging musical tastes with music by Bach, Suk, Messiaen, Stevenson and Rodgers & Hammerstein. Anne was supported by performances by Jose Luis Gutierrez Sacristan, Edi Bilimoria and Lorraine Womack Banning, all members of the London Piano Meetup Group who play to an extremely high standard and who offered works by Ginastera, Brahms and Debussy. The programme was a musical travelogue, taking the audience from Argentina (Ginastera) to the Far East (Debussy’s evocative ‘Pagodes’) via Europe and America.

With a loyal band of “regulars”, who have been to every concert in the series so far, members of the London Piano Meetup Group, friends, family, supporters and music lovers, the atmosphere in the salon at the 1901 Arts Club was warm and convivial, while the after party was cheerful and noisy. All in all, this was very much an evening of music for friends, played by friends and amongst friends, confirming once again that the South London Concert Series offers a formula that works. The enthusiastic feedback from performers and audience more than endorsed this, and we are eagerly looking forward to the next concerts in the series, and to developing the SLCS concept further.

Forthcoming SLCS concerts:

3rd April – Emmanuel Vass at Brunswick House

BBC Music Magazine’s March “rising star” performs music by Bach, Liszt, Granados and Turina, together with his own transcriptions. Emmanuel is supported by Jose Luis Gutierrez Sacristan, Rob Foster and Lorraine Womack Banning, who will perform works by Bach, Chopin and Mozart. Ticket price includes a glass of Prosecco on arrival, and guests are invited to join the performers and hosts for dinner afterwards (not included in ticket price). Tickets here

16th May – ‘Eastern Accents’ at the 1901 Arts Club

Vatche Jambazian is the guest artist for an SLCS concert with a special accent on music from eastern Europe and Russia. Vatche will be supported by SLCS co-founders Lorraine Liyanage and Frances Wilson, LPMG member Jennie Barham and violinist Alex Ewan. Music by Shostakovich, Ustvolskaya (a student of Shostakovich), Khatchaturian, Szymanowski, Biber, and Rachmaninov. This is the final concert of the SLCS 2013/14 season. Tickets here

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South London Concert Series

London Piano Meetup Group

1901 Arts Club

South London Concert Series with Emmanuel Vass

Emmanuel Vass
Emmanuel Vass

The 2014 season of the South London Concert Series (SLCS) got off to a rollicking start with a sell out concert on Friday 24th January, featuring guest artist Emmanuel Vass. Described by The Independent as “one to watch”, Emmanuel, or Manny to his friends, is a rising star and with a deal with ClassicFM to promote his debut CD ‘From Bach to Bond’, the omens are good for this young Filipino/Yorkshire pianist.

The format of the event was the same as our launch concert: a guest recital of around 35 minutes, bookended by performances by “supporting artists” (we have dropped the moniker “amateur” because so many of our amateur pianists play to a very high level – and last night was no exception). And now that we have already run one successful event, the second one seemed much easier in comparison; in fact, the event basically ran itself. It helped that the bar at the beautiful and intimate 1901 Arts Club was open before the concert, which allowed guests to have a drink and socialise while the performers warmed up downstairs. And as an added benefit, which contributed to the convivial atmosphere, patrons were allowed to take their drinks into the music salon.

The concert was opened by Marina, an amateur pianist and violinist who works in financial services, playing an Etude in G minor by Moszkowski. This proved a lively opener, which caught the audience’s attention. Julie, a piano teacher from Surrey, took to the stage next, with Gershwin’s evergreen standard ‘The Man I love’, which had a lovely romantic lilt. Then it was time for our headline performer, Manny, who introduced his programme engagingly before launching into the bright and haughty first movement of Bach’s popular Italian Concerto. The middle part of his programme was all Spanish, an exotic Orgia by Turina and a sensuous Secreto by Mompou. Manny rounded off his performance with his witty and luxuriant James Bond Concert Etude, complete with Lisztian fiorituras and some vertiginous cadenzas, all of which were applauded very enthusiastically by the audience.

From Bach to Bond and then back to Bach with Alan’s measured and elegant performance of the Prelude & Fugue in C# from the first book of the Well-Tempered Clavier. The concert closed with a piece by Japanese composer Kozaburo Hirai called Sakura Sakura, which translates as Cherry Blossom, appropriately. Performed by Kyoko, it was atmospheric and arresting.

In keeping with the nineteenth-salon atmosphere of both event and venue, most of the audience retired to the upstairs bar and sitting room where the conversation grew louder as more Prosecco was consumed. It was lovely to chat to friends, old and new, and to be amongst so many music lovers and piano fans. Manny signed copies of his CDs and charmed everyone. The stalwarts amongst us then proceeded to the pub, where the conversation continued…..

The Spring edition of the South London Concert Series is on 21st March, featuring guest artist Anne Shingler, and a limited number of tickets are available.

Tickets are now on sale for our May event. Entitled ‘Eastern Accents’, it has a distinctly Russian flavour and includes music by Shostakovich, Ustvolskaya, Szymanowski and Stanchinsky, performed by Armenian-Australian pianist Vatche Jambazian, myself and Lorraine Liyanage. Buy tickets

Future SLCS concerts feature Angelo Villani and Daniel Roberts, and a new concert format ‘Notes&Notes’, in which a guest artist will give a short recital with talk. Full details on the South London Concert Series website. There is also the opportunity to hear Emmanuel again in a solo concert at a unique London venue. Again, details are on the SLCS website.

Meet the Artist……David Braid

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Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

My mother initially taught me the piano at home and I also took regular violin lessons. However, in what may be a glaring example of ‘instrument-determinism’, I never really enjoyed music until I found the guitar via a new Headmistress that arrived at my primary school: a wonderfully charismatic singing, accordion and guitar-playing nun from Ireland called Sister Annunciata. Incidentally, I’m still in touch with her – I always send her my ‘products’; my CDs, book, etc.

She taught me the guitar via Elvis/Beatles/Abba songs and everything just clicked from then, there was no question that I was not going to be a musician. I spent much of my teens playing guitar in rock bands, the fiddle in Welsh folk groups and after a brief fascination with jazz (specifically Django Reinhardt) I arrived at composition via classical guitar in my later teens; taking it joint-first study with guitar at The Royal College of Music.

I suppose it was a natural progression from emotive immediacy to complexity as one matures; having said that, I always loved Bach even when I was young and often raided my father’s vinyl collection; to listen to his organ music especially.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

Sibelius – the incredible logic than you can hear clearly even on the first hearing and the sheer physicality of how the music moves through time.

Messiaen – outstanding, transcendental beauty an ‘other-worldly’ character that one cannot quite explain, his strong religious belief and spirituality transcends the notes, in a similar sense to how one can almost ‘taste’ the humanity and idealism in Beethoven.

Lutoslawski – precision, concise argument, clarity and large scale sweep of energy, what a craftsman!

Britten – he’s someone I grew into much later I have to admit but his skill in handling musical time, expectation and narrative is second to none of his time and he can be incredibly moving.

Shostakovich – such profundity; I can‘t understand how people can hold up figures like Stravinsky as being that important or even interesting when a giant like Shostakovich was around.

John Dowland – perfectly exquisite songs, not bettered since that I’m aware of – his songs are easily on the level of Schubert’s and I actually personally prefer them, although this is subjective (I also play the lute). Also, that British songwriting sound (still clearly audible in The Smiths for example – who are in a sense the true heirs to the Elizabethan school) means a lot to me.

Sweelinck – he’s truly remarkable and original – sitting on the divide between the Renaissance and Baroque periods; so lyrical yet a real contrapuntal animal to his guts!

I, together with the pianist Sergei Podebedov, have recently made some arrangements of his organ music for semi-acoustic archtop guitar and piano. We are premiering these at 4pm on July 21st at The Studio at St. James Theatre in Victoria. It is a great privilege to play this music. He is one of the best composers I know of – from any period!

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Finding a modus vivendi that allows for the necessary peace of mind to compose and practice while earning enough money to have a civilised existence (as much as one can at this early stage of our evolution). I have finally achieved this by also working as a journalist, this frees me completely from teaching commitments and from doing any music that is not 100% on my own terms. Time is not an issue, I have no interest in sport or other such distractions – I find composing for more than 3 hours a day to be counterproductive, for me at least.

Another massive challenge – ‘though one that has largely disappeared now – was getting people to play my work. Very hard to do when you’re first starting out. One solution was to play/conduct it myself, the other is that I have a number of loyal friends from my college days, who are first class musicians and have helped me a lot by performing my work. This has naturally led to other contacts and opportunities

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

Commissions are truly a double-edged sword, and although I’ve been fortunate to receive a fair few, I would never want to rely on them for a living unless I had quite a choice to pick from – although I’m not sure anyone has that luxury.

It is vital – to me anyway – that I follow each piece with the logical outcome that follows it, i.e. each piece informs and points to the next, even if only by contrast. To have this guided by someone else (or worse a ‘panel’) for mere cash is not something I could ever accept.

The last commission I had was for the incredibly well-armed (technically) choir, Chapelle du Roi for a piece at St. John’s Smith Square, I really loved doing this as I never had to think about limitations and writing for a cappella choir is about as pure as it gets.

Having said this, I’m not interested in dense complexity, experimental screeching, or other such dated things: it’s rather that the choir would know how to interpret and phrase a line and bring a piece of music to life without me having to guide them.

Other commissions, such as a few film scores I did, were less interesting really. Essentially the role of a film composer is that of a decorative artist, you’re not free to follow any musical logic but rather just provide a bunch of audio moods, signals and wallpaper.

I’d certainly turn down another film score offer unless it was something truly amazing such as a time-loop science-fiction film that allowed me to do interesting things with the formal structure. I think in the future the idea of music serving film may be reversed as people’s listening habits become more sophisticated; although who knows, anything can happen – no one saw the internet coming!

A move towards more musical sophistication appears to be happening though: the hold of the more primitive forms of popular music is finally slipping as seen in the arrival of such things as ‘post-rock’, the strong interest in the often highly-complex music of other cultures, and the innovative programming ideas of holding classical concerts in more social settings such as Wilton’s music hall.

People love music – the problem that (good) popular music faces is the greed and associated controlling aspects of major recording companies that spoil it all.

I would be very happy indeed to see the major labels all collapse through piracy and file sharing – poetic justice! The smaller independents such as Linn/Toccata/Guild are amazing – models of enthusiasm and true love of music. These would flourish without the obsolete behemoths of Virgin, et al around.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

It is a pleasure when working with good people who have an inquisitive mind and are not there simply for the money. Otherwise it is a compromise and is frustrating. I have been pretty fortunate though in that I have, more often than not, had first-rate players and sympathetic people who really get what I’m trying to do.

Although I had a brief spell as a ‘hairy-chested’ modernist, I have moved away from this over time and generally have very few or no problems in rehearsals as I try and make everything totally clear and natural for the players in the score.

Going back to modernism for a second I would like to say I that I have come to the conclusion that it is now largely (with some obvious exceptions) unfortunately morphed into intellectual onanism and appeals to no one at all outside those composers and academics who rely on it for their very living from the various grants/arts funding bodies that support it.

It has become a dictatorial institution with Boulez as its ‘Dear Leader’. This is ironic given that it started as a rebellion. However, the fire that existed in those early modernist works is long gone as it has now become the establishment. The same thing happened to Rock and Roll, which is why punk was absolutely necessary in order to kill it stone dead and allow new things with real integrity to then flourish.

This doesn’t mean we have to write in pastiche or turn to simplistic popularism, we clearly need to look ahead, but the standard fare of atonal, or just ugly, meaningless squawk one always hears at contemporary music concerts is now a hackneyed cliché and insulting to intelligent open-minded people who have paid good money to come and hear music – I can no longer bear to attend such things. I, like most of the public, would rather go to the cinema and see a well-made artwork which has cultural relevance.

I would say to a young composer – be a rebel! Write something in D major, annoy your professor, but make it so damned interesting and beautiful that he/she has nothing to say; that is the real challenge for us now.

Contemporary classical music in the UK occupies exactly the same space as bullfighting does in Spain – it is entirely supported by the state and is ignored by 95% of the population. Take that support away and allow it to attempt to function as a genuine living art form that is an honest deal between listeners and composers – it would most certainly die in the time it takes to play a Bach prelude (one of the short ones!).

Given a choice – although I believe very strongly that all funding should be cut for new music and given to hospitals instead – in order to breathe new life into it, I would sooner see all funding cut from bullfighting of course!

Which works are you most proud of?

Hard to say – they all have something(s) that could be improved. The setting of Pablo Neruda I did for soprano and string quartet, ‘Morning’, works ok. I’ve had very strong feedback about it – people seem to love it. It’s the first track on my current CD with Toccata Classic. Steve Reich called this piece “Very honest stuff” so I suppose I got something right.

I’ve been writing a lot of lute and guitar music recently which I perform myself – I enjoy this so much, it feels so free playing one’s one music, I can change, improve things – improvise a little here and there. It’s a wonderful thing. I always feel it’s a shame that so few composers perform their own music (or even perform at all) I think they’re missing out on tactile, immediate and invaluable feedback on what works the best and most importantly – why.

Do you have a favourite concert venue?

I love the Wigmore’s sound but it needs to bring in a younger audience or it will turn into a museum. This cannot be done by pulling in DJs and other trendy things that they tried to do recently – that just insults intelligent people.

They should give free tickets to all music students as matter of course. They should also give free hire (as opposed to the £1400 it costs) for music graduates for their first 4-5 years after college.

This would allow for fascinating and energetic projects to happen naturally and the players would bring all their friends and probably fill it – it’s not that hard – I’ve nearly filled it once. It would bring strong and long-lasting loyalty to the hall among the young and would actually make economic sense over less than a decade even. Otherwise, the way things are going, it could become another shop for expensive medical products like the others on Wigmore Street, this would be a tragedy. They also need to stop commissioning composers – one contemporary piece on a programme is enough for many music lovers to not attend. This is a sad truth and something that composers need to address urgently by re-engaging with the public instead of experimenting on them!

I also love the Barbican main hall though I’ve not had a piece done there. I love its clean modern lines and bright acoustic bounce. The Southbank is great too – a real feel of democratic openness pervades the entire complex: I love it. I’ve had a couple of Southbank things, it’s always been brilliantly done from their side and the halls really have something special about them.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Performers (living): Baroque violinist Andrew Manze, lute players Jacob Lindberg and Paul O’Dette, Julian Bream, Marta Argerich, Murray Perahia, the Iraqi oud player Naseer Shamma, Indian sarod player Ali Akbar Khan, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Emma Kirkby and Johnny Marr.

(Dead) – Glenn Gould, Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt, Solomon, Wanda Landowska, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Thomas Beecham

Composers – largely covered above in the answer to Q.2 above though I love so many others too of course.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Julian Bream at the Queen Elizabeth Hall back in the early 1990s – it was perfect. It’s not only that he sings though the instrument but rather that he is the greatest such singer of all that I’ve heard (since Gould died). I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Ignore all fashions such as atonality, the new tonality, minimalism, new complexity, etc., and listen to your instinct, never compromise on your values for any reason.

Ask yourself why you want to be musician, if the answer is anything less than – “because I have to /I’m compelled to” then give up the place to someone who can say that.

Try to listen and understand everything, even music you don’t like, to find out why you don’t like it. Is it because something in it doesn’t work (this can be the case – don’t feel bad about coming to that conclusion) or is it because you have cultural blinkers on? This is not easy.

If you’re going for composition learn counterpoint and fugue properly – don’t just brush across it like they teach at the colleges here (skimming it in ‘techniques’ lessons is not even close to being good enough for a composer).

Write about 15 of them in different ways, chromatics, doubles, 6 voice, the lot. Study Bach and Buxtehude very closely. This will show you how the vertical and linear aspects of music combine to make music with depth; one dimensional music is not acceptable.

Once this is mastered you can apply it to any style: Fugue is not a form but a way of thinking. If you can’t be bothered doing this then do not expect to be a strong composer, go and work in the city instead – at least then you’ll have a good wage and is much easier than music!

What are you working on at the moment?

Funnily enough given my advice above, I’m writing a prelude and double fugue for clarinet, semi-acoustic archtop guitar and piano. I will premiere this at The Forge in Camden in January.

What is your present state of mind?

My standard nervous alternation between grim dissatisfaction and bliss plus total confusion as to the absurd state of mankind and the world – this is very good – it compels me to act!

David Braid performs at the 1901 Arts Club on Friday 9th May with pianist Sergei Podobedov. They will premiere their new (2014) transcriptions of works by Sweelinck plus Byrd, Gibbons and other composers from the C.15th/16th Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, alongside first performances of new duos and solos by David Braid, plus various solos by Chopin and other later composers. Further details here

London-based Welsh-born composer David Braid studied at the Royal College of Music from 1990-94, taking joint-first study in Guitar with Charles Ramirez and Composition with Edwin Roxburgh; also attending the composition classes of George Benjamin.

David later attended the Cracow Academy of Music in Poland, studying composition with the late Marek Stachowski and Zbigneiw Bujarksi, subsequently going on to The University of Oxford (St. Anne’s College) under Robert Saxton.

In addition to the UK, David’s work has been performed in the USA, Germany, Poland, Russia, Denmark, Sweden and South America. Recently, the string orchestra version of his setting of Pablo Neruda’s poem Mañana, ‘Morning’, Opus 3, was premiered in Moscow.

David Braid’s full biography

David’s debut recording of Chamber and Instrumental Music is available on CD or to download from Toccata Classic. Further information here

The South London Concert Series launches at the 1901 Arts Club

“a wonderful range of repertoire in this most intimate of venues”

“proactive and inspiring”

“Enjoyable time travel at the 1901 Arts Club: The venue was perfect.  It transported us back a century or so to the salons of the late 19th century.  Even the subdued lighting contributed to the effect.  Then the performers gave us a fascinating, varied programme of piano music which again whizzed us from the 18th century back to the present day.  The playing was of an excellent standard, and the pre- and post-concert atmosphere warm and convivial.  Highly recommended.”

On a windy Friday evening at the end of November, a group of pianists, piano fans and music lovers gathered in the gold and scarlet salon of the 1901 Arts Club, an intimate and stylish venue close to London’s Waterloo Station, for the launch of a unique new concert series.

Conceived by pianist, harpsichordist and piano teacher Lorraine Liyanage, and hosted and curated by Lorraine and myself, the South London Concert Series (SLCS) developed out of the London Piano Meetup Group, which we co-host. We are both passionate advocates of amateur pianism, and we wanted to give adult amateur pianists the opportunity to perform in a formal concert setting on a really beautiful piano (a Steinway C). But that is only half the story: we also wanted to give young and emerging professional artists exposure and support as they embark on a performing career. So we wondered what it would be like to place professionals and amateurs in the same concert format. Our first guest recitalist was Helen Burford, a Brighton-based pianist with a keen interest in contemporary British and American repertoire and an unerring ability to create exciting programmes with unusual musical juxtapositions.

Any anxieties about this new concert concept were soon dispelled when the first performer, Mark Zarb-Adami, stepped up to play two stormy and passionate Preludes by Karol Szymanowski. This was followed by the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata K576, played with conviction and some sensitive articulation and shading by Emma Heseltine. Then it was the turn of Helen, our guest artist, whose programme lasting approximately 35 minutes combined the sensuality of Chick Corea’s Three Piano Improvisations with the powerfully haunting Incarnation II by Japanese composer Somei Satoh, an elegantly romantic reading of a Sonata by Scarlatti, the industrial sounds of Martin Butler’s Rumba Machine, and ended with the exuberance of David Rakowski’s Etude: A Gliss is Just a Gliss. In a nice gesture, Emmanuel Vass, guest performer at the second SLCS concert in January 2014, presented Helen with a bouquet, before Susan Pickerill played works by J C F Bach and Stephen Heller. The final performance was by Daniel Roberts, a young professional pianist who will also feature in as a guest recitalist in a later concert in the series. He played a work by his teacher, the maverick pianist and teacher Peter Feuchtwanger. Subtitled “study no. 4 in an Eastern idiom”, Tariqa 1 recalls the harmonies and timbres of Middle Eastern instruments, in particular the santur, an Iranian dulcimer.

Throughout the concert, the audience listened attentively and applause was given enthusiastically for every performer. The immediate reaction from audience members after the concert was praise for the venue, its decor and its unique ambiance – like enjoying music in your own home – and the unusual repertoire choices, which created an interesting and contrasting programme. This is, in fact, the other unique selling point of the SLCS: we actively encourage people to play lesser-known and/or rarely-played repertoire, which one is unlikely to encounter in mainstream concert venues.

The elegant upstairs bar and sitting room at the 1901 Arts Club was available for the exclusive use of performers, audience and hosts, and we enjoyed a very cheerful and noisy post-concert reception, enlivened by Prosecco, the positive feedback from audience and performers, and the feeling that we have created something rather special. A short concert (60 mins) of varied and unusual repertoire in an accessible format combined with the opportunity to meet the performers and socialise with other music lovers seems just about perfect, but perhaps the best part was the poise and conviction with which the “amateur” pianists played, their performances fitting in perfectly with Helen’s recital in the middle of the concert. It was an extremely enjoyable, stimulating and successful launch to what we hope will be a long-running series of concerts.

The first SLCS concert of 2014 with Emmanuel Vass is already sold out. Further concerts take place in March, May, July and September. Full details of upcoming events are on the SLCS website. Visit our dedicated Facebook page for more content, including photographs and soundclips, and follow us on Twitter – @SLConcerts.

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Lorraine and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the launch of the SLCS, from performers and audience to our media partners, friends, family and many other supporters.

helenburford.com

danielrobertsmusic.com