Tag Archives: 1901 Arts Club

Meet the Artist……Tania Stavreva, pianist

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?  

I started to play the piano at a very early age (I was 4 years old). I can’t remember exact details but my parents were telling me that every time I saw a piano, I always wanted to play on it. It was even hard to pull me out of it once I started playing. Then they decided to buy me a real piano at home. My father was a professional musician, a teacher and a child prodigy. His name was Georgi Stavrev. He played the violin, the guitar and his big dream later was to be a symphony conductor but he got very sick. I remember listening to classical music at home all the time (especially Brahms, Beethoven, Bach) and always playing the piano. Sometimes my dad would play The Beatles, Queen, Aretha Franklin and jazz but it was mostly classical music that I was surrounded by at home and at school. Music was just a part of my life and I was born at the right musical family where I was lucky to have my parents support to pursue music as a career from early age. There was music at home, music at school, I was going all the time to the school’s concerts, the festivals concerts and the local Symphony concerts. I was in an intensive professional music program for children since the age of 4. When my parents moved to Plovdiv two years later, I started working with the renowned pedagogue Mrs. Rositsa Ivancheva at the National Music School “Dobrin Petkov”. She is a major influence and she was my piano teacher for 13 years. During my last 3-4 years of music school, I started lessons also with Prof. Krassimir Gatev at the National Conservatory in Sofia (while studying in Plovdiv with Mrs. Ivancheva). I miss both of these incredible teachers because they left the world just few years ago…

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career? 

Important influences from the past: growing up I was very inspired to listen to the interpretations of Horowitz, Richter, Gilels, Pogorelich, Van Cliburn, and Rubinstein. They all have influenced my musical life for years and here is an example how: after hearing Scriabin’s 3rd Sonata (performed by Horowitz) I immediately got inspired to learn it. I had big success with it at concerts and competitions. Later Horowitz inspired me to learn also Vers la Flamme and the Barber Sonata (my recordings of these works are all on YouTube).

New influences: 1) working with new composers (Mason Bates, Gil Shohat, Vasil Kazandjiev, Carl Vine, Penka Kouneva, Nikolai Kapustin etc.) – what is amazing about this, is that there are not that many recordings of these composers’ works. Often, there are even no recordings at all – which means that I have to learn the work on my own (can’t listen to another pianist to get inspired). This is a direction I would like to continue – to create from my inner self rather than get inspired by somebody else’s interpretation. 2) Contemporary pianists: I’ve had the pleasure to work with and share musical ideas with pianists such as Daniel Pollack and Frederick Chiu, whose unique program “Deeper Performance Studies” is a major influence on my musical life and career.

Acting: It might sound strange but acting had an important influence on me too. During my time in Bulgaria I also had 5 years of private acting training. I couldn’t do both – theater school and music school so I was taking acting lessons only privately and secretly (my parents didn’t allow me to study acting but I decided to do it anyway lol). Acting opened a special door in me as an artist and it helped me even further with music – being able to perform with imagination, to “speak”/connect to the audience, to transform into a different character depending on which composer/piece I am working on. These are classes musicians don’t learn at music conservatories and they help very much with interpretation and stage presence. In Bulgaria I was trained by the Stanislavski’s system and I am a similar performer when it comes to my piano works – I get very emotionally involved in the content. I feel that all the arts are connected within each other. They are like different languages we would like to learn or explore but only one is our mother language and in my case it is music.

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

Finances. When I first moved to the USA it was very difficult learning how to support myself, to rely on myself, to take care of myself all by myself. I was only 18 or 19 years old. I didn’t know anybody when I first moved to Boston, I wasn’t used to the language too. I had $20 cash in my pocket, two suitcases, a full scholarship and lots of dreams. The full scholarship covered my tuition and school fees but I had to work the max hours possible in order to pay by myself for rent/dorm, living expenses, etc. There was a law that freshman must live on campus during the 1st year. I wasn’t informed about it while in Bulgaria. I found out about it when I arrived. International students on a student visa F-1 were allowed to work only on campus, no more than 20h per week for only $8h. Imagine if this is really enough to pay $1500 per month for dorm required by the school (basically 3 girls in one room) without living expenses and if that would allow the needed time to focus on practice, studies, go to classes, etc. The stress was incredible! To keep long story short – my college years were some of the most difficult times ever in my life where I faced some serious challenges.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

Recordings: My upcoming debut album titled “Rhythmic Movement” to be released this coming fall, depending on finances. It features music by Bulgarian composers Pancho and Alexander Vladigerov, Mason Bates, Ginastera, Kapustin and I composed 2 works as well. A lot of the pieces on the program for July 25th at the 1901 Arts Club are also on the album.

Performances: it’s hard to point just one. I would say probably my Carnegie Hall/Weil debut. Harris Goldsmith was one of the critics reviewing the concert and this debut basically was the start of a real career. Another performance I will never forget was a multimedia at a modern space in NYC featuring music, live body painting and photography. I like to experiment with the idea of synesthesia and connect my art to other artists work.

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

The ones that I practice the most! Also the ones that I’m spiritually connected to and the ones I have something meaningful and something special to say. I also believe that music (art in general) is a reflection on personal life and that’s one of the reasons my programs are very unique. The program on July 25th features works that are very close to my hearth. Each piece is very special and very meaningful to me.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season? 

My repertoire ranges from Baroque to Contemporary. Sometimes concert presenters would ask me to play anything I would like to put on a program but sometimes they would specify if they have any specific preferences. For example when I performed at the French Cultural Center, the entire program had to focus on featuring French and French influenced composers. When I performed at the Bulgarian Center in New England, I performed works by all Bulgarian classical composers. New music concert series require all contemporary composers programs and other presenters prefer more traditional (Bach, Beethoven, Chopin) type of programs and more well-known composers.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why? 

In New York: I just recently performed at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York – a beautiful and intimate concert venue and a gallery in West Village. I love the area (West Village in Manhattan), I also love art (the fact that it is a gallery) and that the setting is intimate (it allows a closer connection with the audience). There is a very good energy about the space and location and I just feel excited and comfortable performing there.

In Bulgaria: I was born in Sofia but my hometown is Plovdiv. There is a very unique amphitheater from Roman times in the center of the city that in the summer features film nights, concerts, dance performances, operas, etc. This would be a very magical place to perform – under the starts! The view from there is amazing too. I’ve never seen a piano on that stage but maybe one day soon… I started dreaming already

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

To perform: Right now I’m really into Schumann, I’m working on the piano concerto. Last month I was into Vladigerov. My current favorite pieces are the ones on the program for July 25th at the 1901 Arts Club but I assure you that I’m going to have more new favorites soon since I keep searching for new inspirations all the time :)

To listen to: I love “Gaspard de la nuit” (performed by Pogorelich), Scriabin’s 5th sonata (performed by Horiwitz), Beethoven – “Appasionata” (performed by Richter), Brahms – the 1st Piano Concerto (performed by Claudio Arrau), Prokofiev – the 2nd and 3rd Piano Concertos, works by Bach (especially when Glenn Gould performs them), Sonata for Violin and Piano (by composer Milcho Leviev). I love listening to orchestral music too: Daphne’s Cloe, Stravinsky – Firebird, Mason Bates – Alrernative energy. I also enjoy listening to jazz (Bill Evans, Miles Davis), some rock (a lot of British bands)

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Deceased favorite musicians: Bach, Richter, Horowitz, Gilels, Claudio Abbado, Evgeny Mravinsky, Rubinstein, Ginastera, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Anton Dikov, Krassimir Gatev, Maria Callas, Freddie Mercury,

Living/contemporary favorite musicians: Joshua Bell, Keith Lockhart, Ricardo Mutti, Mason Bates, Vasil Kazandjiev, Yo-Yo Ma, Frederic Chiu, Daniel Pollack, Evgeny Kissin, Martha Argerich, Penka Kuneva, Will Calhoun, Matthew Bellamy,

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

Concert Hall: the Grammy Museum Auditorium (Clive Davis Theater) – I was a part of a great mix of artists and musical genres. I loved the red curtains at the back and the lightning.

Rock club: probably when I opened for Amanda Palmer at the Webster Hall in NYC. This is memorable since I got to play Ginastra in a rock club introducing the composer and a movement from his 1st sonata to several hundred fans of Amanda’s that never knew that classical music could sound like that. :D A lot of my friends from school were telling me that I was crazy and that this could affect my good reputation. It was fun. It’s a different type of energy on such stage. I like making classical music more accessible to untraditional audiences as well. Did you know that the British band ELP arranged the “Toccata” from the piano concerto by Ginastera and played it for Ginastera? He loved it and he said that this is how his music should be played

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

To be present in life and also when they perform on stage, to be very strong, not to be afraid to take risks and experiment with new ideas, to take a good care of themselves (eat well, sleep well, exercise, meditate, stay healthy), to know what they want and from there to know what they give and why, to perform live as much as possible, to stay always inspired and motivated, to never give up, even when they face difficulties.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

To travel the world while living in the present moment

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being present. You can tell that I am into meditation. Often the things we want are not the things that make us happy, even when we get what we want. There is something called “the wanting mind” that will never stop wanting no matter what we get. I feel happy the most when I do something to make somebody feel happy. I get happiness when I give happiness. Actually, when I give, sometimes I get even more than I expected.

What is your most treasured possession?

We don’t owe anything forever. We temporarily have things and people. We are even temporarily in our bodies. Greatest values in my life are my dearest friends, being surrounded by people who care about me and love me and people who made a difference in my life. But I don’t owe them, I’m just lucky to have them in my life…

What do you enjoy doing most?

Being on stage, collaborating with amazing artists, musicians, creating and sharing

Tania Stavreva performs in London at the 1901 Arts Club, 7 Exton Street, London SE1, on Saturday 25th July. The concert includes the UK premiere of her ‘Rhythmic Movement in 7/8′ as well as premieres of works by other composers. Further details and tickets here

More information about Tania here

When Ireland met Elgar: Steinberg Duo at the 1901 Arts Club

John Ireland (1879-1962)

 

The splendidly intimate and elegant 1901 Arts Club played host to Steinberg Duo on Friday evening in a concert of music by John Ireland and Edward Elgar. Steinberg Duo, which comprises husband and wife Nicholas Burns and Louisa Stonehill, are regular performers at the 1901 Arts Club and curate a series of concerts there.

The music of John Ireland is, perhaps unfairly, rarely performed. The majority of his output was piano miniatures and songs. He studied with Charles Villiers Standford at the Royal College of Music (who also taught Vaughan Williams, Holst, Howells and Butterworth, amongst many others) and by the end of the First World War had emerged as a celebrated composer following the overnight success of his second Violin Sonata, of which more later.

The Steinberg Duo have been praised for their “warm musicality” and virtuosity and this was more than evident throughout their programme which opened with Ireland’s first violin sonata in which the influence of the French impressionist composers Debussy and Ravel was evident in its adventurous harmonic palette. The work is no gentile Edwardian drawing room piece and it was played with requisite muscularity and poise by Louisa on violin, with a nimble and sympathetic accompaniment by Nick on piano.

Ireland did in fact meet Edward Elgar and described the few hours in Elgar’s company as “the finest lesson I ever had”. To celebrate this meeting, Steinberg Duo performed a group of miniatures which represented the kind of salon music which was popular at the end of the nineteenth century and entirely appropriate for the small music salon at the 1901. These short but charming works were a pleasant and contrasting interlude between the sonatas by Ireland.

The second part of the concert was occupied by John Ireland’s second Violin Sonata, the work which made him famous. Since the composer was unfit for military service during the First World War, he was able to continue composing. The Violin Sonata No. 2 was premiered on 6 March 1917 by Albert Sammons and William Murdoch, who performed in uniform, and was an immediate success, so much so that the published Winthrop Rogers was on the composer’s doorstep before breakfast the following day. The first edition sold out before it was put on sale, and the work secured Ireland’s success and reputation.

By 1917, the British populace had developed a weary stoicism about the progress of the War. The work perfectly captured the mood of the period by avoiding sentimentality. Instead, it is imbued with pathos in its arresting themes, striking chromatic twists and turns and harmonic and rhythmic motifs redolent of Debussy’s Violin Sonata or Ravel’s Piano Trio. The middle movement is one of great poignancy with a simple song, on the violin, at its heart. Its expressive melancholy suggests a musical anthem for doomed youth, but also a requiem for a way of life destroyed by the War.

Speaking of his own music, Ireland said “Whatever I have to say is said in the music, and if this does not speak for itself, then I have failed”. This powerful and emotional work was given a passionate and involving account by Steinberg Duo who allowed the music to speak for itself.

Steinberg Duo

1901 Arts Club

Meet the Artist…… Ernest So, pianist

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

The late Jacob Lateiner (1928 to 2010) who was my teacher at Juilliard. He was an inspiration in more ways than one: as a pianist, a scholar, a collector, a gourmet, a connoisseur, and one smooth talker who could melt the heart of any woman (or so I imagine). Sometimes I wish everyone I know could have the chance of meeting Lateiner, who exerted such a big influence in my life and encouraged me to go down this rabbit-hole. Even now I still feel his presence; I step where he points.

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

Finding my own voice. Not so much about public speaking, though I do tend to speak during concerts, but in the sense of crafting a repertoire that best expresses my personal expressive character. Appreciation is very different from performing; I may appreciate many different composers but performing them convincingly is a whole other matter.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

I have a deep affinity with the late romantics (the generations after Chopin/Schumann/Brahms) whose particular and eloquent way of writing for the piano transcends all language. They used the piano to express an endless spectrum of feelings, from unabashed romanticism to Parnassian intellectual probity, from Panglossian pessimism to spiritual elation.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I take inspirations from every corner of daily life. I tend to string together works that create a coherent idea for a programme, from single-composer to country-themed selections; more often I try to balance public tastes with serious historical or cultural elements. Planning a successful programme is one of the hardest parts of the job, as it requires creativity and immense knowledge. A good programme sells like a basket of fat olives, while a poorly constructed programme feels like a tangled tale.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I love a more intimate setting. I love the stage, and I am very comfortable on stage, big or small, but when I am physically close to my listeners I tend to be more emotionally spontaneous.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The most memorable experiences are always the best concerts and the worst venues. The best performances were those when I was completely “in the zone”. I was performing in France the poetic and impressionistic music of Louis Aubert, the pianist-composer contemporary of Ravel, when not even the most enticing French women audience (of which there were many) could have drugged me out of the “zone”. On the other hand I have had numerous concerts in less-than-desirable settings that I’ll always remember. Once I was performing in China on a piano with a rickety leg, and throughout the entire concert I was picturing different threatening scenarios and news headlines … “Pianist died during concert under a piano, literally”.

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

At the student level, learn as wide a repertoire as possible, from William Byrd to the latest sounds, from the Balkans to Buenos Aires. The next step is to find a unique voice and performing style, and specialize in it. Whenever possible, travel.

What are you working on at the moment?

Identifying the composition of grapes in different vintages of Spanish cava and from different producers. Also trying to work out my latest commission of a double-breasted suit with a Parisian tailor.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Alive, but not obsolete.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being interviewed.

What is your most treasured possession?

The lust for life and for beauty.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Meeting a patiently analysed situation with all the resources of thought.

What is your present state of mind?

Aching streaks of melancholy.

Ernest So performs works by Rachmaninoff and Gliere at the 1901 Arts Club on Friday 12th December as part of the South London Concert Series. Further details and tickets here

Critics have hailed Ernest So as a performer who exerts a “phenomenon presence on stage” and who “evokes the romanticism and technical brilliance of a 19th century pianist”.  Mr. So’s early manifestation as concert pianist brought prizes such as the Bes​t Performer A​ward in Singapore and later the Beethoven Trophy.  His years at the Juilliard School were spent under the artistic influence and instruction of renowned Beethoven scholar Jacob Lateiner (1928 – 2010); other teachers include Solomon Mikowsky, the late Constance Keene, and Jonathan Feldman.

Ernest So’s full biography can be found on his website:

www.ernestso.com

 

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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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