Julian Jacobson – 70th Birthday Concert Series

Julian Jacobson piano: Masterpieces of Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev
70th Birthday Concert Series

St John’s Smith Square, Westminster, London SW1P 3HA

 

Julian Jacobson, who has established a reputation as a pianist of extraordinary breadth and versatility, celebrates his 70th birthday this autumn with a series of Sunday afternoon concerts entitled Masterpieces of Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev, at St John’s Smith Square on 22 October, 26 November, 11 February and 11 March 2018.

The series features Prokofiev’s mighty War Trilogy, the 6th, 7th and 8th sonatas – widely regarded as the crowning glory of his output of piano music – a rare opportunity to hear the trilogy performed in sequence in the first three concerts. In the final concert Julian will play four pieces from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” and he will be joined by his regular duo partner, the Anglo-Japanese pianist Mariko Brown, in Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”, in Julian’s own virtuoso transcription for piano four hands.

A highly respected Beethoven pianist, Julian’s repertoire is firmly centred on the great classics of the repertoire – in recent years he has become particularly known for his Beethoven cycles and marathons (playing the complete 32 sonatas on three occasions in one day, most recently in 2013). He has also been an acclaimed exponent of contemporary music including jazz (giving the UK premiere of Ligeti’s Études in 1987 among many others), and as a much sought-after duo and ensemble pianist he has partnered many leading British and international soloists. His concert tours have taken him to over 40 countries worldwide and he has recorded more than 30 CDs.

Beethoven’s perennial sonatas: No.14 in C# Minor ‘Moonlight, No. 8 in C minor ‘Pathétique’, No. 23 in F minor ‘Appassionata’ and the Eroica Variations are complemented by major works of Schubert, including the Wanderer Fantasy and his Four Impromptus D899, as well as the Prokofiev.

Speaking about the St John’s Series, Julian Jacobson says: “As a man approaches his 70th birthday – something I thought only happened to other people – he can either try and run away from it or “face the music”. And so I decided I would challenge myself by presenting four programmes of composers I love and have been involved with over many years, celebrating some of their greatest and most loved piano music. There is a time for highways and byways and I have spent many years happily exploring them, but increasingly I feel the need to try and measure up to the pinnacles of the repertoire and see what I can bring to them of myself. I invite you warmly to share my journey!”

Highly regarded by audiences, critics and fellow musicians, György Kurtág remarked during the International Musicians’ Seminar (IMS) in Prussia Cove that: “Julian Jacobson is a possessor of perfection in musical interpretation and this illuminates his chamber music partners as well as his students and all listeners…”

Masterpieces of Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev

Four Sundays at St John’s Smith Square, London

Dates and programmes:

Sun 22 Oct 2017 at 3.00pm

Beethoven Eroica Variations op. 35

Schubert Four Impromptus D899

Prokofiev Sonata No. 6 in A op. 82

 

Sun 26 Nov 2017 at 3.00pm

Beethoven Sonata No.14 in C# Minor ‘Moonlight’

Schubert Sonata in D D850

Prokofiev Sonata no.7 in B flat op. 83

 

Sun 11 Feb 2018 at 3.00pm

Beethoven Sonata No. 8 in C minor ‘Pathétique’

Schubert Sonata in A D959

Prokofiev Sonata No. 8 in B flat op. 84

 

Sun 11 Mar 2018 at 3.00pm

Schubert Wanderer Fantasy

Beethoven Sonata No. 23 in F minor ‘Appassionata’

Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet: Ten Pieces op. 75 nos. 1, 4, 6 and 10

Gershwin An American in Paris arr. Jacobson for piano 4 hands

For tickets and further information visit: www.sjss.org.uk

Julian Jacobson www.julianjacobson.com
Source: press release/Jo CarpenterMusic PR Consultancy

An inspiring piano weekend at Jackdaws

Tucked away in a tranquil leafy corner of Great Elm, a small village near Frome in Somerset, is Jackdaws Music Education Trust. Now in its 25th year, Jackdaws was established by the singer Maureen Lehane in memory of her husband, the composer Peter Wishart, and took its name from his most-performed song, ‘The Jackdaw’. Their modest former home is host to a wide variety of very popular short music courses and workshops for adults and children, as well as concerts and opera performances.

Courses take place throughout the year, usually run from Friday evening until teatime on Sunday. The courses are led by inspiring musicians and teachers, and bring together passionate musicians, from the humblest amateur to the aspiring professional, to learn and develop together in a homely, nurturing and friendly environment. Tutors on the popular piano courses include Graham Fitch, Margaret Fingerhut, Julian Jacobson, Philip Fowke, Mark Polishook, Mark Tanner, Penelope Roskell and Stephen Savage. The ethos of Jackdaws is ‘Access-Inspiration-Inclusion’ and the atmosphere and teaching is relaxed, convivial and supportive. Course participants and tutors eat together at a large round table downstairs, meals are freshly made, generous and wholesome, and there are frequent breaks in the teaching schedule, plus free time to practise, socialise or explore the surrounding area. Participants stay with local bed and breakfast hosts in Great Elm  or nearby villages.

I have been meaning to visit Jackdaws for several years: I’d heard so many positive reports of the courses and the place from pianist friends, and a short course with a small number of participants appealed to me. (I have not been tempted by larger piano courses such as the summer schools for pianists at Walsall or Chethams, nor the very expensive summer piano courses in France). It was serendipitous when my regular piano teacher Graham Fitch suggested I go on course called Finding You Voice At the Piano with Stephen Savage. Graham studied with Stephen at the Royal College of Music, and from the outset I found Stephen’s sympathetic and encouraging approach familiar from Graham’s teaching style.

Teaching is organised in a masterclass format which allows all participants to learn by observing one another being taught. We were fortunate in that there were only 4 people on this course which gave each of us the luxury of longer sessions with Stephen and the chance to further explore ideas which emerged from the teaching sessions. And from a piano teacher’s point of view, observing an expert tutor in action is also very instructive.

Our enjoyable mealtime conversations included repertoire, concerts, favourite recordings and artists and piano teaching anecdotes. These convivial interludes in each teaching day helped to forge a sense of shared purpose and musical friendship, which I think really aids learning because one quickly feels more at ease playing in front of others if you’ve shared the same dinner table with these people.


The teaching was of the highest quality: Stephen is expert at very quickly seeing what each person needs to bring their repertoire to life (in my case, a greater richness of sound and drama in the final movement of Schumann’s Fantasy in C, and more continuous energy in the opening movement of Schubert D959), and gave each of us useful advice and suggestions for practising, including strategies to bring security to leaps, chord progressions or rapid passagework. It is always wonderful to see how individuals develop, how their music changes, under the tutelage of a teacher like Stephen Savage, and it gives one inspiration and encouragement to keep going on one’s personal musical journey. In addition, courses such as these are a fantastic opportunity to hear, share and discover repertoire, and a chance to make new piano friends.

In terms of facilities, Jackdaws has a good Steinway grand in the main studios upstairs, a further Bechstein grand downstairs plus several upright pianos, a digital piano, a harpsichord and a spinet. Practice time is booked In half-hour slots using a simple rota and everyone was very good-natured about organising this. There is also free WiFi.

In sum, this was an inspiring, stimulating, enjoyable and highly instructive weekend piano “retreat” which I recommend to any adult pianist but particularly those who have not attended a piano course before or might be unsure about signing up for a longer course.

For further information about Jackdaws piano courses please visit

https://www.jackdaws.org.uk/piano/

 

A magical place for music making, made more special by playing in such an intimate space, surrounded by beautiful nature……it encourages us to open up

– Wendy

Sharing music with empathetic people who understand what we’re trying to do and what the difficulties are. It takes courage to play at these events but as adult learners we bring our own life experiences to bear on our music  

– Susan

Small, domestic ‘at home’ atmosphere and lovely people

– Mark

It’s about interaction with new people – I really do value that – and it’s humbling to work with people from a multiciplity of professions who come on these courses with their hang ups. But there’s always a way to face these and to really get some focus into their playing. I think the key factors are the ‘craft’ of playing and rhythmic organisation in the music. As a teacher it’s important to be non-judgemental and respectful

– Stephen Savage

A feast for pianophiles

The day after the two-piano marathon, the climax of the 2017 London Piano Festival (LPF), my concert companion for the evening rang me to thank me for inviting him to join me at this feast of perfect pianism. “It was all superb! And I felt so inspired I’ve been playing the piano all day!” (This friend is working on Beethoven’s mighty Waldstein sonata). And the LPF truly was inspiring (I ordered the score of Ravel’s Miroirs after Melvyn Tan’s liquid and mercurial performance at one of the afternoon concerts). Earlier in the week, a well-known celebrity thespian type and amateur pianist released an album of piano miniatures which he claimed would inspire other people to play the piano. This dreary vanity project pales into insignificance in the face of the exceptional quality and variety of LPF – and rightly so. In common with many of my piano friends, I go to concerts in part to be inspired. We also go to hear our favourite artists in our favourite repertoire, and to discover new repertoire or artists. For those who love the piano the LPF fulfills all these desires, and more.

When I arrived at Kings Place, where the LPF makes its home for a long weekend in early October, a group of piano friends were chatting in the foyer, replete with the pleasure of hearing Lisa Smirnova in music by Scarlatti, Mozart and Handel. Melvyn Tan’s Dances and Mirrors, the 2pm concert, was jaw-dropppingly, heart-stoppingly remarkable, not least for the romantic raunchiness of Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, the perfumed sensuousness of Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales, but also the premiere of Kevin Volan’s l’Africaine, a work which combined the vibrant, pulsing rhythms of Africa with the intricacy and delicacy of touch of the French claviciniste tradition. After such an extraordinary, and yes, hugely inspiring, offering, could things get any better than this? Well, yes of course they could!

Last year’s two piano marathon was incredible: two and a half hours of thrilling pianism, played by musicians at the top of their game who were also friends, thus bringing a wonderful sense of common purpose and shared pleasure to the event. This year a different group of friends, brought together by the festival’s indefatigable artistic directors, Charles Owen and Katya Apekisheva (who also perform in the festival): two  Steinways, as sleeks as super-cars, six pianists, twelve hands, not to mention two dedicated and very discreet page-turners took to the stage for an incredible evening which fully celebrated the piano, its myriad repertoire and those who play it. Piece after piece, composer after composer, we wondered if the quality and excitement could be sustained right to the end, but it was and this extraordinary evening rounded off with a hugely thrilling and very witty performance of Lutoslawski’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini, with Danny Driver and Melvyn Tan.

Charles Owen and Katya Apekisheva have created something very special in the LPF using a simple formula: bring together a group of superb performers, varied repertoire, new commissions and a friendly atmosphere. Add a fine venue and an enthusiastic audience and the end result is a near-perfect celebration of the piano and pianism.

Uplifting, joyous, communicative and wonderful collaborations

– Anne

Pianophiles can rest easy: the dates for the 2018 London Piano Festival have already been announced (4-7 October) and the festival line up will be announced early in the new year.

www.londonpianofestival.com

Revolutionary classical music performance at Conway Hall

Immersive, visual and theatrical, John Landor’s ‘Music-in-Motion’ concept brings a bold new aesthetic approach to the traditional classical concert. Turning the auditorium into a ‘theatre of music’, the musicians become embodied channels of the musical drama, dissolving boundaries between performers and audience.

Following his ground-breaking staging of Janacek’s Kreutzer Sonata String Quartet at Conway Hall last May, John Landor returns on 28 and 31 October with the Gildas String Quartet and the newly-formed Music-in-Motion Ensemble of 13 string players to present an eclectic programme of music from Purcell to Pärt.

The audience will have the choice to sit on chairs or on the floor, to stand and move around the space, and even lie down (cushions and mats are provided). At the evening concerts, drinks can be brought in from the bar, and everyone is invited to the after-party where audience and performers can mingle.

Audience reactions:

I was totally riveted. I felt more involved, ‘inside’ the music. The body-language and facial expressions helped express the music – quite terrifying at times! It felt organic, alive, more resonant and with more depth and emotion.

Critical reactions:

The players’ positions and gestures responded to the drama and musical argument. The result was extremely vivid and engaging, creating a real sense of dramatic involvement in the piece. – Planet Hugill

A performance element helps to focus concentration in a way that is often lacking in conventional concerts. As the performers move within the performance space, the effect of the different relationships adds extra feeling and strengthens the impact – British Theatre Guide

Venue: Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, Holborn, London, WC1R 4RL   

Saturday 28 October 3.30 pm – 4.45 pm               

Saturday 28 October 7.30 pm – 9.00 pm

Tuesday 31 October 7.30 pm – 9.00 pm
Book Tickets

Saturday Matinée: £12, concessions £8

Evenings: £15, concessions £10

Programme:

Johann Sebastian Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No 3, 

Antonio Vivaldi: Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro, 

Arvo Pärt: Fratres, 

Leos Janacek: String Quartet No 1 ‘The Kreutzer Sonata’,               

Henry Purcell: Chacony

Edward Elgar: Introduction and Allegro

Musicians and Injury – don’t become a statistic

The first of two guest posts by Jennifer Mackerras exploring the benefits of Alexander Technique for musicians

Injury to musicians: everyone knows it happens, but very few like to talk about it. For professional musicians, this is entirely understandable: nobody wants to endanger their career by being open about the pain they might be experiencing. And with amateur musicians, very often discomfort while playing becomes such a problem that they stop playing entirely – they vanish from their ensembles or music groups, and no one really questions why.

What distresses me, as a musician and an Alexander Technique teacher, is that so often the problems that cause musicians such distress are entirely preventable and treatable. It just takes a little time to find the cause, and find the right person to help you overcome it.

The clinician’s view

Christopher B. Wynn Parry’s 2004 article on ‘Managing the Physical Demands of Musical Performance’ makes for fascinating reading. He includes details of an analysis of musicians who attended clinics run by the British Association of Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) to that date. 48% had a clear-cut diagnosis of conditions like focal dystonia or tenosynovitis. But the other 52% had no specific diagnosis. Just over half of the musicians had non-structural performance-related problems.

That’s a shockingly large percentage!

We are talking about musicians who were struggling with symptoms that had no obvious clinical cause. They were problems caused by a coming together of over-practice, stress, muscle tension, poor posture, and insufficient technique. All of these problems are solvable. All of them.

There are lots of disciplines out there that can help you: your teachers, performance coaches, fitness instructors… Each has its own benefit. But I’m an Alexander Technique teacher, and I want to give you an overview of how Alexander Technique could help you avoid injury.

What Alexander Technique can do

Alexander Technique is taught in music schools and conservatoires precisely to combat and prevent the ‘non-specific’ symptoms that cause musicians to call for professional help. It isn’t about feeling nice – although that often happens. It won’t force you into ‘perfect posture’ – though other people will notice that you seem to sit and play more easily.

As an AT teacher and performance coach, I help people change their manner of using themselves in activity, so that they can truly fulfil their technical ability and achieve their artistic aims. My job is about helping you free yourself from a manner of using yourself (physically and mentally) that is getting in your way.

I see some common themes in the musicians I teach: too much tension while playing; effort put in the wrong places; and unhelpful ideas about practice and performing. I’ll explain what these are, and give you a hint about how to change things if you think you have this problem.

Too much tension

Do you bang your fingers down on the keyboard? Can you hear your fingers slapping the fingerboard on your cello, or on the wood of your recorder? Do your arms and shoulders feel tight and sore after playing? If so, you’re probably using too much muscular tension. In these cases, I give students the 50% less game: can you play with 50% less effort? This is best first attempted on easy pieces or scales. You may be astonished at how little effort you actually need to use to make a sound!

Effort in the wrong places

This can show up in attitude – 2, 3 or even 4 hour practice sessions with no breaks – or more physically. For example, have you ever thought about what joints you actually need to use to get your fingers to your keyboard? What muscles and joints raise the violin to your chin? It would astonish you how often I work with players who create a tremendous amount of unhelpful physical tension simply because they have never really thought about how to approach their instrument.

Before your next practice session, spend a couple of minutes thinking about the minimum number of joints you could use to achieve a playing position. If you don’t know where the joints are, there are really fantastic phone and tablet anatomy apps that can help you.

Unhelpful ideas

All of us, whether amateur or professional musicians, can sometimes have unhelpful ideas about practising and performing that can suck the joy from our music-making. Do you know anyone who has these ideas:

  • Needing to be perfect
  • Looking on the audience as an adversary
  • Focussing only on the mistakes in the performance, not the good things
  • Being afraid of ‘messing up’, to the point where you don’t want to perform
  • Fearing the audience ‘judging’ you
  • Believing that the only relevant practice time is on the instrument

Because we are a mind-body unity, the ideas that we have can have physical manifestations. If we believe in perfection, for example, we can begin to create a physical tightness as we try not to make mistakes. The physical tension then contributes to us making mistakes, the thing we most wanted to avoid! Try sitting down before your next performance or exam, and note down the ideas and feelings that you have about it. Can you find any twisty thinking going on?

Making music can be one of the most joyous and fulfilling of human activities. I know I’m biased, but I think that Alexander Technique is a great tool for helping musicians to rid themselves of the unhelpful ideas and physical traits that get in the way of musical expression. I hope that you give my ideas and games a try, and please do let me know how you get on. I wish you success!


Reference:

Christopher B. Wynn Parry, ‘Managing the Physical Demands of Musical Performance’ in Williamon, A., ed. (2004) Musical Excellence: Strategies and Techniques to Enhance Performance. Oxford: OUP. 41-60.

 

jen_working6Jennifer McKerras is a performance coach, musician and fully qualified and registered Alexander Technique teacher

activateyou.com

 

“Every performance is a challenge”

Julian Lloyd Webber, acclaimed cellist and Principal of the newly rebuilt Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, on inspiration, passion and the importance of music education

JLW_green

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

I always loved the sound of the cello and I found it a very natural instrument to play – unlike the piano which my mother attempted to teach me. Therein lies a lesson: never learn an instrument from your parents!

Who or what have been the most significant influences on your musical life and career?

I wanted to play the cello professionally after I heard the great Russian cellist Rostropovich in concert.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career?

Every performance is a challenge.

You are a passionate advocate of music education? Why do you feel we need proper provision for music education in our schools?

Children deserve a wider education than just a few narrow subjects. They should leave school knowing a lot about the world – and that includes its culture.

As Principal of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, how do you see this institution’s role in the context of music education in the UK and beyond, and the wider society of the city of Birmingham and the UK in general?

Birmingham is a fantastic city with a great future – soon Londoners will realise that they can have a far better lifestyle for much less cost in Birmingham. Unfortunately that will be the end of the city’s comparatively low property prices. The Royal Conservatoire will be at the heart of the city. We have five performance spaces and we will be running an extensive programme of concerts of every kind of music.

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

Keep thinking for yourself and never lose your passion for what you do.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Bringing music to as many people as possible.
Professor Julian Lloyd Webber is the Principal of Birmingham Conservatoire. Widely regarded as one of the finest musicians of his generation and described by Strad magazine as ‘the doyen of British cellists’, Julian Lloyd Webber has enjoyed one of the most creative and successful careers in classical music today. As founder of the British Government’s In Harmony programme and the Chair of Sistema England, he continues to promote personal and community development in some of England’s most deprived areas. He was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 1994 and – in recognition of his lifelong devotion to the music of Elgar – he was elected President of the Elgar Society in 2009.

At the age of sixteen Julian Lloyd Webber won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music and he completed his studies in Geneva with the renowned cellist, Pierre Fournier. Since then he has collaborated with an extraordinary array of musicians from Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Lorin Maazel and Sir Georg Solti to Elton John and Stephane Grappelli.

Julian Lloyd Webber has premiered more than sixty works for cello and he has inspired new compositions from composers as diverse as Joaquin Rodrigo and Malcolm Arnold to Philip Glass, James MacMillan and – most recently – Eric Whitacre. His many recordings have received worldwide acclaim: his Brit-award winning Elgar Concerto conducted by Lord Menuhin was chosen as the finest ever version by BBC Music Magazine and his coupling of Britten’s Cello Symphony and Walton’s Concerto with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields conducted by Sir Neville Marriner was described by Gramophone magazine as being “beyond any rival”. He has also recorded several highly successful CDs of shorter pieces including Cello Song, Unexpected Songs and – together with Jiaxin Lloyd Webber – A Tale of Two Cellos: “It would be difficult to find better performances of this kind of repertoire anywhere on records of today or yesterday” – Gramophone.

Julian is married to fellow cellist Jiaxin Cheng. He was the London Underground’s first official busker and he was the only classical musician chosen to perform at the Closing Ceremony of Olympics 2012. In April 2014 Julian received the Incorporated Society of Musician’s annual Distinguished Musician Award.

www.julianlloydwebber.com

Frances Wilson blogs on pianism, classical music and culture