All posts by The Cross-Eyed Pianist

Pianist, piano teacher, music and arts reviewer, and blogger

17 year old schoolboy comments on music teaching in UK state schools 

Growing within our schools today is a disturbing trend; increasingly, music is viewed as an optional subject – something equivalent to a passion that merely runs parallel to ‘academic’ subjects – that leads to contempt for classical music borne out of an ignorance of all it contains.

This thoughtful and well-argued article appeared on the Gramophone website, an “insider’s” view of the way music is taught in UK state schools.

 Read the entire text here 

Celebrate the Elite in Classical Music

elite
noun
noun: elite; plural noun: elite
a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society

The word “elite” has been frequently heard during the fortnight of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Athletes and sportspeople at the top of their game are regularly described as “elite”, and afforded an elevated status. And rightly so: these people are at the peak of their fitness, they’ve trained long, hard and meticulously to prepare for the games, and the medals and approbation are the visible badges of their great achievements. They are truly “elite”. We have no problem in applying this word to our sporting champions and when we use it it is replete with respect, admiration and awe.

It’s a rather different scenario when the word is used in relation to classical music. In this case it suggests exclusivity, inaccessibility, snobbery, and describes an art form which is regarded as the preserve of the few not the many whose practitioners are aloof, stuffy and out of touch.

You wouldn’t say that about Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah or Bradley Wiggins would you?

But of course classical musicians are elite. Look at how they train, the meticulous way they approach preparation, fitness, mental attitude. The mindset and physical preparation of the musician is very similar to that of the athlete, and many comparisons can – and should – be drawn between sporting elite and musicians.

Multiple gold medal-winning British track cyclists Laura Trott & Jason Kenny (source: BritishCycling.org.uk)

These days many musicians look to sport and more specifically sports psychology to inform their musical training and preparation (cf The Inner Game of Music which came from “inner game” sports training which has been used successfully by top tennis players). Musicians, like sportspeople, require discipline, dedication and commitment to put in the many long hours of training to do what they do and do it well, and many make huge sacrifices to achieve this. And just like elite athletes, musicians undergo a very rigorous training which includes much repetitive physical activity (practising) and psychological conditioning. We admire our elite athletes for their physical prowess, their stamina, their grace and strength – and we praise them for their dedicated, meticulous training. And we should admire the same attributes in our musicians.

Musicians, unlike sportspeople, last longer: those who’ve been elevated to the dizzy heights of “elite” (aka “world class”, “internationally renowned”, “legendary” etc) can continue a career well into their 80s (Paul Badura Skoda, for example).  A few know when it’s time to step back to let the younger players through (notably, Alfred Brendel). Others cling on determinedly, even if their playing does not match their revered status.

Sportspeople, meanwhile, are judged more objectively by their results and they usually know when it’s the right time to quit. They retain their special status and enter the hall of fame for others to aspire to and emulate. The greatest sportspeople go out at the top of their career (Bradley Wiggins, for example, who eschewed the big salary to concentrate what he enjoys and does well – track cycling; also Sir Chris Hoy, Boris Becker and Victoria Pendleton). These people know that they have reached a point in their professional career where there is nothing left to add and that now is the time to stand down. This is partly because of the physical demands on the body, motivation, the punishing lifestyle, and the recognition that better, younger people are coming through. Many turn their attention to coaching, sharing their wisdom and experience to support and inspire the next generation of elites.

An elite pianist - Daniil Trifonov (source: Intermusica)
An elite musician – pianist Daniil Trifonov (source: Intermusica)
We want our musicians to be elite: by adopting a mindset and training regime akin to that of the elite athlete, musicians are able to produce performances which are consistently impressive, technically assured, absorbing, moving, exhilarating, inspiring…… These are the traits we admire in our elite musicians and for this reason we should celebrate their superhuman talents, in just the same way that we lionise our medal-winning athletes.

 

 

It’s education, stoopid

Stephen Hough’s recent comments about changing the length and format of classical music concerts by ditching the interval and perhaps starting concerts earlier or later in the evening has generated a lively discussion. And rightly so, because those of us who care about classical music should be concerned about keeping this wonderfully and incredibly varied art form alive and kicking. In his article for the Radio Times, Hough expresses his concerns about attracting a younger audience to classical music and notes that there is no one simple solution to attract more people to concerts.

It strikes me that whenever young people are mentioned in the context of classical music, a whole host of commentators immediately respond by saying that “it’s all about education“. They cite the woeful provision for music education in our state primary and secondary schools (true), the fact that music lessons are often the preserve of the better off (also generally true, sadly) and that our children need to be educated to understand and appreciate classical music.

As I’ve mentioned several times before on this site, I was fortunate in that I had a very good musical education as a child, initiated first by my parents, who were keen concert-goers and music lovers, and subsequently through excellent music provision and teachers at both primary and secondary school (both state schools). My enjoyment and interest in classical music was inculcated at a young age and has stayed with me: I have not, as one friend suggested, grown to love classical music as I’ve got older, only that my tastes change as I explore more repertoire. I was very very lucky – privileged, in fact – in my musical education.

The debate about music provision in our state schools is ongoing and no one seems to have the solution. Various musical celebrities such as Nicola Benedetti and James Rhodes have initiated projects to try and right this terrible wrong, and I applaud anyone who cares enough to encourage our children to enjoy classical music, in and out of school. And Stephen Hough’s ideas should not be dismissed out of hand, just because they might run counter to established ways of doing things in classical music.

But we need to be careful how we frame “educating young people to like/enjoy/appreciate classical music”. As a Twitter colleague of mine said in response to Stephen Hough’s article:

Too often, whenever people start saying “Education” is the important factor, it sounds coercive

We should not seek to “programme” people, whatever their age, to like classical music. Let us not forget that the word “teach” comes from the Old English tæcan which means to “show”, “present” or “point out”. As a music teacher, I agree with my colleague and fellow blogger Andrew Eales, who suggests in his post in response to Stephen Hough’s comments, “When it comes to generating enthusiasm for classical music (and any other genre for that matter) the responsibility truly lies with those who perform and teach it.”. Andrew then goes on to offer some simple and creative ways in which to engage young people with classical music and which do not involve sitting a bunch of 6 year olds in a classroom and force-feeding them Beethoven and Bach.

It’s very easy – and lazy – to blame the young for all the ills in our society, and debates such as music education are too often, in my experience, loaded with a sense of entitlement or superiority – that the role of educators is to produce people who think and do things our way, rather than exploring ways to engage young people. Maybe one of the first things we need to do is shift the vocabulary from “tell” to “show”, “present” or “point out”……

I don’t have all the answers either. But in my very small way as a private music teacher, and via this blog and my other musical activities, I hope I am making a contribution, albeit a tiny one…..

Further reading

No More Loo Breaks – Stephen Hough’s original article in the Radio Times magazine (PDF file)

Stephen Hough: no more loo breaks? – Article by Andrew Eales/Piano Dao

Nicola Benedetti: Every young person in Britain should be made to study classical music

 

 

‘It May Have Been’ – the piano works of Paul Burnell

it20may20have20been20album20front20cover201500This new album celebrates the piano music of British composer Paul Burnell, spanning 30 years. Paul had recorded and produced previous albums himself, but in this instance he decided it was time to work with another musician, the pianist, composer and recording engineer James Bacon who runs the Piano Recording Studio. The music was recorded on a Bosendorfer Phoenix Imperial 290, fitted with the Phoenix agraffe system pioneered by Richard Dain at Hurstwood Farm Pianos, which gives the piano greater sustain and clarity of sound, especially in the high registers. This makes it ideal for Burnell’s piano music, much of which explores the timbre and sonic possibilities of the piano rather than melody per se.

“Unembellished, unfussy, unsophisticated…..and short” – Burnell’s own programme note for his Plain Pieces, a triptych dedicated to pianist Natalie Bleicher, could be applied to all the music on this album, though I would hesitate to use the word “unsophisticated”. Short, unfussy these pieces might be, but there is sophistication in the careful placing of notes to create subtle shadings, unexpected harmonies and suspended sounds. “Minimalist” is a description which immediately springs to mind on first hearing Burnell’s music, but this is not the frenetic (sometimes irritatingly so) repetitious minimalism of Philip Glass or Michael Nyman, but rather the more contemplative and spare minimalism of composers such as Lawrence Crane, whom Burnell cites as important influence (It May Have Been, Just Before Dawn). The more up-tempo pieces here (Pacer Nos, 1, 2 and 3) owe more to Howard Skempton (another significant influence) in the use of changing chords and sequences to create energy and climactic episodes. There are also echoes of that other great American minimalist, Steve Reich, in Standing in the Rain. Composed in the mid-1980s, the piece features a persistent rhythmic figure redolent of Reich’s Clapping Music and similar compositions.

Paul was kind enough to send me copies of the scores of the pieces featured on this album and it has been a pleasure to explore the music both through listening and playing. The music is accessible (roughly Grade 3-7) and attractive, but not simplistic (see my earlier comments about sophistication) and it takes a skilled and thoughtful pianist to create the considered sounds which Burnell’s music requires. This music also offers the piano student a good introduction to minimalism and provides a jumping off point for further exploration of this genre.

James Bacon brings the works to life on this recording with clarity, sensitivity and creativity – adding a drone to 2 Ping – combined with his technical expertise in the field of recording and sound engineering, and superb state-of-the-art equipment.

Recommended.

‘It May Have Been’ is available from iTunes, Amazon and other retailers as a download or CD, and can also be streamed on Spotify.

Paul Burnell’s Meet the Artist interview will be published shortly.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Artist…… Charles Owen, pianist

charlesowen-steinway-810x540
(photo: John Batten)

photo: John Batten

photo: John Batten

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

I gravitated quite instinctively towards the little cottage upright piano which we had at home when I was a child. Neither of my parents are musicians – vicar and teacher respectively – but both love music and encouraged my earliest fumbling attempts at the keyboard!

There was never an actual moment when I decided to pursue a career in music. It all happened very organically from the earliest lessons with a Hampshire County Award teacher  followed by a place at the inspirational Yehudi Menuhin School and then onto the Royal College of Music. I’ve never had any real doubts or regrets about following the musical path

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

Two exceptional pianists have guided my playing and approach to the piano and music making in general:

The wonderful Russian pedagogue Irina Zaritskaya taught me at the RCM in the early 1990s. She revealed and shared her special secrets into achieving pianistic fluency, a huge variety of touches and rich musical imagery. Her warm personality coupled with a generosity of spirit are qualities I remember and treasure.

I later had the privilege of working closely with Imogen Cooper on a wide range of repertoire. Imogen’s focus, intellect and sheer intensity of listening are truly exceptional. She demanded a greater sense of ‘digging deep’ into the scores, really focusing on long lines, balance of sound, projection, colour and style. All of the qualities that make her own playing so memorable and remarkable’

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

For me these are threefold:

Studying, developing and maintaining a huge range of music is a challenge for the vast majority of pianists. Tackling certain epic works such as Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ or Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto stand out in my mind as particularly demanding but immensely rewarding experiences.

The ability to cope with long journeys, strange environments and a wide range of different instruments, whilst always aiming to deliver the best performances is a perennial challenge!

Keeping a sense of long term perspective in one’s aims as a musician. Managing leaner times, dealing with difficult aspects of the music profession, remaining motivated and hopeful whilst keeping the flickering flame of that essential love of music alive and well’

You’ve recently announced the London Piano Festival with your duo partner Katya Apekisheva. Why did you decide to found this festival?

Katya and I have both attended many excellent festivals where various instrumentalists gather together to play chamber music.  In 2011 we were invited to the New Ross Piano Festival in Ireland where the focus was almost exclusively on pianists performing in solo and duo capacities. The atmosphere, camaraderie and sheer quality of the concerts there were very special indeed. 

After this positive experience, we decided to create something similar in the UK and were thrilled when Kings Place in London, with their pair of vibrant, contemporary concert halls, enthusiastically took up our idea. Pianists are destined by the very nature of the instrument to be solitary creatures. We hope to change all that for one dazzling weekend in October!

What are you most looking forward to in the London Piano Festival?

The Two-Piano Gala on the evening of Saturday, October 7th!

This mammoth concert will see the two Kings Place Steinway pianos placed together for an evening of piano duo music drawn almost exclusively from the Twentieth Century repertoire. Seven pianists including Stephen Kovacevich, the doyen of current players, will join forces in various duo formations to explore the riches, complexities and excitement of music for two pianos.  Rachmaninoff, Ravel and a world premiere by the superb American composer Nico Muhly, will all be on the menu.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

It is difficult to be truly proud of any particular performance or recording as so many aspects can always be improved upon.

Having said that, certain concerts where all the elements seem to combine do remain in my memory. Recent positive concert experiences include a Wigmore Hall performance of the Brahms Piano Quintet with the Takács Quartet, the Beethoven concertos at the magical St Endellion Summer Festival in Cornwall and a concert from last summer’s Ryedale Festival where I played the Goldberg Variations to a rapt, packed audience in one of Yorkshire’s grandest stately homes.

In terms of recordings, my have fond memories of a beautiful September weekend in Barnes when I recorded a solo Poulenc disc at St Paul’s School with super views across the Thames. I had just met my partner and was ‘walking on air’ at the time of the sessions. All that was back in 2003!

Which particular works do you think you play best?

Another impossibly embarrassing question! If forced to answer, I would mention the Debussy Preludes, Bach Partitas, some of the big Schubert sonatas and of course my beloved Janáček.

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

I am not one of those musicians who has a clear plan for their whole playing career in terms of repertoire. Perhaps I should try to be!

I gravitate towards certain composers and their works rather as you may pick up a book from your packed library shelves. There is a little bit of divination going on here.

My aim is to constantly learn new works, to react to the suggestions of others and to regularly revisit pieces from earlier in life. Returning to these with new experiences and musical knowledge is one of the best aspects of being a full time musician. I’m becoming increasingly interested in contemporary music and feel excited to have recently worked with/recorded music by Jonathan Dove, James Macmillan and Nico Muhly

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

The Wigmore Hall for its sublime acoustics, stunning pianos and sheer history

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Concerto wise, I love to perform any of the five Beethoven, also the Schumann and Bartok’s 3rd. Plenty of two piano works are a thrill to play, particularly Ravel’s La Valse and the Rachmaninoff Suites. As a listener my list is utterly endless –  Bach Brandenburg concertos, Janacek operas, Mahler, Sibelius symphonies, Schubert & Schumann lieder, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Rufus Wainwright…

Who are your favourite musicians?

Alfred Brendel, Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia, Martha Argerich, Andras Schiff, Brigitte Fassbaender, Gerald Finley. Of those no longer with us – Carlos Kleiber, Claudio Abbado, Jacqueline du Pré to name just a handful

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Impossible to select just one! Perhaps the most unexpected was a performance in the South of France at the En Blanc et Noir Festival, Lagrasse where pianists perform in a semi covered, stone market place. I was giving my first ever concert of Liszt’s Anneés de Pelerinage, Switzerland and whilst launching into the octave deluge of ‘Orage’, a genuine summer storm raged overhead complete with crashing thunder and flashes of lightning. Perfect timing, coincidence and choreography!’

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

Commitment, passion, patience and a sense of giving your all to the works of the truly wonderful composers who enrich our lives.

On a practical front, each musician needs to acquire the essential knowledge of musical building blocks – harmonic movement, structure/architecture, a feeling for melodic shaping, precise rhythmic grasp – whilst constantly developing their abilities to listen closely to what is actually coming out of the instrument!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Having clear headspace and a mind free of extraneous worries

What is your most treasured possession?

My 2009 Steinway Model B Piano

The London Piano Festival, a brand new celebration of the piano created by Katya Apekisheva and Charles Owen, runs from 7-9 October 2016 at London’s Kings Place. Further information about the festival here

Charles Owen is recognised as one of the finest British pianists of his generation with an extensive series of performances and recordings to his name.

Charles has appeared at London’s Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Hall and regularly gives recitals at the Wigmore Hall and Kings Place. Internationally he has performed at the Lincoln Center, Weill/Carnegie Hall, the Brahms Saal in Vienna’s Musikverein, the Paris Musée d’Orsay, and the Moscow Conservatoire.

His chamber music partners include Adrian Brendel, Nicholas Daniel, Augustin Hadelich, Chloë Hanslip, Julian Rachlin and Mark Padmore as well as the Carducci, Elias, Takács and Vertavo Quartets. In addition he has an established piano duo partnership with Katya Apekisheva with whom he has recorded the duo versions of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Petrushka

Charles studied in London at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Royal College of Music with Irina Zaritskaya and later furthered his studies with Imogen Cooper and Valeria Szervánszky. He has won numerous awards, including the Silver Medal at the Scottish International Piano Competition (1995) and the 1997 Parkhouse Award with the violinist Katharine Gowers. A regular guest at many leading festivals such as Aldeburgh, Bath, Cheltenham, Leicester and West Cork , Charles has also performed concertos with the Philharmonia, Royal Scottish National, London Philharmonic and the Moscow State Academic Symphony orchestras.

Charles’ solo recordings include discs of piano music by Janácek, Poulenc and the complete Nocturnes and Barcarolles by Fauré. Together with Natalie Clein, he has recorded cello and piano sonatas by Brahms, Schubert Rachmaninov and Chopin for EMI.

Charles Owen is a Professor of piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

www.charlesowen.net

Are concerts “too long”?

British pianist Stephen Hough has sparked a lively debate by suggesting in an article that classical concerts could be “shorter” to attract younger or new audiences, or allow venues and musicians to offer two concerts in one evening. He has also hinted that intervals could be ditched in favour of a performance lasting around 70 minutes, and that concerts could start at different times (in the UK the standard start time for an evening concert is 7.30pm) perhaps to allow two performances in the same evening. Reactions online to these suggestions have ranged from outrage (at the thought of anyone messing around with the “traditional concert format”) to applause (for creative thinking).

In fact what Stephen Hough is suggesting is not that new. Many musicians, ensembles, orchestras and venues have been experimenting with different ways of presenting classical music for some time, from rush-hour concerts at 6.30pm to Wigmore Lates, 45-minute lunchtime concerts or lecture-recitals. Earlier this year I met and interviewed John Landor whose innovative Meet the Music concerts allow audience members to get right up close and personal with the musicians and the music, literally, while the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has for some time offered concerts in pubs and late-night “speed-dating” sessions where the audience can meet the musicians after the performance.

Trying to encourage “young people” to come to classical music concerts is an ongoing preoccupation of ………well, anyone with an opinion on the future of classical music, it would appear. There seems to be a current misconception about young people that because they are used to the instant gratification of the internet and platforms like YouTube, Spotify, Netflix et al, they are incapable of sitting through a concert or performance lasting more than 30 minutes, maximum, in one go. Personally, I think it is less to do with this and more to do with education – or lack thereof – that has inculcated in them the idea that classical music is “boring”.

Personally, I have never had a problem with the length of concerts. I think this is partly due to the fact that from a very young age I was taken to concerts and opera at which I was asked by my parents to sit quietly and attentively. In fact, my mother used to say to me that it was “very rude to yawn or fidget” during the performance “because the musicians can see you and will be offended if they think you’re not listening properly!”. Having been on the other side of the stage, so to speak, as a performer in recent years, I am not so sure she was right (I tend not to look at the audience, as a pianist, until I stand to bow), but I think her comments certainly taught me to be a well-mannered and attentive concert goer. In over 40 years of concert going I have only twice fallen asleep during a concert, once during a Prom which I had rushed up the M3 in the car to get to (and I also fell asleep momentarily at the wheel of the car during the journey). I also feel slightly embarrassed if I leave during the interval (again, something I rarely do).

The length of a concert is dictated by many factors, including the programme of music being performed, type of venue, and time of day. Sometimes performers like to run a whole 70-90-minute programme without a break (Pierre-Laurent Aimard did this a few year’s ago with his Liszt Project cycle at the Southbank), and certain works, such as Messiaen’s Vingt Regards, are best performed (in my humble opinion) without a break to allow listener, and performer, to appreciate the arc of the narrative. But some repertoire is very demanding for the soloist and an interval may be necessary not only for the performer/s to have a break, a pee and a drink, and regroup before going back on stage, but also for the audience to pause and reflect on what they have heard, have a break, chat with friends and go back for the second half with refreshed ears and mind.

And I think it’s easy to forget too that for many people going to a concert is very much a social experience: it’s not just about the music, though of course that is the greater part of the evening, but it is also about meeting friends, sharing the excitement of live music, the conversations afterwards about what you heard.

Other factors dictate how long one can last in the auditorium, such as comfort of seats (Cadogan Hall has the comfiest seats in London), climate (the Royal Albert Hall can sometimes be unbearably hot and airless), and quality of the “social areas” (bars, foyers etc).

So I think what Stephen Hough is really suggesting is that it’s important to keep thinking of creative and exciting ways to present classical music. Concerts may be short or long, with or without interval, or formal dress. Performers may speak to the audience beforehand, or be interviewed, or maybe there is a pre-concert talk, or a post-concert Q&A session. We don’t need “gimmicks” to sell classical music – and most young people can spot a gimmick which has been thought up by a focus group or a bunch of middle aged people trying (and failing) to get on down with the kids. The most important thing is not to patronise audiences or talk down to them.

This is a very interesting discussion – feel free to leave your thoughts on this subject in the comments box below.

Meet the Artist……Stephen Hough

Readers may be interested in the Music Marathon project at St John’s Smith Square, London which takes place over the weekend of 17 and 18 September as part of Open House London 2016. Soloists, choirs and ensembles will perform over a 24-hour period while the doors of St John’s will be open during the entire weekend to allow people to come in and explore the building, while also enjoying performances by a wide range of musicians (I will be performing there from 1.15-1.30pm on Saturday 17 September).

 

If you listen to one thing this week…….

‘Heading for the Hills’ by Nobuya Monta and Peter Byrom-Smith
a1757970457_10
Performed by Strata String Quartet
Violin 1: Oliver Morris
Violin 2: Alexandra Dunn
Viola: Laurie Dempsey / Alice Billen
Cello: Roderick Skipp

Recorded at Blueprint Studios, Salford
Mixed and Mastered by Gaz Hadfield
Cover design by Louis Barabbas

Debt Records, released July 15, 2016

This first classical release by Debt Records celebrates a groundbreaking East-West collaborative partnership between Japanese composer Nobuya Monta and British composer Peter Byrom-Smith. ‘Heading for the Hills’, a suite in 10 movements for string quartet, is the main work on the album, bookended by Sonata Lamentosa and Sinfonia by Monta. Peter Byrom-Smith’s work, which lends its title to the album, is a tribute to the landscape of the Peak District close to where Peter and his wife Gillian, a poet, have made their home in Glossop in Derbyshire.

“The title of the album was taken from a poem written by my wife Gillian Byrom-Smith. The poem was inspired by the frequent rail journeys we have taken across the flat Vale of York towards the beauty of the Pennines.”

The main six movements of the work are musical images of real journeys between the east and west of England, depicting things the composer observed, or thought he had observed during the course of these journeys (Galleons, Swallows, Raindrops, Heading for the Hills Lanterns, Buds). A Prelude and Postlude were added to complete the work – and the journey – so that the suite works as an entire narrative when performed in concert. No. 7, Buds, was composed by Nobuya Monta and Peter Byrom-Smith.

This haunting, expressive and evocative music contains hints of British minimalist composer Michael Nyman, but without the (sometimes tiresome) insistent repetitions. Byrom-Smith seems more intent on using melody, harmony and dialogue between the instruments to create interesting textures and musical interactions. Motifs are stated, restated and developed, for example the dancing figure which opens over a drone in ‘Raindrops’  develops into a playful, twirling dance between the instruments. Here there are more than a few hints of English folksong and dance before the middle section unfolds in a more contemplative manner. Later, the folksy motif returns and an insistent little fanfare is heard in all instruments. 

‘Swallows’ creates a feeling of space, of birds wheeling and circling in the sky, with its contoured melodic lines and delicate fioriture, redolent of the solo violin line in ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Vaughan-Williams. ‘Buds’ unfolds slowly, just as a flower or plant opens to reveal itself. The final work in the suite, Postlude, recalls themes heard previously in the Prelude and introduces new material to bring the narrative and imagery to its conclusion.

Nobuya Monta’s ‘Sonata Lamentosa’ is an emotional response to the tragedies that have occurred all over the world. The textures here are more florid, the mood more urgent with an almost Schubertian melancholy (cf String Quartet No. 14, ‘Death and the Maiden’), though, as in Schubert, there is also a sense of hope. 

The closing work on the album, ‘Sinfonia’, is also by Monta, and once again seems infused with the moods and motifs of late Schubert and the harmonic and rhythmic piquancy of the early twentieth century (Ravel, Debussy). It utilises contrapuntal textures and the second movement is a thrilling fugue.

‘Heading for the Hills’ – CD or download

Composer Peter Byrom-Smith will featured in forthcoming Meet the Artist interview

 

 

 

 

Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming, London piano recital 2016

SUNDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 2016 6:30pm
CADOGAN HALL – 5 Sloane Terrace, London SW1 9DQ

Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming, Japan’s most acclaimed pianist, returns to Cadogan Hall for a special one-off performance in London in aid of animal welfare charities.

Cadogan Hall is her favourite venue and she follows her sell-out 2014 concert with a performance featuring the works of Schubert, Mozart, Chopin and Liszt. This promises to be a rare chance to capture one of her unique performances.

Book tickets:
Box Office: 020 7730 4500

Programme

Schubert – Impromptu, D. 899 No. 3
Ravel – Pavane pour une infante défunte
Debussy – Estampes – No. 3: Jardins sous la pluie
Brahms – Hungarian Dance No. 5
Mozart – Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major, K. 331
Chopin – Nocturne, Op. 9 No. 2; Étude, Op. 10 No. 12
Toshiya Sukegawa – Lacrimosa
Liszt – Grande étude de Paganini No. 6
Schumann/Liszt – Frühlingsnacht
Liszt – Grande étude de Paganini No. 3 – ‘La campanella’

Meet the Artist……. interview with Ingrid Fujzko Hemming

‘Scenes from the End’ with Heloise Werner

scenesfromtheend_web3

‘Scenes from the End’ by British composer Jonathan Woolgar is a one-woman opera focusing on grief in a variety of forms, from the abstract to the deeply personal, from the philosophical to the everyday. It explores big ideas – the notion of “the end” and what it might mean at different times and in different forms – concepts far bigger and complex than our individual comprehension can easily grasp or make sense of; and the frustration of the individual in a state of grief, surrounded by people whose prosaic or patronising attempts at offering “comfort” merely compound one’s sense of loss and anger.

ywtdacbiHeloise Werner is a young soprano and cellist with a particular interest in new music and music as drama. She is co-director of contemporary ensemble The Hermes Experiment and a member of new vocal ensemble SHARDS. ‘Scenes from the End’ developed from previous collaborations with Jonathan Woolgar and Heloise’s interest in exploring the boundaries between theatre and singing, and how that might work in a one-woman show.

Each of its three parts has a specific musical and textural focus. The first part explores grief for the end of the universe, a concept so vast we cannot possibly understand nor process it. The second part grieves for the human species and explores the arrogance of humankind (“We have done well, but we forgot to survive“), and, to my mind at least, offers a comment on our reckless plundering of the earth’s resources and man’s seemingly insatiable need to wage war on others. The final part grieves for an individual life, the pain of personal grief and the griever’s frustration at those around her who seem unable to respond appropriately (“Do not speak to me……but, stay with me“).

Sparsely staged, with only a chair and stool as props, the work has an immediacy which is arresting and very powerful. Heloise’s voice has a piercing clarity and depth, one moment beautiful, the next visceral and freighted with distress. The sung episodes are interspersed with spoken words (whispered, shouted), and gasping and panting, which calls to mind the gulping sobs of a grieving person who almost cannot cry any more. There are also recorded episodes, Heloise’s voice heard hauntingly from a distance, and percussion. Quotations are projected onto a screen which inform and expand on the narrative. The work is direct and thought-provoking with a raw intimacy enhanced by the simple staging and small size of the venue: one is close enough to see the broad range of emotions passing across Heloise’s face as she performs.

While the performance unfolded, the sounds of Hampstead Road filtered into the theatre – people talking, the rumble of traffic, a police or ambulance siren – reminding us, perhaps appropriately, that human life in all its humdrum and everyday continues.

‘Scenes from the End’ is showing in Edinburgh as part of the fringe festival from 22nd – 27th August. Further information and tickets here

heloisewerner.com

Meet the Artist……Roman Rabinovich, pianist

RomanRabinovich2016_photo©RobinMitchell_012-Edit
(Photo: Robin Mitchell)

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

I come from a musical home, both of my parents are piano teachers. Music was everywhere around me when I was growing up.

You are also a composer and a visual artist. Can you explain the connection between your music and visual art?  

I’m a pianist who composes and paints. There are many parallels between visual art and music – tonalities, colours, textures, form/structure, proportions. One art form feeds the other. I’ve been drawing since I can remember myself. In recent years I’ve been creating a lot of digital art on my iPad. I also use the iPad to read music.

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

I was fortunate to have wonderful teachers. First, when I moved to Israel I studied with Arie Vardi; then with Seymour Lipkin and Claude Frank at the Curtis Institute of Music. They formed my musical understanding. Later on, András Schiff was very instrumental to my development. But perhaps the biggest influences are the personalities of the composers whose music I’m playing at the moment.

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

Finding mental space in the midst of traveling and playing a lot of different repertoire at the same time.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

I don’t think too much about past performances.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

It’s difficult to be objective about what I play best. I love many things and I have a big and eclectic repertoire, ranging from Couperin to pieces that I commission. I would say that right now I feel very connected to the music of Haydn and Schumann.

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

The process of putting together a recital programme is fascinating and at the same time can be quite daunting. The possibilities are huge. Firstly, I play music that I love and feel connected to. For example, at the moment I’m quite obsessed with Haydn. I’m working on 24 Haydn sonatas for the Lammermuir Festival in September. It is an enormous amount of work. This informed the last season, in which I programmed a different Haydn sonata in each of my recitals. I try to have a thread in my programs. It can be a thematic thread or motivic one.

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

I’ve played in many beautiful halls in Europe and in the USA. It is hard to choose one, but if I had to it would probably be Wigmore Hall. It is just such a gorgeous and intimate place to make music.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

To perform: anything by Haydn, Beethoven Opus 101, Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Rachmaninov and Prokofiev concertos.

To listen to: Sibelius symphonies, Mozart operas, Bach cantatas.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Bartok, Rachmaninov, Edwin Fischer, Schnabel, Szigeti, Furtwangler, Harnoncourt, Carlos Kleiber, Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

András Schiff playing Goldberg and Diabelli Variations, and Opus 111 for an encore.

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

Be patient and know your priorities in whatever you do.

Where would you like to be in 10 yearstime?

Wherever life takes me.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Being outside, either in the woods or the mountains.

What is your most treasured possession?

The present moment.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Making music.

What is your present state of mind?

Curious.

Roman Rabinovich - Papa HaydnRoman Rabinovich will be Artist in Residence at Lammermuir Festival, taking place from 9 to 18 September 2016 in East Lothian, Scotland. Alongside his concert series of 25 of Haydn’s piano sonatas, there will be an exhibition of Roman’s artwork. All of this art will be created especially for the project via iPad, inspired by Haydn and his music, and projected onto the wall. For further information about Roman, his art and performances at Lammermuir Festival, please visit his website: http://www.romanrabinovich.net