RudiB3Guest post by Michael Johnson

The latest edition of the Aix Music Festival brought a stellar array of singers, pianists, instrumentalists and orchestras to Aix-en-Provence, near Marseille this year. Co-founder and violinist Renaud Capuçon tells me the festival has become the realization of a dream he has nurtured since childhood.

A highlight was Austrian pianist Rudolf Buchbinder who played the five Beethoven piano concertos while conducting the Sachsische Staatskapelle of Dresden from the keyboard. He accomplished this in a single day, showing no sign of strain, a remarkable feat for a player of 72 years of age.

On the day before he was to play his back-to-back concertos, Maestro Buchbinder sat down with me in the “Teddy Bar” of the Grand Théâtre de Provence to discuss his age, his stamina, his piano preferences, and his love for Beethoven. He was relaxed and cheerful and spoke freely. He dismissed his marathon feat of keyboard conducting as “nothing special”.

An edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Q. You probably don’t like this term “marathon” to describe your five Beethoven concertos in one day, do you?

A. Actually, a solo recital is much worse than playing the five. Even practicing for four hours is much worse. (Snorts) I once played the two Brahms concertos in one evening!

But you also conduct from the keyboard. That must be stressful, leading this collection of prima donnas….

This is nothing special. Before, everybody did it. Beethoven did it. I conduct with my eyes, with my mouth, a little bit with my hands. I have done it 500 times in my life. It’s a different kind of concentration. The players have to listen.

You have played the five concertos before in one day.

Yes, in 2011 I did it with the Vienna Philharmonic.

You are not intimidated by such a large task?

No. Why should I be ?

Well, because there are a lot of notes!

Oh no. The secret of piano playing is simple. You just have to touch the right notes at the right time. That’s it. (Laughs)

Do you have to prepare yourself for these five ? Do you review the scores prior to the concert?

No, this time I left the scores at home in Vienna. I don’t need them.

Really? You have them all in your head ? How many times have you played these concertos?

Over 200 times for No. 1, and probably a hundred or more for the others. No. 1 was my first big concert. I was 11 years old, in Vienna, dressed in short pants. (Laughs)

In what order you play them?

I play 2, 3, 4 in the first concert, and 1 and 5 in the evening. Because 1 and 5 are the longest. No. 1 has a longest slow movement.

Do you have a favourite among the five?

No. If I had a favorite, I could not play the others. It’s my problem. I have to love all of them. Each concerto is so completely different.

Aren’t they derived from Mozart’s piano concertos in certain passages ? Tovey wrote of “several examples of Mozart” that appear in No. 1. These two geniuses were rivals.

People say the first two concertos are influenced by Mozart but that’s not true. They have nothing to do with Mozart. It’s all about Beethoven. Beethoven didn’t think about Mozart. In fact, he hated Mozart. When he came to Vienna, Mozart was God. Beethoven was always jealous. It took him a long time to be as popular. People also try to make three periods in the Beethoven sonatas. Wrong. He had his ups and downs throughout this life.

Aren’t the Beethoven cadenzas a special feature of these concertos?

Not really. In 1809 or1810 Beethoven wrote all the cadenzas for his concertos. He just sat down and wrote them, one after another. He wrote three cadenzas for his No 1. There actually was one connection with Mozart. Beethoven wrote the cadenza for K466, the D-minor, because Mozart didn’t write this one. He improvised onstage.

Here Buchbinder plays the D-minor concerto with the Beethoven cadenza:

(interview continues after the video)

When you play the concertos, do you use Beethoven’s cadenzas or do you write your own?

Only Beethoven’s. Of his three cadenzas for No. 1, the first one is the best one but was left unfinished so I use some parts of the second and third cadenza to fill it out. They fit perfectly.

Are you the only pianist who plays around with cadenzas like this?

I think so. As far as I now, I am the only pianist to combine the cadenzas into one.

You compose cadenzas for other concertos but you do not use your own for the Beethoven concertos?

No… only Beethoven’s. They are not so bad, you know (Laughs).

I am fascinated that you can carry all these five concertos in your head.

Oh, this is only a part of my repertoire.

A personal question about your stamina. At age 72, can you play all five without worrying about fatigue or anxiety?

I admit that I am very nervous. The older I get, the more nervous I get. As a young man, I used to walk on stage confidently (Mimes confident posture, as if marching on stage.)

You don’t worry about this increasing nervousness?

No. No. Backstage, I don’t think about the concert that is coming. When I come onstage, I have cold fingers. A few seconds later, at the keyboard, I am back to normal.

Do you worry about memory lapses?

No. This should never happen. I am very secure. Well, maybe a little bit in K466.

You have said you want to die on the keyboard. Is this true?

Yes, like Wilhelm Backhaus. After two movements of a Schubert Impromptu he left the stage, then returned to play the same thing over again. It was his favourite. He was very ill and knew this would be his final performance. After his Schubert, he was taken to hospital where he died.

Do you have ten years left, or twenty, like Paul Badura-Skoda, who is still playing in his 90s?

Look. I have to play. But I only play when I am able to concentrate. I have always practiced only two hours a day, and sometimes I don’t touch the piano for one week. I am active. I just signed exclusive contract for Deutsche Grammophon.

Is playing getting more difficult or easier?

The Brahms concertos are much easier for me now than ten years ago. I played the Tchaikovsky First with Valery Gergiev maybe five or six times and also Rachmanninov.

Critics and other experts like to identify Beethoven’s development from Classical composing to a more Romantic style. Where does this begin to show?

This is stupid. The first one is Romantic. Beethoven always went up and down throughout his life. Beethoven was the most romantic composer in music history. He is the only composer who writes espressivo a tempo. Nobody else. He leaves the freedom to the interpreter.

Your views are fascinating because they are so individual. Is this a freedom that you can express now because of your age and experience? Does this empower you to say what you really think, regardless of other opinions?

You know the late Joachim Kaiser? We knew each other very, very well. He forced me … he said to me, “Rudi, you have to record the Beethoven sonatas again.” After 30 years interval I did them again for Sony in Dresden and then again at the Salzburg Festival. Thirty years ago I was not “free” like this.

And when did you feel this freedom arrive?

AYou cannot control it. It comes by itself. Like in the Hammerklavier, you play fast (Sings the opening phrase, loudly and vigorously like B-DUM PATA DUM PATA DUMDUM). You play those first seven or eight bars by the metronome, and then you are free. Beethoven writes everything very clearly. After that introduction he keeps the pedal. That makes a big difference. Many players do not have those freedoms today. They are afraid.

What about phrasing?

Beethoven writes rinf forzando (slurring), for the whole phrase. Only Brahms also used rinf. The alternative is fortepiano, which is short, like a mosquito bite.

But you have the discovered the freedom. Aren’t you afraid of criticism?

I have no problem with criticism if the critic declares what is right and what is wrong. What I don’t like is the critic who says, for no reason, “It was too fast.”

You always choose Steinways for your concerts. Why not a Viennese Bösendorfer?

Of course Vienna was very proud of Bösendorfer. But the tone to me is much too sharp, too harsh. Bösendorfer makes its own sound. I want to make the sound myself.

“Too glassy”, as some pianists say?

The point is that Steinway is the most neutral of all pianos. By this I mean that nothing comes from the piano, the way it is built. You must treat a woman like the Steinway, it’s the same. When you treat them good, they respond good. What you give, it comes back. I want to make the sound. You can play soft, you can pay lyrically, espressivo. The range is much bigger.

You say you have projects coming from Deustche Grammophon. For example?

In October, I will start a cycle of the Beethoven concertos. No. 1 with Andris Nelsons. No. 2 with Maris Janssons with Bavarian Radio. No. 3 with Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic. No. 4 with Theileman Andriessen and the Staatskappelle. No. 5 with Riccardo Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic. All to be published by Deutcsche Grammophon. It’s a nice cycle. It will appear in about two years. We also have other plans.

Michael Johnson is a music critic with particular interest in piano. He worked as a reporter and editor in New York, Moscow, Paris and London over his writing career. He is the author of five books and divides his time between Boston and Bordeaux. He is a regular contributor to The Cross-Eyed Pianist


Portrait of Rudolf Buchbinder by Michael Johnson


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Your father, Masaaki Suzuki, must have had a major impact on your musical development as a child. Can you tell us about this, and what else inspired you to pursue a career in music?

My father had a lot of influence on me as a musician, though I never actually studied with him properly apart from at the Tokyo University for Fine Arts and Music, when I was a student in Masaaki’s class. This was quite special in a way, as I was able to see the way he works, as every other student in the class. Whilst Masaaki introduced me to the world of Baroque music, I became inspired whilst studying composition at the University of Tokyo, where I became familiar with many fascinating contemporary composers. This is especially interesting to me as the composers are still living, so I am able to see the inspiration of their compositions, relating to the world I live in now.

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

Becoming Principal Conductor of the Bach Collegium Japan was a great challenge, as I was formerly the organist, and therefore my relationship with those I work with in the orchestra changed considerably. Every day presents new and exciting challenges that I look forward to tackling. Conducting an orchestra is pure fun for me!

You feature on numerous recordings with Bach Collegium Japan, and have recently been appointed their Principal Conductor. Which performances/recordings with Bach Collegium Japan are you most proud of?

The first would be ‘Bach: Cantata’s, Volume 28’ (BIS) my first recording as harpsichordist of the Bach Collegium Japan! I’m also proud of our Cantata’s Volume 44, where I played the solo part in Bach’s Organ Concerto.

Your new recording project with Antoine Tamestit sees you perform JS Bach’s three sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord. What inspired you to take on this project?

Antoine and I have been very good friends for years, and share a love of sushi which always brings us together, and of course music. We have been talking about making a recording for a while, and it has been the greatest joy to finally work with him on this. The result has been so fruitful and I look forward to sharing this with people.

You will be making your debut at Edinburgh International Festival this season. What are you looking forward to about performing there?

I’m very happy to be returning to Edinburgh to make my debut at the International Festival. The press were very kind about my harpsichord playing last time I was here, and I’m of course looking forward to sampling Scotland’s famous whisky!

You seem to have a very busy workload! How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I believe you have to enjoy making the music you choose to perform. I have always chosen music I love, and I’m happy with the results so far.

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

The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is special to me as I used to live in this area. I always love visiting Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, and Wigmore Hall for its warm atmosphere.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I don’t have a definition of success, as such. I’m happy with the way my career is growing and developing, and believe musicians should always take a humble stance on their career. Acknowledging success might encourage you to stop striving as much, and there is always better music to be made!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? What advice would you give to a younger artist?

I once attended a masterclass given by the great Yo-Yo Ma who explained the three steps to becoming a musician. The first evolved around being confident and proud of what you are making. The second focused on overcoming your insecurities and inexperience as a young musician, and the third encouraged us to continue making music against all odds! I think this third step is the most important but also the most difficult.

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

After 10 more years I hope I am still making music and still happy!

Masato Suzuki’s recording with Antoine Tamestit of J S Bach’s three sonatas for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord is released on 23 August 2019 on the Harmonia Mundi label

Masato Suzuki joins the Dunedin Consort in a performance of keyboard concertos by J S Bach at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. Further information

A multifaceted musician, Masato Suzuki appears on the concert platform as conductor, organist, harpsichordist and composer. His conducting engagements have seen him work with orchestras such as the Bach Collegium Japan (as Principal conductor), Hiroshima Symphony, Kyushu Symphony, NHK Symphony, Tokyo Philharmonic, and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestras, with repertoire from Haydn and Mozart to Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Schnittke. As organist and harpsichordist Suzuki’s relationships with ensembles such as Bach Collegium Japan as well as chamber music have taken him to major concert venues and festivals across Europe and the US. In the capacity of composer, Suzuki is published by Schott Japan and has recently received commissions from Sette Voci, Tokyo Musik Kreis and Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall among others.


The weekend brought some time out to pause and reflect on the reactions of others and my own to that Guardian article and that Phase Eight dress (read my articles here and here). While some agreed with my view, others suggested I had over-reacted or not understood the message of The Guardian article in particular. There were a few rather bruising brickbats mingled with supportive words via Twitter; such is the nature of that particular beast and it was at least encouraging to see a lively discussion, regardless of one’s point of view.

Perhaps these two issues look like a storm in a classical music teacup. Why get so exercised about a red evening dress or an obviously clickbaity article? But I do think the Guardian article and the Phase Eight tweet are symptomatic of an ongoing issue for this art form which I love and about which I care passionately (and yes, my *over* reaction is a sign of my passion) – how classical music is perceived and presented.

Classical Music is elitist

Still, still there is this perception that classical music is for a certain demographic that is predominantly white, middle class, monied, cultured and educated (but first and foremost, monied). It’s easy to “prove” this by highlighting the price of opera tickets, especially to prestigious venues like the Royal Opera House or Glyndebourne. Football is also expensive to attend, ditto pop gigs and festivals, but no one suggests that these activities are “elitist”. So there is a curious definition of the word “elitist” at work in relation to classical music that suggests both financial and cultural superiority, and that the artform is somehow rarefied and exclusive because of the type of people who usually engage with it. This also relates to the perceived customs and etiquette of classical music; thus outsiders think that to attend a classical music concert or opera, one must dress up (back to that Phase Eight dress again). It’s true that people dress up for Glyndebourne and other country house operas – it’s part of the experience – but take a look at the audience on any given night at any UK concert hall and you’ll find people dressed comfortably and casually. There’s no dress code at the Wigmore Hall nor the Proms (something Phase Eight’s marketing department would have realised, had they done some homework).

It troubles me, this negative perception of classical music and its fans, and it strikes me that currently there is an image crisis surrounding classical music. It wasn’t always like this. When I was growing up in the 1970s, there was more classical music in our everyday lives – particularly on primetime television with programmes like André Previn’s. I’m fairly sure classical music then did not have the elitist aura which surrounds it now, and it was only when I went to secondary school that I began to sense a certain antagonism towards classical music which for me manifested itself in the attitude of some of my classmates who bullied me because I liked music and was “good at it”. Yet music was available to every pupil in the school should they choose to participate (this was in the early 1980s in the halcyon days of good music provision in state schools), but I was bullied because I was engaging in an activity which was perceived as highbrow and somehow exclusive.

The serious erosion of music provision in state schools and the view that music (and the arts in general) is a “soft subject”, that is does not bring value (i.e. monetary value), together with a certain philistinism on the part of those that govern us, has not helped classical music’s image. But I don’t believe education is the entire cause of the problem.

When and how did this negative image of classical music develop and who is responsible for it? Surely not the musicians, most of whom (in my experience – and I have met a fair number via my Meet the Artist series) are the antithesis of “elite” (except in the sense that they have undergone a long and rigorous training to become masters of their craft). Are audiences the problem? Those snobby, stuffy, mostly elderly classical music aficionados who make the ingénue concert goer feel unwelcome?  A music journalist commented in response to the Outraged of Tunbridge Wells reaction to the Phase Eight dress furore that: “ … if classical music dies it will be the enthusiasts that kill it.” So maybe audience members, the enthusiasts and the fans, do have a responsibility? Is the problem with the gatekeepers, classical music’s “deep state”, who wish to keep the artform secure in its gilded cage, accessible only to the few not the many, to the extent that engaging with classical music can feel like joining a cult?

Despite the best efforts of those of us within the profession – musicians, commentators, reviewers, bloggers, promoters, teachers – who want to break down barriers, to do away with the elitist tag, it seems as if classical music’s image is pretty poor right now. Sadly, this elides with the egalitarian/populist assertion that people have “had enough” of experts, and are suspicious of anything that smacks of education or scholarship (quick to label it “elitist”).

Enough already with the smirking and eye-rolling, the apologetic marketing, the talking about classical music as if it is some kind of weird taboo. It needs to lose the stigma of elitism and that it is only for older people. I believe that all of us who work in the profession and engage with the artform have a responsibility to accentuate the positives about classical music and to reach out and encourage others to experience it.







A series of concerts with British pianist James Lisney, exploring the late piano music of Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin

Endgame logo

What is ‘Late Style’? It’s a question that has preoccupied writers and thinkers, from Theodor Adorno, who coined the term in relation to Beethoven’s late music, to Edward Said, whose book ‘On Late Style’ explores the output of composer, artists and writers in the later years of their creative lives.

We expect the late works of composers (and writers and artists) to be concerned with valedictory thoughts, of resolution and acceptance, that age and ill-health bring a state of serenity or resignation. Yet many composers’  late work is often intransigent, challenging and contradictory, inventive and transcendent.

Late style is also associated with an aesthetic mastery and a distillation of what matters most, as if an awareness that the end may be near has the effect of really concentrating the artistic focus. Beethoven, for example, reveals in his late piano sonatas an intense heroism, otherworldliness and non-conformity. For Adorno, Beethoven’s late works are an emphatic and triumphant assertion of his refusal to resolve life’s exigencies peacefully, a view which Edward Said endorses, regarding it as a strength in its own right, rather than a negative factor in Beethoven’s late music.

For Schubert and Chopin, both of whom died young (by today’s standards), lateness is relative, almost a philosophical construct. The “late” works of these composers demonstrate that lateness is not just about physical or creative maturity, but also an attitude of mind. In their music there is the sense of life lived with intensity, that time is finite and there is much more to say, and this seems to have focused these composers’ imaginations in a very specific way.

‘Endgame’, a new series of concerts by British pianist James Lisney, at venues in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic, explores the notion of Late Style through the lens of four composers who are particularly close to Lisney’s heart – Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin. These recitals include some of the best-loved, most intriguing and satisfying music of these composers’ late output.

Full details on James Lisney’s website

Meet the Artist interview with James Lisney


I have nothing but praise for James Lisney`s piano playing; he combines velvet touch and wide range of colour with complete understanding of phrasing and dynamic shading. This is someone who can really give the mechanical box of wires and wood a singing soul.

The Telegraph


Classical Music is only for old people

Classical music is for anyone of any age

You have to wear special clothes for concerts/opera

You can wear what you like. Opera festivals like Glyndebourne do have dress codes and attendees enjoy dressing up to go, but in general there is no dress code for concerts or operas. Wear what is comfortable (especially if attending the Proms on a hot August evening).

Classical Music is for the rich elite (“the yachts and have yachts”)

Classical music is for everyone. Classical concert tickets are considerably cheaper than pop gigs and festivals, West End theatre or football matches.

You need specialist knowledge to understand/appreciate Classical Music

Just open your ears and experience the sounds. Knowing that a work is constructed in Sonata Form is not necessarily going to enhance your experience. You may find after you’ve heard a piece of music that you would like to find out more about it – concert programme notes can help with this, and there are plenty of resources online to increase your knowledge.

Knowing about the music is the job of the musicians – the audience is there to enjoy it!

“I don’t know anything about classical music”

But you can explain the emotional impact of pieces like The Lark Ascending or the Ride of the Valkyries  – which reveals your reaction to the music and therefore proves that you do “know something” about it!

Classical music is “hard”

Classical music – like other music – is about emotions, and those who write the stuff were and are human beings, just like us. Classical music is about the human condition – love, sex, life, death – because composers, like us, have fallen in love, out of love, experienced joy or sorrow…… Sometimes expressing these human varied emotions can result in complex or long music, but let your mind wander as you listen, and the music will set your imagination free.

Classical Music is “relaxing”

Yes, some of it is, and its therapeutic benefits are well known and documented. But a lot of it is uplifting, exciting, energising, thrilling….. because it encompasses the full gamut of human emotion (see above)

People who like classical music are snobby/stuffy/high-brow

People who like classical music are just like you and me. Get chatting to others at a concert and you will find that the vast majority of classical music fans are ordinary people who simply enjoy the music.

I’m worried I might clap at the wrong time

Multi-movement works like symphonies or sonatas tend to be performed without applause between the movements – a custom which developed at the end of the nineteenth century – but people do applaud between movements, especially at the Proms, and that’s fine!

Classical music was written by dead white men in periwigs

Classical music was, and is, written by men and women, white and BAME people, and many are very much alive and well today.

Only men can conduct classical music

Women can and do conduct too! Marin Alsop, one of the most respected international conductors, is female, and there’s a whole crop of younger women conductors following in her footsteps. Gender shouldn’t come into it – they are all “conductors”, regardless of their sex!

Classical musicians are all highly-strung divas who live in ivory towers. They are not “normal” people

Very few classical musicians today fit that clichéd model. And why? Because they know that being a diva makes you a difficult colleague to work with. Most are very normal, living in ordinary houses, with families, pets, and the same day-to-day concerns (like how to pay the bills) as the rest of us.

“You’re so lucky to be able to do your hobby as a job!” (see also: “What’s your day/real job?”)

Being a classical musician is not a hobby. It is a profession which requires huge commitment, specialist training and hours and hours of practicing to prepare, maintain and refresh repertoire.

“You’re so talented! It’s amazing how the music magically comes out of your fingers!”

“Talent” is 99% hard graft – and the so-called “magic” the result of hours and hours of deliberate practice. (See above)

“Stockhausen is unlistenable”: All modern/contemporary classical music sounds like “a squeaky gate”

A lot of modern/contemporary music is very melodic, accessible and easy to listen to






London chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru will deliver Silk Moth, its first fully-staged production for fringe opera stalwart Grimeborn Festival at London’s Arcola Theatre over a five performance season from 9-11 August 2019.

A story of vulnerability and complicity told through the music of Bushra El-Turk, Liza Lim and Cassandra Miller, Ruthless Jabiru’s Silk Moth will examine the complex tragedies of honour crime, family violence and female (dis)empowerment in Britain and beyond.

A continuous and fully-staged programme centred around composer Bushra El-Turk and librettist Eleanor Knight’s hard-hitting chamber opera Silk Moth (2015), the production interweaves the expressive Arabic voice with Western contemporary opera in an opulent sensory tapestry born of El-Turk’s Lebanese cultural heritage. Liza Lim The Heart’s Ear(1997) will preface the opera as a dramatised prologue; a work similarly rooted in Arabic Islamic music and the unique qualities of the ney (Middle Eastern flute). The programme culminates with Cassandra Miller’s Bel Canto (2010); a work conceived as a temporal portrait of Maria Callas progressing from her young voice to the voice of her later years. Ruthless Jabiru’s core ensemble will be augmented by musicians from the experimental Middle Eastern initiative Ensemble Zar as guests within the orchestra.

I’m so happy to share the extraordinary music of three British-based female composers at our first Grimeborn,” said conductor Kelly Lovelady. “We are living through a time when major art music organisations are realising their agency to redress a historical insensitivity to balance. In New music the level of risk often feels high—logistically-speaking—but programming women and diversity is absolutely not one of those risks! That said, I decided on this programme for its sonic connections and the unique way these three works complement each other to coexist momentarily as a new whole. I hope that through this soundworld we can bring tenderness and texture beyond sensationalism to these challenging issues.”

Knight’s libretto explores the psychological landscape of a mother implicated in the forced marriage, genital mutilation, and honour killing of her own daughter. Current figures suggest 5,000 women worldwide are murdered every year by honour based violence, with potentially hundreds more cases unreported. In the UK alone, 60,000 girls under 15 are at risk of FGM and 137,000 girls and women are already living with the consequences.

Conceptualised and conducted by Ruthless Jabiru’s Artistic Director Kelly Lovelady, the orchestra welcomes stage director Heather Fairbairn—whose previous work includes engagements at the Royal Opera House, Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, and Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg—along with her critically-acclaimed Creative Team from the 2017 production The Mutant Man (The Space Arts Centre).

I was drawn to directing Silk Moth because of the way it explores ideas around gender, guilt, and faith.” said Fairbairn. “These relevant topics are deftly handled by composer Bushra El-Turk and librettist Eleanor Knight in a work that is intense and unflinching. Along with El-Turk’s opera, Kelly Lovelady has curated a daring programme of music that champions opera creators who are female and from diverse cultural backgrounds. We’ll present this trio of works as one cohesive sixty-minute dramatic piece for soprano, chorus, and actors, in a production that I envision will blur the boundaries between theatre, opera, and installation.

Through a run of five performances of Silk Moth, Ruthless Jabiru aims to generate increased awareness for local campaigns dedicated to abolishing the continuing practices of honour based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation in the UK’s Middle Eastern, South Asian, African and BME diasporas. Charities including True Honour, the Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, FORWARD and Savera UK are committed to safeguarding the rights, dignity, autonomy and wellbeing of girls and women from vulnerable communities; and to providing education and resources for our mixed ethnicity friends affected by discriminatory cultural practices and fundamentalist domestic abuse. Ruthless Jabiru will draw on these direct experiences and the teachings of our community partners as the baseline of this production.

Arcola Theatre is one of London’s leading Off West End theatres, presenting major international artists alongside cutting-edge local emerging talent. Its socially-engaged, international programme champions diversity, challenges the status quo, and attracts over 65,000 people to the building each year.

Ruthless Jabiru is a conducted chamber orchestra dedicated to New music and humanitarian stories and one of the only orchestras worldwide committed to Activism in its ongoing work. Programmes are devised around existing and commissioned repertoire by today’s composers with a view to promoting sustainability and ethical dialogue. The ensemble has a fluid membership of emerging and professional Australian musicians from within the major British orchestras and chamber ensembles and is held under the official patronage of composer Brett Dean.

“Delicate, dedicated modernism… As ever with this orchestra the performance standards were impressively high, especially given the technical demands of the music.” – The Arts Desk

“A clear statement of intent… The orchestra has a clear musical identity and its future looks very bright indeed.” – Seen and Heard International

“A brilliant company.” – Australian Stage

Ruthless Jabiru will perform Silk Moth at the Arcola Theatre on 09, 10 & 11 August at 20:00 and 10 & 11 August at 15:00: Further details and tickets


Liza Lim The Heart’s Ear
Bushra El-Turk Silk Moth
Cassandra Miller Bel Canto

Creative Team

Kelly Lovelady conductor
Heather Fairbairn director
Charlotte Henery production designer
Sean Gleason lighting designer
Sapphire Goss video designer
Eleanor Knight librettist

source: Kelly Lovelady


Image credit: © Hannah Quinlivan, Immobilised (drawing performance with movement)