Meet the Artist……Tabea Debus, recorder player 


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

From a young age I was fortunate enough study with very inspiring teachers – although in the first place I came to the instrument by chance. A childhood friend of mine wanted to learn to play the instrument but did not want to go to the lessons on his own. Further along the way I was also extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to play with other musicians of my age and the chance to experience manifold concert situations in Germany and abroad. When I was old enough to start thinking about what I would like to do for a living, I could not imagine my life without playing recorder and making music everyday…

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

There were several, including studying at three different conservatoires, attending master classes with numerous renowned musicians. Most recently, being chosen as St John’s Smith Square Young Artist for the 2015/16 season has been a major influence and given a boost to my musical development and career!

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

Making potentially life and career changing decisions, such as deciding to complete a Master of Music in London, rather than somewhere “at home”.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

My two solo CDs: “Upon a Ground” (2012, https://open.spotify.com/album/68Qaixt8WbErB9MpwE3miK), which was the first CD I ever recorded on my own, solely with the wonderful support of the four other musicians playing on the recording. My second CD, “Cantata per Flauto” was released in April this year (here’s a review: https://andrewbensonwilson.org/2016/04/07/tabea-debus-cantata-per-flauto/), and I launched it at St John’s Smith Square with a fantastic ensemble playing with me (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oeUH206Im0)

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

That’s very had to say.., It’s always the questions if the works that I would identify as the ones “I perform best” actually come across like that to an audience. I particularly enjoy baroque music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann, but I also love to perform contemporary music for recorder solo or chamber music ensembles – these pieces require a completely different approach to the learning process and the presentation.

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

I have an long and ever-growing list of pieces I want to play or arrange for my instrument, and I therefore try to include at least a few of those into programmes I am planning. Of course there are many other factors to consider: the venue, its size, the occasion and the audience who will be listening, the scope to bring in other musicians, a possibly already existing overall theme. And finally I always strive to include different facets of recorder repertoire, old and new, solo and chamber music etc.

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

I could not say I have a favourite venue! Smaller venues, such as an art gallery, a chapel or small concert room have an intimacy and direct exchange with the audience which I value very highly. On the other hand, larger spaces, like London’s St John’s Smith Square, are fantastic as well, as they challenge the projection and presence of the performer in a very different way.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

Probably music by Georg Philipp Telemann – he played recorder himself and through his music one can feel this deep understanding of the instrument’s capacity and special qualities. He has his very own musical language, which is still very flexible and changeable, which for me as a performer opens many doors to creatively engaging with his music. At the moment I often listen to JS Bach Cantatas, as this might related to a future project I am thinking about putting together, but I love music by Henry Purcell, especially his (semi-) operas.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Too many to name all…

What is your most memorable concert experience?

It’s hard to choose one! Perhaps playing as part of the Singapore Youth Festival in 2011 – we were preforming in a huge venue, but it almost seemed as if the audience was with us on stage. There was a lot of spontaneous applause, even in the middle of a movement, which is how it should be! One should be allowed to show and react when something is enjoyable and fun, or even the opposite…

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

Travelling and having lessons with as many different professionals as possible would be a vital advice – both for the own instrument and others. Also, one can gather so many ideas and concepts by collaborating with other instrumentalists, singers and composers and by embracing different styles of music from medieval to contemporary.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Arranging new repertoire for the recorder is definitely a favourite! I get very excited when there is the chance to include something “new” in a concert programme, to discover repertoire primarily intended for other instruments and make this repertoire my own.

Tabea Debus performs at London’s St John’s Smith Square on Thursday 19th May as part of the London Festival of Baroque music 2016. Further information here

Tabea Debus had her first recorder lessons with Gudula Rosa at the Westfälische Schule für Musik, Münster. Since then she has received many special prizes, including awards from the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben, the Manfred Vetter Society, the Ministry of Family, Women and Youth as well as the Irino Foundation.

More about Tabea here

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s ‘Winterreise’

Schubert’s Winterreise, published in 1828, the year of the composer’s death at the age of 31, is often described as the greatest song-cycle ever written, and its central themes and preoccupations – love and loss, life and death – resonate through the centuries and continue to have a deeply emotional and philosophical impact today.
German composer Hans Zender’s ‘Winterreise’ is not a transcription of Schubert’s original for small orchestra. It is a “composed interpretation”, a work in its own right, which reflects and refracts the original song-cycle. Its orchestration takes the listener from Schubert’s Vienna, through Mahler and Schoenberg to the cabaret of Weimar Berlin and Kurt Weil. In this way, it challenges received notions of authenticity, historical accuracy and interpretation, and the relationship between performer, composer and audience. If anything, Zender’s Winterreise is even bleaker than Schubert’s with its strong Expressionist flavour and rich sonic associations with contemporary repertoire and instrumentation.

(photo: Hugo Glendinning)

In this production at London’s Barbican Theatre, the music and its narrative are staged by director, designer and video artist Netia Jones using striking black-and-white film, projections, haunting shadows, and chiaroscuro. The video screen is slashed into jagged shards, like a broken mirror, onto which are projected images of frost, a river, bare branches, a lonely snowy landscape through which a solitary figure, Schubert’s tragic “fremdling”, trudges.

Read my full review here 

Satie’s Vexations – a call for pianists

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Pianist, composer and conductor Adam Swayne needs your help for a special fundraising concert in Brighton this August…..
Adam writes:

The beautiful New York Steinway at St Luke’s Church, Queens Park Road, Brighton is badly in need of an expensive restoration.

A series of fundraising events is planned including a marathon performance of Erik Satie’s extraordinary 21 hour piece ‘Vexations’ during the August Bank Holiday Weekend. Here is the score.

We need a team of pianists to tag-team the 840 repetitions asked for by the composer, and I am hoping that YOU will enjoy being involved!

The performance will begin on Friday August 26th at 7.30pm and will finish in spectacular style at c.4pm the following day. We are hugely grateful to Deacon Julie Newson and her amazing team of churchwardens for allowing us to use the church throughout this time.

Each pianist will collect sponsorship at 25p per repetition, and the minimum suggested number of repetitions is 20 (i.e. £5 per sponsor). 20 repetitions ought to take c.30 minutes each (or as near as possible) and each repetition should consist of bass theme/ top line of chords/ bass theme/ bottom line of chords.

The concert will be ticketed in the usual way at St. Luke’s – £7 a ticket – but the audience will be offered the opportunity to claim a 50p refund for every 60 repetitions they sit through continuously, which means that the concert is free for whoever makes it through the whole performance.

Each pianist will also be required to count repetitions for the previous player. There will be a number board and a live twitter feed counting up to 840. Please follow @TheVexator for updates and information leading up to and on the day.

After your performance you will be asked to manage the door for 30 minutes, ensuring that there are always three people in the church, even in the middle of the night. There will be a supply of refreshments.

If you would like to be involved please email adam@adamswayne.com before Friday June 3rd with answers to the following two questions:

  1. Would you like to be involved and are you happy with the arrangements as described?
  2. Are there any particular slots during the time frame that you would favour? Please remember that you will be needed for 90 minutes minimum (although you are obviously welcome to play/ stay for as long as you wish).

Frances Wilson (AKA The Cross-Eyed Pianist) will kick off proceedings on Friday 26th August. Why not come and join her and other pianists for this musical marathon for a good cause? 

Meet the Artist……Peter Sheppard Skærved

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

I don’t remember starting playing the violin, but I can say when chose to pursue it. I have a clear memory of a freezing walk home from school when I was 12 or so, and deciding that there certain extremely ambitious things which I wanted to do with music. Everything has flowed from that moment. I would say that I choose the violin, more and more, every time I pick it up. A lot has been said about how long it takes to learn an instrument, but very little about how the instrument becomes our nature, how we, eventually, can allow the body and the instrument to interact in ways beyond our active control.

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

This would be an enormous list, and I am loath to introduce a hierarchy. In addition so much of what I do and have done, is influenced by non-musicians. But I can say that I was lucky, from a very early age, to come into contact with some extraordinary older people, who challenged me to have the highest expectation and anticipation of what I should do, and of our obligations as artists. But let me list my teachers-all extraordinary musicians and human beings. My mother, Susan Sheppard, Beatrix Marr, Ralph Holmes, Manoug Parikian and Louis Krasner. And there’s one more; this is not facetious, my Yoga teacher, Nino Nanava.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

…. there are some which I think are not bad! I love performing and recording with equal passion. I am blest to feel equally free on stage and in front of the microphone. I have never suffered from performance anxiety (perhaps I should have!), and feel, whenever I am performing to an audience or on the studio, I am more relaxed than at any other time. I think that I am proud of my cycles of recordings (Telemann, David Matthews, Beethoven, Tartini, George Rochberg, etc).

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I would hope that it is whatever I am playing, at the moment I am performing it. However, the best performances, without doubt, are when I am collaborating with great friends. I do a lot of solo concerts (I don’t use the word ‘unaccompanied’- a solo pianist wouldn’t!), but of course, as a violinist, I relish sitting next to extraordinary pianists and harpsichordists. So I suspect that I probably perform best when I am on stage with an extraordinary collaborator, and with an audience (it does not matter what size-it’s a privilege to play for one person, or a hundred) taking part in the music.

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

My repertoire choices don’t really work like that; I have projects which I pursue over very long term, and each choice of work or group of works will emerge from or join the slow development of those projects. So, right now, it’s the flow of Mozart Sonatas with Daniel Ben Pienaar, Henze Sonatas with Roderick Chadwick, Reicha Quartets with the Kreutzers, and the Abel Gamba solos which have been fascinating me for the past few days. And of course, there’s the ongoing weave of the works that emerge from my collaborations with living composers. Which is the material for another day!

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

This I can answer. No question – Wilton’s Music Hall, London. The acoustic is like playing inside a cello, the atmosphere of the hall is absolutely unique, and the audience is enthusiastic, adventurous and diverse. I don’t really like modern purpose built concert halls. That is just me. I am inspired by buildings and the people in them. Next month, I am playing a three day residency (all 30 Tartini Solo sonatas, and music by Xenakis, Glass, Evis Sammoutis) in an astonishing wooden chapel in the 18th Century Leprosy Hospital in Bergen (for the Bergen Festival). The whole project flows from my excitement about the building; its texture, sound, shape, light, colours and people. When I was young, I discovered that in his ’10 Books on Architecture’ (written for Julius Caesar) Vitruvius saw music as part of architecture, integral to it. That is an important point, and informs much of my feeling about venues. One of my favourite places to play, is at the dinner table, for friends, with the violin part of the conversation, the interplay. And of course, the best time, is my nocturnal practice space (I work from midnight to three or four most days), at my desk here in Wapping, with the silence of the city outside, the noise of the foxes under my window, and the Westminster Chimes (which of course came from William Crotch’s ‘Palestine’) drifting along the river into my open window.

Who are your favourite musicians?

My favourite musicians are my collaborators (performers and composers). They are the people that I continue to learn the most from, and there’s nothing more inspiring than the sharing of long-term shared discovery. As I talking to you, I have to say that a vital part of this, is that I have always had serious duo-partnerships with the most extraordinary piano players; they are all amazing artists and each of them continues to teach me so much. It’s an exciting list: Aaron Shorr, Jan-Philip Schulze, Roderick Chadwick, Olivia Sham, David Owen Norris, Julian Perkins, Daniel-Ben Pienaar … working on modern and period instruments. It’s worth pointing out that I am a frustrated pianist. I love the instrument so much, and I can’t do anything with it. But I can play the violin sitting next a great pianist, and bask in the glory of the instrument and those artists.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Without question, it’s always the concert that I have just done, am doing, or are about to do. Right, now, today, in fact, I am getting ready to play a concert with the harpsichordist Julian Perkins, on three early violins! Sonatas by Biber, Tartini, Matteis, Telemann, and the two astonishing continuo sonatas in E minor and G Major by Bach. I can’t think of anything more exciting than that!

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

‘Aut viam inveniam aut faciam’. Literally, I will either find a way, or I will make one. My son would want me to own up the fact that Hannibal is supposed to have said that….

However, I recently found (folded into some music), an amazing thing. As a child, I was very lucky to study with the violinist Beatrix Marr (until I went to Ralph Holmes at 12). At some point when I was 10 or 11, she handed me the typescript of a book on violin playing which she was writing. It was never published, and I confess, that at the time I never read it – it was beyond me. But a week or so ago, I read it for the first time, and was profoundly moved. Here’s a sample, which is a great way to finish, I think:

“…in the case of our own playing, it is all too easy to be impatient when things seem to be going badly, instead of using analysis, and looking hopefully to the next day, or the future. There always is another day, and who knows what miracle it may bring?” 

(Beatrix Marr ‘Practice’)

What is your present state of mind?

Well, I am filling this in 15 minutes after wrapping an inspiring recording project, playing the piano/violin music written for me by my long-time collaborator Thomas Simaku, with the astounding Roderick Chadwick. So my arms hurt, but I have a good cup of verbena tea and am planning on lying on the floor for an hour. The process of recording is a treasured and regular activity for me, and I always run the sessions as a workshop, a place of discovery and invention.

‘The Mozart Salons’, an exploration of the sonatas for violin and piano with Peter Sheppard-Skærved and pianist Daniel Ben-Pienaar, continues at Wiltons Music Hall. Further information and tickets here

 www.peter-sheppard-skaerved.com

New piano publications from Trinity College London

It’s good to see Trinity College London extending its publishing programme to include more books for pianists, including collections of pieces from beginner to advanced level, and a compilation of piano exercises, selected from past exam syllabuses, all of which offer excellent resources for teachers and students alike.

Raise the Bar is a new series of graded pieces from Initial to Grade 8 showcasing favourite repertoire from past Trinity exam syllabuses. Edited by acclaimed teacher, pianist and writer Graham Fitch, each book contains an attractive selection of pieces in a range of styles and periods. Teaching notes for each piece are included, highlighting aspects such as technical challenges, structure, rhythm and expression, and each book contains a summary at the back containing the composer, title, key, time signature, tempo markings and characteristics of each piece. There is a good range of music to suit all tastes and the teaching notes can be used as a springboard for further discussion between teacher and student or a basic starting point for independent study. These books provide useful additional repertoire for students preparing for exams or simply for playing for pleasure and broadening one’s repertoire and knowledge of different style of music.


Piano Dreams is an attractively-designed series of books containing pieces for beginner and early intermediate pianists composed by Anne Terzibaschitsch. The pieces will particularly appeal to younger children with their imaginative titles and fun illustrations. Programmatic text weaves elements of story-telling into the pieces to stimulate the player’s imagination and encourage more expressive and colourful playing. There are notes on each piece highlighting aspects of technique or expression. In addition to the solo pieces, there are two books of piano duets in the same format.

I am a big fan of Trinity’s Piano Exercises which students learn as part of their grade exams. The exercises are designed to develop particular aspects of piano technique and many directly relate to pieces in the exam syllabus, offering the teacher the opportunity to introduce students to the concept of the ‘Etude’ or Study.  This new compilation of selected exercises ranges from Initial to Grade 8 and each has a descriptive title to inspire students to interpret the music imaginatively (thus reinforcing the idea behind Etudes by Chopin and Liszt – that pieces should be both challenging and musical, testing technique and musicality). These exercises provide a useful resource for developing secure technique and can be used alongside repertoire to inform and extend students’ technical and musical capabilities.

More information about Trinity College London music publications here

Concerts for Syria

Concerts for Syria facilitates and promotes fundraising concerts and music events that support Syrian refugees.

After more than four years of conflict the ensuing refugee crisis has become one of the greatest humanitarian crises of today, affecting each and every one of us. Today 12 million Syrians have fled their homes because of conflict, 6 million of whom are children, and c.4 million Syrians in total are now refugees.

As musicians we have the tools and the opportunities to raise much-needed funds for refugees and to raise awareness of their situation and ways in which we can help.

The aim of this project is to harness the power of these tools and opportunities and seek to make a difference through music-making.

Fatima Lahham, founder of Concerts for Syria says:

I’m part-Syrian myself (and a postgraduate recorder player at the RCM, London), and have found not only that lots of musicians would like to support this important cause, but also that many concert venues would be happy to facilitate collections at events. To bring these two factors together I decided to start up Concerts for Syria in October 2015.

We help to organise concerts, as well as advertising and promoting them, and assisting performers and venues with the whole collection process. In the last 6 months we’ve been involved with venues such as the Foundling Museum in London, the Keble Early Music Festival in Oxford, St Albans Cathedral, and Great St Mary’s Church in Cambridge. A wide range of musicians have expressed interest in getting involved, with my own chamber ensemble, IMPROVISO performing at several of the concerts.

My aim for the next six months and further ahead is to really expand and reach new musicians and audiences, as well as to look at securing funding for future, more ambitious projects.

The tragic crisis that faces new generations of Syrian children today is not one that can be ignored nor one that will disappear soon. As musicians we have the privilege of being able to communicate with so many diverse groups of people around the world, and this project seeks to harness that power by raising awareness, collecting funds, and making a difference through music-making.

Anyone interested in getting involved in any capacity is encouraged to contact us via:
concertsforsyria@gmail.com

concertsforsyria.com

Pianist Christina McMaster St John’s Smith Square 2016/17 Young Artist

Ever since its reinvention as a concert hall, St John’s Smith Square has played a pivotal role in supporting the most promising young musicians. Simon Rattle, Steven Isserlis, Nigel Kennedy and Jacqueline du Pré are just a few of the musicians who performed at St John’s Smith Square before going on to begin internationally renowned careers.

St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme 2016/17

“The Young Artists’ Scheme at St John’s Smith Square is a vital part of our mission as one of the UK’s leading concert halls. By investing in the development and nurturing of exceptional talent we are helping to ensure that music making and creative opportunity is refreshed and renewed for future generations. It is also, of course, incredibly exciting simply to observe the young performers as they develop across the course of their involvement with the scheme and a real reward for our audiences to be able to share this process of development.” – Richard Heason: Director, St John’s Smith Square

Pianist Christina McMaster is amongst the line up of the 2016/17 Young Artists’ Scheme (which also includes the Minerva Piano Trio, harpist Oliver Wass and the Ferio Saxophone Quartet). A champion of contemporary repertoire, Christina has been praised for her innovative programming, and her collaborations with a diverse mix of genres and arts, recently working with the Brodowski Quartet, violinist Lizzie Ball, rapper Tor Cesay, director Richard Williams, actors from Central Saint Martin’s and a number of designers for London Fashion week. She also commissions and performs a wide range of new music, and has worked with established composers including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Tansy Davies and Stephen Montague as well as emerging composers – collaborating most recently with Freya Waley-Cohen and Richard Bullen.

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Christina launched her debut album ‘Pinks & Blues’ in October 2015 on her own label to a sell-out audience at St James’ Theatre, the album is a fusion of jazz and blues influenced classical and contemporary music with two new commissions.

“Thanks to the St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme I am able to design and deliver my ambitious vision of an exciting ‘mini-festival’ across 2016/17 season with an array of concerts from solo piano music by Bartók, Scarlatti, Ligeti, Debussy, to a concert where 120 school children take over the galleries of SJSS! Responding to the building’s rich history I’ll perform music by Dowland, Shostakovich, Britten and Birtwistle with the Ligeti Quartet; and the brilliant sisters Kristine and Margarita Balanas will join me for piano trios by Schumann and Arvo Pärt. The scheme has also provided the wonderful opportunity to commission new music by Richard Bullen and Ayanna Witter-Johnson; Ayanna will pay homage to one of her heroines in celebration of International Women’s Day alongside some of my musical heroes including Ruth Crawford-Seeger, Charles Ives and Meredith Monk.”  –

Christina McMaster

Meet the Artist……Christina McMaster

Review of Pinks & Blues

St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ Scheme

Meet the Artist……Kate Simko, composer

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

Music has been my number one passion since I was a child. I started with classical piano, but then had a realization that I wasn’t fully fulfilled performing others’ music, and that I needed to take a risk and try to find my own musical voice. I went on to study electronic music composition and piano at the university, and have been on an obsessive never-ending journey since!

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

Growing up my biggest influences were my grandmother and father. Both were very passionate about classical music. My grandmother played classical piano and organ until her early 90’s, and my dad listened to classical music constantly and took our family to Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts. Then in my teens the big influence was Chicago house and Detroit techno, and then next IDM music on labels like Warp and Ninja Tune, pre-fusion jazz, and soul music. It was inspiring to be in Chicago in the 90’s when post-rock took off too. Thrill Jockey and bands like Tortoise were combining electronics into rock music in a new way, and it was an exciting time to experience music evolving.

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

The biggest challenge was rising above being a local musician. Taking my career from local shows to other cities in the states, and then touring and releasing music internationally, took a lot of hustle. My husband is also from Chicago, so it wasn’t easy for us to pick-up and leave. He agreed we could move to London if I was accepted into the Royal College of ‘Music Composition for Screen’ Masters program. The program accepts about ten students per year, but I was determined! I felt trapped and like I’d hit a creative wall in Chicago. So I think the greatest challenge was extracting myself from that situation, and putting myself in a better place to create and expand.

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

I love working on commissioned pieces. Whether a film score, a song for a compilation, or a bespoke piece for a performer, I really enjoy having set parameters going into it. Like Stravinsky’s famous quote, “The more constraints one imposes the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.”

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

The biggest challenge is organizing it! We’re all busy people, so finding a time we can all be in the same room can be like a Tetris game. There are so many pleasures. I’ve met so many incredible people who dedicate their lives to their passions and bettering themselves. It’s a a great little bubble of a world.

Which works are you most proud of?

The debut London Electronic Orchestra album. This is a few years of exploration and experimentation all coming together, and I’m very excited for it’s release.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

John and Alice Coltrane are two of my favorite musicians. My favorite composers are Chopin (piano works), Eric Satie, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The first big London Electronic Orchestra concert in 2014 for a 36-piece orchestra at the Britten Theatre. I was figuring it out as it went along, but we pulled it off! It gave me the confidence to keep going with the project.

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

Believe in yourself and focus on your craft.

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

I would like to be touring internationally with London Electronic Orchestra, composing new music, and writing film scores. Basically continuing on the same path.

London Electronic Orchestra

DEBUT ALBUM RELEASED MAY 6, 2016 ON THE VINYL FACTORY LABEL

Purchase the album

Kate Simko has carved an international career as an electronic music producer, film composer, live performer, and DJ. Hailing from Chicago, Kate’s music reflects the influences of the city’s underground sounds, as well her background in classical piano and jazz music.

www.katesimko.com

Lewes Chamber Music Festival 2016

Chamber Music Festival brings world-leading musicians and innovative programming to Lewes, East Sussex

Friday 17 June to Sunday 19 June 2016

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The Lewes Chamber Music Festival is celebrating its fifth year by drawing in to Lewes its largest number of leading chamber musicians to date – twenty string, woodwind and vocal performers will appear in eight concerts over three days.

The Festival has already secured a strong reputation amongst musicians and audiences alike, with the Daily Telegraph in 2015 calling it:  “a small but high-class festival bringing fine performers to interesting old venues”.

Beatrice Philips, the Festival Director said: “We have already become known for delivering exciting performances by some of the UK’s leading musicians, giving audiences here the chance to discover new and less well-known works, alongside much-loved chamber pieces, all set within intimate venues around Lewes.”

This year’s programme sets chamber music from Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert, and later composers such as Ravel and Faure, alongside more unusual works by composers such as Bartok, Berg and Schoenberg, as well as showcasing pieces by less well-known but intriguing composers such as Cécile Chaminade, Gabriel Pierné and  Henri Dutilleux. It is this kind of innovative and exciting programming which gives the Lewes Festival its edge and excitement for audiences.

As is always the case, the Festival has attracted leading talent, including this year the exceptional violinist Alina Ibragimova, only 30 and yet already awarded an MBE for services to music in 2016.  A soloist at the Proms in 2015, Alina has also been the recipient of numerous awards including the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award 2010 and the Classical BRIT Young Performer of the Year Award 2009.  An outstanding chamber music performer as well as a soloist, her trio performance in Lewes on Saturday – before a Wigmore Hall performance of the same programme the following day – will be one of the Festival highlights.

As well as some familiar faces, the Festival welcomes nine musicians who will be performing in the Lewes Festival for the first time. This includes a range of woodwind performers, allowing works such as the Dohnayni piano sextet and the Schubert Octet to be enjoyed by appreciative Lewes audiences.

The Eusebius Quartet which formed in 2014 will also be in residence at the Festival, bringing this exciting group of young musicians to Lewes again following their sold-out Christmas concert performance in St John sub Castro, Lewes.

The concerts this year will be focussed on the two largest venues in Lewes – St John Sub Castro and All Saints Centre, to cope with the expected demand from audiences. The concerts also make the most of these beautiful spaces – with the newly refurbished St Johns especially providing a superb venue for chamber music, with its new flexible seating layout and excellent acoustics.

Signalling its importance on the musical stage, the Lewes Chamber Music Festival has once again attracted the support of the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust, which helps young people attend world-class chamber music. Their support makes tickets to the concerts completely free for those under 26 years old.

The Festival’s Artistic Director, Beatrice Philips, says:

“I am proud that our Festival continues to offer audiences the rare opportunity to hear both much-loved and also more unusual music performed at such a high level outside the big venues in the UK. The intimate festival atmosphere makes it an unmissable weekend of concerts for music-lovers.”

This year, I have been inspired by Bartok and by Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht to create this exciting mix of pieces. The opportunity of bringing woodwind to the chamber festival also adds a great new dimension to the programming.

I am also thrilled to be welcoming performers such as Alina who will continue our fine tradition of drawing in exceptional talent to Lewes.”

All in all a fantastic line-up with amazing music – and tickets for under 26 year-olds are free of charge thanks to our support from the Cavatina trust.”

Tickets cost just £14-£16, with an all-concert pass at just £100, and can be bought online at www.leweschambermusicfestival.com

Tickets can be bought on line, by email box-office@leweschambermusicfestival.com by tel 01273 479865 or in person from Lewes Travel.

(Source: LCMF press release)

Music Notes: Rachmaninoff Dreaming

Guest post by Georgina Imberger

My German teacher at school came from Prague. Frau, we called her. I shrink a little now, on first instinct, when I think that we did that. On second instinct, I think that she probably liked it.  It was a simplistic, naïve affectation and we were predictably naughty little people whose views were yet to expand. I like to think that she had a rueful smile for our cheek. Frau was different from anyone else I had met, and I thought that she and her world were fascinating. I can’t remember any of the words she used to talk about Prague, but I do remember, and still have, the picture of Frau’s Europe that ended up in my teenage head.

In a scene that well dates me to a pre-millennial high school education, we spent much of German class listening to audiotapes. The content on those things was appalling, boring and irrelevant to us, and we had no grace in tolerating it. But the tapes had a piano soundtrack, and while we were raucous, Frau would lose herself a little and sail away in the musical bridges. In those moments, I fancied I saw something that was more real than our suburban lives and more interesting than I yet understood. These memories are where I place the birth of my own love of a sideways turn and where I learnt that a true human story often plays slightly below the script.

Many years later, I finally went to Prague. I was well into my thirties by then, my life was still messy at every turn and my questions spilling out in disruptive mayhem. I went to Frau’s city hoping to meet the Europe that she had packaged for me. I walked the rambling outer suburbs for days, loving every minute. I scoffed at the tourism-gone-mad. I found gigs in dodgy venues, jumping train tracks and drinking booze too cheap to be decent. And on the word of a Czech friend made on one such night, I found myself with a ticket to a local piano recital.

As with most experiences in that chapter of my life, I was slightly hungover and a little wrought when I went. As the audience started coming in, however, my mind sharpened. We were in a community building, in a northern suburb of Prague, beautiful in its scale and simple in its set-up.  There was a chunky great grand in the front and mis-matched chairs. Here it was, Frau’s Prague. And it was filling with warm, searching faces. In an instant, it all felt like an over-due pause in my busy, busy conversation and I sensed a million noisy questions being quietly answered. The young man who came out to play that piano had a smile that knew thirteen-year-old-me. His hair was out of control and his hands were everywhere, even before they hit the keys. It was Rachmaninoff that he started with, the Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 3, No. 2. And it was unspeakably beautiful.  I had never before, and never since, been in the presence of hands and space that could shift the landscape like they did that night.

So here is my Rachmaninoff Dreaming. A tribute to the stories told with 88 keys that drift us away and tell truths like no words can. And a toast to Frau, who had the wisdom to let us see her dream.

 

Georgina Imberger runs Piano Project, a Melbourne-based venture that sponsors piano lessons for children who are new immigrants to Australia. There is a fundraising concert at the Meat Market in North Melbourne on May 29 at 5.30pm, presenting the New Palm Court Orchestra, lead by pianist/composer Gemma Turvey and featuring flugelhornist Gianni Marinucci. Tickets are $20 and proceeds go to lessons for the kids. Details and tickets are on the website – www.pianoproject.org.au

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Frances Wilson blogs on pianism, classical music and culture

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