Described by composer, pianist and improviser Gregg Kallor as “a love letter to this incredible city”, ‘A Single Noon’ is a pianistic hommage to New York City. It presents a tableau of life in the city through a combination of composed music and improvisation in nine evocative snapshots with titles such as ‘Straphanger’s Lurch’ and ‘Espresso Nirvana’.

Largely jazz-influenced, the music also takes inspiration from earlier American composers and musicians, such as Gershwin (in the fragmentary suggestions of the honking, dissonant New York traffic and bustling streets and cafés in ‘Broken Sentences’), and the toccata-like elements of Brubeck and Adams (most evident perhaps in ‘Espresso Nirvana’ and ‘Straphanger’s Lurch’, which was inspired by Gregg’s “stubborn refusal to hold onto the convenient handholds in the subway cars”). In slower movements, such as ‘Found’, ‘Here Now’ and ‘Giants’, there are nods to Feldman, Messiaen, Debussy and Takemitsu in both the use of chords for timbre and colour rather than strict harmonic progression, and defined, atmospheric pauses and silences, which give the music a sense of repose, and anticipation. ‘Giants’ is, by Kallor’s own admission, his personal paean to “the musical titans I have been privileged to know, and to those who came before”, who, like the imposing skycrapers of the New York skyline, cast huge shadows across the musical landscape.

The entire album resonates with the contrasting energies and vibes of the city, from the sun breaking over the park in the morning, to subway journeys and sidewalk strolls, caffeine-fuelled conversations, and mellow evenings. Played with technical assurance, dramatic flair and sensitively nuanced shadings, Kallor subtly blurs the edges between improvisation and composed sections, classical and jazz, to provide a haunting and vivid portrait of “a life in the day” of the buzzing metropolis.

‘A Single Noon’ is available on CD or to download from iTunes

Listen to a sample here

Meet the Artist……Gregg Kallor

  1. People should never be made to feel bad about about what they are listening to. People who feel bad about their listening habits will stop listening altogether.
  2. Snobbery leads to pretension and pretension leads to exclusivity, clubs and cliques. Not helpful at a time when we should be encouraging people to come to classical concerts.
  3. Get over the whole “genre thing”: it’s ok to say you don’t like Stockhausen, Cage, Birtwistle, Ligetti, Glass et al
  4. Just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s all bad (though I would draw the line at anything by Einaudi or Karl Jenkins…..)
  5. Don’t blind the layman with obscure/incomprehensible classical music terminology. You want him to come to the next performance, right?
  6. You’re not the only person in the world who frequents the Wigmore Hall/Concertgebouw/Musikverein/Carnegie Hall
  7. Not everyone likes Wagner. Or Mahler. But the sky’s not going to fall in because of this. Get over it.
  8. Don’t moan about Radio Three being “better in the old days”.
  9. You don’t have to be serious about something to be serious about something.
  10. Don’t ever call a conductor ‘Maestro’

[this post was inspired by a longer article 30 things to tell a book snob]

This is the second guest post on the subject of coping with stage fright by Charlotte Tomlinson.

In my last blog, I wrote about how deeply ashamed many performers are about having stage fright, whether they’re professional performers or otherwise and how this, and the taboo that has built up around it, can cause such distress and massively impact the quality of their performance.

In this blog, I am going to write about simple, practical steps that you can take to manage your nerves, and give yourself a much more enjoyable performance.

It may sound obvious, but one of the most important aspects of keeping stage fright at bay, is to know what you are performing, and to know it really well. Don’t kid yourself that you can wing it. Most of the time, you can’t and it is wise to assume you can’t. Even the people who give the impression that they just get up there and do it, have invariably done a lot more preparation than it might appear.

Practice is essential. Whatever you are performing, get to know it inside out and back to front. Plan it, prepare it, practice it – and then practice, again and again, more than you can ever imagine. What this does is two fold. You build it into your system so well that if your nerves get out of control in the performance and throw you, a form of autopilot can kick in whilst you recover yourself and find your feet again. It also gives you enormous confidence and reassurance that you know it well and that in itself helps with stage fright.

Almost everybody has some form of nerves before a performance and it is helpful to get to know your own individual symptoms so that you can then start managing them. A friend of mine told me that a few hours before she had to perform, she would get extremely sleepy and feel drained in energy. As soon as she then went on stage, the sleepiness would disappear and she would be on top form with all the energy she needed. She found this quite disturbing at first, willing herself to feel better in advance of the concert, regularly forgetting that the ‘problem’ would rectify itself once she was on stage. Once she realised that her body was actually shutting down in order to keep all her energy ready for when she really needed it, she could relax about her pre-performance symptoms.

When you can understand your own individual, physical response to performing you are a much better position to give yourself what you need. Are you someone who needs to eat before a performance or afterwards, for example? I had the rather unpleasant experience of nearly fainting in a concert once because I hadn’t realised that I personally needed to eat before rather than after a performance. I certainly knew what I needed to do after that!

Make sure you give yourself enough rest. Being physically tired or tense doesn’t help with a performance because energy can’t effectively flow through a tired body. You may need to find somewhere to lie down beforehand or give yourself time and space to be quiet, so that you are more able to focus when you are performing. And be very aware that when your body is gearing up for a performance, it is much more of a challenge to carry on with what you might otherwise consider as a ‘normal’ day. You may need to do less on the day of the performance, and certainly avoid other stresses and strains just before you go on.

Breathing is something that is very simple and yet amazingly powerful when dealing with stage fright. Take slow, deep breaths as you are waiting. This calms the nervous system and helps oxygenate your body, which is essential for performing well.

Stretching is also good. When you are anxious, you tend to get physically tense, so stretching can make a massive difference to how you feel. A few simple Yoga stretches or any stretches that you make up on the spot, will work. And this has the added benefit of getting you out of your mind and back in touch with your body.

In my next and final blog about stage fright, I will be writing about how you can best respond from an emotional perspective and how, by learning to manage your emotions, you can give yourself the best possible chance of overcoming stage fright and so that you can perform at your peak.

(read Charlotte’s first post on Stage Fright here)

Charlotte Tomlinson is a pianist, educator and a published author who specialises in helping musicians overcome issues that stop them from performing. Her book Music from the Inside Out deals with the thorny issues that can profoundly affect you as a musician, and which you may not want to face. You are encouraged to look at what lies beneath the surface and you are guided to unlock what’s holding you back.

  • Learn how to transform your own Inner Critic
  • Get to grips with your performance nerves
  • Discover how to play with complete physical freedom
  • Perform to the peak of your expressive power

Music from the Inside Out gives you tools that can transform your whole approach to performing music.

For more information about Charlotte, and to order a copy of her book, please visit her website:


Who or what inspired you to take up the clarinet, and make it your career?

My parents, who are not musicians, pushed me to learn music thinking this was something I could enjoy and be good at. I took the clarinet as it was the only instrument available at my music school and luckily I loved it when I started playing in an orchestra after six months.

Who or what were the most important influences on your playing/composing?

I think my teacher at Paris Conservatoire (CRR) was the greatest influence as I entered his class as a passionate amateur and he taught me to have professional expectations.

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

Performing as a soloist with orchestras has always been a big challenge – not for the work I had to do on the clarinet but due to the psychological preparation required.

Which performances/compositions/recordings are you most proud of?

I’m very proud of having recorded Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune and Mahler 4 for chamber ensemble with Leporello Quartet under the baton of Trevor Pinnock. I haven’t heard the result yet: it will be released in May 2013 (Linn Records).

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in?

I like to play in unusual places (pubs, warehouses etc). I also enjoy very much Salle Pleyel in Paris and KKL in Lucerne where I have performed with several different orchestras.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

I discovered the Finzi Concerto when I came to England. I think it is one of the best clarinet concertos ever written and I love both playing it and listening to it.

The Quatuor pour la fin du Temps by Messiaen is one of my favourite pieces of chamber music to perform. The intense and physically demanding fast and very slow movements one after the other drive me into a different state.

As an orchestral player I love to play Strauss, Debussy, Ravel and really enjoy playing Harvey, Manoury, Ives, Eotvos, Jarrell and Riley.

I’m also a contemporary music nerd and performing disturbing music is something I really like! I often go to concerts, but I have to be honest: when I’m home I listen to pop, indie, world music and French songs.

Who are your favourite musicians?

I have great respect for clarinettist Andrew Marriner who is one of the best teachers I ever met as well as being an amazing musician.

Jacques DiDonato, who was initially a drummer, and plays contemporary music like no one else.

Alain Billard for his craziness on contrabass clarinet.

Conductors: Semyon Bychkov, Peter Eotvos, Susanna Malkki.

And then Mayra Andrade, Elis Regina, Amy Winehouse, Emiliana Torrini, Feist, Buena Vista Social Club, Kings of convenience, Alt-J, Race Horses, French singers Camille and Claire Diterzi……….should I go on?

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Playing in New Delhi and being congratulated at the end by Ravi Shankar was quite something.

Pierre Boulez conducting during a general rehearsal at KKL Lucerne when he decided he was not going to do the concert and gave the baton to someone else.

Those I remember the most are not necessarily the prestigious ones. I remember better those performances that were unusual, special or amusing in some way. I have a long, long list of those.

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

I’m not sure yet. I once heard “be your own best teacher.” I’m still working on that but I think it’s a good one.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am preparing an opera by Karol Beffa called Equinoxe, premiered in Mexico in March. I am also working on the next concert with Ensemble Matisse, at The Forge on the 21st of April, and will feature pieces by Steve Reich, Huw Watkins, Alfred Schnittke and Khachaturian.

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

Living between Paris and London, the way I do now.

What do you enjoy doing most?

I love travelling, especially when it is to give concerts. But professionally speaking I am happiest so long as there is a balance between my creative ensemble projects, orchestral work and teaching.

Ensemble Matisse perform at The Forge, Camden, London on Sunday 21 April in a programme of works by Reich, Schnittke, Watkins and Khachaturian. Further information and tickets here

Ensemble Matisse:

Ensemble Matisse on YouTube

Recording of Rozenn’s duo with accordion, playing Piazzolla:

A graduate of the Conservatoire de Paris (CRR), Paris Boulogne-Billancourt (PSPBB) higher arts education centre, the Sorbonne, and the Royal Academy of London, Rozenn le Trionnaire is a keen exponent of contemporary music whose career is gaining recognition on both sides of the Channel. Previously associate principal clarinet in Ostinato Orchestra, she is now regularly invited to play with orchestras such as Donna Musica, Prométhée, the Star Pop Orchestra and the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, which she joined in 2012. Rozenn has also worked with various acclaimed conductors including Pierre Boulez, Peter Eotvos, Semyon Bychkov, Jac Van Steen, Susanna Malkki, Pablo Heras-Casado and Clement Power.

Rozenn has a strong interest in 20th-century repertoire, and has featured as a soloist in performances conducted by Heinz Holliger and Kaspar Zehnder, as well as a rendition of Maratka’s Concerto for clarinet with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, in the presence of the composer himself. In 2012 she recorded a chamber version of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 and Debussy’s ‘Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune’, under the baton of Trevor Pinnock.

In addition to her involvement with orchestras, Rozenn is a devoted chamber musician. In 2010 she co-founded the Ensemble Matisse and the Duo Kadañs, which went on to win the Woodbrass prize at the FNAPEC European competition. She has since been invited to play at a large number of festivals including London’s Kings Place Festival, ‘La Folle Journée’ in Nantes, and Musique en Velay, where she performed the French première of Eliott Carter’s clarinet quintet with strings. Other venues include the prestigious Salle Pleyel, Théatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and KKL in Lucerne.

Rozenn actively seeks new opportunities to expand her contemporary repertoire, and she is particularly passionate about solo clarinet music. In 2011 she was invited to perform Pierre Boulez’s ‘Domaines’ for solo clarinet at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Her performance, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, was a success and she was hailed a “prodigiously gifted young clarinettist” (The Times) showing a “dynamic and fascinating” playing (Musicalcriticism). Rozenn was also invited to perform a live broadcast of Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Abîme des Oiseaux’ on France Musique, and Steve Reich’s ‘New York Counterpoint’ at the Louise Blouin Institute. Her continuing commitment to contemporary music has also seen her work with composers such as Philippe Manoury, Michael Jarrell, Isabel Mundry, Elena Firsova, Dan Dediu and Philip Cashian.

Having studied with the likes of Richard Vieille, Mark Van de Wiel and Alain Damiens, Rozenn has recently begun teaching at King’s College London.

This post marks the first birthday of the ‘Meet the Artist’ series, and to celebrate this, I am delighted to present an interview with pianist Lara Melda, winner of the 2010 BBC Young Musician of the Year.

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and make it your career?

I originally started playing the piano after my sister began taking lessons. I was always trying to learn as she was practising! And from the moment I began lessons myself, I knew that I wanted to be a pianist.

Who or what are the most important influences on your playing?

My teacher, Ian Jones is a great influence to me; I am so grateful for his guidance and wisdom! And secondly my mother, who has stood behind me every step of the way – I would not have got to where I am without her constant support.

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

Sometimes it can be hard to balance school, a social life and the hours of practise required, especially when I was at the beginning of my journey, but now I have found ways to make it all work!

What are the particular challenges/excitements of working with an orchestra/ensemble?

It is always such a pleasure to work with orchestras, as pianists can get quite lonely on stage! Playing with others is always extremely inspiring, especially when I have been lucky enough to work with some wonderful orchestras such as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Aurora Orchestra, Borusan Philharmonic, Northern Sinfonia, Sinfonia of Leeds, English Chamber Orchestra, the Maidstone, Aylesbury, Royal Tunbridge Wells and Worthing Symphony Orchestras.

Which recordings are you most proud of?

At the moment I haven’t made any recordings, as I am waiting for the right time and, to try and think of an extraordinary program to make my first CD, as I want it to be really special.

Do you have a favourite concert venue?

I am a huge fan of the Wigmore Hall – I have had the pleasure of performing there once. The acoustic is wonderful, and I especially love the intimacy of the hall.

Who are your favourite musicians?

Martha Argerich is my favourite pianist; her passionate playing has always been one of my biggest inspirations.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The finals of the BBC Young Musician has to date been the most exciting performance of my life, coupled with the fact that it was the performance to change my life forever, it was a night that I will never forget!

What is your favourite music to play? To listen to?

I love playing music from the Romantic era, especially Chopin and Rachmaninov. They are both composers who really stir something in my soul; I feel so at one with their music that it feels completely natural to play.

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

Practise makes perfect! There are always periods of difficulty, and times when you may feel like you are not getting anywhere, but with persistence and determination, anything can be achieved.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a programme consisting of the following, for my next recitals in April:

BACH Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor, Prelude and Fugue in D major from Well Tempered Clavier Part 1

CHOPIN Étude in C minor Op. 10 No. 12, Étude in F major Op. 10 No. 8 Nocturne in B major Op. 32 No. 1, Nocturne in G major Op. 37 No. 2, Scherzo No.1 in B minor

DEBUSSY Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir Les collines d’Anacapri Des pas sur le neige La cathédrale engloutie, Minstrels from ‘Préludes, Livre 1’

LISZT ‘Les Cloches de Genève’ from Années de pèlerinage, Book 2; Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto (after Verdi)

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

I would really like to have launched my international career, and have made some recordings that I can be proud of!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To be with the people I love most, and doing the thing that I love most – playing the piano.

Lara Melda performs at St James’s, Piccadilly, London W1 on 10th July in a charity concert for Street Child World Cup Rio 2014. Further information here

At the age of sixteen Lara Melda won the BBC Young Musician 2010 competition, performing Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No.2 in the final round, with Vasily Petrenko and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Cardiff. The competition had an international following via television and radio broadcasts on the BBC. Since then she has also performed Mozart Concerto K466 with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and next season will return to Cardiff to play Beethoven Piano Concerto No 3.

Lara’s concerto performances last season included the Northern Sinfonia with Kirill Karabits, Sinfonia of Leeds, Watford Philharmonic, and the Maidstone, Aylesbury, Royal Tunbridge Wells and Worthing Symphony Orchestras. Previous London concerto engagements have included Mozart with the Aurora Orchestra and Nicholas Collon (Kings Place) and English Chamber Orchestra (Cadogan Hall) and the Grieg Concerto with English Sinfonia (St John’s Smith Square).

Lara Melda performs regularly in Turkey and made her debut at the International Music Festival in Istanbul in June 2011, playing the Grieg Concerto with the Borusan Philharmonic. She has also been presented by the ‘Istanbul Recitals’ piano series and performed at the Antalya Piano Festival and Bogazici University. In 2012 she received the prestigious ‘Promising Young Artist’ award from Kadir Has University.

Recital appearances have included Les Sommets Musicaux in Gstaad (Switzerland), Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival (Germany) and the Wigmore Hall. During this season Lara will perform at the Wiltshire Music Centre and many other venues in the UK.

Lara is a student at the Royal College of Music where she is a Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother Scholar supported by a Musicians’ Company Lambert Studentship. She began piano lessons with Emily Jeffrey at the age of six and currently studies with Ian Jones. Lara is also an accomplished viola player and enjoys playing chamber music on both piano and viola. In 2009 she was a finalist in the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition in Weimar, Germany.

Lara Melda is very grateful for support from Non Worrall and Richard Williams.

Lara’s biography courtesy of Askonas Holt

How long have you been playing the piano?

36 years, with a 5 year gap!

What kind of repertoire do you enjoy playing, and listening to?

Everything classical! Whatever I’m playing at the time I love.

How do you make the time to practise? Do you enjoy practising? 

I never have enough time to practise, I work full time running my own business, but manage about 5 or 6 hours a week practise, a lot more when I’m on holiday!

Have you participated in any masterclasses/piano courses/festivals? What have you gained from this experience? 

Fantastic to meet other people interested in the same thing – its quite a lonely hobby! I organise piano masterclasses for Ulverston Music Festival: we have 3 per year in Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria. I also attend other piano events in Cumbria.

If you are taking piano lessons what do you find a) most enjoyable and b) most challenging about your lessons? 

I love my lessons, I love learning and I love practising! There is more than enough repertoire out there for very many lifetimes, so I can never run out of things to learn!

What are the special challenges of preparing for a piano exam as an adult? 

A knowledge of The Fear of Failure. Children don’t have this! I have found it prohibitive and as a consequence have not done any further exams after grade 8 ten years ago.

Has taking piano lessons as an adult enhanced any other areas of your life? 

Yes, its given me more confidence generally, as the piano is so central to me, the feel good factor extends to everything else!

Do you play with other musicians? If so, what are the particular pleasures and challenges of ensemble work? 

I play duets with a friend – it’s magic making music with someone else!

Do you perform? What do you enjoy/dislike about performing? 

Love performing when I am in the right frame of mind and I know the piece well enough – it’s the best feeling when you know you have played something well

What advice would you give to other adults who are considering taking up the piano or resuming lessons? 

Don’t hesitate!

If you could play one piece, what would it be? 

Ravel’s Tombeau de Couperin, complete

(that’s as of today……next week could be something else!!)