(picture credit – operaomnia.co.uk)

British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor is no stranger to the Proms: in fact, since he made his Proms debut, performing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the First Night in 2011, he has become something of a Proms veteran. However, this concert marked his debut in the Chamber Proms, held at Cadogan Hall.

The popular and precocious pianist presented a programme of music by Chopin, Mompou, Ravel and Gounod/Liszt, together with the world premiere of a new commission by Judith Weir, the newly-appointed master of the Queen’s music. A dance theme pulsated through this interesting and varied programme as Grosvenor explored the waltz from the contrasting perspectives of Ravel and Liszt, with interjections from Mompou, and opening with Chopin.

Read my full review here:

http://bachtrack.com/review-benjamin-grosvenor-chamber-prom-september-2014

Date reviewed: 1st September 2014

Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming

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

It was my pianist mother who wanted me to be a piano teacher and in a way, she forced me to learn the piano. She initially taught me, and as I continued my studies in Europe, I began developing a busy concert schedule.

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

Leonard Bernstein while I was studying in Europe, and my pet cats, dogs and birds who have been there throughout my life and career.

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

Just when I was launching my career and I was about to perform with Leonard Bernstein in Vienna, I contracted a really high fever and I ended up losing much of my hearing, much of which is lost still today. My search for medical treatment took me to Stockholm though, and I ended up broadcasting on the Swedish and German radio there, so the positive in me sees the opportunity it brought for me.

However, I would not really say that I think of that as my greatest musical challenge – every collaboration with other musicians and orchestras is a challenge in its own way. One of the greatest recent challenges was the Chopin piano concerto I played with Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra last year. The conductor as well as the whole orchestra were impressed with my performance and I was incredibly honoured to be asked to play with them again.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

I am my worst enemy and have never been happy with any of my performances!

Which particular works do you think you play best? 

I think quite a few by Debussy, Chopin and Ravel.

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

I always try to decide my repertoire with the concert and tour audience in mind, to ensure they enjoy listening; after all, they are the ones who are buying the tickets. I would never choose my repertoire to please the critics.

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

I like venues with a retro feel to them, particularly ones in Paris. I do not remember the name but love the castle in Manheim, Germany where Mozart played just once. It is not famous at all…

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I love playing pieces by Debussy, Ravel and Chopin, and listening to recordings by the Moscow Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Sergei Rachmaninoff and Georges Cziffra for the piano, and Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

I do not think I have one – since I am always dissatisfied with my performance, I try to forget about it every time I finish playing!

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

To be artistic and not to care too much about technique. I think the music schools nowadays tend to teach their students only technique. The teachers are not artistic enough and focus too much on the technique which is sad.

What are you working on at the moment? 

I am doing a lot of concerts in Europe and Japan this year. I am about to tour in Germany will be performing in London at Cadogan Hall on 23 March 2014.

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

I am planning to be retired by then, surrounded by my cats and dogs under a big tree and peacefully listening to the music such as Debussy’s “La Mer” and praying to God.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? 

Believing in God and God’s promises.

What is your most treasured possession? 

My pet cats and dogs.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Listening to music while sewing.

What is your present state of mind? 

I feel life needs patience.

Ingrid Fuzjko Hemming performs works by Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, Brahms and Sukegawa with violinist Vasko Vassilev at London’s Cadogan Hall on 23rd March. Full details here

Born in Berlin to a Japanese pianist mother and a Russian-Swedish architect father, Fuzjko relocated to Tokyo at the age of five to be raised only by her mother, and also received piano lessons under her guidance. At the age of ten, Leonid Kreutzer, a Russian-born German pianist and her father’s longtime friend, started giving her piano lessons. At this point, he had predicted Fuzjko’s international success as a pianist. At 17, Fuzjko made her concert debut while still a high school student, and later won various prizes in major domestic competitions, such as the NHK Mainichi Music Contest and the Bunka Radio Broadcasting Co. Music Prize. She then began her professional career by collaborating with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and other Japanese Orchestras. Samson François who had just happened to be visiting Japan, heard her play and praised her musicianship and interpretation of Chopin and Liszt.

Fuzjko’s full biography

Interview date: 4th March 2014

Tenor Ian Bostridge (image credit: David Thompson)

The final Chamber Prom of this season offered a pause to savour the music of the great English Renaissance lutenist, singer and composer John Dowland, whose 450th birthday falls this year.

Dowland’s music epitomizes the spirit of melancholy, fashionable in the Elizabethan period, and his most famous work is the Lacrimae, a set of seven pavanes for viols and lute, each drawn from the song Flow, My Tears.

For this concert, acclaimed tenor Ian Bostridge was joined by accomplished lutenist Elizabeth Kenny and the renowned viol consort Fretwork. Cadogan Hall is perhaps not the best venue to enjoy the intimate simplicity of Dowland’s music, but, seated in a semicircle, the musicians created an atmosphere of concentrated closeness, which held the audience’s attention for an hour and more, and allowed the seductive melancholy of Dowland’s music to shine through.

Read my full review

brittencurated

An intimate portrait of Benjamin Britten, as seen through a sequence of bittersweet songs for voice and piano and voice and guitar, provided the perfect antidote to the Wagner marathon at the Proms. The concert included an intense and very moving performance of the Canticle ‘Abraham and Isaac’ with tenor James Gilchrist, soprano Ruby Hughes and Imogen Cooper at the piano.

Read my full review here

Watch the entire concert (click on the picture to go to the BBC Radio Three website)

pcm

Who or what inspired you to become a guitarist and composer? 

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to compose my own music. As soon as I learned to read music, I started writing it down. I haven’t stopped since. As a guitarist, I was inspired by John Williams and Julian Bream. They made playing the guitar seem like the most relevant and exciting thing to do.

What are you working on at the moment? 

A Triple Concerto, for saxophone, cello, piano and orchestra. It’s for the Orpheus Sinfonia, a wonderful orchestra of young professionals. The solo parts are part-composed, part-devised and part-improvised. The piece transforms pre-existing music in unexpected ways. The pianist, Graham Caskie, has been sending me short recordings of musical ideas for possible inclusion. The work has been very collaborative and musically rewarding. I’m now putting the finishing touches to the orchestration. The first performance is at Cadogan Hall on 11th July.

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

Firstly, the musicians I work with. I have learned so much from them. Secondly, the various external impetuses that give my music its narrative content, character and shape. Recently these influences have come from the work of James Joyce, Thomas Heatherwick, Charles Jencks, Gerhard Richter, Norman Foster, Antoni Gaudi and Terry Gilliam. As for musicians, I have very catholic tastes. At the centre, though, it’s Beethoven, Mahler and Stravinsky – and my recent work has been flavoured by Max Richter, Uri Caine, Mark Anthony Turnage, John Adams, and Frank Zappa among others.

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

Writing music for my heroes has proved particularly challenging – I’ve done that a couple of times. There is a sense that you must somehow raise your game for the ‘big occasion’. Of course, as soon as you put pressure on yourself, it becomes impossible to make creative decisions.

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

When you write for orchestra, you can’t afford to take too many risks. The music needs to play off the page, as rehearsal time is always limited. So keeping the balance between invention and pragmatism is the biggest challenge. Working with Orpheus has been great, as I’ve got to know the players and have been able to write to their strengths and be more experimental.

Which recordings are you most proud of?  

I am very happy with many of the recordings of my music. However, once a project is over, I rarely reflect on it too much. All I can say I that I’m really enjoying two recording projects that I’m working on at the moment – the Piano Concerto with Emmanuel Despax and the Orpheus Sinfonia and the Guitar Concerto with John Williams and the RPO.

Do you have a favourite concert venue? 

The Brangwyn Hall, Swansea in my youth. I went to many orchestral concerts there between the ages of 11 and 18. It’s where my musical DNA was formed.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Here’s a list for today, but it would be different every time you asked me – Alina Ibragimova, Krystian Zimmerman, Joni Mitchell, Claudio Arrau, Martha Argerich, Paul Watkins, Branford Marsalis, David Russell. These are all musicians who’ve moved me in recent weeks.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

I went to see WNO’s production The Turn of the Screw when I was 14. It changed the way I thought about music. Suddenly a door on a new world opened up in front of me. The range of emotional expression, instrumental and vocal colour, and depth of musical characterisation was breathtaking.

What is your favourite music to listen to? 

I love listening to things for the first time (especially at a live concert). Nothing beats the excitement of discovering something new. You listen not knowing where the music is going to end up or what’s going to happen next. Recently, I was really taken with Ginastera’s Piano Concerto and Janáček’s Violin Sonata. In terms of familiar favourites, Bach, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Miles Davis and Beethoven again.

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

  • To listen without prejudice
  • To question everything
  • That asking for guidance is not a sign of weakness
  • That everyone has creative and inventive ideas all the time. The difficulty comes in taking those ideas and realising them in a satisfying way.
  • That the notion of an individual compositional voice is a dangerous one. W.H. Auden once said that as an artist, you spend the first half of your life imitating others and the second half imitating yourself. I would argue that self-repetition is a bigger problem than any notion of a composer having to nurture or seek an individual voice.

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

Exactly where I am now, but with a more manageable schedule.

What do you enjoy doing most? 

Spending time with friends and family, and watching live football in N5.

Stephen Goss is currently composer-in-residence for Orpheus Sinfonia who will give the world premiere of his Triple Concerto for Saxophone, Cello and Piano at the Cadogan Hall in London on Thursday 11 July.  The soloists are saxophonist Pete Whyman, cellist Thomas Carroll (also Artistic Director of Orpheus Sinfonia) and pianist Graham Caskie, with Toby Purser conducting. 

Stephen Goss’ Piano Concerto was premiered by Emmanuel Despax and the Orpheus Sinfonia in London in April and will be released on the Signum Classics label in October. 

“Composer Stephen Goss draws on a variety of sources for his eminently listenable music. Despite the eclectic nature of his influences, which range from Beethoven’s late piano music to the films of former Python Terry Gilliam, Goss’s musical language comes across as brilliantly integrated….”  International Record Review

Stephen Goss is much in demand as a composer.  His works have been recorded on over 50 CDs by more than a dozen record labels, including EMI, Decca, Naxos and Deutsche Grammophon.  His collaborative project with Professor Charles Jencks, The Garden of Cosmic Speculation (2005) for violin, cello, bass clarinet and piano, was profiled on The South Bank Show on ITV1. 

His latest projects include a new guitar concerto for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which will be recorded and toured by guitarist John Williams in 2014.  He has also received commissions from guitarists David Russell, Milos Karadaglic and Xuefei Yang, cellist Natalie Clein, violinist Nicola Benedetti, flautist William Bennett and the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra. 

Goss has also collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber, arranging melodies from his new musical, Stephen Ward, for solo guitar.  The piece was premièred by Milos Karadaglic on ITV on Easter Sunday (31 March) as part of a 90-minute celebration of the life and work of Andrew Lloyd Webber, marking 40 years in London’s West End.  It is the first time any material from Lloyd Webber’s new show, which is based on the Profumo scandal which rocked the British government in the early 1960s, has been heard.  The track is being released by Deutsche Grammophon to coincide with the TV broadcast. 

After several years on the staff at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Steve Goss is now Professor of Music and Head of Composition at the University of Surrey, and a Professor of Guitar at the Royal Academy of Music in London. 

In a recent interview for Reuters, French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard described Debussy as a “hedonist” of sound, and this definition was clear in Aimard’s performance – one of incredible precision, intensity, sensitivity, and sensuality, which showed Debussy to be a composer of great complexity, a profound and dark artist, and a revolutionary of sonority and musical colour. Read my full review here

Pierre-Laurence Aimard (photo credit: © Marco Borggreve)