nzso20yevgenysudbin-4416

Haydn Sonata in B Minor HobXVI/32
Beethoven Bagatelles Op.126
Tchaikovsky Nocturnes, Selection from the Seasons
Scriabin Prelude & Nocturne for the left hand Op.9, Sonata No.5, Op.53

Yevgeny Sudbin, piano

Monday 13 November 2017, St John’s Church, Wimbledon

This was my first visit to Wimbledon International Music Festival, though I have been aware of the festival for some years. Now in its ninth year, the two week festival is very well established and offers an impressive roster of international musicians, together with opportunities and support for young and emerging artists. Concerts take place in a number of attractive churches and halls dotted around the hill leading up to Wimbledon village and are very well organised, with friendly helpful staff. This is in no small part due to the efforts of Anthony Wilkinson, festival director, who is, by his own admission, passionate about music and has created “a festival sharing the experience of hearing and meeting world class artists in the company of friendly festival audiences“.

The theme of this year’s festival is capital cities and Russian pianist Yevgeny Sudbin, who hails from St Petersburg, presented a programme featuring composers from two of the greatest European cultural capitals – Vienna and Moscow – represented by Haydn, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin. Vienna has always had a strong hold over the imagination of Russian composers, artists and performers, and although Tchaikovsky was born in St Petersburg, he spent time in Moscow teaching at the conservatory, which since 1940 has born his name, and where Moscow-born Scriabin studied under Anton Arensky.

Described by the Telegraph as “potentially one of the greatest pianists of the 21st century“, Yevgeny Sudbin possesses that rare talent of being able to move with apparent ease between different composers, eras and genres, yet always delivering pianism of the highest order, rich in expression and musical thought. I have enjoyed fine performances by him at London’s Wigmore and Queen Elizabeth Halls and have been impressed in particular by his performances of music by Scriabin and Scarlatti (Sudbin’s playing of this composer’s miniature sonatas is exquisite – poised, shapely and expressive – and confirms that this music can and should be played on a modern piano).

It is also rare to be at a concert where one is utterly captivated from the first note until the very last has faded to silence, but this was definitely my experience at Sudbin’s Wimbledon recital. He’s a modest presence on stage, restrained in gesture, so that the music can speak for itself. His Haydn was poised and precise, darkly-hued, the first movement paced to allow us to appreciate the composer’s rhetoric and wit and delight in the possibilities of the (then) recently invented pianoforte. The second movement was elegant, lyrical and intimate, while the Presto finale was delivered with an insistent pulsing intensity, replete with fermatas and false cadences to keep the audience guessing.

Beethoven’s Opus 126 Bagatelles were published almost 50 years after Haydn’s B minor sonata, the product of the same period in his compositional life as the Ninth Symphony and the late string quartets. Although a set of six miniatures, these are works of the profoundest emotions and a sense of “otherworldliness”, particularly in the slower works. Sudbin caught the individual character of each Bagatelle with supple phrasing and nuanced dynamics. The final movement, in E flat, was almost Schubertian in its expansiveness and long-spun melodies of its middle section.

More miniatures in the second half, this time by Tchaikovsky. Two Nocturnes and two movements from ‘The Seasons’, all tinged with a heartfelt poignancy and delivered by Sudbin with sensitivity and expression. Scriabin’s Prelude and Nocturne for the left hand offer the pianist technical and expressive challenges – to shape a melodic line with an accompaniment using the left hand alone. This was an impressive performance, graceful and intense. Sudbin launched into the Fifth Sonata with hardly a pause for breath. It opens like the Haydn, with a growling, rumbling figure deep in the bass, but that is where the similarity ends. This work is sensuous, and declamatory. Sudbin capered through it, artfully bringing together all the seemingly disparate elements and abrupt contrasts, from toccata-like scurryings to passages of swooning lyricism, and mercurial changes of rhythm and harmony (some of the more surreal tonalities look forward to Mahler and Schoenberg, who lived in Vienna). The final flourish was delivered with a cool wit and humour.

The Scarlatti encore felt like a palette cleanser after the perfumed excesses of Scriabin, played with an understated elegance and a wonderfully translucent sound, bringing to a lose this absorbing and varied programme.

(artist picture courtesy of the NZSO)

Music at Paxton Festival

14 – 23 July 2017

www.musicatpaxton.co.uk

“Intimate festival presenting the finest international chamber music in a stunning backdrop of works from the National Galleries collection.”

  • Mahan Esfahani plays the Goldberg Variations
  • Promenade concert taking in main reception rooms
  • Carducci Quartet play Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro with young Scottish musicians
  • Cello Masterclass with Pieter Wispelwey
  • Sunday morning concerts
  • Continuing this year: two FREE ‘Music at Paxton…Plus’ concerts

Music at Paxton, a summer festival of top class international chamber music, takes place in Paxton House on the banks of the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders from 14 – 23 July 2017. The daily concerts offer an intimate, friendly and relaxed experience and take place in Paxton House’s splendid Picture Gallery. With its large, domed roof-light that lets in the summer sun, and walls hung high with paintings from the National Galleries of Scotland’s collection, it is an idyllic setting for chamber music.

The string quartet features prominently and the festival welcomes three this year: the Elias Quartet (Saturday 22 July, 7.30pm) who make their Paxton debut with two pillars of the chamber music repertoire Schubert’s String Quartet in D minor ‘Death and the Maiden’ and Schumann’s Piano Quintet; the Carducci Quartet (Saturday 15 July, 7.30pm) with a programme of Shostakovich, Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, and Ravel’s gloriously sunny Introduction and Allegro; and the Quatuor Zaïde from Paris, (Tuesday 18 July, 7.30pm) who open with the glittering sonorities of Debussy, followed by Schubert’s towering G major Quartet.

Harpsichord virtuoso Mahan Esfahani returns to Music at Paxton with two recitals this year. Renowned for his championing of the instrument, from the Baroque to the 20th century, Mahan Esfahani’s morning concert features music by Rameau, Martinů, and Swiss composer Pieter Mieg (Sunday 16 July, 11.30am). He returns that evening (Sunday 16 July, 6pm) to perform J S Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

No stranger to Music at Paxton, pianist Steven Osborne (Friday 14 July, 7.30pm) performs his critically acclaimed interpretations of Rachmaninov’s virtuosic tonal studies Études Tableaux Op 33 and Études Tableaux Op 39 alongside Debussy and Brahms.

Following his visit last year, the renowned cellist Pieter Wispelwey returns to complete the set of Suites for Solo Cello by J S Bach (Sunday 23 July, 6pm), with a public masterclass immediately beforehand (Sunday 23 July, 1.30pm).

On Thursday 20 July at 7.30pm, Baroque violinist Bojan Cicic brings his star-studded Illyria Consort (Bojan Cicic violin and viola d’amore, Susanne Heinrich viola da gamba, David Miller theorbo and baroque guitar, and Steven Devine harpsichord) for a feast of Baroque music in this celebration of Handel and his London contemporaries including Handel, Carbonelli, Ariosti and Corbetta. Former BBC New Generation artist, soprano Ruby Hughes makes her debut at the Festival, performing Schubert, Schumann and Mahler, with pianist Joseph Middleton (Friday 21 July, 7.30pm).

Presenting musicians earlier in their careers and integrating them into the programme remains of key importance to Music at Paxton. The Festival proudly continues its relationship with Live Music Now Scotland and this year sees the return of many of their alumni, some sharing the stage with leading international artists, in addition to those currently under their wing. Featured artists in this year’s Festival are Sirocco Winds, Emma Wilkins (alumni), and Calum Robertson, Marco Ramelli and Aonach Mòr (current).  New this year will be the Promenade Concert, taking in some of Paxton House’s reception rooms and featuring music from Emma Wilkins (flute), Esther Swift (harp) and Calum Robertson (clarinet) (Saturday 15 July, 4pm).

Aonach Mòr combines the talents of Claire Hastings, Grant McFarlane and Ron Jappy to create an exciting blend of songs and tunes (Sunday 16 July, 3.30 pm) featuring accordion, fiddle and guitar. Sirocco Winds, a brilliant young ensemble of current Masters students and graduates of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, perform Ligeti, Berio, Barber, Schifrin, Gershwin and Piazzolla (Wednesday 19 July, 7.30pm).

Young Milan born guitarist and composer Marco Ramelli performs works from Spain and South America (Saturday 22 July, 4pm) in the intimate surroundings of the Dining Room at Paxton House and Benjamin Frith brings a lyrical programme of Scarlatti, Mendelssohn, Chopin and Stanford, designed for a relaxing hour on a Sunday morning (Sunday 23 July, 11.30am).

Once again, in conjunction with Live Music Now Scotland and Paxton House, the extremely successful free one-hour taster concerts ‘Music at Paxton…Plus’ return to the festival. On Sunday 14 May at 2.30pm, guitarist Marco Ramelli performs works by Tarrega, Albéniz and Paganin and Calum Robertson (clarinet) and Juliette Philogene (piano) join forces on Sunday 4 June at 2.30pm for a programme of Jean Françaix, George Gershwin and Edward Gregson.

Helen Jamieson, Artistic Director for Music at Paxton, said: “This year’s festival is more ambitious than ever and we will be using every available space – from the marquee to the magnificent Dining Room – and every minute of these wonderful musicians’ time to provide the best and most varied event possible. There will be music from Bach to Beamish and from Scottish Traditional to Philip Glass. New this year is a cello masterclass by the renowned Pieter Wispelwey, a Promenade concert, for which Paxton House will open its main reception rooms to our musicians and audiences and two Sunday morning concerts for the early risers.”

Music at Paxton offers Sunday morning keyboard recitals, varied afternoon events including folk music in the marquee, two intimate recitals in the Dining Room, and a musical tour exploring some of the principal reception rooms of the 18th century neo-Palladian mansion.

(source: press release)

conchordfestival2016

10-12 June 2016
St Mary’s Twickenham
A new weekend festival of chamber music in a beautiful setting by the river Thames in Twickenham

The festival, which takes place over three days, features performances by international artists including baritone Roderick Williams (who will also premiere a new work), Julian Milford, Alisdair Beatson, Thomas Carroll, Emily and Daniel Pailthorpe, and the London Conchord Ensemble, with special guests Simon Callow and James Redwood.

The opening concert showcases soloists from London Conchord Ensemble playing well-loved pieces by J S Bach, musical master of the Baroque. Featuring the Oboe d’amore Concerto and Flute Suite, with its famous dancing ‘Badinerie’, the programme culminates in the eternally popular Double Violin Concerto. All concerts take place in St Mary’s church, Twickenham, an elegant eighteenth-century church with views to the river.

For more information and tickets, please visit the Conchord Festival Website

st-marys-church-twickenham

FestPromo
The Dulwich Music Festival is now in its fifth year. It is an annual event that takes place several times during the year to provide performance and feedback opportunities for pianists, harpsichordists and fortepianists. In 2016, the Festival comprises two separate events:
  • The Clementi House Piano Competition – a chance to perform in the London home of pianist and composer Muzio Clementi. Alongside the competition, there will be concerts by leading harpsichordists and fortepianists. 6th March 2016
  • The Piano Competition – a full day of classes from beginners to advanced and adult recital classes. 11th June 2016

These events are designed to celebrate the piano (and harpsichord and fortepiano) and to encourage enjoyment and progress amongst players of all levels.

Repertoire has been carefully chosen to allow complete beginners the chance to gain their first experience of performing to a friendly and welcoming audience. We seek out innovative repertoire by contemporary composers who also adjudicate the classes. In addition to the contemporary repertoire, we also have graded classes and recital and exhibition classes. The piano competition is well established and fully booked months in advance. We recommend early booking. Some of the June classes are already fully booked.

I am delighted to be involved with the Dulwich Music Festival once again in 2016 as an adjudicator, a role which offers me the opportunity to hear young pianists in action in a variety of repertoire.
Full details about the Festival can be found here:

http://www.dulwichmusicfestival.co.uk/

Programme for Wieniawski’s concert, 26 June 1891 ©Cambridge University Library

The musician as promoter – by which I mean one who organises and promotes concerts – is nothing new and there are historical precedents in the activities of Handel and Mozart, for example, who both organised their own subscription concerts. As the musician became elevated to celebrity status so the role of the “impresario” became more important: one who talent-spotted, and organised and financed concerts. Famous impresarios have included Thomas Beecham, Richard d’Oyly Carte and Sol Hurok (who managed, amongst many others Ashkenazy, Gilels, Richter, Rostropovich, Pavlova and Segovia). But today the impresario has largely been superseded (with a few notable exceptions such as Simon Cowell whose role as a “creator” and promoter of new pop stars is, frankly, questionable…..) as musicians have taken over the responsibility of organising and promoting concerts themselves.

There are practical reasons for doing this, perhaps the most obvious being financial, as an independent promoter or impresario will take a percentage of the concert’s income. Musicians I spoke to in the course of researching this article also highlighted a need to remain in control of all aspects of the concert, from hiring the venue to deciding what should form the programme. Composer, singer and crossover musician Clio Em says “the positives include carrying out one’s artistic vision fully and collaborating with the musicians you yourself choose to worth with“, but she also cites social media, marketing and communication with the venue as potential admin headaches. A paid promoter or impresario will take on these administrative roles, liaise with and pay the venue hire, organise marketing and ticket sales and so forth, leaving the musician to concentrate on the music……But in return for this, the musician may be required to play a particular programme to please promoter/venue/audience.

Here is violinist Beatrice Philips who runs Lewes Chamber Music Festival, on the administrative aspects or creating and promoting concerts: “I find that it is important for me to separate my performing state of mind from my “organising a Festival” state of mind……………in the end, having created the programmes and chosen the performers, there comes a deluge of ‘non-musical’ things to deal with in order to make it happen which require a totally different part of the brain.”

Terry Lowry, composer, conductor and pianist, says: “Being responsible for concert promotion has been a strong positive for me.  Knowing how to promote an event myself makes it easier to help venues and presenters who are trying to promote a concert for me be effective.  It also forces me to stay in contact with my audience, which – while I enjoy this part very much – doesn’t come naturally to me.  I think pianists and composers become pianists and composers because they are very comfortable being alone.  Concert promotion forces me to interact in ways that are both effective and personally rewarding.”

Double-bassist Heather Bird says: If nothing else it has given me a greater insight and appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes in putting on gigs. And there’s nothing more satisfying than putting on a successful night that you’ve thought of, fixed, found the venue for, sorted out the tech specs, promoted and played in and watching people enjoying listening to and performing in the gig.”

Pianist Emmanuel Vass says: Art doesn’t pay my mortgage, unfortunately. If I want people to buy into what I do, it has to have an element of “consumer” or “product” orientation. Part of being a product = marketing. Otherwise, you’re just art on the shelf, which consumers will rarely want to automatically buy.

Today the world of classical music is extremely competitive which means one constantly needs to find new and creative ways to attract and engage audiences. Not many musicians, especially young musicians who are just embarking on a professional career, can afford to pay for a specialist promoter, and so putting on and promoting their own concerts, either singly or in collaboration with other colleagues, is the way forward. At London’s Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, the BMus degree course includes a module called ‘Engaging Audiences’ which encourages students to consider how to market themselves, create effective promotional materials and think about their own ‘brand’ – i.e. who they are as an artist. This gets students thinking more commercially before they have left the relative comfort of the conservatoire, and a number of Trinity students who are friends of mine have been busy organising and performing in their own concerts in the years prior to graduation. As one student at Trinity-Laban said to me: “You can’t sit back and expect things to happen: musicians need to play an active role in promoting themselves and making things happen!”

A number of people whom I spoke to in the course of researching this article cite retaining control and giving free rein to their own artistic vision as important aspects of being one’s own promoter. Pianist Jeremy Young, artistic director of Alfriston Summer Music Festival, says: “I have a wonderful freedom to programme concerts that are intellectually stimulating and perhaps more daring than other concert promoters might be. Of course, my festival will not be successful if I don’t provide a broad scope of experience for the audience but now that I have built up a loyal audience I sense their hunger for new things and feel less need to consistently programme ‘classical favourites’. Of course, there is still an appetite for that too by both the artists and the audience…………I feel as intrinsically linked to artistic directorship as I do to playing the piano these days and my position as Head of Chamber Music at the RNCM also gives me opportunity to be educationally creative on behalf of the students.”.

The musician as promoter can also enjoy a special relationship with the audience, especially if one organises a regular series of concerts or an annual festival which gives one the opportunity to get to know one’s audience and build loyalty. This has several benefits: an element of familiarity and “trust” is established between performers and audience, which in turn can allow performers the artistic freedom to create more adventurous formats or experimental programmes which may include contemporary music or new commissions.

Pianist Daniel Tong, whose activities include Wye Valley Chamber Festival and a chamber festival based in Winchester, says: “I do see it as a natural extension of artistic directorship to come up with a concept and take ownership of it. To put one’s own stamp upon a concert, festival or series and help to shape it. Often these are the most personal and meaningful concert experiences. I think of my own festival in the Wye Valley, where we have built up a real rapport between artists and audience over the years…… That festival has always had a real family atmosphere, welcoming ambience and this, I am convinced, has in turn fostered a really creative and supportive spirit amongst the musicians. Some of the best performances I have heard have taken place down there……. Having musicians involved in the running of their events also means that some practical issues are understood more intimately. On the one hand, they know what it takes to create the right conditions and atmosphere for musicians and can pass this on to fellow organisers. Conversely, it introduces us to the kinds of details of which we are not always aware – how to publicise and promote, as well as how to look after an audience. We understand the business better and perhaps then sympathise and empathise more with those in administrative roles.”

For all musicians the desire to create, communicate and share music is (or should be) at the foundation of what we do, and organising concerts can be a wonderful way of expressing this desire while also controlling the environment and manner in which we present our music. Of course, practicalities include venue hire, marketing, ticket sales and front of house activities. When one retains responsibility for all these things, the admin and organisational aspects can be migraine-inducing, especially anxieties about selling enough tickets to cover one’s costs. In my experience of co-organsing the South London Concert Series we have had a couple of occasions when ticket sales have been very slow and this definitely creates stress. However, the satisfaction of organising our own concerts, working with musician friends and colleagues, and creating a friendly and convivial atmosphere in which to share music in some of London’s most beautiful and unusual venues outweighs the anxiety. This way of working makes our artform more democratic and, hopefully, brings classical music to a wider audience by making it more accessible. Ultimately, the music benefits – but also the musicians, the audience and the venue.

©Frances Wilson 2015