Guest post by Benjamin Tassie

On June 3rd IKLECTIK’s performance space, bar and garden will exist between two worlds: that of the baroque dance parties of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the musical world of 21st-century London. The sound of the baroque flute and bass viol, the music of Byrd or Bach, will mix with music from across the centuries for Baroque Remix, the first full-scale incarnation of this new classical club night. Baroque DJs will ‘live remix’ baroque music, sampling Lauryn Hill or 2Pac alongside Pergolesi or Purcell. Combining the best of baroque, hip hop, R&B, and contemporary classical music, Baroque remix will reimagine baroque music with drum loops or through the synth-bach arrangements of Wendy Carlos (‘A Clockwork Orange’ soundtrack).

The evening will feature live sets from period instrumentalists Carla Rees (baroque flute) and Liam Byrne (viola da gamba) playing a mixture of old music and new, showcasing the diversity of these historic instruments. World class performances will present baroque music alongside pop arrangements and works by contemporary classical composers, in a series of small sets throughout the night that reframe these instruments for today’s new-music scene.

Previously performed at nights for the V&A (part of a museum late, opening the new Europe 1600-1815 galleries) and Royal Palaces (for ‘Queen James’, part of #PalacePride at Banqueting House), Baroque Remix on June 3rd will be the first full-scale club night, with IKLECTIK’s bar and garden the perfect informal setting for a night of unique and innovative music making.

Venue Details

IKLECTIK

Old Paradise Yard, SE1 7LG

www.iklectikartlab.com

Nearest Tube: Lambeth North / Westminster

Date and Time

03.06.2017 – 8-11pm

Tickets £10

Book tickets

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jane_booth

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

My father used to take me to hear concerts at Middlesbrough Town Hall given by what was then called the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra. I loved the sound of the the clarinet in that orchestra and declared it my chosen instrument – apparently!

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

During my teenage years I loved making music in a variety of settings. The combined energies, harmonies, rhythms and colours from orchestras, wind bands, dance bands and pit bands gave me a  hunger for performing that has never left!  Chamber music, solo playing, orchestral playing now fill many of my days (and evenings), and the sense of fulfilment just gets stronger.

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

As a performer on historical instruments I find that I need to have many different instruments in good working order and ready for performance at any one time. Sometimes lining up 10 or 12 different clarinets, basset horns or chalumeaux in the run up to a range of concert programmes can be quite challenging – not to mention ensuring that I have good working reeds for all of them too! But each instrument has its own tonal colour, depth and dynamic range to explore and this also informs my music making so the down sides all have a really positive flip side to accompany them.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of? 

I’m really excited about the new CD with one of my chamber groups ‘Ensemble DeNOTE’, an ensemble formed by my husband and fortepianist, John Irving. We often play historical arrangements of eighteenth and nineteenth century favourites, so this CD celebrates that repertoire with two Beethoven ‘selfies’ – his trio arrangement of the Septet (clarinet, cello, fortepiano) and a piano quartet version of the Op. 16 quintet for piano and wind. With the beautiful added decorations in the Op. 16 I’m enjoying the piano quartet version rather more than I ought to! With ensembleF2 I’ve recorded a second album of chamber music by Franz Danzi. Returning to his two wonderfully operatic sonatas (one for clarinet with fortepiano and the other for basset horn and fortepiano) with Steven Devine has been great fun, especially using the Fritz fortepiano at the Finchcocks museum and its very special percussion pedals!

Some years ago I was thrilled to take part in the first ‘historical instrument’ performances of Wagner Operas with two different orchestras and under two conductors.  Daniel Harding and Sir Simon Rattle each brought their own insights to this repertoire, the results were thrilling for players and audiences – such a privilege to be a part of this particular journey of rediscovery.

Which particular works do you think you perform best? 

Mozart ‘s Gran Partita, Requiem and of course Concerto really are enjoyable to perform and I’ve had plenty of opportunities to indulge myself in these works in recent times. Again, the instruments we use are so very special for these pieces and I’m lucky to have very well made (hand made) copies that are as close to the instruments that Anton Stadler played as I think it is possible to have. My basset clarinet was made by Peter van der Poel, it plays really well and is modelled on the picture of Stadler’s instrument from a Riga concert announcement.  My basset horn was a recent purchase from Guy Cowley whose instruments just get better and better – it sings so sweetly and is a joy to play.

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

A new bass chalumeau by Guy Cowley and a basson de chalumeau by Andreas Schöni have promoted me to explore a number of baroque composers recently leading to a new programme of music for chalumeaux, voice and continuo with works by Vivaldi, Bononcini, Graupner, Zelenka,  Telemann and others. The soprano chalumeau in particular blends so sweetly with a voice – and fits very conveniently into a coat pocket!

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

My favourite hall of the moment is The Anvil at Basingstoke. With the OAE (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) we have played large symphonic programmes such as Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique as well as chamber performances of classical wind serenades. The sound in the hall is exceptional and it is so rewarding to perform in such a wonderfully warm and vibrant atmosphere. The people of Basingstoke and the surrounding region may not realise just how lucky they are!!

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to? 

I love playing great choral works such as Mozart’s Requiem, Haydn’s Creation, Bach/Mendelssohn St. Matthew Passion and others. Performing the texts and sentiments of these great works is always inspiring and there are several great choral ensembles around these days that lift the music to incredible heights – I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work with some of them. Brahms Symphonies, Tippett’s A Child of our Time and Schubert’s Lieder would also be on my desert island disc list.

Who are your favourite musicians? 

Playing in TWO chamber groups on a regular basis affords me many wonderful opportunities to play with musicians whose playing I adore, who inspire and challenge me and with whom I can explore ideas and repertoire to my heart’s content.  Beyond the lives of those ensembles, I feel most inspired when I’m on stage with people who put the music and their enthusiasm first, leaving their egos outside the room…… A number of them work alongside me at the Guildhall School!

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

I’ve enjoyed many different performing settings but many concerts with Toronto’s Tafelmusik stand out for me as having incredible energy, consensus and excitement. Under Bruno Weil, Tafelmusik’s exploration of Beethoven Symphonies brought me immense pleasure and fulfilment – even through the recording sessions which so often in other settings can sap the joy out of the music.

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

Technique only has value if you can use it to convey something from your heart.

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

In 10 years’ time I’d like to be working one-to-one with more students and directing even more of my own musical projects.

 Jane peforms Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet K.581 on a period basset clarinet and Crusell Quartet Op.2 No. 1 in a concert on October 5th with Consone Quartet, St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, London E1 6JN. Free entry with retiring collection

Jane is a specialist in the early clarinet and chalumeau. In addition to her work as Head of Historical Performance at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London, regular masterclasses and international adjudicating, she has pursued a busy international career, playing all over the world with many renowned ensembles including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Tafelmusik and The Academy of Ancient Music. Her repertoire is vast and extends from the works of Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi through to Wagner, Mahler and Debussy – all on historically appropriate instruments.

After some fifteen thrilling years as principal clarinet of the Orchestre des Champs-Elysees Jane turned her focus towards chamber music. She has performed in the UK, North America, Japan, Australia and Europe with Robert Levin, Ronald Brautigam, Eybler Quartet and Les Jacobins, and currently performs regularly with her Ensemble DeNOTE and Ensemble F2. Concerto performances include baroque concertos by Fasch, Telemann, Graupner, and Molter, Mozart’s Concerto for basset clarinet and Weber’s Concertos performed Europe-wide.

Jane has recorded for Analekta (Canada), ATMA (Canada) and sfz music (UK) performing Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, solo repertoire for the Basset Horn, wind music by Gossec and Méhul, and a programme of Lieder by Schubert. A DVD documentary on Mozart’s Kegelstatt Trio with Ensemble DeNOTE (Optic Nerve) is complemented by a new recording of Beethoven’s Trio Op. 38 (Omnibus Classics). A second CD of the chamber music of Franz Danzi is in preparation with ensembleF2 on the Devine Music label.

janebooth.net

denote.org.uk

ensemblef2.com

 

 

Some years ago I heard two performances of Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in the same day: the first was on an 1848 Pleyel from the Cobbe Collection at Hatchlands, a piano said to have been used by Chopin when he visited England in 1848. The second was at the Royal Festival Hall on a modern concert Steinway model D. It was almost as if I’d heard two completely different pieces of music. If I had to pick one performance, I would probably say I enjoyed the concert at Hatchlands more – the setting which harked back to Chopin’s Parisian salon and the culture of concerts amongst friends, and the more limited dynamic range of the instrument (without loss of pianistic colour), which seemed appropriate for the music. The performance on the modern Steinway seemed more seamless, the sound somehow “smoothed out”.

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Chopin’s ‘own’ grand piano (photo: The Cobbe Collection, Hatchlands)

A few months ago I interviewed an international concert pianist who spoke of the difficulties of playing Chopin’s Piano Concertos with a modern orchestra, on a modern piano. “There’s a simplicity/naturalness/delicacy [in this music] which is bordering on impossible on a modern piano. You have to over-articulate and then it doesn’t feel like Chopin. It becomes “Panzer Chopin”. It shouldn’t be forceful. Very often today the pianos are voiced quite aggressively so that they carry to the back of the hall over the orchestra.”

Pianos are now bigger and louder than ever: the invention of the iron frame in the 1820s and the introduction of steel wire strings allowed manufacturers to create much stronger and therefore bigger and noisier pianos. Designed to project in the biggest venues, the largest grand pianos are now over 3 metres in length (the standard Steinway Model D – still the most popular piano in modern concert halls – is 2.74 metres) and modern manufacturing techniques and materials give these instruments immense power. In addition, contemporary taste and trends, in part driven by the wide availability of very high-quality recordings, mean that modern pianos are often voiced in such a way that the sound is very bright, particularly in the upper register.

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Fazioli F308 model (3.08 metres long)

 

I have been lucky enough to play  Schubert and Chopin-era fortepianos and pianos (including the aforementioned 1848 Pleyel), an instructive experience for it tells one a great deal about the possibilities – and limitations – afforded by the instruments of the day and the kind of soundworld these composers might have known. I’m no period instrument crusader (nor do I buy into the theory that hearing music on period instruments allows us to “hear it as the composers heard it” because that is impossible, and changes in piano technique, performance practice etc influence the way pianists produce sound), but I do think it is important to understand that an 1826 Graf fortepiano, such as Schubert would have known and played, or a early twentieth-century Bechstein (such as the one I own), does not sound like a modern piano, and we should carry this appreciation into our playing and the sounds we strive to make. (It is reported by those who heard Chopin perform that he never played louder than mezzo-forte, even if he had written forte in the score.). Not all fortes are equal (nor all pianissimos for that matter!), and a forte or fortissimo in Schubert should not be played with the same volume as the equivalent dynamics in Rachmaninov or Stravinsky, for example. Schubert’s dynamics tend to be introspective and intimate, and his fortes generally lack the declamatory nature of Beethoven’s or Rachmaninov’s.

An appreciation of “psychological dynamics” is also important: dynamics should be nuanced to suit the genre, period, mood, key and character of the music. The word “dynamics” does not simply mean “loud or quiet”, and a whole host of adjectives and metaphors can be applied to suggest a particular sound and mood – vibrant, angry, energetic, lethargic, distant, lonely…. I have noticed a tendency amongst certain performers, who shall remain nameless, to offer very literal interpretations of dynamics. Add to this a very large grand piano in a medium-sized venue such as Wigmore Hall and one can feel as if one is being constantly hit over the head with sound, even in the back row of the hall where I usually sit. For someone who suffers from intermittent tinnitus as I do, this can be quite uncomfortable, verging on painful. It also feels “unmusical” to me.

And here is another issue concerning the sound of the modern piano – performers need to make adjustments to their sound according to the size of the venue. At a piano meetup event I attended last winter at a very small salon-style venue, a number of players pushed the fortes and fortissimos in their pieces as if they were playing to a full house at Carnegie Hall, quite inappropriate for the size of the venue. Earlier this year I gave a concert in a colleague’s home on a 1960s Steinway D. Fearful that my fortes might be too great for the size of the room, I considered playing with the piano’s lid on half-stick, but the instrument was so beautifully set up that it was not necessary. (I should add that this was a piano with a rather special heritage: it used to belong to the Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli and has been played by such piano greats as Richter, Gilels, Barenboim and Ashkenazy.)

A skilled pianist playing a properly set up modern piano can adjust his or her sound according to venue, acoustic, genre of music. Thus, a pianist such as Richard Goode, whom I heard in Schubert’s last three piano sonatas recently, can bring a richness to the fortes and fortissimos without a loss of beauty of tone. His sound was warm and orchestral, rather than simply loud. Equally, in the piano and pianissimo passages he created an incredible sense of intimacy which seemed to shrink the Royal Festival Hall to the size of Schubert’s salon. Such skillful, controlled and sensitively nuanced playing is of course the result of many years of experience, an understanding of each composer’s distinct soundworld, and the ability to judge the volume of sound one is going to make before the finger reaches the key.

Paul Badura Skoda plays Schubert (on an 1826 Graf fortepiano, a 1923 Bösendorfer and a modern Steinway)

Chopin’s ‘own’ grand piano at the Cobbe Collection