Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts, Wednesday 24 October 2018

Marie-Louise Taylor, piano

Tribute to Debussy

Arabesque No. 1, Reflets dans L’eau, Prelude from Pour le Piano, Estampes, Clai de Lune, La fille au cheveux de lin, La Cathedrale engloutie, Feux d’artifice


It’s rare to hear Debussy’s piano music played well – and I mean really well. Too often misconceptions about his “impressionism” lead to sounds and motifs muddied by over-pedalling, and rhythmic anomalies abound in passages where the pianist decides Debussy’s written out rubato is simply not sufficient to create atmosphere.

In my first visit to the Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concert series, run by the estimable Duncan Honeybourne (who also performs in some of the concerts), Marie-Louise Taylor (daughter of the pianist and pedagogue Harold Taylor) gave a delightful concert in tribute to Debussy in a programme with charted his development as a composer of exquisite piano music, from his early Arabesque No. 1 (1888) to his final Prelude, Feux d’artifice (1913), a pianistic tightrope act which confirms his modernist credentials.

This elegant programme revealed Marie-Louise as a sensitive Debussy pianist whose precise yet expressive playing was rich in clarity, wit, rhythmic grace and musical understanding. The character of each individual piece was carefully delineated, from the fluid intertwining lines of the first Arabesque to the shimmering Eastern-inspired soundscape of Pagodes and the awesome majesty of Debussy’s sunken cathedral. And all enhanced by immaculate pedalling which brought vibrancy and luminosity to Debussy’s kaleidoscopic musical palette.


Weymouth Lunchtime Chamber Concerts continue on 21 November with a recital commemorating the centenary of the end of the First World War with Duncan Honeybourne. Further information

Finding comfortable earphones, or earbuds, which also offer decent sound quality across a range of music genres can be tricky, especially if you like to listen to your music while on the move or when exercising. Padmate’s new PaMu Scroll wireless earbuds (so-called because they come in a chic cylindrical case-cum-charging unit) offer a comfortable, competitively-priced and stylish alternative to more traditional designs.

Drawing on and upgrading the technology used to develop the X13-PaMu Wireless Earbuds (developed following a highly successful Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign), the PaMu Scroll earbuds are super lightweight and fit snugly,  comfortably and discreetly in the ear. The earbuds are touch-sensitive, with Left and Right both enabled to Play or Pause and respond to, or decline, phone calls; while the Left also allows one to fast forward through tracks and the Right to activate Siri (on iPhone). It takes a little bit of getting used to – tap too hard and your music will turn on and off, and then on again…. But the function saves fiddling around with an additional switch or button, and the volume can of course be controlled from your music app/device. The sound is very direct, immediate and balanced over a range of genres, also spoken word/radio broadcast. Since the majority of my listening is to classical music, I tested the earbuds with piano and other instrumental solo works (including violin, voice and flute), chamber music, contemporary classical and orchestral, and very much liked what I heard. The clarity – coupled with comfort in the ear – is impressive, and they have a good noise cancelling function too, which means you don’t have to compromise on your listening experience when travelling on the train, for example.20180827174808jpg-1535363296126

If you thought Apple had the edge on stylish design, think again. The PaMu earbuds come neatly packaged in a sleek white box and the charging/carrying case is a scroll wrapped in embossed leather (four attractive designs/colours to choose from),with a magnetic clasp, which will fit neatly in a pocket or handbag . Inside the earbuds have their own Left and Right compartments, also magnetised to ensure they fit snugly for charging. Although supplied with a USB charging cable, the PaMu Scroll can also be charged using a wireless charging pad.

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With fast Bluetooth auto-pairing, your earbuds will be ready to use almost as soon as you take them out of the case, and the charge is good for four hours. They are also waterproof, making them excellent when working out.

PaMu Scroll go on sale from 12 September, initially for only $39, which strikes me as a bargain, considering the quality and style of the product.

Further information

 

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

We had an upright piano in the corner of the dining room, which one of my older sisters was learning on. Aged about 6 I used to sit at it, crashing about on the keys and flailing my arms around as I imagined concert pianists did –  maybe I saw one on the TV. I think my parents realised my enthusiasm needed channelling and took me to a teacher who reminded me of Cruela de Vil – brown hair on one side and blonde on the other! I had a wonderful teacher at secondary school, Elaine Hugh-Jones, who was very inspiring and supportive. For a long while I toyed with becoming a solo pianist, but turned down the opportunity to study piano at the RNCM in preference to taking up an instrumental scholarship at Oxford. Over time I began to realise that my musical temperament did not lean towards life as a soloist, and there were many other ways to pursue a performing career. The Guildhall School of Music and Drama (GSMD) held those answers for me.

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

A chance conversation with Roger Vignoles prevented me from giving up altogether…I needed a teacher who knew about accompanying-he suggested some lessons with Paul Hamburger, and, as well as with him, at the GSMD I had the chance to work intensively with Graham Johnson, Martin Isepp and Iain Burnside, who were all hugely inspirational to me in their different ways. Playing for masterclasses at Snape for wonderful singers/teachers such as Elly Ameling, Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Elizabeth Soderstrom were also fantastic learning opportunities. In latter years, especially after moving to Shropshire, I have Roddy (Roderick Williams) to thank for continuing to take me with him on his musical journey, whilst it may have seemed I disappeared off the musical world’s radar; and for his natural, intelligent, sublime interpretations. Oh, and his irrepressible sense of humour.

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

Trying to keep it going!! The move to Shropshire, having three children in close succession, and getting divorced made it particularly challenging to carry on playing at all.

Musically, I think some of the contemporary works I’ve performed have challenged me greatly, such as the four Songs by Torsten Rasch, commissioned for Gloucester Three Choirs Festival; and more recently getting out of my comfort zone and having to use an elbow in a new work called “The Rain is Coming” by Emily Levy.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Going way back, one which comes to mind is playing for Nathan Berg in the Gold Medal final at GSMD. He was singing Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder – trying to do these incredible songs justice for Nathan meant so much to me I was sick beforehand! Luckily it paid off – and he won. A recent performance of Die Schöne Mullerin with Roddy had a feeling of musical and emotional synchronicity – I was so glad to be part of that performance too. And I’m really proud to have been given the opportunity to record the new SOMM CD, songs that I have performed with Roddy many, many times over the years, all of which I adore.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

You may have to ask others about that!

Accompanists have to be like chameleons. It’s important to be able to feel comfortable in as many styles as possible. I like to think I can play best whatever I happen to be working on. Having said that, I have a particular penchant for the serious and intense, for example I think I can put across a pretty convincing “Ich bin der welt abhanden gekommen” (Mahler)… I also feel I now have a more confident approach to playing Schubert – Die Schöne Mullerin is a personal favourite; although tomorrow it may be Schwanengesang, and the day after, Winterreise.

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

As an accompanist with many other demands made on my time, these choices are frequently not mine. Quite often my job is to fall in love with whatever repertoire I am tasked with – I enjoy that challenge.

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

Roddy and I did a tour of Schwanengesang in 2016. One of the venues was the Sam Wanamaker Theatre at the Globe in London. It was a very special place to play. It is an utterly beautiful bijou Jacobean-style space for starters, and as the performers, we were cocooned by the audience above us and around us, all of us bathed in the most atmospheric candlelight – a truly memorable experience.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

A festival in 2013 – memorable for the wrong reasons! I was attempting to give my all in an exceptionally beautiful postlude of Richard Sisson’s “So Heavy Hangs the Sky”, when the city council rudely began to empty the huge glass-recycling bins outside the venue – the sound continued for a good ten seconds… The second half of the concert was accompanied by reversing vehicle noises, pretty much matching the pulse, but not the atmosphere of Britten’s “The Sunflower”. The audience were not happy!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

The ability to be able to move an audience through musical communication.

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

Respect the composer’s intentions, whatever you perceive them to be; try to communicate the spirit of the piece; enjoy the practice journey; have fun. Respect and support your colleagues.

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

Back at the Wigmore Hall

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The Beach House Goa Retreat

What is your most treasured possession?

My Steinway piano, given to me when I was 14

What do you enjoy doing most?

Walking the dog in the Shropshire hills with my kids

What is your present state of mind?

Busy!

 

Roderick Williams’ new CD, with Susie Allan, piano, ‘Celebrating English Song’ is available now on the SOMM label. Further information here

Susie Allan studied Music at Worcester College, Oxford, as a Hadow Instrumental Scholar, and Piano Accompaniment at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She won the GSMD Accompaniment Prize, the Gerald Moore Award, and a Geoffrey Parsons Memorial Award. Her teachers included Paul Hamburger, Graham Johnson and Iain Burnside. She has accompanied many masterclasses at the Britten-Pears School at Snape Maltings, Suffolk and elsewhere, and has been a Professor of Accompaniment at the RCM and the RWCMD.

 

 

 

A guest post by Bernard Kerres, founder/CEO of HelloStage

 

The world has changed significantly over the last twenty years. The development of the internet and its almost virus-like spread into all corners of the world as well as our lives has an impact on society not yet fully understood. Who will need a musician in tomorrow’s world when you can chose between the holograms of Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould or Friedrich Gulda playing for you in your home “live” – or at any concert stage for that matter? Why waste time on music education when a robot can play flawlessly and adapt to the style of your preferred pianist?

 

We are not quite there yet. But we can be sure that the scenarios described above are technically entirely possible in the not-too-distant future. The only thing that will take longer is for a robot to develop its own interpretation. I doubt that it will ever be possible for robots develop emotions – at least not in the near or medium term future.

 

Nevertheless, the scenarios mean that the reproduction of music, including classical music, will enter completely new realms never even thought of. This is actually good news. This means that more music will be consumed and music will become an even bigger part of every day life. 

 

But what happens to live music? My view is that the more people who are listening to music anywhere the more will also listen to live music. There a lots of examples in human behaviour where individuals get more into a subject the more they are in contact with the subject matter.

 

Often classical music makes it very difficult for new audiences to attend. There is a whole unwritten code about behaviour in a concert – from how to dress to when to clap. This is a huge entry barrier for new music lovers. Many people have developed a taste for classical music, have listened to it on the radio or in recordings, but they still shy away from going to the opera or to a concert.

 

So technology gives us these amazing opportunities but we, the classical music community, build up barriers against really utilizing these opportunities.

 

Nevertheless, technology also allows us in the classical music community to communicate and collaborate with each other in completely new ways. The author and readers of this blog have developed a great interest in news and thoughts around the piano. We at HELLO STAGE are providing tools for those in the classical community to engage with each other.

 

From experience I know that people in the music world are generally very self-focused. They have to be. They have to really believe  in their music, in their concerts and in their performances. But if we all change just a tiny little bit, using some of the technology available to us, to write, speak, blog, tweet etc. about classical music in general, we could create an amazing network effect.

 

I personally have the great advantage of seeing one of the most amazing network effects at work. I have relocated to Silicon Valley in California at least for four months, if not longer. Within days of arriving, I saw an amazing network driven by the belief in technology and a passion for entrepreneurship. Everyone here speaks about the latest app they have seen, a cool start-up they came across, or an inspiring team. Only after several questions, they might actually also speak about their own start-up or investments. 

 

At HELLO STAGE we initiated the hashtag #classicalbuzz. The idea behind it is simple. As a first step each one of us shares one comment about a performance we have just heard or a recording which has inspired us with the hashtag #classicalbuzz. Second, we all share at least one post with #classicalbuzz. Can you imagine the fast spread of #classicalbuzz and therefore classical music in the world? It is an easy step that we all can easily join in with. It can be the beginning of a classical music revolution. 

 

Let us create a #classicalbuzz together, perhaps also a #pianobuzz driven by our love for classical music. I am looking forward to sharing your posts and tweets with these hashtags. I am greatly looking forward to reading more and more ideas about how people around the world lower the barriers of entry into our concert halls and opera houses and make them welcoming for so many new music lovers out there. Thanks for being part of that.

Bernhard Kerres is the founder and CEO of HELLO STAGE – an innovative independent online platform for the classical music community, connecting musicians, ensembles, managers, and promoters in the classical music world.

Bernhard started his career as an opera singer, before graduating with an MBA from London Business School. After five years in strategy consulting for Booz & Co. in the high technology, internet and telecom sectors, he subsequently became CEO, CFO, and COO of various technology companies in Europe. From 2007 to 2013, he was the CEO and Artistic Director of the Wiener Konzerthaus, one of the most active concert houses in the world, with over 800 events and over half a million visitors per season.

Read more about Bernard here

The curious tale of the musician, Dr Frankenstein, and apocalyptic Tesco on Christmas Eve…..

A guest post by pianist Emmanuel Vass

Definition of art 

noun 

1 [mass noun] the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

 

Definition of chemistry 

noun 

1 [mass noun] the branch of science concerned with the substances of which matter is composed, the investigation of their properties and reactions, and the use of such reactions to form new substances.

[source 1=”oxforddictionaries.com” language=”:”][/source]


As I sat by the piano in the recording studio waiting for the next red light, I couldn’t help but think about my abrupt transformation from artist to chemist, as defined above. I was sixteen and, having just played a Chopin Nocturne from start to finish, there were one or two small fluffs and errors, which I considered re-recording and editing. Why? The track was for my own personal use and was never going to go beyond the four walls of my Yorkshire bedroom. Until that point, my teachers encouraged me to discount any mistakes in live performance and continue regardless of the odd inaccuracy: bigger picture and the overall artistic communication what I was always told to aim for. We’re only human, after all. Unexpectedly, the option of appearing ‘super human’ and re-recording sections of pieces until they were perfect had a certain appeal, and it was from that moment on that my potential status as an artist-cum-chemist, a Dr Frankenstein, first began.

It is no secret that musicians strive for perfection, a perfection that may involve securing a technical inconsistency, or developing a better form of communication within a piece – we are all a work in progress. Whether you are a beginner or professional, there will always be something further to strive for and now, as a 24-year-old pianist, I discover new possibilities and developments within my playing on a regular basis; I also hear it whilst teaching my pupils. It is wonderful how much can change within as little as five days, especially with regards to a live performance of the same piece, say, twice in one week. After all the blood, sweat and practice tears striving for perfection, a live performance may go fantastically well one day and less so on another. Comfort and enjoyment onstage knowing the piece has gone well a number of times in the past can, for instance, suddenly yield to confusion as to where that random wrong note came from. It is something we all experience to varying degrees, and is part of the exhilarating, impulsive and unmistakably human-world of live performance, which I fell in love with aged seven. To dedicate yourself with total abandon to a live performance, both as a listener and performer, is to accept that occasionally, just sometimes, the unexpected may occur.

Now consider the world that surrounds us and the ensuing paradox: we live in an age of convenient, digital, airbrushed perfection where a vast amount of items presented to us are expertly designed and manipulated. The lines between reality and illusion, and how we perceive and identify them, have been blurred to the point where entire body parts of celebrities can be digitally sewn on and removed, ‘Frankenstein-ed’, as to morph our opinions and perceptions. We have the luxury of driving around in cars that can protect us from ever making a wrong turn; international news can break on social media via eyewitness films long before newspapers or twenty-four hour news can give a detailed description, and the entire country seems to go into apocalyptic meltdown when the instant convenience of supermarket shopping is lost for just twenty four hours on Christmas Day. I rarely buy bread, but come Christmas Eve there I am elbowing past panic-stricken mothers who also appear to have the entire contents of the cheese aisle stuffed into their pushchairs. In many ways I believe the entire world as we know it is just an all too convenient, disposable and HD-streamed click away: I won’t read the book and will just wait for Hollywood to feed me their version, or, I could probably learn a language but online translator machines can do it for me. Who needs to write a letter when you can talk instantly via webcam? Why bother travelling to Paris, you’ve seen all the stock, generic photos on Facebook and Google Streetviews, right?!

I’m here neither to argue that we should do away with these modern conveniences, nor rant about how the world has changed for the worst and we’re most definitely, direly doomed for all eternity. Rather, my fear is that certain audience members may have been conditioned to believe that a live performance that is anything other than note-perfect is not a worthy one, that the lines between the supposed illusion within the world of recording and reality of the concert hall are far too blurred. There is, of course, a difference between the odd wrong note and a distinct, noticeable problem with fluency and continuity; here I accept that in this situation a performance may start to be deemed ‘less successful’. That said, as humans, we are bound to make mistakes and we should never aspire to be machines; nothing should ever anaesthetise us from the raw reality of life. Does this not contradict the whole point of art in the first place? Perhaps some would be more satisfied listening to pre-programmed robots over real musicians?

 As mentioned in my opening paragraph, recording can be a very complex process for musicians. Of course, not every musician heavily edits or relies on sophisticated recording software – indeed, I didn’t have the time or the money to do so for my first album, ‘From Bach to Bond’. Similarly, it would be absurd to comment that a 100% accurate performance is impossible to achieve or less artistically valuable. I hope the discerning audience member of a live performance would value their experience based on the authenticity, emotion and artistic powers of the performer, and not just their ability to mechanically replicate the exact formula. Judging an artist on their capacity to be an onstage chemist is not an equation for success.

For those of you who prefer the anaesthetised comfort of CDs/recordings and hate wrong notes, I tell you what, you can go ahead and look at pictures and videos of Paris on the Internet, and I’ll go and travel to Paris myself. We are all a work in progress.

Emmanuel Vass will be giving a lunchtime concert at St Sepulchre, the musicians’ church in London on Wednesday 10th July. Full details here

Emmanuel Vass

Named as ‘one to watch’ by The Independent newspaper in April 2013, twenty-four year old Emmanuel Vass is rapidly establishing himself as one of the most charismatic pianists on the contemporary scene. 2013 has already seen the launch of his first CD – From Bach to Bond – and his first UK recital tour under the same heading. The tour, which took in seven venues across the North of England and culminated in his London debut at Steinway Hall and St James’s Piccadilly, attracted considerable media interest, including a live broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune.

Emmanuel Vass was born in Manila, Philippines and grew up in East Yorkshire. Having passed Grade 8 piano with distinction at the age of 15, he subsequently studied with Robert Markham at Yorkshire Young Musicians, the centre for the advanced training for gifted young musicians based at Leeds College of Music. This was followed by four years at the Royal Northern College of Music, where Manny studied with John Gough and was supported by scholarships from the Leverhulme Scholarship Trust and the Sir John Manduell Scholarship Trust. He graduated in 2011.

www.emmanuelvass.co.uk