Friday, May 30, 2008


A charming little clip of Steve Howe performing his classical-flamenco influenced piece, Mood For A Day.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Adey Grummet writes: "The Curate's Egg is back! We will be performing music of the mystical and magical sort at the Spitalfields Festival on 13 June at 9pm in St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch, London.

"The Festival commission this year, 'Interference', is from Naomi Pinnock and is for the oboist Melinda Maxwell and us. We have also commissioned the handsome Mike Henry to write three tiny pieces of three quartets in canon (brain the size of a planet, you know), 'Transitions', for the Egg as well. Both these pieces will be in the programme along with chart busters written for us in the past - Allwood's 'Charades 5' and Plowman's 'shimmering glimmering'. To this we will add the luscious Poulenc 'Litanies of the Black Virgin' with masterful Nigel Kerry joining us at the organ.

"Oh ... we will do the whole thing in the dark !

Monday, May 26, 2008


I have long been a fan of the work of the late conductor and keyboardist Karl Richter (he died tragically young, of a heart attack, in 1981), whose recordings of the Handel Organ Concertos, Opus 4 & 7, I regard as the finest available, not least for their superb ad libtum extemporisations. Someone from Ankara in Turkey has been putting Richter archive material up on YouTube recently. Well done and many thanks, whoever you are. Here's the first movement of Concerto No 1 - which has a second movement (here) famously known as "the cuckoo and the nightingale". Confusingly it is No 13 in the Simon Preston set, because of the different cataloguing systems that evolved. Handel put these concertos together from existing material to serve as interval suites for his oratorios. But they are delightful in their own right.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


A good account on YouTube by Chris Lee. See also Bartok and the Piano: A Performer’s View by Barbara Nissman (Scarecrow Press, 2001), which includes a CD with fabulous performances by the author. Benjamin Ivry reviewed it for International Piano.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Among the concerts I've missed recently (I miss more than I get to these days, sadly) is Boulez conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in Schoenberg's Five Orchestral Pieces - the fortieth anniversary of that first happening, reenacted at the Barbican. Andrew Clements is impressed. The series continues. Tonight it's Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle and and the British premiere of Osiris by Matthias Pintscher. See Paul Driver (Pierre Boulez looks to the future) in The Times.

"Pierre Boulez might have made the familiar journey from enfant terrible to grand old man, but he has neither renounced his project nor found that popular opinion has come round to his way of thinking. His incendiary comments from the 50s and 60s - for instance, that contemporary classical music which does not follow Schoenberg's lead with sufficient rigour is "useless", and that "the most elegant solution for the problem of opera is to blow up the opera houses" - can still cause him problems..." Nicholas Wroe, profiling Boulez in The Guardian, Saturday 26 April 2008.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Michael Clark's Stravinsky Project was created over three years in collaboration with The Barbican. This project culminated in twelve sold-out performances at The Barbican last November (2007) and now tours to Norwich, as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2008. All Stravinsky scores are performed live: Appollon Musagete and Les Noces by members of Britten Sinfonia with The New London Chamber Choir and Jurjen Hempel conducting. There is also a mixed repertory of recorded music from Wire, Iggy Pop and Sex Pistols. Read full details here.

For full programme details, ticket offers and booking visit the Norfolk and Norwich Festival website

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Great story from the US. Violinist Philippe Quint who, who left his priceless 285-year-old 1723 Kiesewetter Stradivarius in the back of a New York taxi cab, has played a personalised tarmac concert to thank the driver who returned it to him. The 30 minute gig took place at Newark Liberty International Airport. The BBC should have a clip soon. Driver Mohamed Khalil got in touch the next day to return the instrument. He has been given a gold medal, a (very small) cash reward, and free tickets for Quint's next public performance.

Monday, May 05, 2008


Peter Rivendell
of Gay for Today on Michael Tippett: "Under Tippett, the Leicester Schools Symphony Orchestra, an orchestra of ordinary secondary school children aged 14 to 18, regularly performed on BBC radio and TV, made commercial gramophone records and established new standards for music-making in an educational context. Many leading British performers had their first experience of orchestral music in the LSSO under Tippett. [He] was, in the words of his partner Meirion Bowen, an 'unabashed homosexual', and he defied the social taboos of his time by incorporating homoerotic themes in his operas. Tippett was regarded by many as an outsider in British music, a view that may have been related to his conscientious objector status during World War II and his homosexuality. His pacifist beliefs led to a prison sentence in World War II, and for many years his music was considered ungratefully written for voices and instruments, and therefore difficult to perform. An intense intellectual, he maintained a much wider knowledge and interest in the literature and philosophy of other countries (Africa, Europe) than was common among British musicians. His (sometimes quirky) libretti for his operas and other works reflect his passionate interest in the dilemmas of human society and the enduring strength of the human spirit."

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Review in The Times of the London RFH concert with the London Sinfonietta on 27 April 2008: "Thomas Adès work [Creation], involving six large screens on which a dazzling fantasy of colour and semi-abstraction sustained itself for half an hour, could hardly have been more alluring. The music was just as dazzling as the visuals, and was its own kind of novel imagery. The title refers to the seven days of creation, and the screen at the start shows the bare ocean, but Adès’s equivalent is a strangely poised and delicate string music with a vaguely Elizabethan-consort flavour. In the fifth of the seven (continuous) movements, there is a parallel display of the upper woodwind, a nine-part burbling that suggested Messiaen birdsong or an excursion from the piano concerto by Michael Tippett. Adès’s solo writing looks even more demanding than Tippett’s, and glories in extremes of register, but one notices that, for all the intricacy of the score’s notation, the actual sounds are transparent and instantly telling. One left the hall lost in a kaleidoscope of colour, touched by an exquisitely decorative experience."

Saturday, May 03, 2008


Last weekend I did get to see Birtwistle's Punch and Judy, I'm glad to report. But sadly I had to miss the World Premiere of James Macmillan's St John Passion at the Barbican Hall, London, on 27 April 2008. It featured Christopher Maltman (baritone) and the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Colin Davis - to whom the work is dedicated. I can't wait to hear it next time I get the opportunity.

In his programme note, Macmillan writes: "After writing my Seven Last Words from the Cross in 1993, I always knew that the inevitable next step would be a setting of one of the Gospel Passion narratives. It has since been my ambition to tackle such a project. I decided on St John's text, as it is the version with which I am most intimately acquainted, hearing it recited or sung every Good Friday in the Catholic liturgy. In fact, since my student days in Edinburgh I have regularly participated in the Gregorian or Dominican chanting of the Crucifixion story on that day. This simple music has had an overriding influence on the shape and character of my own Passion setting."