NEW! Counterpoise Present Kokoschka’s Doll Featuring Sir John Tomlinson

27/06/2017

Counterpoise is an ensemble of some of the most sought-after instrumentalists in the UK, founded with the aim of crossing genres, exploring the relationship between music, text and visuals, and seeking to develop aspects of narrative and other extra-musical influences.

Fenella Humphreys violin
Deborah Calland trumpet
Kyle Horch saxophone/clarinet
Iain Farrington piano

Our latest project, Kokoschka’s Doll, featuring Sir John Tomlinson, Rozanna Madylus and Counterpoise, will be performed at a number of venues in 2017 and 2018 (click here for details). Read more

NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season

23/06/2017

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St John’s Smith Square has announced its 2017/18 Season

In a characteristic programme, punctuated by a range of Festival celebrations, St John’s Smith Square continues its core mission to provide a home for Baroque music within the UK’s only concert hall dating from the Baroque period while equally championing new music. International artists sit comfortably alongside emerging talent and St John’s Smith Square also continues to provide a vital and unique central London home for the best in community music. Read more

NEW! Bayreuther Festspiele 2017 – Operas, Symposium, Concerts, Cinema and More

23/06/2017

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Bayreuther Festspiele 2017 

As announced at the closing press conference for the 2016 Festival by Festival Director Katharina Wagner, the Bayreuth Festival is launching a new supporting programme this year. It is entitled Bayreuth Discourse and is designed as a series of events for the academic and artistic analysis of Wagner’s work and legacy.

A two-day symposium will be held in summer 2017. This year’s theme will be ‘Wagner’s Work and National Socialism’. Lectures and discussions will examine facets of Wagner’s personality and the effect of his works and writings during the Nazi regime and the long-term consequences. Four concerts will feature music by opponents and victims of Nazi rule. Read more

NEW! CATRIONA MORISON WINS BBC CARDIFF SINGER OF THE WORLD 2017

19/06/2017

Catriona Morison, 31-year-old mezzo soprano from Scotland, is the first British winner of BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

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Catriona Morison and the trophy (c) BBC

Read more

NEW! Summer Music in Cincinnati 2017

14/06/2017

Music in the Summer in the Queen City Read more

NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin

08/06/2017

Daniel Barenboim Unveils The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin

pbs Daniel Barenboim and Ole Bækhøj announced the second season of the Pierre Boulez Saal on Thursday, June 8 in Berlin. In the spirit of Pierre Boulez, flexibility, openness, and musical curiosity will remain the essential ideas for the 2017–18 programme. Contemporary music will stand side by side with chamber music masterworks of the Classic and Romantic eras and major compositions of the 20th century.

The Boulez Ensemble, founded for the hall’s opening and consisting of members of the Staatskapelle Berlin, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, as well as students and faculty of the Barenboim-Said Akademie and international guests, will be heard in concerts with Daniel Barenboim, François-Xavier Roth, Emmanuel Pahud, Zubin Mehta, and Sir Antonio Pappano, among others. Commissioned new works by Luca Francesconi, Aribert Reimann, and Benjamin Attahir, Pierre Boulez’s last student, will have their world premieres.

A staged production of Luther dancing with the gods, will be seen at the Pierre Boulez Saal for the first time. Director Robert Wilson is creating this project, which features texts by Martin Luther and music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Knut Nystedt, and Steve Reich. This is a collaboration with the Rundfunkchor Berlin for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Three concert cycles are dedicated to major Classical works: Daniel Barenboim, Michael Barenboim, and Kian Soltani perform Beethoven’s complete piano trios. Renaud Capuçon and Kit Armstrong take on Mozart’s violin sonatas; and the Streichquartett der Staatskapelle Berlin presents Schubert’s 15 string quartets.

The Staatskapelle Berlin returns to the Pierre Boulez Saal for three concerts conducted by Lahav Shani, Pablo Heras-Casado, and Lorenzo Viotti.

Jazz and early music offer new programmatic aspects. Trumpeter and vocalist Till Brönner will host a series of five concerts with national and international guest stars entitled “Talking Jazz.” Music from the 15th to 18th centuries is heard in concerts by the RIAS Chamber Choir, the Capella della Torre, the Freiburg BarockConsort, the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, the Orlando Consort, and Il Giardino Armonico.

Music from the Middle East and Northern Africa will once again be featured prominently, with the Arabic Music Days in December 2017 as the centerpiece. Kinan Azmeh, Naseer Shamma, and others will be the headliners. Three lecture concerts offer introductions by the performing artists themselves: Jörg Widmann and François-Xavier Roth present music by Boulez, and Sir András Schiff takes on Bach’s piano partitas.

Other highlights include performances starring Thomas Hampson, Daniil Trifonov, Sergei Babayan, Piotr Anderszewski, Gidon Kremer, Yefim Bronfman, Radu Lupu, Mitsuko Uchido, Martha Argerich, and many others. There will also be, children’s concerts, and academy concerts featuring students of the Barenboim-Said Akademie.

Further information  at: https://boulezsaal.de/ .

NEW! ANGELA BROWNRIDGE IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE

07/06/2017

Angela Brownridge in Conversation with Robert Beattie

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Angela Brownridge

Angela Brownridge is one of the UK’s leading concert pianists.  She has won rave reviews for her interpretations, being compared to giants of the piano such as Solomon, Cherkassky and Bolet.  She was a child prodigy giving her first public recital at the age of 6 and her first concerto performance when she was 10 years old. She has performed with many of the world’s leading conductors and orchestras and she has an impressive and varied discography which includes the complete piano works of Barber and Gershwin.  I spoke to her about her musical background and training, the pianists and artists whom she most admires, her love of jazz and improvisation, her view of piano competitions and her recording plans for the future.

Robert Beattie: I very much enjoyed your recent recital at Cadogan Hall (review).  A number of the works which you performed then feature on the Beethoven and Chopin discs you released fairly recently (review).  I understand you are planning to release a Debussy disc later this year.  Can you tell us which pieces will feature on that disc?

Angela Brownridge:  It will feature all of the Debussy Préludes and L’Isle Joyeuse.

RB:  You obviously have an affinity for Debussy’s music.  Who are your favourite interpreters?

 AB:  I love Kocsis and Livia Rev – the latter’s recordings of Debussy were released in the 1980’s but she has faded from view in recent years.  I also love Perlemuter’s performances of Debussy.

RB:  Perlemuter studied with Ravel of course and he was really immersed in early 20th Century French music.

AB:  I remember listening to him giving a recital of music by Beethoven, Schubert and Ravel.  The Ravel was absolutely wonderful – I never forgot it.  One of my teachers, Guido Agosti, also studied with Ravel.

RB:  Who were your teachers and how did they help shape and influence your development as a musician?

AB:  I started learning to play the piano from a very young age and first went on to the concert platform at the age of 6.  I had very little technical training in my early years but I studied with a teacher called Dorothy Hesse in my teens who helped build my technique.  I won a scholarship to Edinburgh University where I studied with a number of eminent professors including Hans Gál and Kenneth Leighton, the latter teaching me as part of a group of four in harmony, counterpoint and composition.  I studied the piano with Colin Kingsley and I then won a further scholarship to study with Guido Agosti in Rome.

RB:  I gather your time studying with Agosti was not entirely successful.

AB:  He was always singing whilst playing himself and when I played to shape the phrasing it became what turned out to be a very bad habit with me.  It was wonderful at times because you felt you were creating miraculous interpretations, but it was only masking the sound. You never really listened to yourself, and the vast amount of repertoire I was pushed to learn, and diligently did so, went without any technical help.  Passages which proved difficult and sometimes insurmountable because of the lack of time to conquer them were glossed over with the words “Signorina, if you think how you should play you will find a way.” The result of this was that I became more and more tense and after two years with Agosti I had become appallingly stiff in my fingers, arms and upper body, and had no idea how to put this right.

When I returned to London, to newly-married life I was fortunate to be told of Maria Curcio, who turned out to be everything that Agosti was not.  She was one of the world’s greatest teachers who knew everything about technique or the creation of sound as she called it, and was willing to share it in every detail. She saved me and it took several years of sporadic lessons since I had very little money.  I eventually won an Arts Council International piano competition in London which gave me money and a series of dates in important venues and I was able to study with Maria consistently for six months.

RB:  I understand you briefly fell out with Maria.

AB:  Maria had a tendency to want to hang on to students and things got a little awkward when I told her I wanted to stop having lessons.  She would occasionally phone me and say, “Darling, I’ve just received a massive phone bill – are you sure I can’t persuade you to come for a lesson?”  When I dug my heels in we stopped communicating for a while.  Many years later I met Maria at one of her masterclasses and she embraced me warmly, saying “Darling, you were my best pupil”. I cried all the way home in the car.

RB:  That’s quite a compliment considering she has reputed to have taught Argerich, Lupu and numerous other competition winners.

AB:  I don’t know if she formally taught Argerich and Lupu – I think they played for her and she would talk to them about the pieces they were playing.

RB:  You said you have enormous respect for Argerich.

AB:  I do – her performance of Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit is amazing.  She is obviously brilliant at playing virtuoso repertoire but I also love her playing of Bach – it is so musical and spellbinding.

RB:  It would be good if we could hear her play more solo piano repertoire.  I also love her recording of Gaspard although I’m less convinced by some of the other recordings.  Some of the tempi she adopts in Schumann, for example, are too fast and the playing sometimes comes across as wayward.

AB:  I disagree.  I really love her Schumann playing.

RB:  I remember watching her play Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto in my teens and I was completely bowled over by her.  There’s no doubt she’s a terrific pianist.  Which other pianists do you admire?

AB:  I admire Thibaudet because of his versatility and his ability to play jazz for example.  I have also enjoyed some of Richard Goode’s playing.  Yuja Wang has a sensational technique but I am not always convinced by her interpretations.  I also feel she ought to engage with the audience a little more.  I also love some of the pianists from the golden age such as Gilels, Cortot and Lipatti.

RB:  Lipatti studied with Cortot of course although their style of playing is very different.  I sometimes feel Cortot receives bad press because of the number of inaccuracies which feature in his later recordings.  He was in his 70’s when he recorded some of those pieces and the level of musical insight is extraordinary, notwithstanding the errors.

AB:  That’s no excuse – there are too many inaccuracies in the later recordings although some of the earlier playing is wonderful, for example. his recording of Schumann’s Carnival.

RB:  You have gained an enviable reputation for improvisation, including some jazz improvisations.  Can you tell us a little bit about that?

AB:  I really enjoy listening to jazz and I started to play jazz professionally when I was first married.  In the 1970’s I needed to earn some money so I had a job working in the Cavendish Hotel in central London in the evenings.  People asked me to improvise on various tunes and I sometimes managed to land myself a Lobster Thermidor and a bottle of Champagne from appreciative audience members – although we had to give the Champagne back in those days!  I also played in a jazz club when I was in Rome and I’ve created improvisations on themes from various composers including Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Chopin.  I’ve never been able to improvise on music by Bach or Mozart but they are the exception rather than the rule.

RB:  You won the Arts Council International Piano Competition and a number of major scholarships.  What view do you take of piano competitions?

AB:  I have had some success in international piano competitions but I was not successful in the Leeds Piano Competition. I had been performing regularly on concert platforms at the time of the Leeds so I was rather surprised not to be allowed to enter the competition. My application was rejected and I never got to play a note in any of the rounds.  For various reasons I began to have serious reservations about competitions and decided never to enter another. I did relent when nearing thirty and when time was running out by entering and winning the Arts Council competition and one run by the BBC. I have since been on the jury of a number of international competitions and witnessed decisions having been made before the competition started. I hate the power competitions have in giving winners an instant top career, of which some are not worthy

RB:  You have an extensive discography and have recorded a number of award winning discs including recordings of piano music by Tchaikovsky and Satie and the complete piano concertos of Saint-Saëns (review) and Leighton.  You have also released a distinguished recording of Barber’s piano music and performed the complete works.  Some of these works are very demanding so it must have taken you some time to learn them?

AB:  I had to learn Barber’s complete piano works for Hyperion in six weeks. All of the works are very complex in texture but wonderfully musical and the Sonata is a triumph of huge power and brilliance, but with that agonizingly beautiful slow movement.

RB:  I have a fondness for Terence Judd’s recording of the Barber Sonata.

AB:  Terence was a student around the same time as me and he did play the Barber Sonata well.  His suicide was a tragic loss to the musical world.

RB:  You have also recorded a number of works by Kenneth Leighton who was your teacher at Edinburgh University.  Can you tell us about these works?

AB:  Kenneth taught me harmony, counterpoint and composition and he was an inspired teacher.  He was also an extremely good pianist and had an excellent understanding of the capabilities of the instrument.  He wrote a number of superb works for the piano including three sonatas, a set of Study Variations, pieces for his daughter Angela and a number of preludes.  I recorded his complete works for piano (review). His widow was there for the recording sessions which took place in the concert hall of Edinburgh University.  Kenneth had frequently played to us, his students and where I had given recitals and concerto performances, so it was very poignant and emotional, particularly at the end.  Kenneth’s works are wonderfully crafted and even the twelve-tone pieces, which I thought I would hate, have a musical flow to them. He found an individual voice where melody and passion are inextricably entangled with older forms such as counterpoint and fugue. I also recorded his First Piano Concerto which sounds a lot like Prokofiev (review).  The music is well worth investigating further.

RB:  Angela, it has been a pleasure talking to you.  May I wish you every success with the Debussy recording.    

NEW! The National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company – 2017 Season

06/06/2017

The National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company & Harrogate Festival,  4-20 August 2017 (RJW)

The National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company has assembled its 2017 season of G & S delights. We first heard of this unique company at the now world-famous International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival with an original professional line-up of ex-D’Oyly Carte principals that included Kenneth Sandford, John Ayldon, Alistair Donkin, Geoffrey Shovelton, Patricia Leonard and Lorraine Daniels when first staging The Yeomen of the Guard. It has developed over the decades to become one of the world’s finest professional Gilbert and Sullivan touring groups. This year it will be performing Mikado, Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore and Princess Ida at Windsor, Buxton, Harrogate Festival, Malvern, Norwich and Newcastle-on-Tyne between 20 July and 30 September.

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Pirates of Penzance

The 2017 Festival has a line-up of new faces, and others making a welcome return. Vivian Coates, founder and artistic director of Lyric Opera in Ireland, will direct two new productions – Princess Ida and The Pirates of Penzance. The President of Italy decorated him for his services in promoting Italian opera in Ireland.

Michael McCaffery (Old Vic Company, National Theatre, Glyndebourne and the Bayreuth Festival) directs a new production of The Mikado at Harrogate in August and Donald Maxwell returns to direct HMS Pinafore and star in Princess Ida. Andrew Nicklin takes over the Musical Direction for three of the four shows and Aidan Faughey conducts Princess Ida.

Other frontline newcomers include Anthony Flaum who made his mainstage debut with the English National Opera this year (Nanki Poo and Frederic); Mae Heydorn the Swedish/German mezzo soprano (Glyndebourne, Grange Park Opera) takes Katisha, Buttercup, and Ruth; Emma Walsh (Lyric Opera, Nevill Holt Opera, Winslow Hall Opera) will play Princess Ida, Josephine and Mabel; Natalie Montakhab, a rising star with Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and English National Opera will play Yum Yum.

Toby Stafford-Allen is known to us as one of Britain’s leading baritones with English National Opera and will play Pirate King, Pish Tush and Captain Corcoran. Simon Wilding, a member of the Bayreuth Festival Chorus, has also starred with English National Opera, Opera Holland Park, and Royal Opera and will play the Sergeant of Police, Pooh Bah and Dick Deadeye. When you add well-known singers like Richard Gauntlett (Major General, Sir Joseph and Ko-Ko); James Elliott (Ralph Rackstraw and Hilarion), Richard Suart (King Gama); Nicholas Sales (Cyril); James Cleverton (Arac) and Gaynor Keeble (Lady Blanche) you can understand why the production teams are excited at laying these new foundations of talent.

The Festival venues are the Royal Hall and Savoy theatres in Harrogate. A busy fringe programme complements the stage performances between August 4rd and 20th August 2017. The brochure can be seen at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival website.

 Raymond J Walker

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  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Bayreuther Festspiele 2017 – Operas, Symposium, Concerts, Cinema and More __________________________________
  • NEW! Summer Music in Cincinnati 2017 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! The National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company – 2017 Season __________________________________
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  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
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