This evening sees the first Barbican concert conducted by the BBC Symphony Orchestra's new Chief Conductor, Sakari Oramo.
Oramo was famously the successor to Simon Rattle at the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra where Rattle built his career and reputation in his 20s and 30s. He took on the job in 1996 at the age of 31.
The number of remarkable Finnish musicians, conductors, singers and many others is disproportionate to the size of the Finnish population. It is all about early music education - a country unrivalled for the musical opportunities it gives the young people from infancy. Indeed I suspect from the womb onwards.....
Anyway, I am looking forward to hearing this great orchestra under its new leader. It has been for me a part of my life since childhood as well - the vast majority of the Proms that I attended in the 1950s were with the BBC SO - and of course "Flash Harry" - Sir Malcom Sargent!
Riccardo Chailly's brief residency with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra at the Barbican here in London for the last ten days will be long remembered. And it would be even if only for the remarkable performance of the Violin Concerto yesterday evening by Leonidas Kavakos. This was playing of the highest order combining astonishing virtuosity with sublime musicianship and the glorious sound from his Strad - the "Abergavenny". Having heard in the flesh all the greatest violinists of the last 60 years I am unable to identify his equal. Quite wonderful......
No more music this week until Saturday night at the Barbican again - this time the BBCSO with Shostakovich and Mahler......
Photo: Alastair Muir
Andriana Chuchman as Gretel, Victoria Yarovaya as Hänsel, and Colin Judson as the witch
The Glyndebourne tour has come up trumps again with a wholly deliciously cast revival of Laurent Pelly's production of Hänsel und Gretel. The totally matched pair of Andriana Chuchman and Victoria Yarovaya is as good as it gets, splendid firm confident singing and completely convincing assumptions of the characters. Really lovely, both of them.
And the children's parents were two great accomplished pros, Anne Mason and Stephen Gadd. You can not do better. And as for the witch.......well words fail although Barry Humphries might find some. Just go to it and enjoy.
The conductor was the young, very young indeed (20), Venezuelan Ilyich Rivas. Simon Rattle conducted for the Glyndebourne tour at the age of 20 in 1975 - he went on the good things! I wonder if this young man will do the same. He is much touted - and has a remarkable list of engagements coming up. We shall see........
The performance last night was in Woking - I believe my first ever visit to this gateway to London from the south west. I was thrilled to encounter Caroline Woodfield of Opus 3 Artists in the Pizza bar before the performance. She is the dearest of all my old artist manager friends and was in her usual fine cheerful form having just arrived from Vienna and returning to New York this afternoon. She manages the lovely Gretel and took all this trouble to come to Woking. We made it back together on a fast train to London after the performance having discovered the way backstage in this modern theatre. The new ones do not conform to the old expectations of where the pass door is - and security these days in a huge nightmare.....but we made it to congratulate Andriana!
There is anotheor lovely blue sky day here in London. And I am looking forward to a triple dose of Brahms this evening - a string quartet (#2), the Violin concerto, and a symphony (#4).
.....and we have a wonderful blue sky here in Fulham, with huge puffy clouds. I have a day at home doing all those boring things that moden life demands of one. Paper, paper, paper.......
This evening I will be making the trip to Woking, a prosperous suburb of London. What is its equivalent elsewhere? Maybe Countryside, IL or Smithtown, NY. But Walt Whitman was born near Smithtown. What great literary figure was born in Woking? WelI I believe that HG Wells actually went there.
I will be in Woking for Glyndebourne Tour 2013's Hansel and Gretel. I am so looking forward to seeing Andriana Chuchman as Gretel. Andriana was a 2009 Neue Stimmen prize winner. Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, she spent memorable years at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, and was an important part of two productions with COT, Orlando in 2008 and Giasone in 2010. It will be good to see her in my "home" company.
And this reminds me - we had another Neue Stimmen graduate in the Met's Nose on Saturday. Playing the title role no less was Alexander Lewis. It is a small world.
Well we did not get much of a blast here in London but there are trees down, power outages, and general chaos on the roads and railways. So it was probably wise to take a rain check.
Today I will be having lunch with last night's conductor - Nicholas Cleobury. I guess since he has made it to London somehow......he is young and full of courage! Otherwise my day is family oriented - and the beginning of a busy week including Glyndebourne's Handel and Gretel, the last of the Leipzig Gewandhaus concerts at the Barbican, a Garrick evening on Thursday, and the BBC Symphony at the Barbican on Saturday evening. Things are not calming down!
© Ken HowardLast night William Kentridge's brilliant production of the absurd opera The Nose came to London's Kings Road for the Chelsea audience in the Curzon cinema. And what a joy it was!
This must be the finest creation of Peter Gelb's opera producing career - he of course has also made some brilliant choices in presenting as co-producer the work of other houses. But this amazing thing originated with Gelb - and bravo him!
And plaudits also to the extraordinary band of artists and craftsmen and women who have fabricated this show. And I imagine also that my old friend Kim Gunning, a close associate of William for many years, notably with the Handspring Puppet company, played a part. Kim is the finest stage manager I have encountered - she was with us at COT during the first years of my time in Chicago - and she was always missed when she moved back to Cape Town.
Meanwhile she has been working with William on all his theaatrical projects - the indispensable Kim! And William of course is the son of old friends Sydney and Felicia, passionate opera lovers who were regulars at Wexford throughout my time there 1967-73.
More about today later - I have abandoned the trip to Margate because of the impending storm. It is being compared to that of October 1987. I missed that one as I was in Houston for the world premiere of Nixon in China!
Duncan Rock and Claudia Huckle with Alan Clayton and Kate Valentine
Glyndebourne and Benjamin Britten are seriously intertwined in history - and it is wonderful that at last, 67 years after its premiere there in 1946, The Rape of Lucretia should return to the house. And it is in a magnificent and extremely disturbing production by Fiona Shaw for the 2013 tour. This is raw stuff - not your actual entertainment so do no go to it for that.
I saw it last night prior to its going on the road, starting next week in Woking of all places! If you can catch it somewhere do so - and make an extra effort. It is strongly cast with Claudia Huckle in the title role, Duncan Rock as Tarquinius and both Alan Clayton and Kate Valentine magnicent as Male and Female Chorus.
Glyndebourne on Tour is the successor to Glyndebourne Touring Opera which George Christie, Myer Fredman and I got going in 1967, and which I was administrator of for the following 14 years. It has somewhat changed its character over the years, responding appropriately to the shifting needs of audieces and the opera business generally.
It is going through an extremely strong period with the current three opera repertoire being very warmly received indeed. I will make it to Woking on Tuesday for Hansel and Gretel - Andriana Chuchman, an old friend from Chicago and Neue Stimmen, is the Gretel. I will also endeavour to get to L'elisir d'amore somewhere during the tour. That opera has always been an important one for me - it featured in my very first season at Glyndebourne in 1962 - with Freni, Alva, and Bruscantini, and directed and designed by a young man called Franco Zeffirelli.
Visits to Glyndebourne ae always occasions to encounter old friends - and yesterday evening was no exception. All fun - even if it was grim stuff on the stage!
This evening my operatic activity is The Nose from the Met in a movie house in the Kings Road.
Photo: © Richard Hubert Smith
Charterhouse Street with the Comptoir Gascon (left) and Smithfield Market
London has many up and coming neighbourhoods - and the area around the Barbican and Smithfield market, St Bartholomew-the-Great and Barts hospital, it has all become very desirable. I was there today for lunch with an old friend whom I had not seen for too long - maybe 30 years!
And I discovered a delightful restaurant there, superb French provincial cooking and at a remarkably reasonable price. And the house wines are a delicious bargain. This is the Comptoir Gascon in Charterhouse Street.
So if you anywhere in this deightful area of town, maybe for a concert at the Barbican, or just to seek out a part of London that you may not have discovered before, find this place with their charming staff and wonderful lunch specials on the ardoise. The nearest underground stop is Farringdon.
The Comptoir Gascon - before the lunch rush - 12:15 pm October 24 2013
The beautiful sound of the Gewandhaus string principals was remarkable in the Brahms first string quartet in the lovely new Milton Court concert hall in the Guildhall School of Music, part of the Barbican complex. As the Juilliard School is to Lincoln Center.......so this was an excellent way to spend 40 minutes this evening, all for just 3 pounds. And Milton Court (right) is a fabulous new asset. I expect to be there often - it will be the London home of the Academy of Ancient Music and the Britten Sinfonia.
And has happens increasingly in my new life in London, I encountered an old friend and colleague at this event, John Tooley. It was such a pleasure to see him again after so long. We worked closely together at the Theatrical Management Association in the 1970s when he was General Director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
I took over from him the burden of being chairman of the management team negotiating all union contracts for opera companies. I had made the fatal mistake of speaking up at a meeting about something that I felt strongly about. So they made me chairman. I did it for ten years.....
The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra's first concert in their ten day Brahms residency at London's Barbican was an auspicious opening. We will be seeing huge audiences in the coming days. Riccardo Chailly has grown over the years to become one of the great conductors of the day, a worthy successor to an Italian tradition of remarkable maestros - Toscanini, de Sabata, Giulini, Abbado and Muti spring to mind........
We were treated to a wholly stunning performance of the first symphony, together with the pleasure of the double concerto, something we hear too rarely. I will be back in the Barbican this evening for a short appearance of the Gewandhaus Quartet playing Brahms' C minor quartet Op 51.
I plan to get to the final concert on October 30 when the Violin Concert and the fourth symphony are on the programme. Alas I can not manage any of the others.......but I urge my London friends to make the effort. It seems that there are a few tickets remaining.
"Maintenance is a breeze. I am so happy that we chose InstantEncore!"