JDCMB
Jessica
JDCMB is Jessica Duchen's Classical Music Blog. Music & writing, with CHOCOLATE AND SILVER, in London, UK. Author & journalist JD writes for The Independent.
1446 Entries
The controversial yet perennially great French actor Gérard Depardieu joined forces with Philippe Graffin for a weekend of words and music in Brussels, at the end of November - during the course of which they showed us just how wonderful kids' concerts can be, given half a chance. Here they reach the finale of the Carnival of the Animals.

"Now you are all animals," Depardieu instructs the young audience, going on to say that now they are all good companions, every kind of creature with every other. "Next Sunday," he then adds darkly, "the carnival of humans..."

In the second clip the musicians sound like they're having the time of their lives as the kids clap along with the encore.

4 months ago | |
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Sir András Schiff went to Buckingham Palace today and was officially knighted by the Prince of Wales. Gratulalok! 
4 months ago | |
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Absolute shock in the piano world today at the news that José Feghali, a former winner of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, has died aged 53, apparently by his own hand. More information here.

I met the Brazilian-born Feghali just once, a very long time ago and extremely briefly, but retain an impression of a beautiful person with a special gentleness about him. We had the same teacher in London - I started lessons with her in the year that José won the Cliburn - and I well remember the affectionate and enormously admiring tones in which all the "class" talked about him. He was very much the golden boy - and rightly so. A terrible tragedy. Please take a moment to remember him.

This is the second suicide of a wonderful pianist in the US in less than two months. This was the other.


4 months ago | |
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It's Messiaen's birthday today. Above,  the last movement of the Quartet for the End of Time, 'Louange à l'immortalité de Jésus' played by Gil Shaham and Myung Whun Chung. One of the most heavenly pieces I know.

Next year my play A Walk through the End of Time, which centres on the quartet, is due for a couple of performances. It's a one-act two-hander and is usually followed - either after an interval or in some cases in a related event soon after - by a complete performance of the music. Will post performance details in due course.

This extract relates to the final movement:
Christine: But can I tell you what I thought I was looking for? I wanted the depth of tenderness I discovered that night in the Messiaen. I think the tenderness in the violin solo represents the greatest possible strength. It takes unbelievable courage to be still and show love and vulnerability. Expose your heart and you’re laughed at, or trampled on... I had a longing for an emotion that I knew must exist – because it’s in the music. ...Love is an ultimate freedom, isn’t it? And if freedom is within you, then perhaps love is, too. If it isn’t already in your heart, if you don’t know how to give it…It was something in myself, some unfulfilled capacity, but I didn’t understand. I got it the wrong way round.  
4 months ago | |
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Elim Chan
Photo: Clive Totman/LSO

The Donatella Flick Conducting Competition was won last night by Elim Chan, a 28-year-old conductor from Hong Kong. It's the first time the contest has ever chosen a woman as its winner. Chan will receive £15,000 towards her studies and concert engagements, a one-year post as assistant conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (under whose auspices the contest takes place) and a chance to take part in the orchestra's learning and participation activities. Runners-up were Jirí Rožen (Czech Republic) and Mihhail Gerts (Estonia).

Here is Elim's biography from the University of Michigan, where she's currently studying for a doctorate.

Born in Hong Kong, Elim Chan is the Music Director of the Michigan Pops Orchestra and the University of Michigan Campus Philharmonia Orchestra. Trained early in piano and voice, she gave her first public concert at age nine singing "Tomorrow" from Annie with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Elim was awarded the prestigious Harriet Dey Barnum Memorial Prize and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music with high honors from Smith College. In 2011, she completed her Masters degree in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance studying with Kenneth Kiesler. Elim has also studied with renowned conducting pedagogues Gustav Meier, Colin Metters and with Marin Alsop at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.

Passionate about advocating new music, Elim has premiered and promoted numerous works composed by her UM colleagues- Michael-Thomas Foumai Roger Zare, David Biedenbender, Donia Jarrar. An active orchestral conductor, she received invitations to conduct the Hong Kong Children's Symphony Orchestra in 2011, and her work led to reengagements in 2012.

Internationally, this June Elim was one of the five fellows invited by Pinchas Zukerman to conduct the renowned National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada. Recently, Elim also completed her July-August residency in Chile conducting the Bicentennial Youth Orchestra of Curanilahue in Chile, whose founding was to inspire and bring together poor but talented youth of the region through music. She also conducted the University of Talca's Symphony Orchestra with the invitation from Maestro Américo Giusti Muñoz. This fall, Elim is returning to the University of Michigan to pursue her doctoral studies in Orchestral Conducting.

4 months ago | |
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You'll have heard all the rumpus about a great violinist allegedly telling off the family of a coughing child during that comeback recital at the Royal Festival Hall last week. The whole thing is so ridiculous on so many levels that it's seemed best to ignore it. But I hope the following may shed a little more light on the matter, since there's been "outrage" (fake outrage = clickbait) about her action and speculation that it might have put a child off music for life, etc etc.

A musician friend of mine tells me that he was sitting a couple of rows behind the family. He is somewhat conversant with South Korea. He thinks the family was probably Korean and remarked that it is a culture in which elders are respected and speak their minds very directly - rather than habitually talking in riddles and mincing their words as we tend to in the middle England that frequents high culture ("I say, er, please, would you mind terribly if..."). We do forget that not everyone in the world follows our own social mores - and London is an extremely international place.

He added that a) the child looked to be only about 4 years old, and b) the family didn't leave, contrary to rumour, but stayed where they were and seemed to enjoy the rest of the concert without any further trouble.

The online and media bullying of great musicians for the slightest extra-musical flip is quite common these days, especially in this country - and it has got to stop, because all it does is put them off coming back here. We're the losers in the end.

Here is a clip (if somewhat cut about) of the wonderful Chung in the Bach Chaconne. This is why we want her here, and playing, and playing like this.

UPDATE, 9/15pm: KYUNG WHA CHUNG RESPONDS AND EXPLAINS - and does so with admirable sense and sensibility. (The Guardian)


4 months ago | |
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One of the stranger ongoing legal cases of the music world was resolved last Thursday - and seems set to clear the way for a new opera house in the bijou Swiss town of Lucerne, the site of one of Europe's finest concert halls and a renowned festival.

A flexible-space opera house was planned for the city years ago - an idea spearheaded by Pierre Boulez, no less - and one of the festival's major donors, Christof Engelhorn, pledged more than $100m to back its creation, but died before the donation could be made from his family's trust in Bermuda (the fortune was made in the pharmaceutical industry). The festival sued for the money, in Bermuda - and now it has won. Here's a little more background on the case. There's a long way to go still, of course, and the Salle Modulable's next hurdle will be a feasibility study. But it's a valuable green light and the space will be watched with interest.

Not that one needs an excuse to visit Lucerne, of course (pictured); ever since 1938, when the festival launched as an antidote to the hideous developments in Nazi-era Bayreuth and Salzburg, it has been a flourishing hub of first-class musical activity. The first concerts were held on the lawn outside Tribschen, the former home of Richard Wagner.

4 months ago | |
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Krystian Zimerman, 58 today. Here he is in a beautiful, fresh, witty and pure-toned performance of the Mozart Sonata in C, K330. Gloriously expressive eyebrows, a tone to die for, and much more. Don't miss the ending.

Fans alert: he will be IN LONDON on 2 July to perform Brahms Piano Concerto No.1 with the LSO and Simon Rattle at the Barbican. Don't miss it.

Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji urodzin*



(*"All the best on your birthday" - Polish)


4 months ago | |
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Do you know what you're doing when you yell BRAVI!! a split second into the final chord? 
Especially if there are microphones above the platform?

The orchestra may be recording the piece. If you yell BRAVI - or indeed anything else - before the sound has quite disappeared, you are disrupting the recording.
The entire orchestra will then be kept another half an hour in the hall for a quick patching session.
These days most members of London orchestras, especially the younger ones with families, can't afford to live in London, so they have very long journeys home to places like Tonbridge, St Albans, Lewes or Bedfordshire - when they'd rather be in the other kind of Bedfordshire a little sooner. And with petrol prices high and the congestion charge/parking fees making a car in the capital basically pointless, people take trains. 
Our railways, however, still function on the presumptions of c1958 that nobody is out after 11pm, that nobody has to go on tour early in the morning, let alone on Sundays, and that there are only a handful of people in London anyway, so trains late in the evening are few and far between. 
When you yell before the music is over, and it is not over until that chord has died away, you ensure that more than half those musicians will miss their trains home. They will in many cases have to wait up to another hour for the next one and will get in at some unearthly wee time of morning, completely knackered.
Their spouses will be knackered too, will be fed up with the schedule and may spark a fight. Their children may wake up at the sound of the front door. Everyone has a bad day in the morning, whether at school or at work or on tour. An exam may be shakier than it should have been due to exhaustion. Someone at work may make a mistake in some words or figures or diagnosis. Someone may be late for a vital meeting. And so forth. Everyone does their best, but would have done better still with an extra hour's sleep.
The recording, meanwhile, may be entirely jeopardised. And it doesn't cost nothing to set it up.
This is all because one person in the concert hall couldn't hang on just one second to yell BRAVI.
So please, please, please: THINK before you YELL. 
Thanks.




4 months ago | |
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The Mad Hatter's Tea Party: ZooNation in rehearsal
Photo: David Sandison
I spent an utterly enthralling and invigorating few hours at the ROH the other week watching ZooNation rehearse its new family show for the Linbury, The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, and then writing about it. Huge respect for these amazing dancers who work so hard but manage to create so much fun while doing so. Full feature is in the Independent today along with a photo gallery from the rehearsals.

The show - the first-ever commission in hip-hop style from the ROH - runs from Saturday until 3 January, but the theatre has just announced that the performance on 18 December will be live-streamed on a) the Royal Opera House's Youtube channel and b) the BBC Arts website. If what I saw is anything to go by, it's going to be both terrifically danced and terrifically bonkers - and the tickets have been going like the proverbial hot cakes. Indeed, it's pretty much sold out - just a few tickets left now for Saturday 13 Dec 12.30pm - so you may have to log on to share the fun with ZooNation's dazzling stars Tommy Franzen, Lizzie Gough, Teneisha Bonner and, of course, 'Turbo'.
4 months ago | |
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