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.
1425 Entries
Can't resist it. If you're not into cute kitten videos, look away now.

4 months ago | |
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We had an amazing day yesterday at the BASCA Women in Music discussion. It was a huge privilege to chair the event and find myself sharing a stage with seven extraordinary composers. I'll be writing it up in some detail for the BASCA journal, which will be out in mid December. The energy of the event was so excellent and the audience so engaged and responsive that it is possible there'll be another in the new year, but I can't confirm that yet - please watch this space.
Meanwhile, I was shocked to hear from Nicola LeFanu that yesterday was the 20th anniversary of her mother Dame Elizabeth Maconchy's death and while commemorative festivals of her music were held as far afield as Graz and Austalia, nothing - 00000 - was done about it anywhere in the UK. Please take a minute to listen to her gorgeous setting of Ophelia's Song, sung here by Caroline McPhie with pianist Joseph Middleton.
Here is an excellent extended essay about Maconchy by LeFanu, highly recommended reading.

4 months ago | |
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The young violinist Jelly d'Arányi - sometime muse to Ravel, Bartók and even the ageing Elgar - was much in love with the gifted Australian musician FS Kelly, some 12 years her senior. Born in Sydney, educated at Eton and Oxford, he was also an Olympic gold medallist in 1908 for his supreme skill at rowing. Jelly met him through one of his teachers, who was also her oldest and dearest friend in Britain, Donald Francis Tovey; thereafter she often played duos with him. During WWI Kelly survived Gallipoli, where he composed a violin sonata for her. A short period of leave brought him back to Britain for r&r; then in 1916 he was sent to the Somme and never returned. Jelly kept John Singer Sargent's drawing of him on her piano for the rest of her life.

For today, Remembrance Day in the WW1 centenary year, here is a rare recording of Jelly playing his Serenade Op.7, with Ethel Hobday at the piano. Listening to it today in memory of all those caught up in the horrors of those years - and the generation of their loved ones who were left behind, as Jelly was, to live with their memories alone.
4 months ago | |
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I am very excited about this event tomorrow afternoon. BASCA (the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Arrangers) has drafted me in to be a Dimbleby to a panel of no fewer than seven composers, all female, each born in a different decade, to compare - so to speak - notes. A more exciting, versatile, intriguing group one couldn't imagine. It's a rare chance to get them all into the same room, round a table, to tell it like it is. They are:

Betty Roe
Nicola LeFanu
Judith Bingham
Shirley J Thompson
Mira Calix
Cheryl Frances-Hoad
Dani Howard


The discussion takes place at the Jermyn Street Theatre at 1pm (finishing shortly before 3pm) and you can book on Eventbrite via the BASCA site, here.

This is a real one-off, so do please try and join us! Here's the info off the BASCA page...


Women In Classical Music

Jermyn Street Theatre
16b Jermyn Street - London
EventsMap data ©2014 GoogleTerms of UseReport a map errorWomen In Classical MusicDate/Time
Date(s) - 11/11/2014
1:00 pm - 2:50 pmLocation
Jermyn Street Theatre
jessicaduchenClassical music journalist and author, Jessica Duchen, will interview seven female composers of classical music in the intimate setting of the Jermyn Street Theatre.
  • Betty Roe MBE, Professor Nicola LeFanu, Judith Bingham, Dr Shirley J. Thompson, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Mira Calix and Dani Howard will be sharing their life and work experiences.

Jessica will delve into each composers’ working experiences, as well as their inspirations, to discover what it means to be a female composer in a traditionally male-dominated area of music. If you have a question for the composer(s), you should ask in advance by email to info@basca.org.ukCLICK HERE to book your placeTicket price (excluding booking fee)
  • BASCA member: £9.50
  • Non member: £12.00
  • (Students of BASCA’s Academic Supporters: £7.50)
CLICK HERE to book your place***** BIOGRAPHIES *****BettyRoe1Betty Roe’s versatility has enabled her to build a highly successful career as a composer, musician, singer, conductor and teacher. She studied piano and cello at the Royal Academy of Music as a Junior Exhibitioner and Senior Student (GRSM) where she gained LRAM, ARCM and FTCL Diplomas.In 1970 Betty founded Thames Publishing with her late husband, John Bishop. As well as her own extensive list of works, Thames has published many English composers, of both contemporary and historical interest.Betty was elected an Associate of the RAM in 1991 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1993. In January 2011, Betty was awarded an MBE for her services to classical music and composition.NicolaLeFanu1Professor Nicola LeFanu has composed around one hundred works which have been widely played, broadcast and recorded. Her catalogue includes a number of works for strings, and chamber music for a variety of mediums, often including voice. She has a particular affinity for vocal music and has composed eight operas, which have been staged in UK, Ireland and USA. Her new opera, ‘Tokaido Road, A Journey after Hiroshige,’ was premiered at the Cheltenham Festival, July 6, 2014.She is active in many aspects of the musical profession, as composer, teacher, director etc. From 1994-2008 she was Professor of Music at the University of York.She was born in England in 1947 to Irish parents; her mother was the composer Elizabeth Maconchy. LeFanu studied at Oxford, RCM and, as a Harkness Fellow, at Harvard.JudithBinghamBorn in Nottingham in 1952, and raised in Mansfield and Sheffield, Judith Bingham began composing as a small child, and then studied composing and singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She was awarded the Principal’s prize in 1971, and six years later the BBC Young Composer award. Recent composition prizes include: the Barlow Prize for a cappella music in 2004, two British Composer Awards in 2004 (choral and liturgical) one in 2006 (choral) and the instrumental award in 2008.Judith Bingham was a member of the BBC Singers for many years, and between 2004 and 2009 she was their ‘Composer in Association’, during which time she wrote a series of choral works. Several of these were for the BBC Singers, but there were also pieces for other professional, amateur and collegiate choirs, including Salt in the Blood, written for the BBC Symphony Chorus to perform at the 1995 Proms.In 2007 she was made a Fellow of the Royal School of Church Music for distinguished services to church music.ShirleyJThompsonThe music of composer Shirley J. Thompson is performed and screened worldwide and often described as “beautiful and powerful” (Le Figaro). A visionary artist and cultural activist, Thompson is the first woman in Europe to have composed and conducted a symphony within the last 40 years.Her work, ‘New Nation Rising, A 21st Century Symphony’ performed and recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, was originally commissioned for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. The concept was latterly assumed as a framework for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. She has also composed extensively for TV/film, theatre, dance and opera production.Shirley J. Thompson is Reader in Composition and Performance at the University of Westminster and has served for over 10 years on several national arts institutions, including the Arts Council of Great Britain. She is a member of BASCA’s Classical Executive Committee and has been named in the Evening Standard’s ‘Power List of Britain’s Top 100 Most Influential Black People in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015’.works-30-cover-rgb-Cheryl Frances-Hoad was born in Essex in 1980 and received her musical education at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Gonville and Caius College (University of Cambridge) and Kings College London. She was Music Fellow at Rambert Dance from 2012 – 2013, and from 2010-12 was the first DARE Cultural Fellow in the Opera Related Arts in association with Opera North and the University of Leeds. Cheryl won the BBC Young Composer Competition in 1996 at the age of 15 and since then her works have garnered numerous prizes and awards, including the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize (UK, 2007), the Sun River Composition Prize (China, 2007), The International String Orchestra Composition Competition (Malta, 2006), The Bliss Prize (UK, 2002), the first Robert Helps International Composition Prize (University of Florida, 2005), the Mendelssohn Scholarship (UK, 2002) and the Cambridge Composer’s Competition (UK, 2001).Most recently in 2011 Cheryl was awarded a PRS Women Make Music award to write a new brass quintet for Onyx Brass, which was toured around the UK as part of the 2011/12 Music in the Round season.MiraCalix1Mira Calix is an award winning composer, artist and performer based in the United Kingdom. She is signed to Warp Records, on which she has released five albums.  Although her earlier music is almost exclusively electronic in nature, in more recent years, she has incorporated classical orchestration into her work for installation pieces, film soundtracks, theatre and opera. Mira has been commissioned to write new works for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic-Ensemble 10/10, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Aldeburgh Festival,Bang On A Can, London Sinfonietta, Opera North and The Manchester International Festival amongst others.In the autumn of 2009 she won a British Composer Award for her composition, ‘My Secret Heart’. The installation, commissioned by Streetwise Opera, and featuring the voices of a 100 strong choir, was also the recipient of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award in 2009 and was a finalist in the arts category of the National Lottery Award in 2010. Mira is currently working on a collaboration with artist Conrad Shawcross and a large scale cross media installation to premiere at the Sydney Festival 2015.Dani-HowardDani Howard is a scholar at the Royal College of Music, London, supported by a Douglas and Hilda Simmonds Award and the Henry Wood Trust. She has had her compositions performed internationally in Europe and Asia in prestigious concert venues including the Royal Academy of Arts, National Gallery, St. Martin in the Fields and Cyberport HK among others. Recent commissions include a work for solo percussion for performance in the BBC Young Musician of the Year Percussion Final and a fanfare for large brass ensemble for the RCM Graduation Ceremony.Most recently Dani won third place in the International Antonin Dvorak Composition Competition Junior Category in Prague, and was awarded winner of the Sound:Vision Competition presented by the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) and IdeasTap. Dani has developed a keen interest in percussion writing, and a working relationship with the RCM percussion department led to the premiere of Introspection for 24 percussionists in May 2013. Earlier this year she was commissioned to write a Percussion Octet which was performed on tour in Basel, Switzerland. Throughout 2014 she has had two compositions aired on BBC Radio 3, and one televised on BBC Channel 4.
[** BASCA reserves the right to cancel this event at any stage, if deemed necessary in its opinion, and if circumstances arise outside of its control. We also reserve the right to alter or change the programme and line-up without prior notification.] Photographer credits: Lisa & Darren Coleman / Patrick Douglas Hamilton / Andreea Tufescu Photography
4 months ago | |
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The great violinist Kyung Wha Chung is making a comeback at the Royal Festival Hall with a recital on 2 December, after more than a decade of absence. Here she talks frankly about her life, work and music, the prospect of returning and the injury which kept her off stage for so long. It's wonderful to see her back again. With pianist Kevin Kenner she will perform works by Mozart, Prokofiev, Bach and Franck. Book now for the concert, here.

4 months ago | |
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Professor Andrzej Jasinski visits the Chopin Society. Photos by Marek Ostas

The other night I was fortunate enough to be drafted in by the Chopin Society as interviewer for a very special evening at Steinway's with Professor Andrzej Jasinski from Katowice, the former teacher of Krystian Zimerman and president of the jury at the Chopin Competition these past several sessions. First he played us some vivid Mozart and Chopin; then we discussed all manner of things; after that, he taught two gifted students including Mishka Rushdie Momen (top left), who has appeared on the Andrew Marr Show (amongst other accolades) and is in the final of the Dudley International Piano Competition next week.

Prof Jasinski's energy, charm and insights seemed boundless. I found myself marvelling at the mystery and complexity of the process by which music must travel from the composer via the brain and into the hands. Controlling the articulation, the professor demonstrated, is vital in order to inject a communicative, speaking sound into every turn of phrase, indeed every note.

We covered numerous topics in the interview. Prof Jasinski reminisced about a day sometime in the mid 1960s when he was assistant in Katowice to a great professor who had met Brahms...and called Jasinski asking him to teach a small boy from nearby Zabrze who needed a younger teacher. The lad's name was, of course, Krystian Zimerman. It was several years later that Jasinksi realised exactly how special his charge was: aged about 13, Krystian was asked to play Rhapsody in Blue with an orchestra, learned it in three weeks and did a great job. But to nurture such a talent, Jasinski added, you must go slowly, step by step; and he lauded his star pupil's parents for not pushing him into the limelight too early.

It's also not every day you get to ask an expert of this magnitude what the key might be to playing Chopin's mazurkas - and find a response that is so practical, solid and detailed. First of all, he promises that you don't actually have to be Polish to get the hang of them, pointing out the excellent playing of Fou Ts'ong. Next, look at the score! The indications show you where to sustain a note, where it is staccato and where an enhanced mark tells you it's more than a staccato: a jump. But a jump only in the melodic line, not the left hand as well.

The professor finished our discussion by demonstrating Chopin's closeness to Mozart. Arthur Rubinstein, he remarked, used to say that you should play Chopin like Mozart and Mozart like Chopin. He took lines of Chopin and added Mozartian accompaniments, for example turning the Fantasie-Impromptu into Rondo alls Turca as if by magic. In the masterclasses that followed, Mishka played the Polonaise-Fantasie, which to Jasinski is full of Chopin's feelings for his native Poland: conflict, fear, happy memories, the pounding of horses' hooves in battle and ultimately optimism for the future.

At discussions afterwards, I was just reflecting upon the way that a life in music can keep someone so young and energetic (the professor is 78, but followed an intense schedule of masterclasses in the various London conservatoires through his visit this week), when I met someone from the audience who was still teaching piano aged 91 - she was a former pupil of Gina Bachauer. This on top of having just received an advance copy of a CD that captures Menahem Pressler's 90th birthday concert with the Quatuor Ebène in Paris (Dvorak Quintet, Schubert 'Trout', etc) that overflows with joy in music-making.

Philip Glass may advocate yoga and vegetarianism as a secret to long life and good health, and I'm sure those help. But if you want to stay young: be a musician.


4 months ago | |
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My warmest thanks to Mark Ainley and his excellent site & Facebook updates The Piano Files for alerting us to this recording of Sergei Prokofiev as piano soloist in his own Piano Concerto No.3, with the LSO conducted by Piero Coppola. Recorded in 1932, the sound quality is incredibly good and the style is fascinating.

This is music from the horse's mouth: Prokofiev's playing glitters, glimmers and meshes with the orchestra's textures; his touch is light, singing, clear and unfussy, he never hammers at the piano and he duets wonderfully with the orchestral solo instruments. He plays in long lines, the figurations delineating extended flows and spirals. Listen, too, to the strings' portamenti. This is "authentic" style for Prokofiev, remember. Enjoy!
4 months ago | |
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I've been chewing over the matter of diversity and wondering whether the music industry's efforts have worked at anything more than box-ticking levels. Here are a few thoughts, which I've stewed in an article for Amati.com.

Basically, I think we need to a) update our thinking on what "diversity" really means, and b) recognise that superficial action on the issue can only go a certain distance without better back-up from the society we live in.

In the article I point out that in 17 years of "diversity" very little has shifted, and very little can shift without truly joined-up thinking on what is trying to be achieved, and how, and why. It is going to take a lot longer to make that change because these matters have to be instilled in the family, in early education and in our work ethics and values system. We need to be thinking long-term. And in the end it all comes down to politics.

http://www.amati.com/magazine/149-comment/comment-diversity-time-to-think-outside-the-box-ticking.html
4 months ago | |
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I met Philip Glass while he was here for rehearsals of The Trial. Now he's off on the road around the UK. Head in the Bhagavad Gita, feet firmly on the ground (or possibly the other way round, given that he does yoga every day, presumably complete with headstands).

Here he tells me why he still tours, why yoga is so important to him and how the composers of the future will make a living.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/features/philip-glass-from-glassworks-to-glassfest-9839242.html
4 months ago | |
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Last week I put up a list of 12 living British composers so that you could vote for your favourite. Then I was awake all night remembering the ones I'd not put in, so I put up a second list. Polling is now closed. Here are the top three places in each of the two lists:

LIST 1
1. Harrison Birtwistle, with 25% of the votes.2. Thomas Ades, with 18 %.3. Peter Maxwell Davies, with 10%.
LIST 2
1. James MacMillan, with 27 %.2. Oliver Knussen, with 24 %.3. Mark-Anthony Turnage, with 11%.
There we go, then. Thanks to everyone who voted!

In case you were wondering: the first list consisted of six men and six women. The second list was slightly less even, with just four women out of 12. In list 1, Judith Weir pulled in in fourth place, with 8% of the vote. 
4 months ago | |
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