JDCMB is Jessica Duchen's Classical Music Blog. Music & writing, with CHOCOLATE AND SILVER, in London, UK. Author & journalist JD writes for The Independent.
1359 Entries
It's official: Grigory Sokolov has signed a recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon. For those of us who've known for donkey's years that this man is basically piano god and heir to Richter and Gilels, saying that this is seriously good news is kind of an understatement.

The first disc (and we hope not the last) is due out in January and will be a live recital from the 2008 Salzburg Festival. Sokolov doesn't do studios. Or concertos. Or the UK.

Here's a teeny taster so you can see what we all mean. This is the Bach-Siloti Prelude in B minor. The first time I heard Sokolov, in London at the Wigmore Hall many years ago (those were the days!), he performed this as an encore. It was heaven.

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Rounding up more than the usual suspects, here's a selection of news.

I've just been in Italy visiting Spira Mirabilis, the remarkable chamber orchestra with no conductor. They're based in a small Emilia Romagna town that loves them so much it has built them their own beautiful new concert hall. Watch this space for the feature.

Today I am speaking at this. http://www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/ahri/eventrecords/2014-2015/Festival/whatliesbeneath.aspx - open event, please come along!

Next Thursday, 23 October, David Le Page, Viv McLean and I have our last London Hungarian Dances concert-of-the-novel of 2014 at the City Music Society, Bishopsgate Institute. If you've not yet experienced the glorious duo of Dastardly Dave and Vivacious Viv or this roller-coaster of mingled high drama and golden-age violin music, this concert - which takes place on the anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 - is your chance. Book here, now!

On Sunday afternoon 26 October, the Amati Exhibition is hosting a series of special discussions and events at the Lansdowne Club. I'm on board as resident friendly interviewer to talk to the prizewinning Kelemen Quartet - led by that stupendous Hungarian violinist Barnabas Kelemen - about life in a more than musical family. More info here. 

On 2 November, 3pm, Viv McLean and I are taking Alicia's Gift, the concert of the novel, to our friends in Presteigne, Wales. If you're in the area, please come along to the Presteigne Assembly Rooms and join us for this tale of a child prodigy pianist growing up with the help of Chopin, Ravel, Debussy and Viv's tremendous interpretation of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

On 6 November the Chopin Society is hosting a special evening with Professor Andrzej Jasinski, the eminent Polish pianist and teacher (whose star pupil, Krystian Zimerman, needs no introduction). I will be interviewing him on stage at the start (6pm), and later there'll be music... This is a MEMBERS' EVENT, but London piano fans could do far worse than join the Soc, which offers a Sunday afternoon series fabulous top-notch piano recitals followed by copious quantities of cake. Special rates now available for those joining during October.

On 9 November I'll be speaking to the AGM of the London Chamber Music Society on the topic of...well, chamber music, and what it means to me, and what it means to us all. Again, this is a members' event, but the concert that follows, by Raphael Wallfisch and John York, should be simply wonderful.

On 11 November I am chairing this extraordinary event on the topic of Women in Classical Music for the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Arrangers at the Jermyn Street Theatre. We will have no fewer than SEVEN composers on the panel, each representing a different generation. I think it's going to be fascinating and fully expect some sparks to fly, in the best possible way. More info here.

On 17 November I am interviewing the author Charles Beauclerk about Piano Man, his wonderful biography of John Ogdon at the Richmond Literature Festival. 7pm at York House. We did an event like this a few weeks ago at the Hampstead & Highgate Literary Festival and it was fascinating and wonderful, so I'm looking forward to this enormously.

On 23 November Alicia's Gift, the concert of the novel, goes to the Wimbledon International Music Festival, but please note that the venue may be changed, due to circumstances beyond our control! More info as soon as I have some. http://www.wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/boxoffice.html

On 1 December I'll be visiting the London branch of the Elgar Society to talk about...Elgar. The prospect of this feels a bit similar to strolling down a street in Bruges wondering which chocolate shop to try next. Contact the London branch with info from this page (the event is not yet up there).

Meanwhile, on Tuesday WE ARE GOING TO FETCH THE NEW KITTENS. Their names are strictly under embargo until they are home safe and sound, but JDCMB will of course be marking their arrival with a certain amount of ceremony. Musical organisations and individuals will, naturally, be able to sponsor their kittyfood in return for a sidebar plug.

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In case you missed this wonderful web stream from the Royal Opera House yesterday, watch it here now. Tony Pappano interviews Plácido Domingo about his extraordinary career, singing baritone instead of tenor, and much, much more.
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Huge thanks to the friends and colleagues who have given generously to Macmillan Cancer Support via Go Sober for October, whether via my personal page or Team JDCMB! So far we have clocked up £211.

Clare Stevens
Stephen Llewellyn
Brendan Carroll

Please keep on donating to this wonderful and very necessary charity - and if you have a website you'd like me to put in next week's acknowledgements, please send it to me when you make your donation and 'twill be done.

Or if you fancy joining the team, please do so whenever you like. You have to sign up first as an individual and then you can add yourself to our collective link. http://www.gosober.org.uk

Donate via my page
Donate to Team JDCMB

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The Met, bless its cotton socks, has a new project to display as an adjunct to its HD worldwide cinecasts. It says the intention is to expand its visual arts initiatives "with a new series of short films created by visual artists and set to music from operas in the Met’s current season." Macbeth (above) is a Toiletpaper project by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. Enjoy. 

Onwards. Yesterday's performance of Verdi's Macbeth itself was a treat of the first order thanks to the (mostly) superb singing, but above all for the mind-blowing performance of Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth. 

I wouldn't have recognised that glittery girl I interviewed the morning after her Barbican concert with Rolando Villazon all those years ago. Then, the diamond necklace she'd worn for the show was still around her throat. Now...they're inside her larynx. She's grown into a different kind of singer and a mature, glowing, towering artist; the colour, magnitude, range, depth and charisma of the voice have moved up to another level altogether, and her prowess as actress looks second to none. Joseph Calleja remarked, during my recent interview with him, that he "would sweep the streets to work with Anna" - and now we can see why. 

If you missed it, but there's an "encore" showing round your way, don't think - just go. Calleja, Pape and above all Lucic as Macbeth gave their everything too, and their everything is quite something.

A few little iffy things. Adrian Noble's often fine staging nevertheless turned the witches into the kind of gathering that gets handbags a bad name, and there were one or two unaccompanied moments in which certain people's intonation went seriously awry. The rest was so fine, though, that one managed not to mind too much, surprising though it was. 

Hooray for worldwide cinecasting - and there's plenty more lined up for the rest of the season. I can thoroughly recommend the Richmond Curzon for its comfy seats, friendly ambience and top-notch ice-cream. 
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My piece for today's Independent. This was part of the chat I had with the glorious Darcey Bussell at the launch of the new Genée Competition bursary scheme a few weeks back. 
(Hat tip: never, ever have your photo taken with this woman unless you actually don't mind looking like a hobbit by comparison.)
Darcey Bussell as Sylvia, wielding a golden arrow

The great ballerina Darcey Bussell has some tough words for the British dance establishment. “I don’t think the British are very good at celebrating our own home-grown talent,” she says. “I think we need to realise how much goes into a passion for dance – and people should be encouraged to be seen if they have that talent. 

“We don’t want talented young dancers to be lost in a crowd,” she adds. “There are lots of beautiful dancers – but unless they get on that stage and perform, we’re never going to know.” Bussell was the leading British ballet star of her day; since her retirement from the Royal Ballet in 2007, potential successors have remained few and far between.

But now the new BBC Young Dancer competition, taking place in spring 2015, could help redress the balance, and more, its remit also extending to contemporary, Hip-Hop and South Asian dance. Other initiatives, too, are emerging to assist hopeful youngsters and fuel public interest. The Royal Academy of Dance, of which Bussell is president, has launched a bursary scheme to help impecunious young dancers participate in its prestigious Genée International Ballet Competition; and the success of World Ballet Day on 1 October, which live-streamed five international companies for 24 hours, suggests a burgeoning appetite in the audience. And though the BBC contest is for the young, dance is for everyone. Bussell, who is encouraging dance for the over-50s, says it is more than exercise. “Dance gives you a lift,” she declares. “It makes me feel happy. It’s as simple as that.” 

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A few things I'm doing that you might like to do too, should you be in this neck of the woods:

17 October, King's College, London: What Lies Beneath. Classical Music, Critical Challenges. A conference in which we'll discuss the state of the art. 6.30pm. Further details & booking here.
David Le Page
23 October: Hungarian Dances: The Concert of the Novel is at City Music Society, Bishopsgate Institute, London, 7.30pm. David Le Page (violin), Viv McLean (piano) and me (narrator), with a programme based on my novel Hungarian Dances, the music including Dohnányi, Bartók, Brahms, Ravel, Debussy, Vecsey, Hubay and more. More details and booking here.
26 October: The Kelemen Quartet at the Amati Exhibition. Lansdowne Club, 4pm. Hungarian violinist Barnabas Kelemen brings his award-winning string quartet to the Wigmore Hall later this month, and at the Amati Exhibition I'll be talking to them about life in chamber music, music and Hungary. More details here.
2 November: Alicia's Gift: The Concert of the Novel goes to the Presteigne Assembly Rooms, 3pm. Viv McLean and me in the story of a child prodigy pianist. Friends in the vicinity might consider that while in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire hurricanes hardly ever happen, Viv's playing of Rhapsody in Blue might give the Hereford section something to think about... Info on how to book here.
11 November: Women in Classical Music: A discussion for BASCA, Jermyn Street Theatre, 1pm. I'm chairing a discussion for the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors with seven composers of different generations who happen to be women: Betty Roe, Nicola LeFanu, Judith Bingham, Shirley J Thompson, Cheryl Frances Hoad, Mira Calix and Dani Howard. Should be fascinating. Book here.
17 November: John Ogdon - discussion with Charles Beauclerk, Richmond Literature Festival, York House. 7pm. Charles's biography of the legendary pianist is among the most fascinating and harrowing books I've read this year and it's a great pleasure to be interviewing him about it again. Info & booking here.

23 November: Alicia's Gift: The Concert of the Novel is at the Wimbledon International Music Festival - at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. Viv and me, as above (see 2 Nov). TWO performance on this date, at 11.30am and 2.30pm. The theatre is in the round, so it's going to be a little different from usual. http://www.wimbledonmusicfestival.co.uk/alicias_gift.html
1 December: Living with Elgar, a talk for the Elgar Society in London, W1. I'll update this when there's a link available. The Society's contact page is here.
That should keep us all busy for a bit. Hope to see some of you at some of them! 
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Having greeted the idea of this CD with huge enthusiasm and given it some warm announcements right here, I'm sorry to say that a certain tenor's new recording, 'Du bist die Welt für mich' (English title is on the cover, right), has in its entirety proved a tad underwhelming. So I've written a piece for Amati's magazine about why a little lightness can't hurt. Read it here: http://www.amati.com/magazine/149-comment/comment-the-unbearable-lightness-of-jonas-kaufmann.html
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Everyone seems to be doing "10 pieces of music you'd rather not hear again", which is funny but quite a negative kind of thing. Instead, here are 10 pieces I think we don't hear enough and that I would like to see popping up more often on concert and opera schedules.

Fauré. Whatever happened to Pénélope?
1. Fauré opera Pénélope.
2. Brahms Nänie, choral piece, utterly gorgeous.
3. Korngold Sinfonietta. Only ever heard it once live (beyond the ballet La ronde), and on that occasion it was played appallingly badly.
4. Bach Cantatas other than the Xmas one. Treasure-trove of genius.
5. Saint-Saëns Symphony No.1. It's a really good piece! And throw in his Violin Concerto No.1 too, please.
6. Schubert operas Alfonso und Estrella and Fierrabras.
7. Mark-Anthony Turnage's opera The Silver Tassie. Great piece. Needs to be done again. Ideal for WWI commemorations.
8. Rameau when it is not his anniversary.
9. Bartók's Divertimento for string orchestra.
10. Many, many, many good pieces by composers who happen to be women. They still are not getting enough of a look-in.
Speaking of which, please come to this fascinating afternoon that BASCA is putting on on 11 November at the Jermyn Street Theatre. I am chairing it and we'll have a panel of seven composers who happen to be women, each of whom represents a different generation. Starts 1pm & finishes at 2.45pm. More details and booking here.
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Back in April we were quite excited to read about the Vienna State Opera's ambitious plans for digital webcasting on the grand scale. Here it comes. The ad above shows you something of what they're doing and a few questions from me about how/how much have elicited the following information: 

For payment you have several possibilities. You can pay 14 euros per view for a live opera/ballet or 5 euros per view for the performances in the vidéothèque. But you can also subscribe to the “smart live” offer which gives you eight live opera performances at home for just €11 each or the “premium live” offer with 12 months of live opera and ballet at home.Here's how you can use the services offered by the Wiener Staatsoper at home:
- directly from the website www.staatsoperlive.com on your computer, optimally on a TV set or beamer connected to it.
- by using the Samsung Smart TV App on a Samsung TV.
- by downloading the Staatsoper Live App on your smartphones and tablets.  The latter device can also be used to see the subtitles and the scores while watching the performances on TV or computer.
The live broadcasts from the Wiener Staatsoper can be watched everywhere and are also transmitted time zone delayed within 72 hours. When you make your purchase, you can choose whether you wish to watch the broadcast live at the Vienna starting time or in your personal prime time in your time zone. You have to specify your desired starting time within 72 hours.
There are two live channels. Many opera lovers want to have a view of the entire stage the whole time, but sometimes it can be interesting to get a closer view of the singers and the events taking place on stage as well. With the live broadcasts from the Wiener Staatsoper, we offer both. Viewers at home can switch between two live channels at any time: an overall view of the stage ("Total"), and a live-edited opera film with close-ups and moving cameras. I particularly like the idea of the app that enables you to follow the score while listening...The series kicks off on 14 October with Mozart's Idomeneo, directed by Kasper Holten and conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. Next up, Roberto Devereux, Ariadne auf Naxos, Tannhäuser, La Bohème, Khovantshchina, The Marriage of Figaro, Mayerling, La Cenerentola, Arabella, The Nutcracker on boxing day and Die Fledermaus on new year's eve. The list, and the variety of repertoire, continues. As far as I can see, the only thing missing is a replacement for absconded maestro "Frankly..." on the conductor's podium once or twice. UPDATE, 8 October 11.15 am: The Vienna State Opera is very kindly offering JDCMB readers free access to the live stream of Ariadne auf Naxos on 23 October. Use the code JDCMB#aria
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