JDCMB
Jessica
JDCMB is Jessica Duchen's Classical Music Blog. Music & writing, with ginger, in London, UK. Author & journalist JD writes for The Independent.
1272 Entries
Some potentially explosive stuff in my "Insiders Anonymous" piece for Classical Music Magazine this month: how conducting careers can be made or unmade, especially if you're a woman..... It is not a pretty tale. The magazine has kindly brought it out from behind the paywall, so do have a read.
http://www.classicalmusicmagazine.org/features/insiders-anonymous-the-female-conductor/
2 months ago | |
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My latest column for Amati.com, entitled "Dress-Down Sigh Day", is a little about what people wear to the theatre, but also a lot about the way Britain (well, London) has changed recently, while the populist rhetoric about "elitism" hasn't kept pace with reality, let alone prices. Starting points: UKIP's 2010 manifesto, "Taragate" and a glorious outfit that a guy at the ballet was wearing the other day. Read it here.
2 months ago | |
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On Saturday evening at the Wigmore Hall I'm doing a pre-concert talk before Alina Ibragimova? and Steven Osborne?'s recital. It will be a sort of Franco-Russian treasure trail full of exciting musical connections, some of which are even relevant to Debussy and Prokofiev. Do come along - am anticipating a sensational concert.
2 months ago | |
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So there’s this dead parrot… A strange start indeed for a French 19th-century rom-com. But this is no common stage work: it is Vert-Vert by Jacques Offenbach, France’s finest composer of operetta, creator of such classic favourites as Orpheus in the Underworld and La belle Hélène. For Garsington Opera at Wormsley, the director Martin Duncan has joined forces with the conductor and Offenbachophile David Parry to offer a new staging of this little-performed madcap comedy, brilliant in its musical hues and light as a feather.
Hot on the heels of Garsington’s 2012 production of the same composer’s La Périchole, this is the latest in a succession of Offenbach gems that Parry has been pro-active in polishing up for today’s audiences. He masterminded an Offenbach celebration CD, Entre Nous, for Opera Rara in 2007, continued with a complete recording of Vert-Vertthree years later, and has never looked back. (The clip above is from the recording and features Toby Spence and Jennifer Larmore, who aren't at Garsington, just so you know.)
Try not to hold a hot drink while you read the synopsis. Having lost their beloved bird, Vert-Vert, the young ladies of a convent school decide they must find a new mascot and settle upon an innocent lad named Valentin, changing his name to the parrot’s for the purpose. Whisked away to visit his aunt, though, Valentin soon finds himself in an inn, surrounded by soldiers and singers… Before long he has learned to swear, drink and fall in love - and has even been elevated to the status of star tenor.
“The parrot is only an excuse,” Duncan assures us. “Yes, it opens in a girls’ convent school and they bury a dead parrot in the first five minutes. But after that it becomes very human and touching: it’s the story of a young man’s journey to adulthood.”
Comedy can be a tall order to stage, especially in opera. Duncan, himself a distinguished actor, has been coaching Garsington’s young cast in the tricks of the trade. “I know it’s a cliché, but comedy is a very serious business,” he says. “You have to treat it seriously and then the humour comes out, but if you start trying to be funny, it’s really not funny for the audience. Singers have a double whammy because they’re not used to dialogue and comic dialogue is even harder. With a piece like this one, which is a bit crazy, it’s essential that everyone in the cast has a real belief in their predicaments.”
Vert-Vert is being performed in English, with a translation by Parry himself. He is full of praise for the score: the leading roles, he says, are as demanding as those of Offenbach’s most famous opera, The Tales of Hoffmann, while “the music is definitely superior to Orpheus in the Underworld” (the one that features the world’s most famous can-can).  
Starring Robert Murray as Valentin and Fflur Wyn as his sweetheart, Mimi, Garsington’s new production gives us the chance to judge for ourselves.
Vert-Vert, Garsington Opera at Wormsley, from 7 June. Box office: 01865 361636


3 months ago | |
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The great violinist Jelly d'Arányi, muse to Ravel, Vaughan Williams, Bartók and many other composers (maybe even Elgar), was born on this day in 1893. The woman for whom Tzigane was created is today remembered far too little, yet the more one digs into her life, the more fascinating it becomes. She was the great-niece of Joseph Joachim - her elder sister Adila Fachiri (her married name), herself a fabulous violinist, was among his last pupils and was at his bedside when he died.

Jelly's life housed countless mysteries. One of the most intriguing is that she enjoyed a duo with Myra Hess for some 20 years, yet merits scarcely a mention in passing in Hess's largest biography to date (I've been trying to find out what went wrong between them, but so far to little avail). She never married, but the great love of her life is said to have been the Australian composer and Olympic rowing champion Frederick Septimus Kelly, who was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. And she gave the UK premiere of the Schumann Violin Concerto in February 1938: as for the famed "spirit messages" from Schumann asking her to track down and perform the piece, which was suppressed by Clara, Joachim and Brahms after the composer's death, there's no doubt that she certainly believed that her messages were genuine - and that they proved effective in restoring the concerto to life.

Please listen to her, Felix Salmond and Myra Hess playing the slow movement of Schubert's Piano Trio in B flat major.

3 months ago | |
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Trifonov: Fazioli fan
Seems that some piano wars are afoot at the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition in Tel Aviv. Apparently a startling five out of the six finalists have chosen to play their concertos on a Fazioli piano, rather than the more usual Steinway.

We understand that the competition has the use of a Fazioli concert grand that Daniil Trifonov - winner of the last Rubinstein Competition - selected himself. (Correction: turns out it is not the same one he recently used in London. Angela Hewitt is playing that one tonight, right here...) Meanwhile, we hear that Francesco Piemontesi is also playing a Fazioli for his Wigmore Hall recital today.

Steinway has dominated the piano scene for such a long time that it's most intriguing to find its dominance being challenged to this extent by a new generation of young pianists.

But do remember one thing: it ain't what you've got, it's what you do with it...

The competition is live-streaming its finals. First lot went yesterday, second lot later today.

The finalists are:
Antonii Baryshevskyi (Ukraine)
Seong Jin Cho (South Korea)
Leonardo Colafelice (Italy)
Steven Lin (US)
Maria Mazo (Russia)
Andrejs Osokins (Latvia)
3 months ago | |
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"Taragate" got me thinking about what makes the difference between a good opera experience and a bad one. And once you remember that music, alone among the arts, can be used as torture, it all becomes pretty clear. I've written about this in my latest piece for Amati.com - read it here.

What would induce you to make a bid for theatrical escape?
3 months ago | |
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Apple has put out a new ad for the iPad Air starring...Esa-Pekka Salonen?! I took some soundings from composers and techies and it seems to be rather a good thing. Here's a piece I've written about it for the Independent - including thoughts on how multi-media apps and interactive books might yet revolutionise the way we experience classical music. And below is the ad itself.





3 months ago | |
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If I had to name a few of my favourite assignments EVER, this one would be right up there. I went to the Royal Ballet studios at the ROH and watched a rehearsal for Alastair Marriott's new ballet Connectome, which premieres on Saturday, and talked to him and its star, Natalia Osipova. And I spent two hours observing them at work, about two or three metres away from Osipova, Ed Watson and Steven McRae and four hugely impressive young soloists, and it was absolutely unbelievable. The resulting article is in today's Independent, here. 
3 months ago | |
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This is the performance of the Schumann Piano Sonata No.1 that took pianistic London by storm last month. Federico Colli has just uploaded the entire recital to Youtube (in three chunks). I hope you enjoy it as much as we all did in the flesh. You can find the rest here. It was part of the International Piano Series at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
3 months ago | |
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