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.
1323 Entries
My interview with the great Nina Stemme is in today's Independent, trailing her appearance as Salome at the Proms on Saturday night. Because last year she was there to do the Ring cycle and words just weren't enough, either for us or for her.

As Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Ring cycle at last summer’s Proms, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, she had London at her feet; one critic commented that her final scene in Götterdämmerung “flooded out into the auditorium in an unending stream of perfection. No one who heard it will ever forget it.” How did it feel to her? “I had to use my breath, but it was breathtaking,” she quips. “But I don’t have words to describe it, because it is music, and no expression is imaginative enough.”.....

Read the whole thing here. 

And here's a taster of her Salome from the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockhom, filmed last December. Fasten your seatbelts.




2 months ago | |
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Ever wondered why we don't hear Schubert's operas more often? Occasional extracts, recorded by the likes of Jonas Kaufmann and Christian Gerhaher, prove that within them there is some vintage Franzi music; now and then, too, an enterprising company in Germany or Austria sees fit to give Fierrabras or Alfonso und Estrella a peer over the parapet, though this is rare. Too many operas are let down by their lousy libretti, and Schubert's, sadly, are no exception. But the music, the music...

Now, though, Kammeroper München has a brand-new Schubert opera for us: nothing less than the story of Kasper Hauser.

Please have a little listen to this: http://www.br.de/mediathek/video/sendungen/nachrichten/urauffuehrung-kaspar-hauser-100.html

The story is much older than the Werner Herzog film, of course: the 19th-century legend of a child who appeared as if from nowhere in a village square, unable to talk; on gaining the power of speech, he proved a wunderkind in terms of intelligence and, possibly, prophecy.

But true enough, the scenario is not one that the composer picked for himself. The librettist Dominik Wilgenbus and the composer and arranger Alexander Krampe have this summer transformed Kasper Hauser into an opera, with music drawn from extracts of Schubert: the operas, the early Lieder and more. It is having its world premiere run now and until 13 September at Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich: full details here.

More info from the Süddeutsche Zeitung here, and an interview (German) with Alexander Krampe from Merkur here.

And if you're wondering about the calibre of Schubert's operatic music in general, just try this.



Meanwhile on these shores we need to get back to blogging PDQ. Solti was always here to help me along with encouraging purrs, and I reckon he wouldn't have wanted everything to come to a standstill now that he has gone.
2 months ago | |
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Today we bade farewell to the best cat in the world. Solti - Sir Georg for short - has been our beloved companion through the roller-coaster of the last 15 years. Life won't be the same without him.

We're trying to think of all the good times we shared with the animal who was named after Tom's favourite conductor and lived up to the original Solti's reputation more than any feline should be able to. He was an indefatigable optimist and I reckon he shared with the great Hungarian maestro the motto "NEVER GIVE UP".

He had a passion for Wagner: he'd always come in, sit down and purr, paws tucked under, ears at the ready, especially if it was one of "his own" recordings. He was also a happy, if unbidden, assistant to my piano CD reviewing: he hated bangers and would vote with his paws at the sound of a nasty player.

On one occasion my editor from Hodder came to dinner; Solti bounced in through the cat flap carrying a live mouse, which he deposited proudly at her feet to thank her. As mouser, he was keen, but not obsessive; scrunched-up silver foil would do equally well for a game of pawball. The only time he ever brought me two mice on the same day was on my 40th birthday.

He would join in all goings-on at home and wasn't above invading our occasional house concerts, especially Viv McLean and Sue Porrett in Divine Fire in which he miaowed his approval half the way through. Having developed a call that could be heard through the violin and piano being played together, he used to make his presence felt during phone interviews to far-flung (and other) places and has therefore miaowed at pianists in Argentina, conductors in Russia, composers in Barnes, opera singers in Germany and violinists in Vienna, to hint at but a few.

He'd welcome us home, curled up on the doormat, or meet us at the corner of the cul-de-sac for a quick dash back to his territory. He loved the sun, the hotter the better, despite his lavish fur coat; but he also loved to sit in shelter on the porch and watch the rain. Indeed, he liked to go out in foul weather, get completely drenched, then come charging in, demanding to be dried - the cat equivalent of going to the salon. He kept me company through countless lonely patches of orchestral absences.

Of course he would preside over our annual Ginger Stripe Awards here on JDCMB every 21 December. As these events were often attended by the likes of Mendelssohn, Wagner and the Schumanns, I see no reason why he should not continue to do so, from the silken cushion in the sky.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has sponsored his cat-food in the past couple of years. Your enthusiasm, faith and kindness has been enormously appreciated and those sponsorships that still stand are still, of course, up in the sidebar in the appropriate spot, which will remain the Solti Sponsorship scheme in his honour (though now you might like to sponsor my chocolate supply instead - and I am going to need plenty of it).

Solti died today after a short illness, but he will live forever in our hearts. I am leaving his blog, Paws for Thought, online as a tribute.

2 months ago | |
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I'm off to Manchester tomorrow to do an ALICIA'S GIFT concert-of-the-novel at Chetham's International Summer School and Festival for Pianists. I'll be working for the first time with the one and only Murray McLachlan (left), Chet's head of piano as well as founder and director of the course, and possibly the most energetic, determined and tireless person I've ever met. We intend sparks to fly!

The programme is a little different from usual and will include, besides Chopin and Ravel, some extra Debussy and a jolly impressive chunk of Prokofiev's Seventh Sonata. Please come and join us if you're in the area. The concert is at 7pm and lasts about an hour. Full details here. I will also be giving a little introduction to book and concert at 5pm, with a Q&A.
2 months ago | |
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The second part of my Bayreuth blog is out now at Sinfinimusic.com. In it, I explain I'm furious that so many negative preconceptions conspired to put me off going to this place for my first several decades - when if I'd ignored the lot of them I could have been enjoying the most incredible musical experiences known to mankind aeons ago. Read the whole thing here. 

Below, a few more snaps...

Wagner, feeling blue:



Richard and Cosima's grave:



Grave of Marke, the Newfoundland dog, close by:



The current state of Wagner's home, the Villa Wahnfried (apparently they are building what promises to be a very impressive basement museum):




And the curtain call...


2 months ago | |
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Where Big Ritchie is everywhere...


...and the silliest productions get the most extraordinary musical performances...


...and the most distinguished father-in-law in history is relegated firmly to second place, although his native land takes trouble to decorate his grave as appropriate...


Yes, it was my first trip to Bayreuth. I've written for Sinfini on how I felt about going there beforehand and am checking back in again for a report on the reality of it. Here is part one of BAYREUTH VIRGIN: my personal prelude to Tannhäuser. Part two will be out soon...
2 months ago | |
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Hello and temporary ciaociao from very rainy Bavaria. I'm still on hols, but would love everyone to hear Benjamin Grosvenor's enchanting new CD, 'Dances', right now, this minute. My review for Sinfinimusic.com is just out. http://www.sinfinimusic.com/uk/reviews/recordings/daily-reviews/benjamin-grosvenor-dances
...and you can get a copy here: http://www.deccaclassics.com/gb/cat/4785334

2 months ago | |
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Back soon.
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...And while I continued to hunt for Barenboim playing Schubert, after I found the two-pianos trailer with Argerich, I then found him in a sensational Chopin recital from Warsaw in Chopin year, 2010.

Listen to the way Barenboim seems to orchestrate at the piano; the range of colour he can draw from the instrument, as if controlling woodwinds and string sections; the way he builds a sense of narrative and allows absolute logic to meld with on-stage spontaneity - e.g. in the "Heroic" Polonaise and the Minute Waltz. And the sheer scruff-of-the-neck way that his musicianship can grab you and command you to listen to the whole concert even when you thought you'd just dip in and hear the F minor Fantasy before getting back to everything else you were meant to be doing today...

I'm off for a spot of summer opera hopping soon - encompassing Monteverdi, Verdi and my first-ever trip to Bayreuth - so I'll shut up now and let the music do the speaking.

3 months ago | |
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Fantastic article in The Guardian by Maya Jaggi about a project that seems to offer a vision of hope even at a time like this. Please read. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/jul/25/polyphony-conservatory-nazareth-arab-jewish-orchestra
3 months ago | |
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