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.
1319 Entries
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.
2 months ago | |
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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.

2 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
2 months ago | |
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I was hunting for film of Daniel Barenboim playing Schubert, when I came across this trailer for a new release featuring him and Martha Argerich playing works for piano duet and two pianos. Schubert, Mozart and The Rite of Spring, no less, recorded live at the Philharmonie in Berlin. This isn't historical yet, but it's a history-worthy occasion.

Barenboim, meanwhile, has written the only wise and constructive article I've yet read about the horrifying conflagration in Gaza. Here it is. Please read.

2 months ago | |
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It's in short supply out there in the wider world, but in the UK's musical sphere, hot on the heels of Judith Weir's official appointment up top comes more good news. Protect Music Education says that their efforts have secured a £18m increase in funding for the country's "music hubs" for 2015/16, totalling£75m. Led by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, 134 musical organisations have been involved in Protect Music Education and their tireless campaigning has borne fruit.

And now, hot on the heels of that news, comes a further triumph: the government has backed down on its ghastly plan to recommend that local authorities cut back their funding for music education. Here is an extract from the government statement:




And here is a link to the govt's press release: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/more-funding-to-help-thousands-of-extra-children-enjoy-music

Protect Music Education continues to campaign for firm funding commitments from all the political parties. 
In a nice footnote, they suggest that we all share pictures of our celebrations of the news on social media with hashtags #protectmusic and #musiced. Cheers!
3 months ago | |
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As of this morning, Judith Weir is officially Master of the Queen's Music. She is off to Buckingham Palace today for an audience with HM.

She is also launching a blog, which you can follow from her website.

Here's Tom Service's interview with her about what she plans to do with the post. 




Meanwhile, here is my interview from today's Independent with another marvellous British composer: the one and only Errollyn Wallen. Her new opera Anon is a very contemporary adaptation of Manon...and was partly inspired by her own experience of nearly getting murdered when travelling around Europe in her teens. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/features/errollyn-wallens-anon-manon-lescaut-for-the-21st-century-9619708.html






Apropos of women in classical music, I am delighted to have been invited to join the board of the Ambache Charitable Trust, which awards grants to organisations and individuals for projects that involve the performance of music by women. The aim is "to raise the profile of women composers by funding people who promote their music to the widest possible circle". As it was recently revealed (via the PRS for Music Foundation) that only 7.8 per cent of its income for composers goes to those who happen to be female, I hope you can see how necessary such initiatives remain even today. More information about it on the website, here.

UPDATE: Here is a vital piece (via Sinfinimusic.com) by Susanna Eastburn regarding the shortage of women composers and what we can do about it. Includes some pretty shocking statistics.
3 months ago | |
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The thin end of one wedge is webcasting. I was supposed to be in Verbier now. Long boring story about storms, leaks and missed planes. I was planning to hear a tetralogy of my piano gods, and more, but am running after builders instead. Gutted to be missing Ferenc Rados and Grigory Sokolov - the latter still the man I regard as the greatest living pianist, and tragically one we will not hear in the UK any time soon (I understand he refuses to go through the visa rigmaroles that we require). But the good news - if wedgy - is that the concerts these past two nights featuring respectively Martha Argerich and Stephen Kovacevich are available to watch online at Medici TV and tonight's recital by Daniil Trifonov will be webcast live as well. Starts at 6pm. So that's a bit of a comfort. Sokolov, as far as I know, is not due for the webcast line-up.

To cheer myself up for lack of mountains, I took myself off to the Wigmore Hall instead last night to hear the adorable Simon Trpceski in recital. One shouldn't complain about missing a festival elsewhere when there is so much great music to hear right here on the doorstep, and Simon didn't disappoint. His recital of Brahms, Ravel and Poulenc was a marvellous treat and I ended up reviewing it for The Arts Desk, so here is the link.

Last but by no means least, it has come to my attention that some very fine new music at the Proms is being sequestered away on its own website - "an exclusive iPlayer New Music Collection" - rather than enjoying a TV broadcast with proud trumpeting to the nation as a whole, even if the rest of those programmes will indeed be televised. I made an enquiry and received this back:
As you know we're constantly evolving the way we cover the Proms - from the introduction of the newly themed strands on TV through to increased online and Iplayer collections in an ever multi-platform world.  This year we are exploring new ways of curating and presenting the filmed performances across the season with  more Proms than ever before available online, both audio and visual.
 As part of this, and new for 2014,  we are creating an exclusive iPlayer New Music Collection, celebrating all the new music filmed across Proms 2014, bringing it together in one place for our audience with context provided by special filmed introductions by Tom Service. We will be showing the performance of Roxanna Panufnik's Three Paths To Peace in this collection and Jonathan Dove's Gaia piece in this collection. Both pieces will be available on iPlayer as soon as possible after the performance (we hope within a few days) - and will be available to view for longer for the first time, for a special 30 days, giving them access to a wider audience. We will be pointing our audience towards the New Music Collection from all our other platforms, including Proms Extra as soon as they are live...the Proms Extra iPlayer Collection,  and our TV broadcasts.

So apparently it is A GOOD THING that we CAN see good, accessible, listenable, beautiful new music AT ALL, isn't it. Wedge, end, thin.

Shouldn't the BBC be championing British composers to the rooftops? Did someone, somewhere, perhaps consider that the poor old wider public is too stupid to appreciate contemporary music on TV, however enjoyable and downright pertinent it is? Hiding it from wider view sends out an oddly mixed message from an institution that prides itself on supporting today's composers with plentiful commissions. I would put up a link to that "exclusive iPlayer New Music Collection" - only I can't find it.

Roxanna Panufnik's piece about peace opens tonight's Prom. It is the first time her music has been played at the Proms and it's long overdue. Listen live on Radio 3.


3 months ago | |
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