JDCMB
Jessica
JDCMB is author and journalist Jessica Duchen's Classical Music Blog. Music & writing, with CHOCOLATE AND SILVER, in London, UK.
1784 Entries

One thing about living in south-west London that's difficult to ignore is the presence of planes. In this otherwise tranquil corner of the capital we're blessed with riverside walks, the open greenery of Richmond Park with its deer, green parrots and running routes, and historic town centres around Kingston, Twickenham, Barnes and Richmond which each have a distinctive character to enjoy. Still, there are planes, on their way into or out of the airport up the road. In the old days of Concorde, you'd hear a far-off whistly noise at 5pm every day, and if you were outside you'd run for cover because the roar as it came in on the Heathrow approach was absolutely unbelievable.

But now Conchord of a much more welcome kind is coming to Twickenham. Recently I had a call from my very old friends Danny and Emily Pailthorpe. Dan is principal flute with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Emily, originally from the US, is a superb oboist. Some years ago they founded the London Conchord Ensemble, a chamber group of like-minded musicians to focus on woodwind repertoire; and their Conchord Festival has tried out a couple of locations in the past. This year, though, they're bringing it home to Twickenham, where St Mary's Church - a beautiful venue a stone's throw from the town centre and virtually on the river - will be the centre for three terrific days of music-making starting a week from today (10-12 June).

It really is packed with treats, featuring baritone Roderick Williams, actor Simon Callow, pianists Alistair Beatson and Julian Milford, violinists Daniel Rowland and Michael Foyle, cellist Thomas Carroll, conductor Duncan Ward, with works ranging from an all-Bach opening to Stravinsky ballets and The Soldier's Tale, and delights from Debussy, Duparc and Dvorak.

If I were planning a festival programme myself, I think it might look much like this. Please come and enjoy a weekend of world-class music by the Thames! Twickenham is about 20 mins by train from London Waterloo via Vauxhall and Clapham Junction.



Here's the full programme and you can book tickets here.

Friday 10th June, 8:00pm Ticket price: £20Opening Concert: An Evening of Bach

This opening concert showcases soloists from London Conchord Ensemble playing well-loved pieces by JS Bach, musical master of the Baroque. Featuring the Oboe d’amore Concerto and Flute Suite, with its famous dancing Badinerie, the programme culminates in the eternally popular Double Violin Concerto.JS Bach – Concerto for Oboe d’amore in A major, BWV 1055
JS Bach – Suite in B minor for flute and strings, BWV 1067
IntervalJS Bach – Suite for Solo Cello No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009
JS Bach – Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043Emily Pailthorpe oboeDaniel Pailthorpe fluteThomas Carroll celloDaniel Rowland violinMichael Foyle violinLondon Conchord Ensemble


Saturday 11th June, 3:00pm 
Ticket price: £20Piano Four Hands Recital

In a tribute to the great ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev, this afternoon begins appropriately with the languid dreaming of Debussy’s Faun before showcasing the catchy tunes of Dvorák’s Slavonic dances. In a rare treat, Stravinsky’s elemental The Rite of Spring is played in its original piano fourhanded version.Debussy arr. Ravel – Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
Dvorák – Slavonic Dances (selection)
IntervalStravinsky – The Rite of Spring (original version for piano four hands)Julian Milford pianoAlasdair Beatson piano


Saturday 11th June, 7:00pm 
Ticket price: £30A Night at the Ballet

Star actor, writer and director Simon Callow joins London Conchord Ensemble to narrate The Soldier’s Tale, Stravinsky’s Faustian tale of a soldier who makes a pact with the devil. Structured like a ballet evening, with intervals separating each work, the evening also features one of the most beloved works of chamber music, Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence.Prokofiev – Quintet in G minor, Op. 39
IntervalTchaikovsky – Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70
IntervalStravinsky – The Soldier’s TaleDaniel Rowland violin Simon Callow narrator Duncan Ward conductor London Conchord Ensemble


Sunday 12th June, 2:00pm 
Ticket price: £10Mash-up the Music: A Family Concert

Wiggle in your seat with an exciting mix of energetic rhythms and flowing melodies. Bring your family and don’t miss singing and clapping along with James Redwood and his friends to a bouncy spiritual and a lively sea shanty! London Conchord Ensemble will introduce their instruments and play some musical highlights from the festival.  This event will be particularly special for 4 to 12-year-olds and their families.
Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Entry for under 3 years is free and they do not need a ticket (lap seated).James Redwood presenter London Conchord Ensemble


Sunday 12th June, 7:30pm 
Ticket price: £30Final Concert: Bohemian Rhapsody

In this grand finale, the international baritone Roderick Williams thrills us with sensual French songs by Duparc and Ravel, featuring some of the highlights of the song repertoire. We also hear the world premiere of his melodic composition for three instruments. Combined with the bohemian charms of the Martinu and Dvorák quartets, this final concert of the festival will send us out with a dance in our step.Martinu – Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Cello and Piano H315
Duparc – Songs
Ravel – Chansons madécasses
IntervalRoderick Williams – Rhapsody for Flute, Oboe and Cello (world premiere)
Dvorák – Piano Quartet No. 2 in E flat, Op. 87Roderick Williams baritoneLondon Conchord EnsembleTickets here and join mailing list here
7 months ago | |
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Today is the birthday of the great violinist Jelly d'Arányi, who was born in Budapest on 30 May 1893. She is of course the heroine of Ghost Variations.

Here are just a few pieces of the pieces of music that were composed for her and/or inspired by her, in no particular order:

Ravel: Tzigane
Bartók: Violin Sonata No.1
Ethel Smyth: Double Concerto for Violin and French Horn
Vaughan Williams: Concerto Accademico
FS Kelly: Violin Sonata in G major (now nicknamed the 'Gallipoli Sonata')
Gustav Holst: Double Concerto for two violins (for Jelly and her sister Adila Fachiri)

Unfortunately the majority of Jelly's recordings are of short salon works rather than the meaty concertos and chamber works that formed the bulk of her repertoire. The exceptions are some concertos by Bach and Mozart, and a remarkable set of two piano trios - Schubert's B flat and Brahms's C major Op.87 with Myra Hess, with whom she enjoyed a rewarding duo for some 20 years. The two trios have different cellists - Felix Salmond joins them for the Schubert, Gaspar Cassado for the Brahms. It's the only surviving recording testimony to her partnership with Hess.

Above, hear the slow movement of the Brahms (which features some of Brahms' Hungarian Joachim-tribute rhythms). To judge from their playing here, Myra and Jelly were musical soulmates.


7 months ago | |
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Today 300 historians have added their voices to the Remain campaign, pointing out that were we to leave the EU, the UK would simply become an irrelevance. They declare:
"As historians of Britain and of Europe, we believe that Britain has had in the past, and will have in the future, an irreplaceable role to play in Europe. On 23 June, we face a choice: to cast ourselves adrift, condemning ourselves to irrelevance and Europe to division and weakness; or to reaffirm our commitment to the EU and stiffen the cohesion of our continent in a dangerous world."The full list of signatories is here.
Now, maybe you like the idea of the UK drifting away alone into mid-Atlantic, leaving us isolated and Europe weakened while Putin runs Russia and Trump may soon run America? I sure as hell don't. Neither do I much like the idea of our resulting isolation being run by the particular bunch of deluded ideological fantasist politicians, of many political hues, who are supporting "Brexit". To say nothing of the leader of the French National Front being in favour of it. 
It seems a no-brainer that for the music industry in particular "Brexit" would be a complete disaster. Here are some vital reasons to vote to stay in if you are part of this exceptionally international sphere.

• At the moment, UK musicians have the right to work anywhere in Europe and can therefore with ease take up posts at orchestras ranging from Berlin to Gothenburg to La Scala Milan with freedom should they be fortunate enough to be appointed. Likewise, European musicians can come to Britain and many do indeed bring their expertise to our finest orchestras. Standards have gone up enormously as a result and the performers' own horizons have a chance to expand unimpeded. If we lose this, quality levels will most likely drop and career prospects for UK musicians will be unnecessarily hobbled.

• UK orchestras and chamber groups travelling around Europe don't need working visas at the moment. If suddenly a working visa is required for the Schengen area, logistics will be vastly more complicated and the cost of it all will rise considerably.

• Workers' rights. Matters like maternity leave, holiday pay and more are protected by EU directives. Take those away and the pro-Brexiters left in charge will get rid of your rights faster than you can say Emmeline Pankhurst. If you want to be in the hands of those who will skew the already dangerous imbalance ever more towards the employers, cutting the pay, the rights and the dignity of everyone else, then vote Brexit...

• Music students, want to avoid crippling debt from college fees? Go and study in Germany. It's FREE. If we leave the EU, this will no longer be possible. (And remember, just because our schools don't bother to encourage it, that doesn't mean you can't learn another language. You can. Anyone can. Speaking different languages is a major advantage and you won't regret the time and effort you put into it.)

• Calling all Kaufmaniacs - and any music enthusiast who loves to travel to hear favourite musicians, rare operas et al: your air fares will rise, you may need a visa and if the pound falls as much as the Chancellor says (18 per cent) it will cost you a very great deal more.


In the interests of "balance" I've been trying to think of one advantage for the music industry of leaving.

I've come up with....

um...??

Nothing. Null. Nix. Nada. Nul points. (Oh, right - perhaps if we exit Europe we would have to leave the Eurovision Song Contest. That would be an advantage because the British entries are usually so embarrassing.)

So instead, here are more reasons to stay. The ticket agency Ticketbis (an organisation which helps fans resell and buy tickets for events all over the world) has been in touch with some further points. Most of them are couched in terms which apply to pop music, but the principles are exactly the same:

Tax: The cost of buying records and merchandise online could also increase for both people in the UK buying from Europe, and people in Europe buying from the UK. At the moment, you don't have to pay VAT or customs duty on imports and exports within the EU, but Brexit may change this.
Digital downloads could be affected too. Artists currently selling downloads don't have to register for VAT in every EU country, which could change should Britain leave the EU.
Smaller acts: The people who would be affected the most by Brexit are smaller acts who rely on touring Europe or heading to European festivals to gain exposure.
Bands will only be able to tour if a promoter makes them an offer to perform, and with the additional paperwork, European promoters may be less inclined to bother with smaller acts.
For artists who are not in the EU, a Schengen visa costs €60 per person (£45 to £50 depending on the current exchange rate). Four band members, a driver and tour manager puts an extra £300 on the cost of a tour.
Travel costs: The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) has already warned that Brexit could be a disaster for the travel industry, both for tourists and business travel. The knock-on effects for the music industry – where fans travel as tourists and bands travel as businesses – could be significant.
Thanks to Britain’s current membership in the EU, it enjoys the EU-US open skies regulations, which mean flights between EU countries and the US are cheaper, more regular, and can be done to and from far more destinations. However, this could change if Britain leaves the EU.
Fans travelling abroad for concerts: In 2015, 75% of ticket sales through Ticketbis were for events outside of the UK and in 2014 80% of sales were for events outside of the UK. These sales figures show how popular travelling abroad to see your favourite artists is with music fans in the UK.
The rising travel costs will no doubt  affect the fans, whether they're following their favourite musicians on tour or heading out to European festivals. But it’s not just the extra cost which could affect fans’ ability to travel - free healthcare access, financial protection, freer movement of goods, caps on mobile phone charges and compensation for delayed flights are all benefits that come with EU membership, and could ultimately be lost should brexit take place.
Jaime de Miguel from Ticketbis said: “Over half (54%) of ticket sales through Ticketbis for events in the UK in 2016 have been from international fans that travel to the UK to attend music events. If the UK was to leave the EU these figures could be seriously affected and opportunities for fans to see their favourite artists live could be slashed.”
7 months ago | |
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Here's a gallery from last night's extraordinary opening of George Enescu's Oedipe at the Royal Opera House. It's not often that a "forgotten masterpiece" delivers its promise, but this one is a work apart.


Opening tableau. Photo: (c) Royal Opera House, by Clive Barda


Is there anything else like it? It's difficult to select anything other than partial comparisons. Its sound worlds travel from Debussian sinuousness to something between Grecian declamation and Schoenbergian sprechstimme at the climax; its intensity recalls that of Szymanowski's Krol Roger, which Covent Garden brought us last year, but there's little of that sensuality about Oedipe, which conquers us with powerful oration rather than seducing. Its harmonies and melodic blends are rooted in the scarlet earth of Romanian folk music; and its orchestration includes such a variety of creations that ring, glimmer, glow, hiss, slide and roar, used with a ceaseless wealth of invention by Enescu, that I don't know how they got them all in the pit - still, special plaudits must go to the virtuoso wind players who within this vast canvas function almost as a chamber group. The conductor Leo Hussain, when I interviewed him about this piece the other week, remarked that the final ten minutes are not only his favourite in this opera, but in any opera ever written. I can see and hear why.

Oedipus (Johan Reuter) meets the Sphinx (Marie-Nicole Lemieux). Photo: (c) Royal Opera House, by Clive Barda

To say that these roles stretch their singers would be almost laughable, since I can't recall hearing any baritone role that can even begin to match that of Oedipe. The opera has over two and a half hours of music and it is only in the first scene (when Oedipe is a baby) that Johan Reuter is not on stage at the centre of the action. And in the second half not only must he carry off the climactic scene after Oedipus blinds himself, but also the final redemption through Antigone's filial love, his self-acceptance and the recognition of innocence through lack of intent. It's a magnificent performance and Reuter is supported by a luxury cast: Sarah Connolly a regal and humane Jocaste, crumbling in agony as her infant is torn from her arms; Marie-Nicole Lemieux as the Sphinx - homed in a crashed WWII plane - has to make vocal sounds that even Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire never thought of. Sophie Bevan is a pure and devoted Antigone, Oedipe's favourite daughter, whose love saves him as much as anything else; and Sir John Tomlinson has the greatest power, the most terrifying presence and the most audible French diction of them all, as the prophet Tirésias. Splendid roles, too, for Alan Oke as the Shepherd and Claudia Huckle as Mérope, to name but a few.

Oedipus (Johan Reuter). Photo: (c) Royal Opera House, by Clive Barda
The production, originally from La Monnaie in Brussels, is by Àlex Ollé and Valentina Carrasco, artistic directors of the Catalan theatre group La Fura dels Baus - they will be back in the autumn to create a new production of Norma for the ROH. The red sludge element is apparently inspired by the devastating spillage in Hungary in 2010 - representing fate, for who can assert the existence of free will against chemical contamination? Yet it's not overstated; there are spectacular visual results, but one never feels bashed over the head with a "concept". It's an organic part of the opera's philosophical thrust, one that in the end belongs as much Enescu and his librettist Edmond Fleg as to Sophocles. The Sphinx asks not her original riddle that traces a human's life from four legs to two to three; instead, Fleg has her demand, "Who or what is greater than destiny?" The answer remains the same: mankind. We must transcend our fate and - red sludge apart - we can.
So the billion-pound question is: why is this opera not performed more often? Well, it's huge; people don't know it, so it's a risk; you need a world-class cast like this one; and perhaps it's simply that with a world premiere in 1936, when the world was on its way to hell, it was doomed to have to wait twenty years for resuscitation. And then there was the Iron Curtain to contend with. Enescu's musical language is organic to its own land much in the way that Bartók's is organic to Hungary, but it's one that was not enhanced by wide familiarity beyond; besides, come the 1950s, the dominance of serialism was squeezing out many alternative compositional approaches, which then remained underappreciated for several decades. In Romania Enescu is more than a national hero (I can scarcely believe the stats here for yesterday's preview piece), but blowing his trumpet abroad has never been easy. Perhaps that was the red sludge of fate. Or perhaps he was ahead of his time. Perhaps his time is now. 
Go and see this right away if you possibly can. Five more performances, ticket availability still quite good and prices not astronomical (you can get a very good seat for around £65 and top price is £85). All details and booking here.

Oedipus (Johan Reuter) walks away into the light. Photo: (c) Royal Opera House, by Clive Barda

7 months ago | |
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George Enescu's only opera, his magnum opus Oedipe, opens at the ROH tonight for the first time ever. I adore Enescu and have a massive poster of him from the Enescu Festival in Bucharest above my piano. Wrote the following for the Indy...



Some figures in the artistic world seem to have enough talent to fuel four ordinary beings. One such is the utterly remarkable George Enescu: composer, pianist, violinist, conductor and teacher, assuredly the most celebrated musician ever to have come out of Romania. His life is worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, riven with personal tragedy, closing in exile. And his opera Oedipe, which he considered his masterpiece, is only now to be staged for the first time at the Royal Opera House, 80 years after its world premiere.
Enescu was born in 1881 in a Romanian village named Liveni, which has since been renamed after him. Aged three he was captivated by the sound of the violin and the folk music of his native land. He soon emerged as a child prodigy and at the tender age of seven was sent to study music in Vienna. Later he headed for the Paris Conservatoire, where he became a composition pupil of Jules Massenet and subsequently Gabriel Fauré; his Romanian Poem was performed at Paris’s Concerts Colonne when he was 17.
At first he divided his time between Paris and Bucharest. In the latter, the young musician became a favourite of Queen Elisabeth of Romania in her guise as the poet and patron Carmen Sylva, and he set some of her poems to music. In the former, his violin students numbered such then-budding stars as Yehudi Menuhin, Ida Haendel, Ivry Gitlis and Arthur Grumiaux. Menuhin declared: “To me, Enescu is the most extraordinary human being, the greatest musician, and the most powerful influence someone has ever had over me.”
Enescu. Photo: http://festivalenescu.ro/en/george-enescu/
As for influences on Enescu, these were exceptionally varied. He was fortunate enough to be born into a turbulent time in musical creativity; composers everywhere were seeking a new individuality, often to free themselves from the overwhelming impact of Wagner. This was especially true in Paris, where Fauré encouraged his pupils to find musical voices that were uniquely their own.
Enescu was no exception. His music bears hints of Wagner, but also of Debussy and of the distinctive harmonic and rhythmic language of Romanian folk music; and his technical mastery of his instruments led him to challenge his performers mightily in that department. His compositions, including the Romanian Rhapsodies, giant symphonies and some intense, startlingly original chamber music and piano works, pack a punch with their ceaseless flow of ideas.
His magnum opus, though, was Oedipe, his sole opera: an ambitious, larger-than-life musical canvas that follows the life of Oedipus from birth through the Theban tragedy to a transcendent final death scene. It incorporates myriad styles: melodrama-like declamation rubs shoulders with almost filmic scene painting and shimmering impressionistic effects akin to Debussy. There’s even one note on the musical saw, representing the death of the Sphinx.
So where has Oedipe been all our lives? And where was it all of Enescu’s? It was as early as 1910 that the composer, mesmerised by a performance of Sophocles’s Oedipus Tyrannus in Paris, conceived the idea of basing an opera on it. The first performance, though, did not take place until 1936.
Leo Hussain, the British conductor who makes his Royal Opera House debut with the work, suggests that this long creation period was a complex affair. “Partly it was a difficult piece for him to write because he knew he wanted it to be his masterpiece,” he says. The orchestration took nine years to perfect. “I get the impression it was written very fast, but finished very slowly, with Enescu refining, adding, taking away, and obsessing about it. And he was also a very busy man!”
This multifaceted and sometimes turbulent opera is dedicated to the equally multifaceted and turbulent love of Enescu’s life: Maria, Princess Cantacuzino via her first marriage. Her tale is laden with suggestions of mental instability, infidelity and, following an affair with the philosopher Nae Ionescu, a suicide attempt in which she poured acid on her own face. She and Enescu married, after a lengthy on-off relationship, the year after Oedipe’s premiere.
Ultimately Enescu was caught up in the violent tides of the 20th century’s progress; this may account for Oedipe’s wider neglect, since a premiere in 1936 was hardly ideal timing with World War II imminent. He spent the war years in Romania, but in 1946 left for Paris to escape the new communist regime. After suffering a stroke while conducting in London in 1950, he lived thereafter in the French capital, where he died in 1955. The story goes that Maria had to prevent Romanian secret agents from kidnapping his body to take to Bucharest as part of the country’s heritage.
Now it is time to see whether this astonishing work can establish itself here. And with a tried and tested production by Alex Ollé and Valentina Carrasco of the Catalan company La Fura dels Baus, and an all-star cast including Johan Reuter, Sir John Tomlinson and Sarah Connolly, to name but a few, it should have its best possible chance. “It’s a hard-hitting story, a huge challenge and a great night in the theatre,” Hussian declares. “I can’t wait for everyone to see it.”

Oedipe, Royal Opera House, from 23 May. Box office: 020 7304 4000
UPDATE: I went to the opening night and here's what it was like.

7 months ago | |
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Last Sunday I got up at 4am to travel to Stansted Airport on the far north-east opposite end of not-really-London, thence to fly on our beloved institution of Ryanair to a wet, chilly, Sunday-sleepy Austrian town full of images of its most famous son, one WA Mozart, to meet one of the world's most famous mezzo-sopranos and hear her sing the role of Maria in West Side Story (different from that august town's more usual Maria, on the Sound of Music hillsides), accompanied by the Simon Bolivár Orchestra and conducted by Gustavo Dudamel: a dazzling show, full of verve and passion, all about "juvenile delinquency" in 1950s New York, attended chiefly by those who could afford tickets that make Glyndebourne look a snip at £300 (top price for Meistersinger).

Cecilia Bartoli as Maria 1 © Salzburger Festspiele / Silvia Lelli

A long sentence, that. Nevertheless, there's something magic about Cecilia Bartoli. Every time she began to sing I found myself in tears, and not only because I was knackered. It's possible to pick holes, if you want to: her vibrato is large and fast, she was performing the role from the sidelines as Maria's older self (Bartoli is 50 this year, Maria is 16) looking back at her memories while a younger actress played 'Maria 2' and a certain amount of disbelief had to be suspended, not least because Tony - the otherwise excellent tenor Norman Reinhardt - was not similarly doubled and looked more like Maria 2's dad. Bartoli was therefore obliged to sing duets and ensemble numbers from far-distant parts of George Tsypin's vast, multilevel set and it is much to her credit and Dudamel's that this was pulled off with seamless ensemble. In the end, she has a knack for letting her sound strike us straight in the gut, as if her entire heart is given in the voice, and it grabs and twists you and wrings you out, no matter what your mind says. If you go to this show, do not wear mascara.

Predictably the whole thing has been panned elsewhere, but musically that judgment would seem unfair. Yes, it's miked. It's a musical; it's supposed to be miked. Someone complained that the words were unintelligible, but I could hear everything clear as day; the New York 1950s street-speak, though, is more than a little dated and may seem as Martian to today's youth as the 2016 equivalent does to those who share a ball-park vintage with Maria 1. Meanwhile, all plaudits to the magnificent Karen Olivo as a smoky-voiced Anita, electric physicality from the boys in striking new choreography by Liam Steel, and the Sharks girls who nearly stole the whole show with their sizzling "America".

The company on stage. © Salzburger Festspiele / Silvia Lelli

Above all, the white-hot orchestra was the star of the day - they can probably play that "Mambo" standing on their heads by now, as it's become almost a signature piece for them, but Bernstein's score deserves luxury treatment (one can't help cringing when hearing it delivered by a tiny pit band in West End standard mode): drafting them in was one of Bartoli's most inspired ideas. She is the artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival - a short, Maytime relation of the giant summer shebang - and for Shakespeare anniversary year she filled it with works inspired by Romeo and Juliet. Incidentally, Norman Reinhardt is not related to Max Reinhardt, the summer festival's founder.

Verdict: moved to tears despite a flawed concept. But what's the real problem with that concept?

The director Philip Wm. McKinley came up with the notion of two Marias after wondering what becomes of Maria after the show ends. Unlike Shakespeare's Juliet, she does not die, but delivers a blistering speech over Tony's body that proves the futility of this cycle of violence that has taught her how to hate. Unfortunately, according to this reimagining, what happened next is that she went on working in the wedding dress shop, became its manager, never married, never stopped missing Tony - and now throws herself under a train, after which her soul and his are reunited in the Felsenreitschüle stratospheres.

Oh, come on! Maria is way too clever and spirited for that. Has she learned nothing from losing Tony? Of course she has. She has learned that hatred is terrible and life is short. Instead of mouldering away, would she not be spurred to devote herself to stopping the violence she could not prevent as a young girl?

She mourns Tony, of course. But let's remember, she's only known him for two days. She saves hard, works nights and sets up a youth support centre on the Upper West Side. She goes into gangland and recruits those affected by violence and trains them to work with their own communities to stop the killing. She cares for the frightened, lost youngsters as she would for her own children. She has quite a voice, and she learns how to inspire people with the power of her orations. She galvanises New York with her charisma and determination. She is elected mayor of New York City. And then she becomes the first woman president of the USA, long before Hillary Clinton. "Somewhere" can become her great, idealistic, political anthem. "We'll find a new way of living" is her campaign slogan.

That would be our Maria. That could be our Cecilia, if she were given a chance.

Bartoli interview to follow in due course.

7 months ago | |
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Today at 12 noon musicians from the European Union Youth Orchestra and colleagues from all over the place are getting together on the Festival Terrace outside the Royal Festival Hall to play Beethoven's Ode to Joy as a symbol of their support for a sustainable future for the EUYO and indeed the future of European culture and cooperation. All musicians are invited to come along and join in.

And around Europe musicians will be doing this same thing at the same time. You can find SaveEUYO gatherings at:

• Central Station, Brussels
• Plaza di Atocha, Madrid
• Erlebnis Europa, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin
• Museumsplatz, Vienna
• Frederiksborggade 11, Copenhagen
• Paris - flashmob, location tbc

7 months ago | |
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The online music portal primephonic, for which I've been writing several reviews a month since January, asked me to write a piece about my life in music journalism et al, and are offering readers a special 20 per cent discount on the recordings I've reviewed and on all other recordings of these particular composers and artists. Their speciality is high-quality sound.

The 12 recordings concerned are all interesting and/or rewarding in their own ways, and for me the pick of the bunch is probably Gil Shaham playing the Bartók Second and Prokofiev First Violin Concertos. Plus I got a tremendous Austro-Hungarian high from Johann Strauss's Die Zigeunerbaron. Anyway, here you go: you'll find the discount code on the page. Valid from tomorrow until 5.30pm on 24 Mayhttp://www.primephonic.com/news-jessica-duchen-life-in-music-journalism-plus
7 months ago | |
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The Shed, if you haven't met it yet, is my book blog at Unbound attached to the rapidly approaching Ghost Variations. It's the place to go for extras: insights into my processes and the characters, Youtube of their real selves playing, appetite-whetting (I hope) and so on.

Publication is scheduled for 1 September, but there's still a great deal to do... All posts at the Shed are emailed automatically to all the book's supporters and currently you can dip in and take a look even if you're not a patron. Later, though, there will be bonus material accessible only to those who are buying the book.

Currently we're doing an A-Z of the book in clumps of several at a time. You can find them here:

A is for Adila, B is for Bartók, C is for Caesar. Includes recording of Adila Fachiri and Ethel Hobday playing some Hubay.

D is for the Depression, E is for Erik Palmstierna, F is for (Alexander) Fachiri. With recording of Jelly d'Arányi and Adila Fachiri playing the slow movement of a Spohr violin duo which is completely stunning.

I'm continually amazed and deeply moved by their recordings - Adila, though less celebrated generally, plays just as wonderfully as Jelly, though very different in personality. The qualities they share - their perfection of intonation, their intensity of concentration, their purity of tone - really must be heard to be believed. If Ghost Variations has a greater purpose than telling a remarkable musical tale, it is to help keep alive the memory of these exceptional musicians, inspiration to so many composers.

The novel-concerts in association with the book are going to be a treat, certainly for me, Dave and Viv and hopefully for you as well. The programme is stuffed full of music associated with Jelly, her family and her musical circles: Ravel, Bartók, Brahms arr. Joachim, Mendelssohn, Schumann of course, and possibly a piece by FS Kelly. We have:

St Mary's Perivale - 7 September
Music at 22 Mansfield Street (chez Boas) - 4 October
Kensington & Chelsea Music Society at Leighton House, London W11 - 18 October
Barnes Music Society - date tbc, but most likely November

7 months ago | |
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Quite a party. Photo: http://horizonteentdecken.de
OK, so you make your stage debut in Wagner's longest opera, then you go along to the first night party and start doing a spot of jazz? Only if you're Jonas, and you are. Here's the report: http://horizonteentdecken.de/der-meistersinger-jonas-kaufmann-als-crooner/

Reviews from Munich, and tweets by critics who were there, suggest that we who are due to see this later in the year (I'm heading for the last night of the BSO Festival on 31 July) are in for a musical treat, and that the modern-dress production works really well, give or take a predictable boo or two.

There's a video showing extracts at the Bayerische Staatsoper's magazine site:
https://www.staatsoper.de/medienseite.html?type=0&tx_sfstaatsoper_pi6%5Bimage%5D=17569&tx_sfstaatsoper_pi6%5Bproductions%5D=1144&tx_sfstaatsoper_pi6%5BmediaSettings%5D=mediathekPage&cHash=5c918baa3f7b8a8662501bef73388119

And let's have a quick fix of the preview:



Closer to home, Glyndebourne's revival of the David McVicar production is about to open, on Saturday, starring Gerald Finley as Hans Sachs. Details and booking here.

8 months ago | |
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