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.
1407 Entries
I met Philip Glass while he was here for rehearsals of The Trial. Now he's off on the road around the UK. Head in the Bhagavad Gita, feet firmly on the ground (or possibly the other way round, given that he does yoga every day, presumably complete with headstands).

Here he tells me why he still tours, why yoga is so important to him and how the composers of the future will make a living.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/features/philip-glass-from-glassworks-to-glassfest-9839242.html
3 months ago | |
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Last week I put up a list of 12 living British composers so that you could vote for your favourite. Then I was awake all night remembering the ones I'd not put in, so I put up a second list. Polling is now closed. Here are the top three places in each of the two lists:

LIST 1
1. Harrison Birtwistle, with 25% of the votes.2. Thomas Ades, with 18 %.3. Peter Maxwell Davies, with 10%.
LIST 2
1. James MacMillan, with 27 %.2. Oliver Knussen, with 24 %.3. Mark-Anthony Turnage, with 11%.
There we go, then. Thanks to everyone who voted!

In case you were wondering: the first list consisted of six men and six women. The second list was slightly less even, with just four women out of 12. In list 1, Judith Weir pulled in in fourth place, with 8% of the vote. 
3 months ago | |
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It's us! Viv McLean and I had a ball with Alicia's Gift in Presteigne yesterday afternoon. The sun shone, the Assembly Rooms piano was a warm-toned Steinway of 1899, and it was wonderful to experience the warmth and hospitality of the team from Mid Border Arts and friends old, new, expected and unexpected! Huge thanks particularly to Alison Parry and Clare and David Stevens for all their support both marketing and moral.

It's always lovely, too, when an audience that doesn't quite know what to expect from a performance by a writer and a musician together finds itself drawn into the experience as a whole and responds to it with such enthusiasm. Music or words? Both, of course!

The next Alicia's Gift concert is at the Wimbledon International Music Festival at 2.30pm on Sunday 23 November. The venue is the Rutherford Theatre of Wimbledon High School, Mansel Road, London SW19 4AB. Book here!
3 months ago | |
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According to this report in the Washington Post the pianist Dejan Lazic is asking the paper to remove a 2010 review of one of his recitals under the EU's "right to be forgotten" ruling.

The review in question is by the highly respected critic Anne Midgette and contains much fulsome praise for the musician, qualified by some reservations. But Lazic seems to feel that his search for "truth" has been misrepresented...and has also asked the newspaper to remove the review when the ruling actually applies to Internet search engines.

What is "truth" anyway? A dubious concept where artistic opinions are concerned, that's for sure. Lazic is playing soon at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, on 11 December, so we can hear for ourselves.
3 months ago | |
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The fuss over the Mrs Bach and the cello suites film is getting up my nose, and not in a good way. Of course it makes a good story. But do we really need more tales about women in music who didn't really do things, when there are so many who did, provenly so, but are not recognised for it?

When women musicians make it onto the silver screen, they tend to be there for the wrong reasons: for writing their man's music, which they clearly didn't; for having married Schumann; for being sister to an irritating prodigy (take a bow, Nannerl), or for people having released recordings under their name that they didn't actually make (three cheers for Ms Hatto?).

Still, the film studios clearly prefer the fanciful, so here are a few ideas for my next novel...

Cosima Wagner: true author of Parsifal?
1. An EU directive enforces the opening of the last Bayreuth archive. It reveals that Cosima wrote Parsifal.

2. Beethoven was great at the piano, but wanted everyone to think he could write for the orchestra as well. He paid a very accomplished lady to write nine symphonies for him and planted references to an "Immortal Beloved" in his letters to throw everyone off the scent.

3.  Emma Bardac's letters emerge from the Bibliothèque National explaining that she was not only lover to Fauré and wife to Debussy, but put them both through certain kinds of intimate therapy that unleashed suppressed emotions in their music.

4. Jenny Lind turns out to have inspired not only Felix Mendelssohn with great passion, but Fanny Mendelssohn as well.

5. Tchaikovsky's remains are disinterred for research into whether he was poisoned. The coffin contains the skeleton of a woman.


...Meanwhile I'm off to Presteigne for a lovely Alicia's Gift concert with piano darling Viv McLean at the Assembly Rooms, tomorrow (2 Nov) at 3pm. Do come along if you're in the area. Info here.


3 months ago | |
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In today's Independent, my interview with the young choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela and Royal Ballet rising star Olivia Cowley about the new ballet Cassandra, opening tomorrow at the Linbury. I watched a rehearsal and it was shaping up to be fascinating stuff, and pretty harrowing.
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/features/royal-ballet-dancerturnedchoreographer-ludovic-ondiviela-on-making-mental-illness-the-subject-of-his-new-work-9823920.html
4 months ago | |
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I've been awake half the night remembering all the composers I didn't include in the poll of 12 British contemporary composers, so this morning I've added a second group featuring another 12. You can vote once IN EACH GROUP and you have until 3 Nov to vote in Group 1 and until 4 Nov to vote in Group II. It could be that a third group will materialise too at this rate. Then we could have a run-off at the end.

YOU SEE WHAT FABULOUS COMPOSERS WE HAVE IN THE UK TODAY?
4 months ago | |
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I love my colleagues at BBC Music Magazine very, very much. In their latest poll, together with the TV programme Countryfile, they've had a little poll to find the nation's favourite British composer. Result: [surpriiiiiiise!] Edward Elgar.

There was one teensyweeensy problem with this poll, which was that there was nobody on the list who was not dead, white, English and male. Well, except Delius, who was German by family heritage. So here in the sidebar, just as a fun little exercise to help Ricki & Cosi get a pawndle on their rapidly forming musical tastes, is a JDCMB Alternative Poll.

You will see on the right a poll asking who your favourite British composer of today is. I have chosen six men and six women from the highest-profile composers in the UK working now and listed them in alphabetical order according to surname. You have until 7.30pm on 3 November to vote. If you can't decide because you don't know their music, just look 'em up and have a listen.  You can only vote once!

UPDATE: There are, of course, glaring omissions on this list - amongst them James MacMillan, the Matthews brothers and Mira Calix. I now find I can't alter the contents because people have started voting, so please work with what there is on this occasion and we'll maybe do it again sometime.
4 months ago | |
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This is the multiple-award-winning Kelemen Quartet - led by the Hungarian violinist Barnabas Kelemen, with Katalin Kokas (aka Mrs Kelemen) second violin - who are in London this weekend and will be doing a Wigmore Hall coffee concert tomorrow morning at 11.30am. In the afternoon, at 4pm, I'll be at the Amati Exhibition at the Lansdowne Club to interview them all for the audience about life - and love - in a string quartet. Above, they play Tchaikovsky at the Kelemen's festival in Hungary, Kaposfest in Kaposvár.

Do come and join us chez Amati for a stimulating afternoon surrounded by wonderful instruments and lively discussion! More info here.
4 months ago | |
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I caught Pinchas Zukerman for a chat when he was in town giving masterclasses at Cadogan Hall not long ago. He is a mesmerising person on stage, holding forth to the audience and students alike with his memories and anecdotes about the great musicians with whom he studied, and the youngsters who were playing to him seemed to be lapping up his every word. The violin's history is aural, in more ways than one: this is how its traditions, secrets and marvels are passed down most effectively. “My teacher, Ivan Galamian, used to say that if it sounds good, you feel good,” Zukerman told us all. “I’d put it the other way too: if it feels good, it’ll sound good.”

He's back in the UK with his NAC Orchestra this week and I have a short piece in today's Indy about what they're doing, where and why...






After the outbreak of World War I, some 30,000 Canadian troops came to the UK and underwent military training on Salisbury Plain. Now a Canadian orchestra is following in their footsteps – at least as far as the town’s cathedral. Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra plays there on 29 October, part of a tour in which they celebrate the links between the two countries. At the helm is their music director Pinchas Zukerman, one of today’s most celebrated violinists and a dab hand, too, with the conductor’s baton.

Zukerman, 66, started out as a child prodigy in his native Israel, where the influential violinist Isaac Stern spotted him and encouraged him to study in New York; he rose to stardom during the 1960s-70s. Today, though, there is still a pugnacious energy about him, an unshakeable determination to forge ahead with big ideas. I catch him after a masterclass at London’s Cadogan Hall and find him still afizz despite a long day’s work.

“Canada feels very passionately about this anniversary,” Zukerman declares. “One of the high points for the orchestra is of course performing at Salisbury Cathedral, and with my connection with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra [he is its principal guest conductor] it also seemed the perfect idea to do a concert with both orchestras together at the Royal Festival Hall.” In that concert on 27 October, the ensembles combine for Beethoven’s Symphony No.9, which concludes with the ‘Ode to Joy’. 

During his 15 years at the NAC – this is his final season – Zukerman has shaken up the orchestra, expanding it to more than 60 players and implementing a pioneering programme of education and outreach work, including experiments in video-conferencing and distance learning. 

“When you are lucky enough to have the kind of education I had and the kind of exposure to the great figures of music, then if you’re capable of it, you have to give back what you received,” he says. “I was fortunate to encounter the greatest musicians, not only as mentors and teachers, but also as players: Isaac Stern, some of the Budapest String Quartet’s members, the list is huge. You absorb information that you can’t really write down. You have to show, you have to play, you have to exhibit yourself, so to speak, to the youngsters – and they eat it up.” 

Nor are his efforts restricted to advanced students. He recalls an occasion when he played the Brahms lullaby to a children’s music class taken by a former pupil of his wife (the NACO’s lead cellist Amanda Forsyth, his third marriage). “Afterwards one little boy said: ‘I’m on fire!’. God, that was fantastic.” 

And he has encouraging words for those struggling to keep music education alive. Teaching effectively and transforming a pupil “takes time, proper teaching and follow-up,” he says. “We need to create coalitions, work together and share information. But we’re not only teaching them to be good players. We’re teaching them to be good people.”


Pinchas Zukerman and the NAC Orchestra perform with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on 27 October at the Royal Festival Hall (0844 875 0073), and at Salisbury Cathedral (01722 320 333) on 29 October

Here they are in a spot of Mozart...




4 months ago | |
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