JDCMB
Jessica
JDCMB is Jessica Duchen's Classical Music Blog. Music & writing, with ginger, in London, UK. Author & journalist JD writes for The Independent.
1293 Entries


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.
4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
I have a little guest spot in the Observer today, re the conundrum facing young female soloists in the classical music world re sounding good versus looking good... It's connected to Susannah Clapp's larger article, here.

Meanwhile Fiona Maddocks has written such a brilliant take on Glyndebourne's Der Rosenkavalier that I think we should campaign for her to receive a DBE for services to opera, wit and good sense.

[UPDATE: Also see Clare Colvin in the Sunday Express: comment piece about how this incident shows that opera is not a minority cult, but makes news and causes argument every bit as much as other art forms. It's not online yet, but here's her Rosenkavalier review for starters.)
4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story


Tomorrow at LSO St Luke's the one and only Jeremy Denk is giving a recital of Bach's Goldberg Variations and some of Ligeti's unbelievable piano Etudes. I am interviewing him on stage afterwards. Please come and join us. Above, a taster. Here's the website (the talk is not on it, but it is definitely happening!).
4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
My tuppence ha'penny on the "Taragate" scandal is out now in the Independent. Read it here. I hope that tonight the fabulous Ms Erraught will get extra cheers at Glyndebourne - especially as she stabs Ochs in the buttock with the silver rose for treating Sophie like an animal at the market.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/of-course-visuals-count-in-opera-but-criticising-female-singers-appearance-is-wrong-9413081.html

In case you missed my interview with Tara, before all this blew up, it's here. http://jessicamusic.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/meettara-erraught.html

And you might just like to hear her sing:

4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
It's Sally Matthews, who stars as Blanche in the forthcoming run (the Robert Carsen production) at Covent Garden of Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle. The opera ends with the onstage beheading of 16 nuns. 
Here's my interview with her from today's Independent.  And a little extract from Gianni Schicchi.



If you met Sally Matthews in the street you might not guess that she is one of Britain's finest sopranos. Quiet, serious and rather reserved, the 38-year-old singer is anything but an obvious star; but on stage her voice speaks for itself. Blessed with great range and a rich tone containing unusual warmth, colour and shadow, her refulgent yet pure sound is ideal for Mozart, Strauss and, not least, French music.
Matthews is about to take the leading role in Francis Poulenc's opera Dialogues des Carmélites at the Royal Opera House, amid an all-star cast conducted by Simon Rattle. Operatic success does not get much bigger than this, but she refuses to play the diva. To her, opera is teamwork; and she prefers to avoid repertoire like the more melodramatic moments of Puccini, which possibly attract a different type of personality. "Sometimes the big egos completely detract from what we're doing," she muses. "I've worked with a few of them and I didn't like it much. It should be all about the music."
The Southampton-born singer's career was launched when she won the Kathleen Ferrier Singing Competition in 1999, but it was a special opportunity at the Royal Opera House in 2001 that subsequently determined her direction...
READ THE REST HERE

'Dialogues des Carmélites', Royal Opera House, London WC2 (020 7304 4000) 29 May to 11 June
4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
A couple of years ago the much-loved British cellist Robert Cohen made a move that took many of us by surprise: despite having enjoyed a strong solo career since his youth, he joined a string quartet. And not just any old string quartet, but the Fine Arts Quartet, one of the most distinguished and distinctive chamber ensembles in the States, and very much a full-time concern. They're coming to Kings Place, London, on Thursday (22 May): this will be their first concert here with their latest line-up, Robert included. 

The concert will be filmed by Hibrow TV for its online arts broadcasting platform. Hibrow now has ACE funding and Robert is one of its "curators". Its founder, film director Don Boyd, apparently felt he needed to do something to counter the disastrous loss of arts on mainstream TV.

I first met Robert when I was about eight and he must have been 14-ish and the Purcell School's young whizz-kid cellist. This seems like a good time to catch up...so I asked him to tell us how and why he's joined up, and what it's been like to make the change. 



JD: Robert, please tell us why you’ve decided to join a full-time string quartet? It’s a huge move…

RC: In January 2011, I was invited to play with the Fine Arts Quartet on a European tour. I had played sextets with them 6 years before and that experience had been an extraordinary and wonderful one. Playing quartets with them was even more thrilling. Not only are they amazing musicians, but exceptional individuals. I enjoyed every moment playing and being with them. Later that year, when they invited me to join the Quartet, my feelings were that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t possibly miss; at age 52 to open a whole new life into the fabulous world of string quartets with an ensemble that so beautifully suited my kind of music making. The decision was remarkably easy!
JD: …and you’ve shifted to the US. How do you feel about that?
RC: We set up a home in Chicago, which we all love - it’s such a stunning city - but we also keep a home in London because we have family there. Given that the Quartet tours globally much of the year, it’s nice to have a foot on either side of the Atlantic. (I can pop home relatively easily, whichever home is nearest).
JD: Tell us something about the Fine Arts Quartet and its history, please? It’s a hugely distinguished group and has made some gorgeous recordings. 
RC: The Fine Arts Quartet was founded in Chicago in 1946, and has been based at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee since 1963. It has recorded over 200 works and has won numerous awards. The Quartet members have also nurtured many of today's top international young ensembles.
JD: What qualities about their playing do you like and what is it like to work with them? What qualities do you feel you have that enable you to fit in?
RC: The Fine Arts Quartet is instantly distinguishable because of its unique sound; inspired by the golden era of string playing for which warmth, beauty, passion and humanity emanate from every note. I grew up with these sounds in my ears, listening to the greatest ever string players; Casals, Feuermann, Heifetz, Kreisler, Primrose, the Amadeus Quartet... I absorbed those values and aims into my playing and they are part of what I bring to the Fine Arts Quartet. They are fundamental qualities in the Fine Arts Quartet’s way of communicating music. So when I started playing with them, it was really natural for me to slot in.
JD: What’s the most difficult thing about joining a long-established ensemble as kind of the new kid on the block? How do you know - and how do they know - if you are the right person for them? 
RC: The Fine Arts Quartet have an extraordinarily large repertoire. In my first year, I learnt around 75 quartets, almost all of which the others know and have performed for years. I’d never even seen the music for these works! I wanted very much to arrive at rehearsals  playing and knowing each piece as though I had performed it with them many times. I didn’t want to disappoint them. I was on the edge of my seat with my antennae straining every millisecond to catch and memorise every detail. Gradually I found it easier to anticipate how the Quartet structured its work on the music and how the dynamics within the group affected the rehearsals. And finally when I felt I was balanced within the Quartet, it was more natural for the others to absorb my own input of ideas. The experience of growing into this Quartet and into such a history has been really exciting and fulfilling.
JD: Are you going to keep up your other activities - your solo career, your chamber music festival, etc?
RC: I do still give solo concerts and continue to make concerto recordings. For example this summer I'm returning to the ‘Chopin and his Europe’ Festival in Warsaw to perform with the Orchestra Sinfonia Varsovia. However, the majority of my time is devoted to the Quartet. After a wonderful 35 years of solo and concerto performances, I feel privileged to be discovering the glorious quartet repertoire and to be performing with such wonderful partners. The Fine Arts Quartet schedule is so busy that for now my Chamber Music Festival at Charleston Manor is on hold. 

The Fine Arts Quartet is renowned for its enormous range of repertoire, much of it unusual. Here they are in action, filmed by Hibrow...


4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Huge congratulations to Martin James Bartlett, the young pianist from Hornchurch, Essex, who yesterday was awarded the title of BBC Young Musician 2014. Here's an extract from his performance in the piano final; and you can watch the whole of yesterday's grand finale on the iPlayer here if you missed it. The other finalists were percussionist Elliott Gaston-Ross (15) and recorder player Sophie Westbrooke (15).



"It's a passion that's all-consuming, even at weekends," says presenter Milos... I'll leave that little nugget of wisdom for the vocation-driven among you, dear readers, to chew over at leisure.

Martin's Liszt - the bit of it we're allowed to hear here - sounds absolutely gorgeous and the Barber Sonata is seriously impressive. He's doing his A Levels and has been offered scholarships to three conservatoires. I look forward to hearing much, much more of him in the future.
4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
Oh, never mind, you can listen on the website. Oh, not to worry, it's on BBC4. How familiar is this litany?

Look down the TV listings of the oddzillion available channels and amid the bake-offs and the drying paint and the relocations and the game shows and the lottery and the not-very-funny comedies, and you might find a little culture, but if you do you will be very lucky.

As for performances of classical music, with the exception of the Proms in summer... there's hardly anything. Documentaries from time to time, yes; and BBC Young Musician, in which people insist on having talking over performances during the section finals - an indignity not equivalently suffered by the Eurovision Song Contest.

But you will not channel-flip on BBC1 or 2 or even Channel 4 and accidentally discover a piano recital by Daniil Trifonov, or a string quintet playing Schubert, or a fashionable baroque band. You just won't, because the concerts are not there. How can you grumble? You can go to the internet and look it up... 
This matters. It really does. Anyone can see that people love classical music when they have a chance to hear it - witness all those instances of its use in adverts and football and 50 Shades of Grey. But the bottom line is that unless you put it right in front of them, literally shove it under their noses, nobody new will take any notice. Harsh? Yep.
I know this from selling books.
Last season we had a number of performances of my concerts-of-the-novels, and of course this is a book-selling opportunity too good to miss.

Venues' sales facilities differ. Some provide very visible trestle tables by the entrance. Others have smallish counters; others still have none. 
One principle I learned during all this is that if you do not display the books in an obvious way, nobody will buy them.

You can't guarantee that anyone will buy a book even if they are displayed, of course. But you sure as hell won't sell them if nobody knows they're there, and a handwritten sign saying BOOKS £6.99 doesn't float anyone's boat unless beside it there's a pile of, er, books. You have to make them prominent; you have to make a thing of them. 
Our most successful sales event ever was a coffee concert at last year's Ulverston Festival. The venue had long trestle tables in the foyer, devoted assistants on duty to take cash and offer change, an announcement at the concert saying I'd be signing books out front afterwards, and plenty of refreshments that let people stay on location without zooming off for caffeine fix elsewhere. They even fed me a GF chocolate brownie.

The least successful sales figures were in places where the books were tucked away apologetically in a corner, or in which any designated sales assistant was busy talking to friends, and of course where the books were not on display at all - even, in some cases, when they were sitting backstage in a cardboard box, waiting. 
Take those chain bookstores in which selected books are on display at the front of the shop, piled flat on tables. Few people move beyond those tables to the shelves, unless they are hunting down something specific. It is not that they are lazy, or unimaginative, or too stressed to spend the extra time. It's just that they... don't.

The tables are in front of our noses; the spines on the shelves are not. It's human nature and it's no reflection on anybody - but unless your product is in that fragrant location, you probably won't shift anything. Speaking of noses, deciding not to put something out there because you think nobody wants it anyway really is cutting off yours to spite your face.
The surest way not to win the lottery is not to buy a ticket. The surest way not to interest your populace in classical music is not to give them a chance to enjoy it that is so obvious it can't fail to be noticed. You have to make it prominent; you have to make a thing of it. I do not believe this is rocket science. Go and think about it.






4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
If you haven't yet come across Clément Doucet, meet him now. The pianist-creator of such pieces as 'Chopinata' and 'Isoldina' has been taken up and championed gorgeously by the likes of Marc-André Hamelin and Alexandre Tharaud, but his own recordings are stunners in no uncertain terms. I've just come across a few of Doucet's pieces that are new to me. This first one is variously known as 'Hungaria' or, apparently, 'Lisztonia'...



And if you liked that, try this...



Doucet was born in Belgium in 1895 and studied with Arthur De Greef, who had been a pupil of Liszt. He went to New York for three years in 1920 and absorbed stride piano - as you can hear - and on his return to Europe succeeded Jean Wiéner as house pianist at the Paris cabaret Le Boeuf sur le toit (after which the Milhaud ballet is named). He and Wiéner formed a piano duo and gave more than 2000 performances together between 1924 and 1939 and worked with some of the most popular French singers of their era, including Edith Piaf and Jean Sablon.

But after the war it was Wiéner who had the career. Doucet died of chronic alcoholism in 1950. I am now trying to find out what had happened to them both in the intervening years.

One more recording. They were not jazz pianists alone. Just listen to this heavenly Bach.

4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
I've had a sound-off in the Independent about the frustrations of TV format v. music in BBC Young Musician 2014, which reaches its final on Sunday. Concentrate on formula TV first and foremost and who loses out? The music. The competitors. And the audience. Time for a rethink, TV chaps. Stop patronising us and let us hear them play! Here it is:
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/features/bbc-young-musicians-2014-forget-the-format-give-us-the-music-9364814.html
.
4 months ago | |
Tag
| Read Full Story
81 - 90  | prev 5678910111213 next
InstantEncore