From seeing Thelonius Monk and the Count Basie Orchestra at the Hammersmith Odeon to shopping for CDs and vinyl, the jazz trumpeter and composer reveals his musical pleasures
How do you listen to music most often?I have a large CD and vinyl collection at home, which is where I listen mostly. These days I spend most of my time at home composing and arranging. During my touring days, I used Walkmans and then iPods. In fact, I’ve used every possible way to listen to music. It’s what I need so much. However, there is still nothing like hearing music live.
What was the first record you bought?I remember the first three LPs I bought with my own pocket money when I was very young, but not which one was first. They were: Stokowski conducting Holst’s The Planets, Louis Armstrong in the 1930s and 40s, and the Beatles’s A Hard Day’s Night.
Royal Albert Hall, LondonConductor Sakari Oramo shows Sibelius’s narrow distinction between tone poem and symphony; Torikka and Rusanen-Kartano sing with operatic panache
It was left to Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to round out the 150th-anniversary tribute to Sibelius at the Proms, which they had launched on the opening night. Oramo opted to go back to where Sibelius’s career as an orchestral composer began, pairing En Saga and Kullervo. The two works, completed in 1892 (the former a tone poem and the latter a symphonic suite), were the starting point for what proved to be one of the most remarkable orchestral journeys since Beethoven.
As Oramo’s urgent performances showed, what is remarkable about both En Saga and Kullervo is that, however much they reveal the 19th-century composers who were Sibelius’s starting point, they also point unambiguously to the future, and to the intensely personal language that he would create for himself within barely a decade. En Saga in particular could not have been written by anyone else. The way in which the tone poem picks up speed as it hurtles inescapably towards its end, looks forward to the way in which the first movement of the Fifth Symphony would transform itself into a scherzo a quarter of a century later. It is a reminder that, musically at least for Sibelius, the line between tone poem and symphony was always a narrow one.
Royal Albert Hall, LondonConductor Bernard Haitink is not prone to flamboyance, but these works cry out for more sparkle; Maria João Pires, nevertheless, proves an energising partner
Even in his younger days, Bernard Haitink was never a conductor given to flamboyance. Now aged 86, the characteristic avoidance of histrionics has become almost the essence of his work with the orchestras fortunate enough to be conducted by him. These days, Haitink concerts are models of tact and good judgment in the service of music that is invariably very beautifully played. The results are almost always balanced and satisfying. But in some music they can sometimes be a little unchallenging.
This prom with the outstanding Chamber Orchestra of Europe had such a feel. From the very start of Schubert’s C major Overture in the Italian style — very much that of Rossini — there were the familiar Haitink virtues of orchestral warmth, plus a determination to keep things moving. But the overture is quite a slight piece. It cries out for a bit more sparkle.
The German violinist has been playing at the Edinburgh international festival, and we’ve got an exclusive video of her
The Edinburgh international festival has been offering a wide and varied programme of music both classical and contemporary for those who can’t face the prospect of another fringe comedian asking the audience if they remember Spangles. And we’ve teamed up with the festival to bring you a series of exclusive short films of the very best performers at work.
We began last week with Anna Calvi and Heritage Orchestra, but today it’s the turn of the German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, performing extracts from the first and third movements of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. She’s accompanied by the Mutter Virtuosi, made of young musicians granted scholarships by the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation. “It is particularly difficult nowadays for highly talented young instrumentalists to receive the necessary support during the crucial early years,” Mutter says. “In addition to the huge sums of money spent on lessons, in many cases financing a suitable string instrument poses great problems as well. Along with high purchase costs, there are the necessary insurance fees. Also expensive are trips to the world’s great artists — contacts that are essential for the development of a young musician. The support of young artists presents a challenge to everyone to whom the future of musical life is as important as it is to me.”
The Magic Flute has always stood apart. Mozart and his librettist Emanuel Schikaneder wanted the work to have a vaudeville anarchy, a knock-about humour spliced with magic, enlightenment, wisdom and more than a little cruelty. It’s a tough call for a modern director. Few succeed. Schikaneder’s theatre in the suburbs of Vienna promised flying machines, trapdoors, thunder, as well, apparently, as fires and waterfalls. Match that. At the 1791 premiere, the actor-impresario played the bird-catcher Papageno and Mozart conducted. Match that too. Three months later Mozart was dead. Schikaneder battled on, eventually succumbing to poverty and insanity, dying 20 years later.
In the Australian director Barrie Kosky, composer and librettist have found their man. Working with the Komische Oper Berlin and the UK theatre company 1927, Kosky has delivered a quixotic enterprise that buzzes and whirrs and spins with manic energy and joy. It is a tour de force. The audience at Thursday’s opening night at the Festival theatre, Edinburgh oohed and aahed, clapped, gasped and guffawed. There was no let-up. The visual ingenuity stunned and delighted. The experience was unforgettable if exhausting.
The Malian kora player and French cellist raised dust with 2011’s Chamber Music, which pulled two seemingly incompatible instruments into a startling, neoclassical fusion. Musique de Nuit maintains the momentum. While there is a formal air to pieces such as Prélude and the title track, improvisation is at the heart of the duo’s interplay – Sissoko’s rooftop in Bamako, not the studio, was the venue for half the recording. The lines between cascading kora and stately cello are wonderfully blurred at times, as the pair take turns to supply rhythm and melody, ranging across Malian mbalax on Super Étoile, Brazilian flavours on Samba Tomora and deep tradition on Diabaro, to which Babani Kone contributes wailing griot vocals. Entrancing stuff.
The lowest of the stringed instruments, the double bass has few opportunities in chamber music. Schubert’s Trout Quintet (violin, viola, cello, bass and piano) is a rare exception. The Fabergé, all members of NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, have exchanged the usual second violin for a bass, making a wonderful mellow sound in Vaughan Williams’s early Piano Quintet (1903), one of a number of works he withdrew, and which was only published in 2002. It has the romantic warmth of Brahms, with echoes of old folk songs and modal writing. The work is paired with another Piano Quintet in C minor, by the short-lived and little known Hermann Goetz (1840-76) – an altogether darker and more unsettling work. Let’s hear if for the double bass.
The spirited Louth Contemporary Music Society initiates performances of contemporary music in and around Drogheda and Dundalk, and makes a speciality of themed CD releases. These works by David Lang, Luciano Berio and Betty Olivero all relate to the Song of Songs – as a note by Paul Griffiths puts it, “a love song accepted as scriptural in Jewish and Christian traditions from times before reckoning”. Lang’s Just, delivered with expert purity by the Norwegian vocal group Trio Mediaeval, is bewitching and incantatory. Berio’s Naturale uses viola (Garth Knox), percussion (Sylvain Lemêtre) and a taped Sicilian folk singer, wild and ululating. Olivero’s En la Mar Hay Una Torre (In the Sea There Is a Lighthouse) mixes sea shanty and chorale, harp and strings. Hear it and be surprised.
It is impossible to talk about the chamber music of the Australian composer Brett Dean without mentioning that he was principal viola of the Berlin Philharmonic. Inevitably he understands string textures from the inside, with compelling results. The excellent Doric Quartet rise to the challenges of these elegiac works. Eclipse (String Quartet No 1), particularly timely, conjures the despair of the boat people rescued from the Indian Ocean by the Norwegian freighter Tampa in 2001, then denied admission to Australia. The three movements flicker between light and dark, turbulence and calm. Five Epitaphs offer moving portraits of five dead friends, including the conductor Richard Hickox. The Quartet No 2, ”And once I played Ophelia” (2013), has a part, too, for soprano (Alison Bell) which began as the seeds of an unwritten Hamlet opera. Tense, tender and original, it’s a tough but rewarding listen.
Royal Albert Hall, LondonThe Bergen’s departing chief conductor, Andrew Litton, showed his mettle throughout a programme featuring The Rite of Spring and new works by Ørjan Matre and Alissa Firsova
There were not one but two new works in this Prom by the Bergen Philharmonic under its departing chief conductor Andrew Litton, given as part of the orchestra’s 250th anniversary season – though in fact the first of them, Ørjan Matre’s preSage, was being premiered only in its revised version.
Commissioned to celebrate the centenary in 2013 of The Rite of Spring – which happens to be something of a signature piece for this ensemble – the Norwegian Matre’s work takes a couple of minute elements from the tiny section of Stravinsky’s ballet labelled The Sage and whips them up into a 12-minute conflation notable for its hyper-refined use of colour and ambiguous harmony. It made an intriguing opener.
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