Philharmonia Britannica Orchestral Workshop: Shostakovich 15

Grace Williams  Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes
Shostakovich  Symphony No.15

Time  6.00pm Saturday 17 January

Place  London Welsh Centre, 157-163 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8UE

Tickets  Suggested donation £5 adults, £1 children

Philharmonia Britannica: Eroica

The power of Beethoven’s groundbreaking Eroica symphony, the delicacy of his F major Romance, and the premiere of David Bozzo’s lyrical violin concerto, preceded by a rousing overture by Arriaga, who was nicknamed ‘The Spanish Mozart’!

Arriaga  Overture ‘Los Esclavos Felices’ (1820)
David Bozzo  Violin Concerto (world premiere) – with Francisco Jimeno
Beethoven  Romance in F for violin and orchestra
Beethoven  Symphony No.3 in Eb (“Eroica”)

Time  7.30pm Saturday 14 March

Place  St James’s Church, Picadilly W1J 9LL

Tickets  £15, £12 (concs), £5 (U19s)

Fulham Opera: Il Tabarro / Gianni Schicchi double bill

Puccini  Il Tabarro & Gianni Schicchi (fully staged, reduced orchestration)

Time  7.30pm Fri 20 Mar, 7pm Sun 22 Mar, 7.30pm Fri 27 Mar, 5pm Sun 29 Mar

Place  St Johns Church, North End Rd, London SW6 1PB

Tickets  £25 (concessions £20) from fulhamopera.com

Whitehall Orchestra: Mahler 2

Mahler  Symphony No.2
with Rebecca Holden (Soprano), Anna Harvey (Mezzo-Soprano) and The Mahler Chorus

Time  7.30pm Saturday 25 April

Place  St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church, Holborn Viaduct, EC1A 2DQ
http://bit.ly/StSepulchre

Tickets  £12 (concessions £10)

Amici Orchestra: War and Remembrance

A concert to commemorate 70 years since VE Day. Music to include: Kamen- ‘Band of Brothers’, John Williams – ‘Schindlers List’, Carl Davis- ‘The World at War: France Falls Suite’, Walton – ‘Battle of Britain’, Glenn Miller – Medley, Coates – ‘The Dambusters March’ and more!

Time  7.30pm Saturday 2 May

Place  St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico SW1V 2AD
http://bit.ly/StGabriels

Tickets  Free entry, retiring collection with proceeds to be split between The Royal British Legion and The Queen Alexandra Hospital Home

** Plus Fulham Opera Orchestral Workshop shortly to be announced **

Advertisements

Edinburgh Players Opera Group

Concert performance of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung.

Time  10.30am, Sunday 25 September

Place  Portobello Town Hall, Edinburgh, EH15 1AF

Tickets  voluntary £15 admission charge

Whitehall Orchestra

A rare chance to hear Eugene d’Albert’s 2nd Piano concerto, played by Alan Brown (http://bit.ly/AlanBrown), plus Wagner’s Meistersinger Overture and Elgar’s 1st Symphony.

Time  7.30pm, Thursday 24 November

Place  St Gabriel’s Church, Pimlico, SW1V 2AD
http://bit.ly/StGabriels

Tickets  £9 (£6 concessions), with group discounts available

Philharmonia Britannica

Mahler’s Third Symphony is his hymn to the natural world and his longest work. It combines a hitherto unheard of six movements. They range from sounds depicting huge and grand vistas to the angelic sound of women’s and children’s voices. From the loudest to the softest, from the most brash to the smoothest of sounds, almost everything is here in this piece which is larger than life – not unlike Mahler himself!

Time  7.30pm, Saturday 3 December

Place  St John’s Church, Waterloo,  SE1 8TY
http://bit.ly/StJohnsWaterloo

Tickets  £15, £12 (concs), £5 (U19s)

Time 7.30pm, Saturday 26-Mar-2011

Place St Johns Smith Square, London, London SW1P 3HA, United Kingdom

Amy Dickson plays the world premiere of Jennifer Fowler’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone, plus Mahler and Debussy

JENNIFER FOWLER
Originally from Western Australia, since 1969 Jennifer Fowler has been living in London where she works as a free-lance composer. She has won a number of international prizes for composition, including awards from Britain, Australia, Germany, USA and Bulgaria. Her music is regularly performed in prestigious international festivals and she has had commissions from such organisations as the BBC, ABC, Perth International Arts Festival, the Music Board of the Australia Council and many performing groups. Recent performances have been in Oxford, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Beijing, Angoulême, and Belgrade.

AMY DICKSON
Recognised widely for her remarkable and distinctive tone and exceptional musicality, Amy Dickson has performed in Europe, Africa and Australasia, in venues such as the Wigmore Hall and the Sydney Opera House. She has also performed as a soloist with many orchestras throughout the world including the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. An exclusive recording artist for Sony Music, Amy Dickson has now released two critically acclaimed recordings on the RCA Red Seal label.

Fowler Concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra (World premiere)
Debussy Rhapsody for alto saxophone and orchestra
Mahler Symphony no. 7

Amy Dickson, Saxophone
Michael Nebe, Conductor
Whitehall Orchestra

WHAT

Mahler: Symphony no. 2 “Resurrection”
A symphony of huge size and huge contrasts. With a choir and vocal soloists in the final movement it invites inevitable comparison with Beethoven’s Ninth – a piece which haunted Mahler. Combined with a display of art, writings and poetry on the theme of resurrection.
with
Norma Ritchie (Mezzo Soprano)
Lorraine Ely (Soprano)

WHEN
7:30 pm, Saturday 4 December

WHERE
St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8TY – map

************************************************************

MESSAGE FOR SINGERS

We are looking for some extra singers for this (thanks to some very unprofessional behaviour from a choir which I shan’t name here).  The chorus sings only in the final 15 minutes of the symphony, but it’s a vital and tremendously exciting 15 minutes!

There are just two rehearsals (details below) so you need to be a confident singer, and able to learn the notes in advance (or be an excellent sight reader!).  The choral score is available to view/download at http://www2.cpdl.org/wiki/images/sheet/mahler2v.pdf

If you would like to sing please reply not to me but to Peter Fender (conductor of the Philharmonia Britannica) at this email address (info@ph-br.co.uk) stating what part you would sing and also with an indication of your experience.  And please also pass this request on to anyone else you think might be interested!

DETAILS

Rehearsal Dates: evenings of Thursdays 11 and 25 November, 8.30pm

Rehearsal Venue: Peter Samuel Hall, the Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, NW3 2QS (please note that this is subject to confirmation)

Concert Date: 4 December, rehearsal 4.30-6pm, concert 7.30pm

Concert Venue: St John’s Church, Waterloo Road, SE1 8TY (opposite Waterloo Station)

************************************************************

My Proms visits this year – some formal reviews (links), some informal thoughts and observations.

PROM 2: Wagner (Die Meistersinger)

To tell the truth, I was unconvinced of the wisdom of spending 6+ hours in a hot tin can, listening to an unstaged concert performance of my least favourite* Wagner opera. However, it was really very enjoyable indeed. Yes, even Act 1, which has the potential to be deathly dull, but was in this case brightened immeasurably by Pogner, or rather by Brindley Sherratt’s special ability in making the most undramatic, static characters’ narratives implausibly gripping.

My other main reason attending this concert was, of course, to hear Bryn Terfel. I’ve enjoyed him in every opera I’ve heard him sing, but particularly in Wagner, and his Hans Sachs was really something special. In addition to some gorgeous singing, his inhabitation of the character brought out the humorous, mournful and contemplative aspects to perfection. Christopher Purves’s Beckmesser was also genuinely funny — a silly and pompous man but without the nastiness he is sometimes given.

The vocal (and physical) acting of the cast made this so much more than a standard declamatory concert performance, and in fact better to watch than at least one staged performance I’ve seen. Dare I say that I also found it helpful not to have surtitles? Knowing roughly what the characters are wittering on about but being spared the exact words left me free to give my full attention to the music; attention which it very much deserved.

(* Least favourite of the 8 I actually know – also including Ring, Tristan, Parsifal and Dutchman. Haven’t got to grips with Tannhäuser or Lohengrin yet.)

PROM 18: Dean, Mahler, Shostakovich

I found Brett Dean’s ‘Amphitheatre’ pleasant on the ear and atmospheric, but I have to say, I am having some trouble remembering any details about it afterwards. As for the selection from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, while Mahler’s music has been steadily growing on me since university, it’s a slow process, and I’ve made a lot more progress with the symphonies that I have with the songs. Some of them are quite definitely beautiful, but others are somewhat irritating, and those in between I find too short for me to really get a grip on. Nevertheless, Ekaterina Gubanova’s voice sounded gorgeous (right from the back of the circle), and she performed them with such charm and affinity for the music that it would have been impossible not to enjoy.

I have mixed feelings about the second half. Shostakovich 10 is one of my all-time favourites, and I know it very very well. On the positive side, I think this is such a wonderful symphony that it would have to be a poor performance indeed (which this obviously wasn’t) for me not to be moved; on the negative, I couldn’t help picking up various tiny errors that in most pieces I would probably miss. Also, as a result of having performed it a few times, I found myself unintentionally focusing even more attention than usual on the woodwind section, and in particular the piccolo. All clearly excellent players, the micro-section ensemble playing (e.g. the three flutes) was very good indeed, but the and gelling within and between the orchestral sections perhaps less so. In general, the faster, louder passages worked the best — for example, the frenzied second movement was stunning — whereas the sparser passages sometimes could have done with a little more nuance of colour and dynamic, in particular, daring to drop down to a real pianissimo (which only the clarinets really did).

In an aside note, this was a particularly bad concert for selfish, arrogant audience behaviour. There have been various debates in various forums on the old clapping-between-movements chestnut, and although I’m firmly on the side of showing appreciation at the end of a piece of music rather than in the middle of it, I can see why sometimes, after a brilliant cadenza or particularly exciting movement, applause might be spontaneous, and on rare occasions, even welcome. But how can anyone listen to the magical time-stopping piccolo solo that ends the first movement and hangs in the air, and then want to break up the brief pregnant silence before the second movement launches, by slapping their hands together? And if only the clapping was all… While I’m very much in favour of letting children experience orchestral music from an early age, for the sake of other audience members who have parted with their hard-earned cash to hear some music, it might be worth waiting until said child is capable of sitting quietly for more than five minutes at a time. And if Shostakovich had wished the quiet, contemplative moments of his symphony to include the chattering of some teenage girls, he probably would have written it into the score. Yes, I’m touchy about this. But I do think it’s both disrespectful to the musicians pouring their hearts out on stage, and selfish to assume that your conversation is important enough to be worth disturbing the listening experience of the people around you. Anyway, in this case the talkers were sitting right in front of me, so it was not difficult to lean over and politely request they keep their voices down during the music. And then tell them again, less politely. And then administer a quick kick to the seat when they started up yet again.

Rant over 🙂

PROM 21: Berlioz, Wagner

A bit of a mixture, this one. At some points it sounded sublime, at others, frankly, a bit ropey. Simon Rattle’s interpretation of the score and shaping of the music was superb, and there were a lot of lovely sounds coming from the OAE, particularly the warm, rounded    tone of the strings. However, Wagner’s woodwind writing can be tricky in terms of intonation, and unfortunately there were moments where this showed; in the brass, there was great enthusiasm, which sometimes incurred the sacrifice of accuracy. (These issues, interestingly, did not show up in the Berlioz at all.)

Of the singers, Franz-Josef Selig was a wonderful rich, dark King Mark, and the other highlight was Sarah Connolly’s Brangäne, with a particularly wonderful moment being her voice echoing down from the castle tower (i.e. Gallery). Violeta Urmana’s Isolde sometimes seemed underpowered — although I’m quite prepared to believe this was due to the vagaries of the Albert Hall acoustic — and unfortunately, Ben Heppner appeared to be in some vocal distress at the upper end of the vocal range; however, they both pulled out all the stops for So sturben wir, the heart of the act, to great emotional effect.

PROM 35: Ligeti, Tchaikovsky, Langgaard, Sibelius

“Countless thorns: silence. My silence: the beating of my heart … Night.” So began tonight’s concert, with Ligeti’s setting of Sándor Weöres’s poem Ejszaka (Night). Introspective in feel, and with every word of the text described in the harmony and texture, it set the scene for what at times was quite an other-wordly evening of music. While this short piece and its companion, Reggel (Morning) show the young Ligeti exploring tone clusters and harmonic layering, they provided opportunity for the double choir to display a variety of tone colours, dynamic changes and rhythmic vocal effects.

As Night segued smoothly into Morning, so did Ligeti into Tchaikovsky. With only the tiniest of pauses, Thomas Dausgaard directed his attention from choir to orchestra, Henning Kraggerud appeared as if from nowhere, and before anyone had had time to even think of coughing, shuffling or clapping their hands, the concerto had started. This was more musically effective than one might have expected, perhaps due to the Ligeti ending on the notes D and A, and the violin concerto being in D major… [read more here]

PROM 41: Scriabin, Stravinsky

I nearly didn’t go to this concert. And that would have been a mistake, because it was absolutely wonderful. However, at some point during the afternoon it occurred to me: LSO – Gergiev – Firebird – er, what were you thinking? So after my meeting I jumped on the tube, legged it down to South Ken, and totally prommed it like it was the 1980s. By that I mean, up in the Gallery (with a cooling breeze and loads of personal space), lying down on the floor with my eyes shut (because I have no need to look at another orchestra – I see orchestras all the time and they usually look much the same), alone (because when I was a teen I knew even less people who shared my taste for 20th century orchestral music than I do now), and even with some chocolate and a detective novel for the interval. Great stuff.

And brilliant music, yes. I didn’t know a note of the Scriabin, so think perhaps I won’t even try to go into any descriptive detail – I just allowed myself to be swept away by it. Firebird, though, I know well – it was probably the first piece that really turned me on to Stravinsky, but also it’s one of the orchestral flute parts* I’ve spent the most hours practising, as it is bloody difficult. (Well, it was difficult for me – daresay it’s a piece of cake for Gareth Davies!) Anyway, this was a well-nigh perfect performance of it: that so-important precision of rhythm and ensemble, coupled with equally-important fire, energy and fluidity. Also, while it can be impressive when sections blend smoothly (e.g. at last week’s DNSO concert), for this kind of music, each of the instruments must have its own character that stands out from the rest, and this was very much the case here – and throughout the orchestra from top to bottom, too. However, deserving special mention… some absolutely stunning oboe playing from  Emanuel Abbühl** (and I’ve heard a lot of very good oboing in my time) and gorgeous molten lava firebird-ing from Gareth Davies, particularly in their Pas de Deux (ok, technically Ivan and the Firebird’s P de D). Sparks flying from Sharon Williams on pic,  contrabassoons like a bad tempered lion waking up after a heavy night at the oasis***, and if I go on I’ll end up listing the whole orchestra. LSO are ace, and so is Gergiev, and so is Stravinsky. And all for £5! It’s times like these I love London.

* Suite (1945 version) in a 2008 Whitehall concert

** Couldn’t see a damn thing from where I was, so assuming all woodwind soloists were as indicated in programme. Please let me know if inaccurate.

*** From the LSO’s entertaining and informative blog

PROM 43: Pärt (St John Passion)

Arvo Pärt began work on his setting of the St John Passion in 1980, the point at which, frustrated by the demands of Soviet officialdom, he finally left his native Estonia and moved his family to Austria. His original and distinctive mature compositional style, known as tintinnabuli, however, was by this time well established, and of which this piece is a prime example. Pärt said “I have discovered that it is enough when a single note is beautifully played. This one note, or a silent beat, or a moment of silence, comforts me.” Passio, of course, is not entirely monophonic, but the musical forces and their deployment are comparatively spare, with nothing extraneous.

Large portions of the text – those narrating the unfolding events – rested on the shoulders of the quartet of voices who together represented the Evangelist. Micaela Haslam (soprano) is familiar from her group Synergy Vocals (regular collaborators with Steve Reich), has an impeccable record in performing and directing the work of contemporary composers, and her performance of Pärt was as perfectly-judged an interpretation as one would expect from an expert in the field… [read more here]

PROM 46: Mosolov, Pärt, Ravel, Scriabin

This concert was a little different from the others in that I didn’t know any of the pieces well, and the composers are not favourites of mine, but all in the I-should-probably-listen-to-more-of-their-stuff-as-I-might-quite-like-it category.

If you want to get an audience’s attention right from the start, Mosolov’s The Foundry is a good way to go about it. Great fun. My companion’s comment was “This piece should be played at every concert – it’s brilliant.” Me, I’m wondering about hire costs, and if I can get it onto the programme for one of the orchestras I play with?

Pärt is definitely a composer I’ve been meaning for a long time to investigate further, but although I very much enjoyed his St John Passion on Tuesday night, his 4th Symphony left me a little cold, although it had some lovely passages, and it seemed most of the audience were in raptures. Will give it another go on iPlayer, but I expect I’ll like it better when it’s complete, and he’s added all the brass and woodwind parts. Or perhaps he wrote them, but the printer ran out of ink halfway, and they thought because it was the UK premiere, nobody would know any better.*

I expect Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand is one of the pieces familiar to everyone but me. Frankly, half the notes in the fast passages could have been wrong and I wouldn’t have known (although I’m assuming they weren’t), but it was, again, a lot of fun, and performed with great energy and a fair dollop of showmanship by Bavouzet. From our East Choir seats we had an excellent view of his left hand flying up and down, which was very entertaining, although perhaps made me listen to the music in quite a different way than I would have with no view. Thinking about it, I probably even listen differently to musicians if I’m watching them from the front or back: sitting behind an orchestra makes me feel like I’m a part of it, and with a conductor face-on I watch him or her too closely, catching myself filling my lungs on upbeats, etc., so it’s not unreasonable to suppose different parts of the brain might be activated by the different views. I also noticed for the first time how intricate Salonen’s hand and finger movements are when conducting – interesting, but I don’t necessarily want to be observing and analysing in this way at concerts.

My only prior relationship with Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy was that I once had to sight-read the 1st flute part, and was concentrating too hard on the rather black pages to be thinking about whether I actually liked the work or not. Fortunately, it turns out I do like it. And despite my reservations about watching music being played rather than devoting myself entirely to the auditory experience,  it did also benefit from the visual spectacle of all the speed-blurred fingers and bows, a conductor practically dancing on the podium, and the will-they-won’t-they precarious wobbling of the giant tubular bells whenever the percussion chap gave them a wallop with the hammers (which was frequently and energetically). In fact, the Philharmonia percussion section were particularly impressive throughout the concert, with other stand-outs being the trumpet(s), horns, and cor anglais.

* I feel the need to point out that this is not meant seriously. In the interval, we were making tongue-in-cheek comments about members of the percussion section having an easy job, just hitting a big drum with a stick now and then while the string players had lots of different notes, and got a telling off from a nearby audience member who happened to be a percussionist, righteously indignant about any perceived dissing of his section.

“NOW THEN MR MAHLER, ARE YOU HAVING A LAUGH?”

The amazing combination of Mahler’s powerful first symphony with the world’s best classical music comedian, Rainer Hersch. The first half will be Rainer’s inimitable and hilarious musical comedy (involving a full orchestra), then it’s all change for the second half as we play the titanic first symphony by Gustav Mahler.

Mahler: Symphony No.1 in D (‘Titan’)

Peter Fender and Rainer Hersch (Conductors)

Sunday 11 July 2010, 6:30 pm (sic)

St John’s Church, Waterloo Road
London SE1 8TY

Further info:
www.ph-br.co.uk

Dvorak: Cello Concerto (with Leonid Gorokhov)
Mahler: Symphony No.6

7.00 pm, Sunday 29 Nov 2009

St John’s Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA