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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Classical music

Saturday July 07 2018

In an earlier posting this week I said I was about to have a – by my indolent standards - busy few days.  It certainly didn’t help that I picked about the hottest week London has experienced in a long time for all this gadding about.

Earlier in the week I did some socialising with GodDaughter 2, and on Friday, it was her official graduation ceremony.  In my eyes (and to my ears) she had graduated already, with her graduation recital, but on Friday the Royal College of Music made it official.

I took a ton of photos, of which this was just one:

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That’s the Official Photoer, photoing all the soon-to-be-graduates, and presumably quite a lot of us friends and family behind as well, just before the stage filled up with RCM grandees, and the speechifying and graduating got under way.

And here is just one of the (us) unofficial photoers, together with a couple more that you can make out above and beyond this lady:

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I’ve taken many, many more photos in the last few days, over five hundred at that graduation ceremony alone and many more besides, but those two will have to do for now.

I’m knackered.

Sunday July 01 2018

I remember when there was no way to learn about interesting and admirable conductors, other than just listen to their performances and gawp at their photos on record sleeves.  Now there is Twitter.

E-PS’s thoughts about leaving New York, as reported by the New York Times, can be read here.

And here is a photo taken by E-PS as (or perhaps just with which) he said Bye to New York, on June 15th.  From a ship?  An airport?  A motorway service station?  His Hew York home?  A friend’s home?  A friend’s boat?  Here’s a horizontal slice of that photo:

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Click on Bye above, and get to the original photo, as tweeted.  It’s nothing special.  Not super-high-definition.  Not professional.  Taken with his smartphone would be my guess.  But so often, amateur photos like this can be amazingly evocative.  They give you a sense of what the place is really like, when what the pros show is is what they want it to have been like.

The tallest tower is presumably the replacement for the Twin Towers.  Which I miss, even though I’ve never been anywhere near them.  Only seen them in movies.

Friday June 29 2018

Yes. Last night I went to the RFH, to see and hear Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct Schoenberg’s mighty Gurrelieder, something Salonen has done at the RFH, with the same orchestra, before.  GodDaughter 2 was somewhere off in the distance, singing in the chorus, and had got me a seat near the front.  So although I still heard lots of seats creaking and programmes flapping and coughers coughing, I also heard Schoenberg.  And only Schoenberg, when Gurrelieder got loud, as it often does.

What a piece!  If all you know about Schoenberg is twelve tone discordancy, all passion spent, but on the other hand if you like how the likes of Wagner and Mahler and Debussy sound when they get really worked up, then if you’ve not done so already, you really should check out Gurrelieder.  Likewise Verklarte Nacht, if you like Brahms chamber music.  Schoenberg greatly admired Brahms, I believe.  When GD2 told me about this Gurrelieder concert, I mentioned Verklarte Nacht to her and she tried it, and loved it.

So, what does Gurrelieder sound like?  Try: Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde meets Zombie Warrior Apocalypse meets Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream turned nightmare, meets some mad Russian novel with mad drunkard clowns and with Ring Cycle theology inserted, meets (and ends with) Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.  Hence GD2 and her friends, singing in the chorus at the end.

I don’t go to many live concerts, but I am extremely glad that I went to this one, long and interval-less though it was.  And there is now something particularly odd about my concert-going history.  The dullest performance of a great piece of music I have ever witnessed (Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at a Prom) and the most exciting performance of a great piece (this), were both of them conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

I think this says something both about Beethoven and about Gurrelieder.  If you just play the notes, exactly right, when playing a Beethoven symphony, but are not excited by the idea of playing this piece yet again and wanting people to like it yet again, the result is totally boring.  Playing the notes exactly right (which in my opinion is a much under-rated musical virtue) is Esa-Pekka Salonen’s particular speciality, so his Beethoven 9, a piece the performance of which, yet again, seemed not to interest him, was the definition of tedium.  But if you play the notes, exactly right, of Gurrelieder, and if you are interested in performing it, once again, and want everyone present to be astounded, then it is astounding.  It has a lot of notes, and they are really difficult to master and play, all exactly right, all together, all as loud or as quiet as they should be.  Salonen made all this happen, or so it sounded to me, and was also very excited about performing this amazing piece, once again.  Accordingly, the result was amazing.  As I thought it probably would be, because the less well known piece that Salonen also conducted at that Prom was almost as exciting as the Beethoven 9 that followed was crushingly dull.  And you are not going to supervise a performance of Gurrelieder unless you totally believe, as Esa-Pekka Salonen clearly did, that this is a piece that should be performed, once again.  Too much bother.  Far too much bother.

A great concert and a great occasion.  I was lucky to be there.  GD2 was even luckier to be actually performing in it.  I trust she realises this. Early emails following the concert suggest that she does.

Tuesday June 19 2018

On Saturday June 9th, I journeyed to Blackheath’s All Saints’ Church to hear GodDaughter 2 and three of her Royal College of Music comrades in song take it in turns each to sing a few of the songs they had already done or were about to do in their graduation recitals.  It was a fine event for all present, but for me it was particularly special, because, simply, I thought that GD2 sang so very well.  There was a security, strength and beauty to her voice that I’d never heard before, and she sold her songs, every nuance of which she clearly understood perfectly, with just the right amount of facial and bodily gesture, enough to really help, but never to distract from her now amazing voice.

GD2’s graduation recital was still to come, and in the next few days I asked myself if she really had been as good as I thought she had, and whether, if she had been, she’d reproduce this recently achieved level of excellence when there was so much more at stake.

It was this graduation recital that got me, last Thursday afternoon, photoing the statue of Prince Albert outside the Albert Hall (sadly it is easier to scroll down than follow that link).  In that posting, I mentioned, in passing, that I thought GD2’s recital had been very good.  Perhaps you thought that this was mere routine politeness on my part.  No.  It really was very good, indeed.

The recital happened in a rather large hall, way too large for the number of friends and family present.  In the middle, at the back, right in GD2’s eyeline, four RCM judges sat at desks in a silent row, giving her marks out of a hundred and writing comments that would decide her future.  At first, GD2 seemed understandably rather nervous.  But once she got into it, it was like Blackheath all over again, and if anything even better.  This was a far bigger venue to fill than that church, but she did this in a way that suggested she’d do the same in a place three or four times bigger.

Most of GD2’s recent performances that I’ve seen and heard have been in opera scenes, where she was mostly just singing along with others.  Which was fine, but it was hard to judge what personal progress she had been making.

It’s no good asking any of GD2’s fellow students what they think of her singing.  They’re great kids, but all part of what is so great about them is that they never share any doubts they may have about each other’s performing progress or prowess with a mere civilian such as I.  Which means that if they now think that GD2 is as good as I do, they have no way of telling me so that is fully convincing.  My only way of knowing if GD2 is as good as she has suddenly started sounding and looking to me is simply to listen very carefully, e.g. while shutting my eyes, and then to go with what I think I heard.  And what I think I heard, and saw, especially last Thursday, was the sort of singing that would have sounded absolutely fine if I and a five hundred and fifty others had paid to listen to it in a packed Wigmore Hall.

I have always liked and admired GD2.  And ever since she got into the RCM I have admired her even more.  Clearly there were classical singing experts who thought highly of her prospects, and that was hugely impressive.  But it was only at that Blackheath church, and then again last Thursday, that I was able to hear it and see it, fully, for myself.

Here are a couple of photos I took of GD2 last Thursday, in the RCM foyer, after her recital:

imageimageimage

As you can see, I wasn’t the only one photoing her.

There’s still a long way to go before GD2’s name is in lights and on the covers of CDs, and any number of knowns or unknowns could still stop all that.  What she is doing is like running in a marathon.  It’s still quite early in the race and the leading bunch in this marathon is still pretty big.  But, the point is: GD2 is still in that leading bunch.  She’s still a contender.

It helps that her voice, mezzo-soprano, is quite rare.  Regular sopranos, along with bass-baritones, are fairly common.  Mezzos and tenors, not so much, not good ones.

Thursday June 14 2018

Yes, here is the Royal Albert Hall, photoed by me this afternoon:

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That photo was taken early this afternoon.  I was there to hear GodDaughter2’s graduation recital in the Royal College of Music, which is just down the steps and across Prince Consort Road, south of the Albert Hall.  After I had heard GD2 do her singing, superbly, and after I and all her many other friends and family present had celebrated afterwards with her, I started to make my way home. 

Before leaving the vicinity of the College and the Albert Hall, I took more photos of the statue of Prince Albert that stands at the top of the steps, the other side of the Hall from the Albert Memorial.  In the photo above, you can hardly see the Prince Albert statue.  But later in the afternoon, the direction of the sunlight having altered, Albert was looking a lot better:

imageimageimage
imageimageimage

The Royal Albert Hall is looking particular fine just now, because scaffolding.

Thursday June 07 2018

This afternoon, I will journey to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, to see and hear the first night, no less, of Lohengrin.  It will be deep into the darkness of the evening before I journey back home.  It will take, I believe, the best part of four hours.

According to this Summary and Comment:

It is difficult to find a role which is more handsome than Lohengrin. This is the reason why “Lohengrin” gained popularity among opera fans. The entrance scene on stage by a magic swan boat, and the dialogue scene with Elsa are outstanding.

In addition, the music of the scene of Elsa and Lohengrin’s wedding is known as the Wedding March. You can hear this March at many weddings these days.

That’s the conclusion of the comment bit about Lohengrin.

At the beginning of the summary bit, we learn that Lohengrin is set in “the first half of the tenth century”.

But if this ROH graphic (see here) is anything to go by, it will look, this evening, like this:

image

But, he’s holding a sword.  And notice that shadow.  With luck, this will be effective rather than clunky, mindful rather than mindless updating of the setting.  I shall see.

And hear.  What I hear will not be updated and made more relevant.  That I can already be sure of.

Tuesday May 29 2018

The photos here were taken in nicer weather, by a much better photoer than me.

But my photo is better, because my photo has … cranes:

image

I have visited this place several times in the last few days, each time in the evening, each time attempting to buy a certain CD at nearby Foyles.  Twice I was frustrated.  First, because I misidentified the closing time of Foyles, on some obsolete website I think it must have been.  Then, I forgot that yesterday was a bank holiday.  Finally, today, I got my CD, and several other cheaper ones from their second-hand collection.

And, this evening, I finally got the photo I wanted of this tube exit, and its cranes.  The key to it was: I had my camera ready to go when I stepped onto the escalator.  And then when I wasn’t sure I had what I wanted, I went back down again, and up again.  The trick was, taking the photo from near the bottom of the escalator, so that both cranes were included.

In addition to being willing sometimes to look like a perve, a photoer must also be willing sometimes to look like a prat.

Wednesday May 23 2018

So I went to Foyle’s this evening, to buy this but got there too late, and then went food shopping in order to confer meaningfulness on an otherwise meaningless expedition.  So then I was tired, but managed to write a posting for here, but then it turned into a Samizdata posting, which I will post tomorrow, or maybe not, because I always sleep on Samizdata postings nowadays, because that always makes them better, or not.  So now it’s tomorrow morning and I have nothing for here, so here is a photo I took through the new entrance to Tottenham Court Road tube station:

image

I like that time of the evening, or the early morning come to that, when natural light and artificial light are in some balance.

Centre Point has had a total makeover and been turned into posh flats.  But, it looks exactly as it always did.

So …
The Castalian String Quartet at the Wigmore Hall last night
ENO Traviata dress rehearsal
A temporary RCM corridor – the inside and the outside
South Kensington roof clutter
A face and some windows
The light and the lights of Victoria Station
Classic tweet
Michael Fabiano does a Master Class at the Royal College
Getting old – BBC Music – Lego Tower Bridge – etc.
The great Classical CD Holocaust of December 2017: The struggle continues
Ashes lost – CDs soaked - cranes in the sunset
Adam Zamoyski on Pilsudski
Ashes to virtual Ashes
David Starkey on how Handel trumped Shakespeare
Is Martha Argerich about to go solo again?
Rodelinda at the ENO tomorrow evening
Solid light
Gerald Elias on classical music performance style(s)
While England were winning the World Cup I was photoing adolescent swans
I don’t know whether it’s the weather or my camera
Nice events – shame about the weather
Sculpture with greenery
One Kemble Street and its roof clutter as seen from the ROH floating bar
How Michael Tanner both misunderstands and understands Turandot
Doing what I have to do
Just how Polish Chopin was and how he played
Heat
A recital by GodDaughter 2 at the Royal College of Music
Liking the sound that it makes
Stabat Mater at St Stephen’s Gloucester Road
Gloucester Road with evening sun
Die Meistersinger was very good
ROH Covent Garden here I come
The god that failed
Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
An Underground sermon
Opera North’s Ring
A sign in a bus and the same sign malfunctioning
Trumping the Opera House
A list of well-known currently performing classical pianists
A new stadium for Chelsea
A vanished CD and a more tidy home
An enlarged Dinky Toy in Belgravia
John Croft: Composition is not research
Pletnev plays Haydn and I own it!
Art comment
I want to write more here about music
Wonderful
Mozart’s Requiem in Narbonne
John Cage does Sudoku
A bus ride and tea versus one of the best concert halls in the world
Bach’s development of the most intense musical vision from a straitened environment
A machine for playing in that nobody knows how to design
I slept right through it
Ronald Harwood on Karajan
On clapping in between movements at classical concerts
Out and about with GD1 (3): Baritone borrows my charger
Church not dwarfed by anything
Paul Johnson on Mozart and Da Ponte
Ruddigore in Blackfriars
Customer service
Paul Johnson on what the young Mozart was up against
An interesting front page story
Snohetta does zig zag roofs for competitive cities
Going from knowing a piece of music to also knowing what it is
The ROH bar and its floating-in-the-air drinkers
Incidental Last Friday details
To Covent Garden (1): The twisty footbridge
Photoing at the ASI party
The Magic Flute at the RCM
Pavarotti could not read music (very well)
The man who photoed the CDs in Gramex this afternoon
On the unappealingness of classical music on the internet
Having a baby can change or ruin your voice
A speculation about why Great Conductors carry on for so long
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom musical quote of the day
PID at the Times
Vespa GS in Lower Marsh
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
Noah – Cosi at the Imax – Big Blue Cock
Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
Classical Amazon
Christopher Seaman on conducting
The ROH from the ME Rooftop Bar
Bits of music at non-musical blogs
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Quotes from there
Amazon pricing puzzle
Steve Davies talk last night
Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
Classical CDs from Gramex
Big London Things with clutter in the foreground
A (slightly delayed) Happy New Year
England squeak through against Scotland
Knowing it but not knowing it
76 operas and a monument in the wrong place for Hermann the German
Bizarre History - Johannes Brahms did not murder cats
Shostakovich with cat
An amazon reviewer defends Alex Ross
Mozart might have become a criminal
Dawkins does better sound than God ever did
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
A down and up weekend
Only up to some random linkage and a little felinity
Unusual leg extension
Biker shadow
An after-echo of the creation of the world - Burgon recycles Milhaud
How building St Peter’s Rome split the Catholic Church and how marzipan was invented in Luebeck
Scrounging Englishmen and stories too good to check
Quotes dump
Alex Ross on Sibelius
Llyr Williams and Llyr Williams play Bach
Slumponomics
MP3 Haydn symphonies
Ingrid Fliter has a problem with the piano
Our shortening atten … ooh look!
On Bernstein – and Previn
Handel in London – and an angelic tenor aria
“. . . and the air froze . . .”
“Dying is a fulltime business. You haven’t time to do a lap of honour.”
A little drunk blogging
On not seeing Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra
Leonidas Kavakos (and a pianist) at the Wigmore Hall
Further thoughts on Karajan’s conducting
Watching Karajan
Lang Lang crushes Yundi Li!
Cheap CDs and sopranos I’ve never heard of
Solo piano solace – John Lenehan
Mahler’s 9th in Vienna in 1938
Gramophone are putting their back catalogue of articles online for free
On classical music voice addiction
Nigel Kennedy’s amazing Elgar
Tea with CDs
Oddities and specialisms
Dominic Lawson on Herbert von Karajan
You tend to listen more carefully when something might go badly wrong
Sounding like a different country
Exciting posting about shelves
New classical music venue just down the road from Kings Cross Supplementary
The Rite of Spring sounds to me like technology rather than nature
Toshiba’s violin playing robot
Me talking about the great twentieth century musical divide
Eee PC and Brahms CDs
Pianists conducting themselves
The great DVD packaging clearout
Michael Jennings photos Disney Hall
Taking the recording studio into the concert hall
Humphrey Searle’s Hamlet is the worst Shakespeare opera ever
Photos - four transport - two artistic
At the dogs
Lots of links
Classical under-15s
Friends of Slava
How compulsion deranges the spreading of ideas
Slava dies
The Emperor Quartet at Conway Hall
Lost Bach
Comparing classical music with modern architecture
Lebrecht daily?
Glenn Gould on the hereafter
The Joyce Hatto affair - no big deal
Incognito
Cats and keyboards
He likes it - but does he understand it?
How Stephen Hough took a nap during a piano concerto (that he was playing)
The future of music
Normblogging
Harold C. Shonberg on how to perform Bach
Dutilleux piano music on Naxos
Other people’s photos (2): New architecture in Hamburg
Fixating on particular recorded performances
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Superb Simon Hewitt Jones gig – and a couple of blogger gripes
Me and Alex talking Gilbert and Sullivan
What next for the virtuoso violinists? - Simon Hewitt Jones has some answers
More G&S - and some strange Times errors
John Holloway plays unaccompanied Bach on the baroque violin
The Pirates opens in New York
Sullivan and Grove find some Schubert diamonds
At least I got today’s obligatory posting done before midnight
Feeling Much Better
Heifetz on YouTube
Alex talks (clearly) with me (not so clear) about classical music
Bang! Bang!
Frederick May
As if for the first time
All hail to the Rolling Stones assembly line
Samizdata cranks it out
A little transport history
Classical music Natalie
Alex is too busy - Sting records Dowland songs
Alex and Brian’s latest classical music mp3 – Saint-Saëns etc.
Zehetmair plays the Brahms
Alex and Brian talk classical music mp3 number two
Bartók outside South Kensington tube
One click
Jeffrey Bernard is unwell but very entertaining
This month’s Alex and Brian mp3 about classical music
Debussy denounces Massenet but Puccini follows him
Beneath the treble line with the Voglers
Another mp3 - Alex and Brian talk classical music
Giving up rouge for Lisbon
Armando Iannucci on going to classical concerts - and me on not bothering
Sergei Khachatryan plays Shostakovich Violin Concerto 1
Another Natalie
British villainy
Charles Rosen on Richard Taruskin and on the socially unbound nature of some of the greatest music
Lazar Berman’s Rachmaninov 3
Toaster
I don’t know the score
More about music bingeing
Thoughts on habits and on killer apps
Christmas with Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues
Thoughts after watching Abbado’s Lucerne Resurrection Symphony
The Elgar/Walker piano concerto and the future of “classical” music
This and that at 9.07am
David Zinman – Thomas Adès – Howard Shelley
Boulez
Benjamin Nabarro and the Belmont Ensemble