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Classical-Music.com

Freya Parr The Gabrieli Consort rise to the occasion in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen

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Purcell 
The Fairy Queen 
Carolyn Sampson, Anna Dennis, Mhairi Lawson, Ashley Riches, Roderick Williams; Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh
Signum Classics SIGCD615 139:03mins (2 discs) 

 

'McCreesh’s production rises to the occasion: original voicing, unorthodox continuo, project- specific trumpet design and rediscovered string techniques bring out qualities missing from earlier recordings. Purcell’s hornpipes were never livelier, nor his chaconnes statelier, than in this performance.'

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Freya Parr Nominations for 2020 RPS Awards open today

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The Royal Philharmonic Society has announced that its annual awards will take place in November of this year with a digital awards presentation. It is hoped that a live ceremony will take place when social distancing rules permit. 

As well as the usual categories, the RPS has added several new Inspiration Awards, for artists and organisations that have flourished during lockdown and created innovative ways to continue their music-making. 

These awards will be voted for by the public – a first for the RPS. 

To cast your votes in this year’s RPS Awards, click here. Nominations will stay open until Wednesday 26 August.  

 

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Freya Parr BBC announces new ‘remote-access’ documentary about the Kanneh-Mason family

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The BBC has announced the extension of its Culture in Quarantine programming. 

A new documentary celebrating cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his family will be included as part of Alan Yentob’s imagine… series on BBC One. It will be the first ‘remote access’ film in the series, with a camera and lighting rig installed remotely in the Kanneh-Masons’ home and video messaging used to record interviews. The programme will explore the family’s music-making during lockdown. 

A new documentary about the late conductor Bernard Haitink will be broadcast on BBC Four, created by renowned documentary maker John Bridcut. 

Another musical legend will be captured in a documentary this summer, with British composer Benjamin Britten the subject of a new documentary created in collaboration with the Aldeburgh Festival. The programme includes contributions from David Attenborough and Humphrey Burton, among others.  

In June, the Royal Opera House will launch ‘Live from Covent Garden’, a series of three concerts, the first of which will be broadcast in full on BBC Radio 3. Highlights from all three concerts will be shown on BBC TV.

 

 

The first concert will take place at 7.30pm on 13 June and will feature works by Britten, Handel, Butterworth and Mark-Anthony Turnage, with guest artists including soprano Louise Alder and tenors Toby Spence and Gerald Finley.  

A series of operas will be made available on BBC iPlayer from opera houses which have had to cancel their summer seasons due to lockdown and social distancing restrictions. Performances will include Glyndebourne’s The Barber of Seville, Garsington’s TheTurn of the Screw and The Marriage of Figaro and Opera North’s La traviata. 

In light of the fact that this year’s Edinburgh International Festival cancellation, BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a summer of archive concerts from Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall.

Beethoven continues to play a central role in the BBC’s 2020 programming, with a four-part series on BBC Four and an audio-drama featuring Peter Capaldi playing Beethoven himself. As will be the case for the rest of the great composer’s 250th anniversary year, every second week of Composer of the Week will be dedicated to Beethoven. 

 

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Freya Parr BBC announces new ‘remote-access’ documentary about the Kanneh-Mason family

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The BBC has announced the extension of its Culture in Quarantine programming. 

A new documentary celebrating cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and his family will be included as part of Alan Yentob’s imagine… series on BBC One. It will be the first ‘remote access’ film in the series, with a camera and lighting rig installed remotely in the Kanneh-Masons’ home and video messaging used to record interviews. The programme will explore the family’s music-making during lockdown. 

A new documentary about the late conductor Bernard Haitink will be broadcast on BBC Four, created by renowned documentary maker John Bridcut. 

Another musical legend will be captured in a documentary this summer, with British composer Benjamin Britten the subject of a new documentary created in collaboration with the Aldeburgh Festival. The programme includes contributions from David Attenborough and Humphrey Burton, among others.  

In June, the Royal Opera House will launch ‘Live from Covent Garden’, a series of three concerts, the first of which will be broadcast in full on BBC Radio 3. Highlights from all three concerts will be shown on BBC TV.  

The first concert will take place at 7.30pm on 13 June and will feature works by Britten, Handel, Butterworth and Mark-Anthony Turnage, with guest artists including soprano Louise Alder and tenors Toby Spence and Gerald Finley.  

A series of operas will be made available on BBC iPlayer from opera houses which have had to cancel their summer seasons due to lockdown and social distancing restrictions. Performances will include Glyndebourne’s The Barber of Seville, Garsington’s TheTurn of the Screw and The Marriage of Figaro and Opera North’s La traviata. 

In light of the fact that this year’s Edinburgh International Festival cancellation, BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a summer of archive concerts from Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall.

Beethoven continues to play a central role in the BBC’s 2020 programming, with a four-part series on BBC Four and an audio-drama featuring Peter Capaldi playing Beethoven himself. As will be the case for the rest of the great composer’s 250th anniversary year, every second week of Composer of the Week will be dedicated to Beethoven. 

 

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Freya Parr Royal Opera House violinist curates album for Help Musicians UK during lockdown

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With most freelance musicians having lost work during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, London-based violinist Amelia Conway-Jones has started the Musicians for Musicians fundraising campaign, with all proceeds going to Help Musicians. The project has already raised nearly £16,000.

The fundraising campaign will culminate in an album featuring tracks from a wide range of musical genres and disciplines. ‘Musicians for Musicians: Many Voices on a Theme of Isolation’ will feature contributions from violinists Rachel Podger, Madeleine Mitchell and Fenella Humphreys. Joining them will be artists from the worlds of folk, rock, world music, electronic, jazz and hip-hop. 

Half the album’s proceeds will go to the performing artists, and the other half to Help Musicians. 

Nearly all the tracks have been recorded for the album by the artists in their respective homes, with bands recording their parts separately and mixing them together. 

Amelia Conway-Jones is a violinist with the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, and has also worked with the Philharmonic Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra.

 

 

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Freya Parr The concert halls that are reopening following the coronavirus lockdown

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Vienna Philharmonic

The Vienna Philharmomnic will return to the Musikverein on 5 June to resume live performances with audiences. Audiences will be restricted to a maximum of 100 guests, all of whom will be required to wear a mask.

Concerts will be no longer than 70 minutes without an interval.

The orchestra's first concert back in the hall will be Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, led and conducted by pianist Daniel Barenboim.

There will be no puiblic sale of tickets: all tickets will go to family members and supporters of the orchestra. Subscription concerts will resume in October.

 

 

BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall

Although the first six weeks of this year's BBC Proms will be held online, with a series of archive concerts, the BBC is hoping to be able to move back into London's Royal Albert Hall for the final two weeks of the season from 28 August. 

More info here.

 

 

Ravenna Festival, Italy

The Italian festival will restart from 21 June, with its opening concert led by Riccardo Muti at the open-air 15th-century fortress, Rocca Brancaleone. Its programme has been amended since the coronavirus lockdown, and will be announced in due course. 

 

 

Basque National Orchestra

A short series of eight concerts will be performed by a smaller ensemble of around 50 musicians, all of whom will be following social distancing guidelines. Masks will be compulsory until musicians go on stage, and a 2m distance must be maintained at all times. The wind and percussion sections will be surrounded by protective screens.

Although there will still be no audiences, each concert will be recorded and broadcast on Saturday mornings at 11am from 30 May on ETB2. 

Works by Haydn, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Mozart and Richard Strauss are on the programmes. 

It is the first orchestra in Spain to be returning to the stage.

 

 

This list will be regularly updated. If there are any we have missed, please contact freya.parr@immediate.co.uk.

 

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Freya Parr BBC Proms to return with a virtual festival and two weeks of live concerts

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This year’s BBC Proms will feature a raft of archive material on radio, TV and online, with hopes of moving back into London’s Royal Albert Hall for the last two weeks of the season for live concerts, depending on lockdown restrictions and social distancing guidelines.

The season will kick off with a world premiere by Iain Farrington, performed by virtual orchestra. The work will be a ‘mash-up’ of all Beethoven’s nine symphonies, to tie in with the great composer’s 250th anniversary this year.

The following six weeks will feature concerts from the extensive BBC Proms archive.

From 28 August, the BBC Proms team hopes to move into the Royal Albert Hall, ‘culminating in a poignant and unique Last Night of the Proms to bring the nation together’.

The news comes after many festivals and concerts across the globe have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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Freya Parr 16-year-old Fang Zhang wins Percussion Final of BBC Young Musician 2020

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16-year-old Fang Zhang has won the BBC Young Musician Percussion Final, and will progress through to the semi-final of the competition where he will be up against pianist Thomas Lukeoboist Ewan Miller and French horn player Annemarie Federle, as well as the winner of the Strings Final, which will be broadcast next weekend. 

Fang Zhang moved to the UK from China to study at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. At the Percussion Final, he performed Piazzolla’s much-loved Libertango, arranged for marimba and piano by Nunoya, and Csaba Zoltán Marján’s Niflheim for solo marimba. He was praised for his lightness of touch and broad dynamic range.

He was up against four other finalists including 16-year-old Lewis Kentaro Isaacs, who currently attends the Purcell School. He performed John Psathas’s One Study One Summer, a work for mixed percussion including marimba, cymbals and pots and pans. He also played Pius Cheung’s Etude in E minor for solo marimba. 

 

 

17-year-old Alexander Pullen returned to the competition having reached the Percussion Final in 2018. Since competing last time, he has started as Eton College as a music scholar. He commissioned a new work to perform at this year’s competition: Crystal Projections by Jago Thornton, Eton College’s composer in residence. He paired this new piece with Lynn Glassock’s Motion for mixed percussion. 

Another returner to the competition was 18-year-old Toril Azzalini-Machecler, who studies at the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music. He performed Le corps à corps by Aperghis, a piece for Zarb (a Persian drum) and voice and featured fast, frenetic outbursts in French. 

18-year-old Isaac Harari from the Latymer School in London also attends the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music on weekends and shares a teacher with fellow finalist Toril Azzalini-Machecler. His programme included the first movement of Sergei Golovko’s Russian Marimba Concerto and Michio Kitazume’s Side by Side for various drums. 

 

 

The Percussion Final judging panel included Simone Rebello, director of percussion at the Royal Northern College of Music, and Julian Warburton, professor of percussion at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Angela Dixon returned to the panel as chair of all the category finals.

Presenter Anna Lapwood was joined on this week’s programme by Owen Gunnell, who won the Percussion Final in 2000. 

This week’s instalment of Jess Gillam’s regular ‘in conversations’ series was with BBC Young Musician 2010 Percussion winner Lucy Landymore, who, since winning, has gone on to perform in Hans Zimmer’s orchestra on tour.

 

 

The semi-final and grand final are scheduled to take place in autumn. 

On Sunday 31 May, the Strings Final will take place, with three violinists, a cellist and harpist in the line-up. 

 

Watch the highlights of the percussion final here and watch the complete performances here.

 

 

 

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Freya Parr A tribute to pianist Hamish Milne

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As I take my more frequent strolls around the tranquil streets of my neighbourhood during lockdown, I notice small details about the houses, the architecture, a tree or a sign that has passed unchecked before. Life in the time of a pandemic has thrown up so many questions: existential, personal and of course practical. But, once you’ve tussled with the bizarre day-to-day quandaries of finding ways to use all the ingredients in the fridge or negotiating a successful Zoom conversation with three generations of your family, the really important questions still remain. As a musician or any creative person, it is very easy to feel defined by what we do. What do we do when that is suddenly taken away? Who are we really? Who were we before all this? ‘Time’ has opened up for questions that have been revealing and provoking.

I used to joke with a friend about being in search of the ‘Second Simplicity’: the idea of expression being distilled down to its essence, or a purity that had shed any unnecessary exaggeration. I aspired to it but can’t say it came naturally to a passionate, hot-headed young musician. Perhaps, on a subconscious level, that aspiration drew me to my professor at the Royal Academy of Music, Hamish Milne.

There must have been a bout of ear infection going around the staff when I took my entrance exam at the RAM as I was awarded a scholarship that gave me the chance to a request a teacher. I remember playing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 109 at my consultation lesson with Hamish. There was an integrity, a sincerity and a pragmatism about his teaching that I found instantly appealing – a suitable foil for my unfocused albeit intuitive musicianship.

I studied the piano at the Royal Academy of Music with Hamish Milne between 1994 and 1999. I’m sure my love of music was never in doubt – and I hope infectious. Certainly, I was easily seduced to join myriad chamber music groups and my enthusiasm for that repertoire likely smothered some of the attention I should have offered my solo playing. I was ultimately more fascinated with music than playing the piano, particularly the collaborative aspects of music: the discussions, rehearsals and coffee appealed to me more than the solitary hours, weeks and months of dedicated practice (and coffee).

Hamish, however, seemed to relish the challenge of meeting students on their own terms, ’I don’t really have a method, I listen to what the students do and I try and help them to do it better’. In fact he would often say, ‘That’s fine but could you just play it… better!’. Hamish wasn’t a teacher who would take you under his wing. He was someone who would watch the clumsy flapping of first flight and then coax out something more streamlined, which might allow you to soar. The environment of listening and being listened to is one of things for which I am most grateful, although I did realise it in retrospect. I’ve found from personal experience that some of the brightest lightbulb moments as a musician have come as ‘souvenirs’ – a suggestion, observation or piece of advice that suddenly clicks into the cranial cog years later.

I’m fond of the image that a teacher’s raison d’etre is to hold the door open and allow the pupil to walk through. I’m not sure I always had the self-discipline to walk through myself; sometimes I had the impression that Hamish was standing waving me on and I would remain rooted at the threshold. Despite my off-piste diversions, I taught myself to revel in the possibilities offered by the piano. Clearly Hamish was far more precocious than I was, but he similarly described brilliantly his love for the piano as ‘access to music’, explaining how he had played through orchestral and opera scores as a teenager, hungrily devouring the music that excited him. For him the keyboard was the portal to those different worlds.

Hamish’s passing in February this year had a strong effect on me. I was in the middle of a rehearsal for an evening concert at St George’s in Bristol when I heard. I can’t pretend to have known Hamish on a very personal level, but I’ve not met many people who exude so much musical honesty and humility. His slightly gangly frame was easily distinguishable in the corridors of the Academy and I had the impression that he commanded respect from all. His laconic remarks were peppered with a sharp wit that he sometimes deployed in the face of falseness or hubris, rather like a stealth missile, hushed and devastating. Physically his technique was as deft as his musicianship. Nothing was ever too much or too little, but there was a concentration, a distillation of expression that I still find awe-inspiring. A taste of the ‘Second Simplicity’ perhaps.

The unchecked growth of the music industry over the past 20 years with the advent of the internet and streaming platforms has in some senses kept it alive and in others… not. For all the wonderful accessibility that is on offer I wonder if it hasn’t diluted our discernment, broadened the palate but numbed the tastebuds a little. I mention this only because it saddens me that certain players are overlooked. In the twilight zone of lockdown, I have started to listen to music again. Life is often flooded with music but recently there has been a void and recorded music has flowed in to fill it. It’s probably been years since I’ve pulled a piano disc off the cyber shelf but hearing the news of Hamish’s death, I felt curious to start listening to his records again.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I listened to all the Medtner discs, the Schumann and Weber sonatas, his early Reubke sonata release and the later Bach transcriptions. Time and again one reads a review of Hamish ‘wearing his virtuosity lightly’. It is the intimate playing that touches me most. The simple but delicate matching of one note to the next is the most magical element of great piano-playing, more so than the quick-silver brilliance or the thunderous waves of quasi-orchestral writing. Hamish’s playing demands to be heard and demands patience of the listener.

I will remember him as someone who searched for purpose, clarity and purity of expression, who valued exactness, be that the perfect amount of spice in a dish or pigment in a colour. I remember him talking about Rachmaninov’s philosophy of structure and form, that each movement should have a single point of climax and in each section of the movement there should be a focal point – a bit like a set of Russian dolls. I find this apparent paradox fascinating, that a figure so closely associated with an intense ‘romanticism’ should have been so classical in approach but you can hear that in Rachmaninov’s playing and in Hamish’s too.

If these disquieting days have rudely forced us to wake up and notice the small things, the quiet things, the tiny but intrinsic pieces of life’s jigsaw puzzle, then it will have been a great lesson to us all. Hamish was one of those artists who spoke softly but rewarded those who listened with an eloquence, a vibrancy and even an urgency, which is something he shares with one of his heroes, the jazz pianist Bill Evans. Through his recordings he still practises and preaches the art of listening. He was a deeply personal voice that will not be forgotten.

‘I would like to be able to play the piano like Bill Evans and Ahmad Jamal; but then I would also like to be able to sing like Flagstad—some things are just not possible' (Hamish Milne)

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