classical-music.com | Fri, 12 Oct 2018 12:05:07 +0000
Over the next ten months the BBC will broadcast a series of TV and radio programmes celebrating the most memorable moments in classical music from the last 100 years.
A host of well-loved guests will take part in a series of documentaries and performances that culminates in a specially-commissioned work on the First Night of the BBC Proms in July.
Four episodes of Our Classical Century will be presented by Suzy Klein on BBC Four, each exploring how classical music collided with popular culture. The first two, featuring guests Lenny Henry and John Simpson respectively, will capture the profound influence of the First and Second World Wars on composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten.
In part three, Klein will be joined by journalist and broadcaster Joan Bakewell to explore the increasing entanglement of classical music with that of television and film, generating its own roster of high-profile stars who achieved celebrity status.
In the final programme in the series, singer Alexandra Burke will be exploring the world of classical music from the 1980s right up to the present day – a period in which the genre became accessible to millions through the advent of new technologies.
BBC Four will also be broadcasting a series of programmes discovering the stories behind seminal works from the last century, complete with performances from various of the BBC’s ensembles. In November an archive documentary by award-winning director John Bridcut will be broadcast, in which HRH The Prince of Wales, a longstanding enthusiast of composer Hubert Parry, uncovers the story behind one of Britain’s best and least-known composers.
Brian Cox, Amanda Vickery and Tom Service will present documentaries on composers and their works on BBC Two over the course of the year, while historian Lucy Worsley will be exploring the British Musical Revolution under Queen Victoria, in a unique programme to be aired in June.
classical-music.com | Thu, 11 Oct 2018 11:28:17 +0000
Self-restraint was evidently not at the top of Respighi’s list of priorities when he composed Pines of Rome in 1924.
The orchestral forces enlisted for this 20-minute symphonic poem include a large organ – ideally with a 32-foot pedal stop – six bucinas (Roman trumpets), a vast percussion section and even a gramophone player. It isn’t just about creating a big noise, however, and over the four movements the composer beguiles us with vivid depictions of various pine tree-adorned scenes in Italy’s capital city.
Antonio Pappano (conductor) Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (2007) Warner Classics 394 4292
Though Rome’s finest orchestra undoubtedly rises to the occasion of playing its ‘home’ music, the magic here is really down to conductor Antonio Pappano who, in a performance rich in imagination, captures the mood of the work’s four very differing moments spot on.
Outside the Villa Borghese, Pappano lets his children run gleefully amok – as the movement frantically gathers tempo, the orchestra sounds as though it’s on the cusp of haring out of control… but is just about kept in check. And in the following ‘Pines Near a Catacomb’, Pappano creates the necessary sense of space by duly following the composer’s instruction to place the trumpet soloist ‘as far away as possible’ – many, surprisingly, don’t.
A feel for distance, too, distinguishes Pappano’s march along the Appian Way. As his Roman soldiers first come into view, they are an ominous presence on the horizon, the pounding of their feet scarcely discernible.
Only as they draw near, and the sun glints off their armour, does Pappano unleash the full force of his vast orchestra. Some conductors peak too soon here or progress in fits and spurts; Pappano paces the march to perfection.
As for caveats? With this being a live performance, Respighi’s magnificent array of sounds is joined here by the occasional cough or two from the Rome audience. It’s a small gripe, though.
Respighi’s Pines was championed in the US by Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic soon after its premiere, and its continuing popularity across the pond is amply reflected by a sizable clutch of excellent recordings by American orchestras: the Philadelphia Orchestra and Riccardo Muti (Warner) make up for lack of subtlety with raw excitement, while Fritz Reiner’s similarly thrilling 1957 recording with the Chicago Symphony (RCA) and Seiji Ozawa’s lively account with the Boston Symphony (DG) are also worth exploring.
For an elegant performance coupled with truly opulent sound, however, Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra get the nod – to pick out just one moment, the thundering organ and brass emerging from the dark depths in Maazel’s ‘Pines near a catacomb’ are simply awe-inspiring.
While others like to linger and enjoy the Roman views, Charles Dutoit is a man on a mission – his let’s-keep-things-moving approach is a bit of a one-off, but remarkably effective. The fast-driven tempos give unity and cohesion to a work that can sometimes feel episodic, and yet at no time does the listener feel rushed.
Yes, Dutoit’s ‘Pines of the Janiculum’ could be a little more perfumed and self-indulgent, but his brisk march up the Appian Way works a treat. Whereas others trudge, Dutoit’s Roman legion pounds toward us with an aggressive, Stravinsky-like menace. This is an army that means business, and don’t we know it.
As a young man, Respighi went to study under Rimsky-Korsakov in Russia, and one can detect glimpses of the great man’s influence in the lush Romanticism of the ‘Pines of the Janiculum’ – a movement that also has a touch of the Impressionism of Debussy and Ravel about it.
It is here that the Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra come into their own. In superbly recorded sound, Oue carefully blends the various colours that make Respighi’s night-time soundscape so seductive, picking out details here and there but never over-emphasising them – notice, for instance, how the cello solo is given a dreamy wistfulness by setting the player slightly back from the mic.
It’s extraordinarily atmospheric, and a timely reminder that Respighi’s Pines is not all about power and bombast.
Herbert von Karajan (conductor) Berlin Philharmonic (1996) DG 4497242
There’s not much fun to be had when Mr Karajan is on playground duty. Ever the control freak in this 1978 Berlin Philharmonic recording, the maestro keeps his children outside the Villa Borghese in strictly regimented, neatly rhythmical order – there’s no joie de vivre.
In his ‘Pines of the Appian Way’, meanwhile, we get brass, brass and more brass, to the near-obliteration of any other orchestral texture. It all leaves one feeling a little short-changed.
classical-music.com | Wed, 10 Oct 2018 11:15:32 +0000
What’s coming up on Radio 3 that you’re particularly excited about in the coming months?
Horatio Clare, who walked in the teenage Bach’s footsteps last year from Arnstadt to LĂĽbeck, is going to be looking at the German 18th-century notion of the wanderer, which as a trope inspired a lot of musicians and poets like Goethe, Schubert and Mahler.
The programme will be interweaved with poetry and music, and is a chance for the listener to pause the outside world and engage in a journey around the Black Forest. We’re not quite sure what the starting point will be yet but we’ve got the maps out. It will be part of Slow Radio, and will take place on Christmas Eve.
Slow Radio is receiving its own dedicated slot. What will that entail?
There are various programmes scheduled: Clocks at Upton House and Night at the Zoo. We’ll also listen to the sounds of Durham Cathedral at night and the Burren cattle blessing, which is an old ritual in County Galway where the herd move from one pasture to another. It happens at the same time every year, and apparently the sounds are magical.
How would you explain Slow Radio to a newcomer?
It’s an opportunity to step back from the world in order to think about it differently. It will take however long it takes, and certainly won’t rush you. The sounds might be something you haven’t come across before or ones you've passed by and not taken any notice of.
I think silence actually sets music off, and the sounds within that silence give you a different perspective on music. That’s what we’ve been working on in our Sounds of the Earth on Sunday mornings. We take a sound, whether its rainfall or wind in the forest, and present music attached to it, in order to make you think differently. These will be available as podcasts as well.
Speaking of podcasts, will you be doing a second season of Classical Fix?
Yes, Classical Fix has proven to be very popular. Clemency Burton-Hill interviews someone who doesn’t necessarily know about classical music and suggests a menu for them. The first season was particularly successful as a podcast, so we'll be continuing with that.
How will you be commemorating Armistice Day?
We’re broadcasting Mark Anthony-Turnage’s The Silver Tassie, as well as some silent moments from around European battlefields. These will be Slow Radio-style – the sounds from the battle-sites today and their links with the past give an opportunity for contemplation.
For the Berlioz 150-year anniversary we’ve got a special weekend planned, with all the BBC orchestras coming together to do performances of his larger-scale works.
Also, towards the anniversary of the moon landing we’ll be looking at the influence of space on music, which also links back to our BBC Symphony Orchestra concert from the end of September – a performance of Holst's The Planets with professor Brian Cox.
And is it business as usual for weekly programmes like Essential Classics and Inside Music?
Yes, Inside Music - which we introduced relatively recently - continues. It gives you an insider’s perspective on great repertoire, and what it’s like to be a musician playing it. We’re going to have guests like Jacob Collier and Sofi Jeannin, the new BBC Singers conductor, David Charles Abell, singer Jeanine De Bique and violinist Jennifer Pike.
The Listening Service will also continue, with lots of stimulating explanations of music and how it works, including the impact of minimalism on music. We'll be looking at what it is about composers like Steve Reich that inspires very extreme reactions of liking and loathing.
Essential Classics is going to have some really great guests joining Suzy Klein and Ian Skelly, including actors Stephen Mangan, Graham Fellows and Lenny Henry, novelist Jessie Burton and conductor Sakari Oramo. So it’s going to be action-packed.
The BBC is undertaking a huge classical music project this year. Could you tell us more about it?
Our Classical Century is a wonderful pan-BBC project involving four TV programmes, which will look at great classical music moments in the last century. We’re going to match that on air on Radio 3 with 100 significant moments in classical music over the last 100 years, as well as illustrating key works that come out of the TV series by the BBC's orchestras and choirs.
This is the first time in the BBC where we’ve done something around classical music that incorporates both television and radio. It’s looking at great events and placing them in a social context. There’s everything from the premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring to cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Chineke!.
At the End of the Road festival this summer you announced that Late Junction was getting its own festival as well?
That’s right, that will be in East London in February. Some festivals just seem to make sense. We actually had an evening at the End of the Road Festival devoted to Late Junction, and it worked really well.
classical-music.com | Tue, 09 Oct 2018 09:00:00 +0000
'The two converse and dialogue in perfect equilibium in the Sonata Concertata'
This week's free download is the first movement, Allegro spiritoso, from Paganini's Sonata Concertata. It is performed by violinist Fabio Biondi and guitarist Giangiacomo Pinardi, and is produced on the Glossa label. The recording was the Chamber Choice in the October issue of BBC Music Magazine.
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Here she studied under Eugenia Kemeny and the well-known Spanish soprano Conchita Badia, both of whom she would continually attribute the longevity and success of her career to. Her breakthrough came with a portrayal of Donna Elvira at the Vienna State Opera in 1960.
This was followed by a concert performance of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia for the American Opera Society, in which she sang the title role, filling in for an ailing Marilyn Horne. The performance made her an international sensation overnight, and was followed by an enormously successful 1965 season at Glyndebourne playing both Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier and Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro.
Some of her most notable recordings include interpretations of rarely performed works by Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi, all of which display her impeccable technique and unparalleled ability to tap into the emotions of the characters she portrayed. As she said herself: ‘When a singer truly feels and experiences what the music is all about, the words will automatically ring true.’
classical-music.com | Mon, 08 Oct 2018 10:05:46 +0000
The director general of the BBC, Tony Hall, is to announce the release of the corporation’s back catalogue of classical music recordings and broadcasts. The accouncement is due this Thusday at the launch of the BBC’s Our Classical Century project, which looks back over 100 years of classical music in the UK.
The catalogue will be available to the public online via BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sounds app, and is one of the largest in the world. It includes iconic recordings from the BBC Proms, BBC Young Musician and BBC Introducing.
Lord Hall is expected to say: ‘In an age of every-growing platforms and social media sharing, these historic and recent performances will be returned to the public as their rightful property.
‘Whilst the way we consume and share content is changing rapidly, music’s ability to bring us together has stayed the same, and classical music’s role in that should not be underestimated.’
Our Classical Century will be available on BBC Radio 3, BBC Sounds, BBC Two, and BBC Four from mid-November. See the Radio & TV page of our November issue for more information.
classical-music.com | Thu, 04 Oct 2018 14:30:36 +0000
Omer Meir Wellber has been named the new chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, succeeding Juanjo Mena, who held the post for eight years. The 36-year-old has fast established himself as one of today’s top conductors, having directed many of the world’s most prestigious ensembles, including the London Philharmonic, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Bavarian State Opera.
He has worked with the BBC Philharmonic on a number of previous occasions, most recently in Salford’s Media City with a programme of Mozart and Brahms. He will next be conducting the orchestra on Saturday 6October at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.
Born in Israel, Wellber studied conducting and composition at the Jerusalem Music Academy under Eugene Zirlin and Mendi Rodan. He has been a guest conductor at the Israeli Opera for over ten years.
A passionate advocate for social change, Wellber is music director of the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra, which was set up in 1991 in part to provide work for immigrants. He also regularly collaborates with a number of outreach programmes that support the next generation of conducting students.
Wellber will join a roster of BBC Philharmonic conductors that includes John StorgĂĄrds (chief guest conductor) and Ben Gernon (principal guest conductor).
classical-music.com | Thu, 04 Oct 2018 09:00:00 +0000
Autumn, with its golden leaves and misty mornings, is here. To keep you company as the nights draw in, we present some of the best classical music inspired by the season.
Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, 'Autumn' (1723)
What seasonal playlist could fail to include Vivaldi? From the Allegro’s post-harvest celebrations in 'Autumn', Vivaldi’s programmatic music transports us to the somewhat less vibrant morning after, where slow moving suspensions come as close to a musical hangover as anything you’ve ever heard. In the stately final Allegro, ‘The Hunt’, a virtuosic violin solo represents the hunter’s fleeing quarry, which they eventually catch and kill. Not so fun for the quarry, but a jolly old time for all the hunters.
Though ostensibly inspired by nature, Bax’s November Woods also acts as a musical portrait of his turbulent love affair with pianist Harriet Cohen. An often unsettling work, the tone poem fluctuates between stormy drama and quiet ecstasy, yet fades to a quiet and unresolved finish.
Fanny Mendelssohn wrote the piano cycle Das Jahr as a musical diary of the year she spent with her family in Rome. The 12 months are represented by 12 individual movements. In 'September' a flowing accompaniment overlays a dark melody in the left hand. 'October' is a brighter, march-like song, but 'November' returns to introspection and a minor key. She instructs the performer to play sadly.
Sometimes considered Strauss’s own musical epitaph, all of the Four Last Songs are themed around death. ‘September’ is a shimmering and uplifting work, which calmly compares the passing of the seasons with the passing of life. Strauss also includes a poignant and wistful solo for his father’s instrument: the French horn.
The Fall of the Leaf was written as a study piece for Holst's friend, the cellist and pianist Pamela Hind O’Malley. It is based on a tune by Martin Peerson that Holst found in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (1572-1651). Unified by this melody, all six movements expand on it using a variety of different string techniques, from pizzicato to double-stopping.
classical-music.com | Wed, 03 Oct 2018 14:25:40 +0000
The Oslo Philharmonic has announced the appointment of the young Finnish conductor and cellist Klaus MĂ¤kelĂ¤ as its new chief conductor and artistic advisor. He will take up the position at the beginning of the 2020/21 season.
MĂ¤kelĂ¤ currently holds the positions of principal guest conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, artistic director of the Turku Music Festival in Finland and artist in association with the Tapiola Sinfonietta, with whom he performs as a conductor, soloist and chamber musician.
In the upcoming season, MĂ¤kelĂ¤ will also be making debuts with the Orchestre de Paris, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Bergen Philharmonic, among others.
Vasily Petrenko, the Oslo Philharmonic’s current chief conductor, will end his role with the orchestra following its 100th-anniversary season in the summer of 2020. Petrenko’s position as music director at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra also comes to an end in 2021, when he begins his new tenure at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.