So, a bit quiet on the CD reviewing front recently, and there’s a good reason for that: the flamingo has recently re-entered the classroom! But instead of being one of 30 odd (some very odd!) small people facing the front, the tables have been turned and I now find myself, inexplicably, the one large person giving a bravura performance wielding a flute up front! It was all rather sudden and unexpected, but I’m relishing the opportunity to get stuck into Whole Class Ensemble teaching, enjoying a new challenge, gaining great experience and adding another string to my bow. Not that a flute has a bow – think that’s a violin or something!
One thing that has struck me on being back at school after ahem number of years is the quality of the artwork on display. Highlights of this week included a tissue paper lion jumping through a hoop and today’s flamingo flock on top of a filing cabinet in our band rehearsal room – home from home!
Today is actually something of a Baroque fest for me, as BBC Radio 3 are broadcasting non stop Baroque works in their Baroque Around The Clock event for Red Nose Day today! This is part of the station’s excellent Baroque Spring initiative, featuring a whole month of Baroquery! With lots of brilliant programme choices, including many works by my all time top favourite Bach, I’m in seventh heaven this month and already worrying about how I’ll cope when normal programming resumes next month! Listen out (or Listen Again) for our Huddersfield Choral Society recording of Handel’s Messiah under Harry Christophers this evening.
I’ve just posted a new CD review in the Reviews section of this site – the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s recent release of music by Mark-Anthony Turnage. The third all-Turnage CD by the LPO on their own label, this excellent CD features world premiere recordings of three concertos (for viola, clarinet and violin) and two other orchestral works, all recorded live. (Today’s title is taken from the name of the concerto for violin and orchestra, recorded in its world premiere performance.) Please use the drop down menu or follow the link above to read my review.
Just about back down to earth now after our recent concerts in Valladolid, Spain, with Huddersfield Choral Society. We gave two performances of Britten’s iconic War Requiem to a packed house in the 2200 seater Auditorio Miguel Delibes last week with the Orquesta Sinfónica De Castilla y León under maestro Jesús López Cobos, featuring a great line up of soloists including Ian Bostridge, no less! We developed a strong rapport with the orchestra and conductor, and our performances were acclaimed by audience members and press alike. A great success!
I’ve just posted my latest review in the 2013 section of the Reviews page above. This was a voyage of discovery – my introduction to the music of Fazil Say, a Turkish composer and pianist, and I absolutely loved what I heard. The CD featured two works: his Istanbul Symphony and ‘Hezarfen’ Concerto for Ney and Orchestra. Now I may have been a woodwind player for more years than I care to acknowledge, but it has taken until now to discover the delights of the Ney, a reed flute. Once heard, never forgotten, so now of course I want one!
Busy preparing for another voyage of discovery – a trip to Spain with Huddersfield Choral Society next week, where we’ll be giving two performances of Britten’s War Requiem to a sell-out audience in the Auditorio Miguel Delibes in Valladolid with the Orquesta Sinfónica De Castilla y León, conducted by Jesús López Cobos. Although many performances of Britten’s works are to be expected in this centenary year, it’s interesting that this is our third international performance of the iconic work. We sang it in Osaka, Japan in 2007 and again in Porto, Portugal in 2009, so Valladolid will be our hat trick!
Been a bit quiet on the blog front this month – very busy with one thing and another – so I thought I’d give a taster of what’s coming up in February. First, I’m excited to be launching my new website, which I’ve designed and built myself, including doing most of the photography. Once the site is officially live, I will spend a few weeks tweaking it to get it just right, and I’m looking forward to developing the site further over the next few months.
Alongside the website project I’ve been developing this blog site as a showcase for some of my creative work. I’ve added some new pages for copywriting, design, photography and cards with a few examples of my work, so please keep popping back to see the new additions! Other than that, there’s quite a pile of CDs waiting to be reviewed in the coming weeks, so watch this space…
A dark winter’s night at home, still recovering from the season’s ailments, seemed the perfect moment to unwrap the DVD of The Adventures of Pinocchio and settle down for an evening of delights. I’d already seen the excellent Opera North production of the work, commissioned from Jonathan Dove with a clever libretto by Alasdair Middleton, no fewer than four times live, so was looking forward to seeing the video version for the first time. Bearing no relation to the Walt Disney film, the opera is based much more closely on the Collodi original text, revealing some dark moments as well as plenty of fun. Pinocchio tells a tall tale, in which a puppet is carved from a log and goes on to discover the difference between right and wrong through a number of crazy episodic adventures, eventually becoming human.
This is far more than a children’s or family opera. Dove’s music is fantastic in every sense, conveying the drama of the unfolding events beautifully and speaking to the audience in a very clear and direct way. The power, beauty and eloquence of the music makes for a moving experience, enhanced by a captivating performance. The soloists shine in the detailed characterisation of an eclectic vocal menagerie, supported ably by the chorus and perfect costumes, set and staging. While hard and perhaps unfair to pick out individuals in such a strong cast, special mention has to go to Rebecca Bottone as the cricket and parrot, the wily fox James Laing, Allan Clayton as the schoolboy Lampwick, the blue fairy Mary Plazas and of course Victoria Simmonds in the nasally over-endowed (in the visual sense) title role. As always, the excellent orchestra produces a rich and varied palette of sound, the perfect vehicle for the composer’s wonderful invention. With themes of good and bad, life and death, choices and consequences, there is much food for thought and this video is a feast for the senses!
Tuesday and Wednesday evenings this week saw, or rather heard, the Huddersfield Choral Society performances of Handel’s Messiah in their home town. Always popular, these annual concerts cater for both subscribers (this year on the Tuesday) and members of the public with tickets allocated by ballot. Joining Huddersfield Choral on the platform were the brilliant Northern Sinfonia and a line up of fine soloists under the baton of the Choral’s Conductor Laureate Martyn Brabbins, with Chorus Master Joseph Cullen at the harpsichord. Seasonal ailments meant that there were two deps among the soloists, and a special mention has to go to soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn, standing in at the 11th hour for an indisposed Susan Gritton and wowing the audience with her wonderful voice and captivating delivery.
From a Choral member’s point of view it was an absolute privilege to share the stage with such excellent musicians, watching the orchestra during the solos, inspired by the players’ perfect combination of focus, musicality and spirit, and honoured that they were clearly enjoying the Huddersfield Messiah experience as much as we were. Well Tuesday’s performance was very good, earning much praise from seasoned attenders, and Wednesday’s was even better – in fact it would be hard to find anything that could’ve been improved! After cheers from the Public audience, Martyn Brabbins paid tribute to a first desk second violinist, retiring after 30 years with the orchestra, whose first and final performances were of the Huddersfield Messiah. A moving occasion and the perfect start to Christmas week.