Wednesday, March 28, 2018
"There is no boundary of difference... different skin, different religion, or different culture - we are all children of the stars."
Here's a fascinating interview with the Korean composer Unsuk Chin, who has a major European premiere in London next week under the auspices of the Philharmonia Orchestra. She talks about her studies with György Ligeti ("He opened my eyes and my mind"), her compositional processes ("I need 3-4 years to get the idea clear") and the blend of science and art that has gone into this huge new work. She collected 150 poems first and finally selected 12-13 variously about the birth of the universe, humanity and eternity.
The resulting different songs/movements span centuries and continents, all of them exploring the idea that we are, essentially and all of us, the substance that comes from a star. Chin says here that she reads about astronomy every day and that it brings her "hope in this world". It's an optimistic work. "My dream is to perform this piece with mixed north and south Korean boys' choir - I don't know if it will be possible, but I have hope."
Is it the Big Bang? "Not that big," Chin smiles, "but I wanted to create...a very big sound with lots of power..."
Unsuk Chin's Le chant des Infants des Etoiles (The Song of the Children of the Stars) receives its European premiere on 15 April at the Royal Festival Hall, with the Philharmonia, the Philharmonia Voices and Trinity Boys Choir conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Tickets here.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
The Philharmonia has today announced the appointment of their new principal guest conductor. And their other principal guest conductor too. The lucky maestri are Jakub Hruša from the Czech Republic and Santtu-Matias Rouvali from Finland. They will take up their shared role at the start of the 2017-18 season and will be the first conductors to hold the post since the death of Sir Charles Mackerras in 2010. You can see them both in London next month: Hruša conducts the Philharmonia on 6 April and Rouvali on 23rd at the Royal Festival Hall.
Here are two introductions to them:
We look forward to getting to know them!
Here are two introductions to them:
We look forward to getting to know them!
Thursday, March 09, 2017
Tonight at the Royal Festival Hall, the conductor Rafael Payare joins me on stage for a pre-concert interview about his life and work, his training in El Sistema and this evening's programme of Russian music: Prokofiev's 'Classical' Symphony and the Violin Concerto No.1 and Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Frank Peter Zimmermann is the violin soloist. Do come along if you can. Talk starts at 6pm and concert at 7.30pm. Tickets here.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
|The Philharmonia goes virtual...|
Stravinsky: Myths and Rituals is at the RFH from tomorrow.
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
The orchestra has been sharing a video clip of the rehearsal for the 'Rach Pag', and it was such astonishing playing that really you have to see it too - it's here.
The Trif is back on Thursday: beg, borrow or steal a ticket.
Friday, February 01, 2013
The concerto, though, seems to operate in more than three dimensions. It's in four sections, played without a break and, throughout, Lutoslawski's control of timbre, his imagination for the most minute touches of colour - flecks between woodwind and percussion echoed high on the piano, or the terse, secretive, scurrying chaconne idea on the double basses that opens the last section - provides a unique "finish" on top of his strong architecture and the considerable flair he demands in the solo part.
Some of the magnificent piano writing resembles a giant fantasy on Scriabin or Liszt; at other times it puts one in mind of Bartok's 'Night Music', echoes of strange creatures from invisible corners. Above all, its vision has integrity, its form offers an entirely personal twist on the tradition and its voice - whooshing the concerto concept into the late 20th century, hands first - should assure it a place in the standard repertoire from now on. It's not easy listening - whoever said listening should be easy in any case? - but the better you know it, the better if gets.
As for Lutoslawski's comment that the piece is "very playable" because, as a pianist himself, he wrote it to be so...that might seem amusing to anyone peering over at the antheap of notes assigned to the soloist. But I'm reliably assured (by Zimerman) that the bits that sound difficult are not in fact the hardest to play. He is, incidentally, in marvellous form.(And no, he didn't bring his own piano this time - apparently this concerto, written to be played on a modern concert grand, doesn't need anything more.)
Where next for the contemporary piano concerto? Ligeti's is a favourite of mine - if I'd been a real pianist it would have been top of my liszt. What a pity it is that, as we hear on the grapevine, certain efforts to persuade him to write another, bigger one didn't come to fruition. James MacMillan's concerti and the two by Lowell Liebermann have both fared well, not least thanks to the ballet world - the Royal Ballet whiz-kid Liam Scarlett has now choreographed both of the latter's. But what the rapturous reception for the Lutoslawski seems to prove is that the form is far from exhausted, the notion of it anything but dead, and there's an excitement out there that's ready to celebrate exploration and adventure within a familiar genre.
The mixture of The Rest is Noise, The Minotaur, Lutoslawski's centenary and adventurous individuals advocating the new, strong and creative - notably Kasper Holten at Covent Garden - already seems to be transforming public appetite for recent music and fresh masterpieces to succeed it. I'm sure I wasn't the only one to experience an epiphany over Boulez at the Proms last summer, thanks to Barenboim. New and recent music needs great performances to win new and thriving audiences. On Wednesday night, Lutoslawski got one. Here's to many, many more.
Monday, January 28, 2013
The site includes a series of films exploring Lutoslawski's turbulent life history, tracing World War II and the Stalinist years in Poland with archive footage, musical extracts and fascinating insights from Steven Stucky (the series advisor) and other leading academics, as well as conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. And Mrs Spilman is interviewed, explaining that her husband Wladislaw (whose memoirs, The Pianist, I'm sure you know about) as head of music in Polish Radio, encouraged Lutoslawski to compose popular music under a pseudonym to keep body and soul together in the traumatised world of post-war and Stalinist era Warsaw.
During the Nazi occupation Lutoslawski and Panufnik worked together, playing piano duos in coffee houses in the Polish capital: normal musical life had been snuffed out and Chopin's music - as a symbol of Polish national pride - had been banned. (Music/politics/mix...). Essentially, the story of Lutoslawski is the story of Poland in the 20th century.
As the festival's slogan reminds us, "Music begins where words end." I've often started lectures, essays, commentary et al with that phrase and I knew I'd borrowed it from someone... How pleasing to discover that that someone was Lutoslawski. [UPDATE: oops - apparently Debussy got there first.] If you missed it the other day, here is my one and only interview with Lutoslawski, from a meeting in 1992, now available to read for the first time in all those years, courtesy of Sinfini.
There's a complete list of concerts in the Woven Words festival here.
And a set of essays and programme notes that should keep us all busy, learning and fascinated here.
Please click through and do some exploring.
Then please also explore the wonderful new Andrzej Panufnik website and start thinking about next year.
To kick us off, listen to the Lutoslawski Variations on a Theme of Paganini for two pianos, which he and Panufnik used to play together in those cafes. Tragically, most of their other manuscripts from the war years went up in flames. Here the performers are Martha Argerich and Gabriela Montero.
Friday, October 07, 2011
My article is in The Independent today, and if you follow this link you'll also see a video from the orchestra showing how some of the film was made. Left, Bluebeard's roses appear to fill with blood.