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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And for another view of what's important: Mitsuko Uchida

Fabulous pianist Mitsuko Uchida is interviewed on what's important: music or marketing--in The Telegraph.

"Even schools like Juilliard are telling students that PR is the most important issue,” she says. “I say it is the least important issue if you have something musical to say! If you have something to say, the world will come to you.

“I notice you see classical musicians in posters advertising expensive watches. That person may be able to command a very high fee, but that’s not the point. I can vouch that people come to my concerts to hear music, not because they have seen me looking grand with an expensive watch.”

Building audiences

A great guest post by Henry Peyrebrune on Drew McManus' site: Adaptistration

Some excerpts (but go to the full post--it's worth it):
Community service has been the orchestral buzzword for the past decade as orchestras have grappled with competition from new media and other art forms, and the loss of our privileged position in the minds of the media, academia, philanthropy and business. We ask ourselves whether we can educate enough people so that they’ll support us in the fixture. Have we isolated ourselves via the traditional concert experience? Will performing in nightclubs or grocery stores reach new audiences? How can we reach the underprivileged youth of our cities in order to share our music with them and try to somehow replace the loss of the substantive public school music education most of us had?
While these ideas intrigue us and excite some of our major funders, we question whether this will harm our responsibility to the art form. We’ve spent decades trying to build longer subscription seasons with thoughtful, challenging programming, sufficient rehearsal time, good conductors and an ever-rising level of playing. The level of playing and access to strong performances of the full repertoire is better that it has ever been. Will a new emphasis on community service harm the artistic quality we’ve worked so hard to develop? Did I practice and sacrifice so much just to end up in a string quintet hacking through March of the Toreadors in a shopping mall somewhere?
These are all good questions, but they’re the wrong ones.
I’d like to propose 3 simple questions to replace them:
  1. Who are our audiences? (emphatically plural)
  2. How can we touch individual members of our audiences?
  3. What do we do to build on that relationship?
. . .

I tell my students that music is a great way to communicate human emotion. If you’re feeling angry or insecure, music is a great way to share that with your listeners. It’s also an incredible way to communicate an aching love for beauty, to share that desire for something beyond us. At its best, music reaches from one heart to another, or even to many.

Once we’ve touched someone like that, they want to get to know us. They want to spend time with us, to feel a sense of pride and ownership.In Cleveland, Apollo’s Fire and CityMusic do a great job of inspiring and building this relationship. Their audiences love to hear AF music director Jeanette Sorrell greet them and share her ideas about the pieces. CityMusic serves cookies at intermission so the musicians and audience can mingle and both orchestras play in venues that have the musicians and audience in close proximity. People feel an emotional connection with the music and the performers.

King's College Cambridge - Easter at King's

A rather amazing assortment of music at King's College Cambridge--imagine doing this repertoire (for the choir) in the space of about four days!

From the press release:

The seasonal Cambridge centrepiece, widely broadcast, has been given a makeover this year by music director Stephen Cleobury.

The big event is Golgoatha by the Swiss composer Frank Martin. Petris Vasks, the Latvian, gets a big look-in and Prime Brass will bow out the festival with anticipations of the royal wedding.

Now in its seventh year, Easter at King's has forged an enviable reputation for presenting traditional and innovative repertoire for Passiontide and Easter.  It offers a varied feast of services and concerts that illustrate, contemplate and celebrate the Holy Week and Easter narrative. In most years, BBC Radio 3 has broadcast from the Festival to listeners all over the world. 

The climax of this year's festival is on Good Friday, 22 April, with a rare opportunity to hear Frank Martin's epic oratorio, Gologtha, which will be broadcast live on Radio 3.  Martin wrote some of the most poignant sacred music of the 20th century. Golgotha (1948), written when the composer was at the height of his powers, is a personal response to the desolation of war-torn Europe. The awe-inspiring space of King's College Chapel, combined with the drama and sheer scale of Martin's work, will make the evening a rewarding musical and spiritual experience.

Easter at King's opens on Tuesday 19 April with a performance of Bach's St John Passion. The Choir of King's College Cambridge and Academy of Ancient Music combine forces again and the strong cast of soloists includes King's alumnus and Cambridge local Andrew Kennedy as the Evangelist, and former Cambridge student, Elin Manahan Thomas returns to sing soprano. There is an additional opportunity to enjoy this performance in London, at the Cadogan Hall on April 20th.

Chamber Music for Maundy Thursday, on 21 April, offers a chance for reflection and contemplation. The concert will take place at the east end of the Chapel by candlelight. The trio of top young artists, including Cambridge favourite and former King's chorister, Guy Johnston, will perform Vask's extraordinary allegorical work, Episodi e Canto perpetuo framed by works by Beethoven and Fauré.

Pergolesi's masterpiece, Stabat Mater, combines with Bach for the Easter Vigil programme on 23 April. The work conveys, with great beauty, deep and heart-rending compassion for Mary's suffering during the events of Good Friday. Bach's powerful Cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden was written for Easter and takes us from the crucifixion to the resurrection, whilst another work by Bach, the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto prefigures the celebratory theme of Easter Sunday. These three works provide the perfect mix of celebration and contemplation for a concert set at the heart of the Easter weekend.

Daniel Hyde, a former Organ Scholar at King's College, will give an organ recital on Monday 25 April, which concludes our Easter celebrations. However, we will be celebrating the Royal Wedding in style the following Saturday with a brass concert given by Prime Brass. The concert programme features some great British music, including William Walton's majestic Crown Imperial.

Throughout, the powerful and moving Chapel liturgies are fundamental to the series and are sung by the Chapel Choir.  Good Friday is an excellent day to visit Cambridge with Allegri's famous Miserere mei Deus sung in the morning and the Lamentations of Jeremiah of Thomas Tallis at evensong. Alternatively, why not come to the concerts on Easter Eve and then stay the night so that you can also enjoy the services on Easter Sunday itself?

We are taking the Festival outside King's Chapel and into Cambridge for the first time in 2011. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of Victoria, the extraordinarily powerful Tenebrae Responsories will be performed in three late night services in three different Cambridge College Chapels. The climax of the three will be in King's Chapel on April 23rd.

Easter at King's Schedule

Tuesday 19 April
Bach St John Passion

Maundy Thursday 21 April
5.30pm Sung Eucharist and Stripping of the Altar
8.00pm Concert:
Chamber Music for Maundy Thursday
9.30pm Victoria Tenebrae Responsories Clare College Chapel

 Good Friday 22 April
10.30am Ante-Communion and Veneration of the Cross
5.00pm Choral Evensong
6.55pm Concert:
Frank Martin Golgotha
9.30pm Victoria Tenebrae Responsories  Corpus Christi College Chapel

Holy Saturday 23 April
7.00pm Concert:
Pergolesi Stabat Mater
Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 4
9.30pm Victoria Tenebrae Responsories

Easter Day Sunday 24 April
10.30am Sung Eucharist
3.30pm Festal Evensong

Easter Monday 25 April
4.00pm Concert
Daniel Hyde Organ Recital

Saturday 30 April
6.30pm Concert:
Prime Brass
Music for Easter ...and a Royal Wedding

Monday, March 21, 2011

More about great choirs of the world--Stephen Layton

Layton (well known for his work with Polyphony, the Holst Singers, Trinity College-Cambridge, principal guest conductor of the Danish Radio Choir, etc.) is organizing a festival. Here from the Telegraph:

World beating choirs - our great unsung heroes

A four-day choral jamboree at the Roundhouse in London will be an exciting showcase for the UK's talents in choral singing.

Loud and proud: Gareth Malone and The South Oxhey Community Choir
Loud and proud: Gareth Malone and The South Oxhey Community Choir 
Stephen Layton is ready to stick his neck out. “I think I’m going to stand up and claim that, when it comes to choral singing, we are the best in the world, with a tradition stretching back to the Reformation but now richly diversified. The scene had never been healthier. I just wish it was something that we celebrated more loudly.” Layton knows what he’s talking about. Two of the English choirs he directs – Polyphony and Trinity College, Cambridge – were recently rated by The Gramophone among the world’s top five, and he also has a busy international career conducting foreign ensembles.
This month, he brings all his experience to bear as one of the organisers of Voices Now, a four-day choral jamboree starting next Thursday at the Roundhouse in north London (0844 482 8008), which ecumenically embraces everything from primary school choirs and Gareth Malone’s South Oxhey Community Choir to venerable crack chamber choirs, such as the Latvian Radio Choir and BBC Singers, singing everything from Tallis’s Spem in Alium to songs from South African townships.
“What one notices, compared with mainland Europe,” says Layton, “is how much of our first-rate choral activity is unpaid: just think of the great orchestra choruses, or the northern choral societies. You can’t imagine amateur orchestras playing alongside professional ones, but our amateur choirs are often every bit as good as the professional ones.
“Singing is a great leveller. You don’t need to master or buy an instrument; you just need to open your mouth. And I feel that, in these dark times, more and more people are turning to the emotional connection with great music that singing in a choir involves.”
Voices Now offers an exciting showcase for these riches, but Layton’s dreams don’t stop at the Roundhouse. “Something that we could do without any sweat would be to fill a stadium with singing voices,” he says. What a wonderful way that would be to launch or close next year’s Olympics, and Layton is ready to put himself up for the job of conducting it.
Very interesting . . . it will be interesting to see what the result is. Certainly the Latvian Radio Choir is stunningly good. With Pro Coro Canada I participated in a festival with them in Toronto and their work is superb.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Striggio Mass rediscovered

Sorry, long time, no blog!

Interesting story about a rediscovered Striggio Mass. Some excerpts from the article:
Alessandro Striggio's 1566 mass, performed by 40 choristers, sees voices, strings and brass meld into a jaw-dropping harmony.

The mass was first performed in the 16th century, touring Europe, before being lost in the mists of time.

Several years ago, the work, Missa sopra Ecco sì beato giorno, was rediscovered in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, where it had been miscatalogued. In 2007, it was given its first modern performance at London's BBC Proms. Now, a new recording of the work has made its debut on the pop charts at number 68, beating the likes of Bon Jovi, George Harrison and Eminem. It is extremely rare for core classical music releases to appear in the British pop charts. The recording is number two in the classical listings and there are further plans for a live touring performance to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics.

"I think people are interested, for starters, because of freak aspect of it," said Robert Hollingworth, 44, conductor and founder of vocal group I Fagiolini, which recorded the work.
. . . 
Striggio is believed to have left copies of his work in several of the places where he toured it, including the courts of Albrecht V in Munich and Charles IX in France. Because of copying errors on the original manuscript and card catalogue, when the French version eventually ended up in the Bibliothèque Nationale, it was attributed erroneously to "Alessandro Strusco" with 40 voices being altered to "four voices". The work was recovered by British musicologist Davitt Moroney, who also conducted the 2007 Proms performance.

The release also features a version of Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium, which is believed to have been inspired by Striggio's works. Tallis lived between 1505 and 1585 and was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. That piece is known for being incredibly technically advanced for its time.
. . .

"That our group of musicians got it right first time is additionally impressive. With the surround sound it is really fantastic. It can be an unpractical thing to perform live,  but in this way you can appreciate its intimate parts, at the level of sacred conversation, as well as its grand scale."
. . . 
Universal Music Group's Decca Records used five choirs to record the album in Tooting's All Saints Church last year, employing authentic period instruments including a lirone, a precursor to the cello, recorders, and lutes. Mr Hollingworth said instruments took the place of some of the vocal parts, which was an accepted practice at the time.

The album also went to number one in the iTunes chart on the day of its release.
Back in 1992 I conducted the Striggio 40-part motet which is thought to be the work that inspired Tallis' Spem in alium with the Portland Symphonic Choir called, Many Voices in Early Song, while Bruce Brown was on sabbatical. It included Alessandro Striggio's Ecce beatam lucem; Robert Carver's O bone Jesu; Giovanni Gabrieli's Gloria; Monteverdi's Laudate Dominum terzo; four madrigals by Luca Marenzio; and Tallis' Spem in alium.



Bruce was originally planning to conduct the program, which I only slightly changed. It was an interesting program to do with a large symphonic choir (some works, such as the Carver and Marenzio, were done with a smaller ensemble; the Tallis was done one-per-part until the big tutti's) which didn't normally do music from this period. A challenge, to be sure!


I've done the Tallis two other times (and will surely do it again!): for Peter Hallock's 40th anniversary with the Compline Choir at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle and with my PLU Choir of the West on my final tour with them of Scandinavia in 2001. It's a magnificent work!