Posts Tagged ‘Wimbledon Music Festival’

Il Siglo d’Oro

November 21, 2012
Cardinall's Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall’s Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall's Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall’s Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall's Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Cardinall’s Musick at Wimbledon Music Festival

Last week Petrushka, this week Il Siglo d’Oro at St Paul’s in Putney, part of the Wimbledon Music Festival.

The plan was Wimbledon, then Putney for a concert, but it was awful day, change of plan, Charing Cross Road, hit the bookshops (the quest for NeverSeconds continues), dinner at Food for Thought, then Putney for Il Siglo d’Oro.

Il Siglo d’Oro the Golden Age – was the name that Spaniards gave to their great flowering of music in the 16th century.

Il Siglo d’Oro – music in honour of the Virgin Mary from sixteenth-century Spain, by Guerrero, Morales, Victoria and Lobo, part of the Wimbledon Music Festival at St Paul’s, Putney, London. Performance by The Cardinall’s Musick.

Prior to the concert and during the interval, the buzz of conversation was not the concert, nor the Wimbledon Music Festival, but the failure of the Church of England yesterday to agree to women bishops. A great deal of anger. The tail wagging the dog. Fundamentalists and bigots who lack knowledge of Scripture, ignorant of early Church History. Jesus had women disciples, Paul had a woman as an important emissary, the Early Church had women bishops. But then this is a church that in the past burnt women and heretics at the stake, supported Slavery, and used Scripture to do so. We do not have White Bishops to deal with racists, why therefore Male Bishops to deal with bigots? The bigots have aligned themselves with Muslim fundamentalists. When the Archbishop of Canterbury says the church lacks credibility, then we know something is very wrong. At a stroke, the Church of England has rendered itself an irrelevance.

In some ways an irony considering the music. The Church of England has always found itself ill at ease with the veneration if not worship of Mary in the Catholic Church. The music for the evening’s concert was a veneration of Mary. The veneration of Mary has arisen because of the lack of a female face of God, and yet for those who wish to check their Scripture, man and woman were created equal, in the image of God.

The opening piece was from the Song of Solomon, as were some later pieces.

The Song of Solomon is an erotic love poem, it is also a worship of Jerusalem as a woman.

Earlier this year BBC Radio 4 had a wonderful dramatization of the Song of Solomon, but the BBC displaying its usual crass stupidity and forgetting it is a public service broadcaster paid out of the Licence Fee, only kept on-line for seven days.

Were we here for a music lecture or a concert? I think the director thought the former, whereas I thought the latter. Interesting as his points were illustrating each piece, they broke up the concert. Though not as bad as Fusiones concierto de Ensamble dos orillas in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife this spring where every piece had to be introduced and explained, and it was in German (though I was told later it is what Germans expect). What would have been far better would have been a half hour pre-concert talk with vocal illustrations of the points made.

My gold standard for early Music is The Sixteen. I am criticised for being unfair, possibly true.

It is actually quite difficult to compare. Different number of players, different venues, different music.

In the spring I saw the The Sixteen in Winchester Cathedral at the start of their Choral Pilgrimage, then one week later at Croydon Minster, same music. I was curious what difference the venue made. It made a huge difference, Croydon Minster was an entirely different experience to Winchester Cathedral.

Cardinall’s Musick eight players, at times only four or five. The Sixteen often more than sixteen.

Compared with The Sixteen in Guildford Cathedral performing Victoria (veneration of Mary), Cardinall’s Musick were a disappointment, but then The Sixteen on their Choral Pilgrimage this year were a disappointment compared with The Sixteen performing Victoria in Guildford Cathedral last October.

That is not to say Cardinall’s Musick were not worth seeing, far from it, and they made excellent use of the acoustics of the building, it merely illustrates my point that comparisons are not easy.

Music is dying, the music industry is dying. That is what the media likes us to think. They are wrong, live music is thriving, music at grass roots is thriving, if what I have seen of the Wimbledon Music festival, music festivals are thriving. What is dying, is the big record companies, an aberration that is killing music, and the sooner they die the better, but everyone is suffering as they lash out in their death throes.

One area though that is suffering is classical music. In part, because once you have a good recording of a classical piece, why buy another, unless it is substantially different or better?

Look around the concert tonight. You would have been hard pushed to find anyone under sixty. Petrushka was different, there was a good age range, including a few children, girls in their teens and a few young women in their twenties, probably it was the puppets that pulled them in, but it was still heavily skewed to the 60+ end of the age spectrum.

Not unique to tonight. A common phenomenon. Is that because this is the last generation and they are slowly dying off, or do you have to be this age to appreciate the music? If the latter, do you have to be deaf?

Music has to be a community supported activity. I noticed everyone seemed to know Festival Director Anthony Wilkinson, also he seemed to have a band of willing volunteers flogging programmes, serving drinks, managing the tickets. They also have a schools programme, though not being local, I know not what it is.

This message has yet to get across to performers. The days have long gone when they can remain aloof.

During the interval I noticed no CDs on sale. I was about to raise this with Anthony, when on the front row I noticed a pile of CDs. I went over to pick one up, for a lady to explain they were hers, but I was welcome to have a look. She then told me she had asked, and that was how she got these, but she said only two different albums Byrd and Guerrero. A small box of CDs vanished whilst we were talking.

Somewhere during the second half, mention was made of CDs for sale, but not what, where they would be, or how much.

After the concert, I went over and thanked the lady. She said, if you do not ask, you do not get. I then saw again the same small box, to find people were being told, sorry, all sold, you can find on the net. I asked how much? I was told £10.

This is not good enough. They should have had a stall (I am amazed they did not), they should have been chatting to people, mingling, signing CDs.

I usually do not buy a programme, partly I object to paying extra, but usually they are waste of money.

The programme for the festival was a small book. Flipping through one I could see a lot of work had gone into preparing it. I am sorry to say that when I left, I forgot to pick one up.

The website for the festival could be improved. It lacked links to any of the performers. That is simply bad web design.

A random sample of the artists, none had the means to listen on-line, bar a few minutes lofi samples.

Why, what are they fearful of, or are they simply complying with the diktats of record labels who are stuck in the Stone Age?

Every single one should have been on bandcamp and youtube or vimeo. That way people can listen, share with their friends, download digital music, buy albums.

If you go to a concert and enjoy what you have seen and heard, the first thing you wish to do (apart from listening to the CD you may have been able to purchase), is to share with your friends. Why make that difficult if nigh impossible?

From what I have seen, two events, a festival worth visiting, just a pain to get to if you do not live in Wimbledon.

Many thanks to Festival Director Anthony Wilkinson for the invite.

Wimbledon Music Festival runs 10-25 November 2012.

The Cardinall’s Musick is a UK-based vocal ensemble specialising in music of the 16th and 17th centuries and contemporary music. Founded by the scholar and musicologist David Skinner and the singer-director Andrew Carwood. They take their name from the 16th century English cardinal, Thomas Wolsey.

For next year, a few suggestions (with a sample performance or album):

A more contemporary feel which maybe would pull in a younger audience.

Wimbledon then Putney

November 21, 2012

Last week I found my way to Wimbledon for Petrushka, this week Wimbledon then Putney for Il Siglo d’Oro.

At least that was the plan, but change of plan, it was raining hard and had been all morning.

I called a taxi. Had I walked to the station or caught a bus, I would have been soaked.

Taxi arrived, it had stopped raining, but it meant I caught the fast train to London, and it could have started raining again.

At the station, airport level security, half a dozen police. Not something I have seen at a station before.

Before I got to London, more heavy rain.

Tube to Leicester Square, walk along Charing Cross Road, visit the bookshops, the Quest for Neverseconds continues.

Early dinner at Food for Thought. As I was leaving, it was starting to get busy.

Tube from Covent Garden to Putney with change at Earls Court. Walk to St Paul’s Church for Il Siglo d’Oro.

On my way to the station, I saw a bus, hopped on, but it was only one stop.

Tube to Wimbledon, then train, then change for another train, then bus.


November 14, 2012
Wimbledon Music Festival Petrushka

Wimbledon Music Festival Petrushka

I met Anthony Wilkinson Festival Director during the summer. He invited me along to the Wimbledon Music Festival. Russian ballet with puppets sounded interesting, it would either be awful or brilliant.

Wimbledon during the afternoon, have a wander around, grab something to eat, then along to St John’s Church in the evening where the performance was due to take place.

No sign of puppets. I knew there would be projection, but I thought to give a backdrop. Surely I was not here to watch a film of puppets, I could watch a film of puppets on my laptop.

The concert started late, but where were the puppets?

The first half was Mikhail Rudy, an acclaimed Russian-French pianist, on piano. I had come for the puppets, ballet, not a piano recital. Where were the puppets? Had I come to the wrong event?

Shostakovitch left me falling asleep. I would like to say those around me were captivated, spellbound, but I think they too were falling asleep.

The pianist was good, and a beautiful sound from the piano, it was only a pity he did not have something worthwhile to play. Random notes would not have sounded much different.

With some music, you have to have the dance, it is not good enough to stand alone.

Riverdance is a good example of this. The dance on its own is boring, the music on its own bland, put the two together and it is magical. On the other hand Tchaikovsky Swan Lake can stand on its own as a piece of music in its own right.

Prokofiev was far better.

What was I doing here, I had come for puppets?

A long interval, for me too long, but probably not for others as most of the people there knew each other.

Second half was the world premier of Petrushka, transcribed by Mikhail Rudy and performed by Little Angel Theatre.

It started with Mikhail Rudy wearing a cloak playing the piano. On the screen, swirling snow, Moscow, then a medieval scene of peasants at a market dancing. More dance than ballet. Then along comes a magician (wearing the same cloak as Mikhail Rudy), a Punch and Judy show with puppets, but without either Punch or Judy.

It was magical. It held everyone spellbound. At times the puppets appeared to be humans playing puppets, their movements were so fluid. Mikhail Rudy appeared on screen, amazing shots of him looking through the piano. Was this him live, or if recorded, amazing synchronisation?

In some ways it was like an old silent film, only in colour, with the man playing a piano rather than the organ. But that does not do the performance justice. Indeed it is difficult to find words to do it justice.

For the first half I wondered why was I there. For the second half I was more than pleased I was.

It is rather a pity it was not on DVD. An announcement at the end we have this available at the door on your way out. It would have sold as hot cakes. But copyright issues to be resolved.

I have suggested they upload as soon as possible to youtube and vimeo in order that it can be shared. Maybe a link to buy on DVD and blu-ray, but even not, good publicity for the Wimbledon Music Festival.

It would also be a good idea to put the sound track on bandcamp, pay-what-you-like, split 50:50 between performers and music festival, with a link to buy DVD and blu-ray.

I talked afterwards to Russian Valeria Meng of EyesOnTheWall who filmed and edited and congratulated her on what a marvellous job she had done.

I asked what did she think of doing another production based on one of the books by Paulo Coelho. She jumped at the chance. We will have to think what book, who for the music. Maybe world premier at Wimbledon Music Festival 2013.

Mikhail Rudy (Russian: Михаил Рудый) (1953- ) is a Russian-born French pianist, who has won several awards for his recordings including the Grand prix du disque.

Wimbledon Music Festival runs 10-25 November 2012.

Petrushka was performed in St John’s Church in Wimbledon.

Petrushka is not the first multimedia collaboration for Mikhail Rudy. Inspired by Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky and watercolours by Kandinsky, which in turn were the beginning of a conceptual idea for light and sound, led to a concert at the Guggenheim Museum which holds one of the world’s largest Kandinsky collections.

Abbott O’Gorman Piano Duo lunchtime piano recital

July 18, 2012
Bechstein concert grand piano

Bechstein concert grand piano

Abbott O'Gorman Piano Duo

Abbott O’Gorman Piano Duo

A lunchtime piano recital at Guildford United Reformed Church, but what day? Was the concert today or was it Friday, as the date on the leaflets was Friday 18 July 2012.

The recital was hosted by Guildford URC Music Society, their website said Wednesday 18 July, but to be sure, I needed confirmation.

No contact details. I followed the link to the church. Tried calling, no response. I sent an e-mail to the Minister. He was able to tell me how long it would take me to walk to the church, 10 minutes from St Nicolas at the bottom of the High Street, but knew nothing about the concert.

Unbelievable, a church hosts a concert by it own music society, but the Minister does not know anything about it!

I tried Guildford Tourist Information Office who are always very helpful. Yes, it was Wednesday they conformed.

It was not far to walk to the church. From the outside ugly 1960s era architecture. The main chamber more attractive with a very attractive wooden roof.

Outside the church a noticeboard with a large poster for the concert, amended to show the correct day and date.

As a walked in I noticed a few books, their library. I regret I had not taken them a copy of The Alchemist, which I had intended to do.

As I walked in to the main chamber, I was shocked by a large banner for a firm of chartered accountants. Worship of Mammon?

I said I was appalled, but was told they had sponsored the concert.

I was told the seats at the front were reserved for the accountants. I assumed the first row, but no, the first four rows, leaving the back three rows for everryone else. They also got lunch.

It is usual for the players to be introduced at a concert, usually too long-winded but at least they are introduced.

But no. One of the accountants stood up, welcomed his colleagues, welcomed their clients, then almost as an afterthought welcomed the performers, then welcomed the regulars and what he called casuals.

Out loud I shouted the riff-raff. This got filthy looks from the assembled accountants and their clients, but seemed to go down well with everyone else.

I was disgusted, I have never seen such appalling behaviour. They should have sat in the seats as everyone else, not got reserved seats, not got lunch.

Corporate sponsorship is destroying the arts, destroying sport. One only has to look at the obscenity of corporate sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

I am not a sports fan, but I feel sorry for fans who rain come shine support a team, then when comes the big match, it is the corporate sponsors and their clients who get the special treatment, the privileged seats.

But you do not expect this in a church.

The programme was a little over an hour, Brahms , Carnival of the Animals (selection) Saint-Saëns, Mother Goose Suite by Ravel, West Side Story (selection) by Bernstein, Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin.

By the time we got to Carnival of The Animals I came to the conclusion I was not enjoying this concert one bit, I was tempted to leave, but stayed. Ravel started off ok, then got worse. They murdered West Side Story. How could anyone make Maria, or Tonight sound bad, but they did. Rhapsody in Blue was ok in parts, but mostly not.

What was wrong? Was it the pianists? Was it two hands better than four, the pieces having been transcribed for four hands (the Ravel which is normally orchestrated was originally for four hands on the piano). Was it the piano?

The piano was a Bechstein Concert Grand Piano c 1892 which had been refurbished. It had a horrible clanging sound, not the lovely rich sound you would associate with a piano. Not helped by the pianists hammering the keys.

I came to the conclusion it was all these things, but mainly two hands are better than four.

The piano was lovely to look at. I asked after the concert about the piano, when was it refurbished, how much did it cost, but no one knew. Not only that, they seemed annoyed that I was asking.

I had a chat with one of the performers. I said their own website was bad for both listening to their music, and for buying. I said they would far better off being on bandcamp, and they would reach a far wider audience.

On my way in two of their CDs were on sale. I thought on leaving they would have gone, but no, still there. I asked how many they had sold. Three! Four counting the one I had bought (unless that was included in the three).

But big mistake. The CDs were on sale at £10. This is something you never do at a concert. You offer them at a discount, you are then more likely to sell. In this case it could have been two for £15. An amazing missed opportunity.

Rhapsody in Blue can either be jazz or orchestral. The classic jazz Rhapsody in Blue is performed by Earl Wild on piano.

Before the radio, before the gramophone, orchestral works were transcribed for the piano. There was sheet music. Sheet music was destroying concerts. The radio and gramophone were destroying music halls. We see the same today. Internet is destroying music. All are disruptive technologies.

No, internet is not destroying music. Internet is destroying the big record labels who criminalise those who lose music. Internet is providing new opportunities for creative artists.

The Abbott O’Gorman Piano Duo formed in 1992.

Jocelyn Abbott studied at the University of Victoria, B.C. and the Royal Academy of Music in London. She has been performing professionally since 1978 and has given concerts world-wide both as a soloist and chamber pianist

Laura O’Gorman studied at the Royal Academy of Music and the Moscow Conservatory. She has performed in solo & chamber music concerts world-wide and has recorded with The Philharmonia Orchestra and Moscow’s “Ensemble XXI” and broadcast for the BBC and Classic FM.

I came away from the concert very disappointed. Not just with the concert but how it had been hijacked by Mammon.

During the concert I wished I was anywhere but. My mind drifted to what could have been: Steve Lawson and Lobelia (see Improv #1 and Happy – Steve Lawson and Lobelia), Imogen Heap (see Earth Hour 2012), A Ritmo de Tango (see Concierto de A Ritmo de Tango).

Whilst writing a pleasure to listen a very old recording of Rhapsody in Blue, Earl Wild and the Boston Pops.

George Gershwin once wrote that most piano arrangements of songs are simplified arrangements for mass market purchase by people with limited technical skills. Therefore, in the spring of 1932, he published rather complicated arrangements of eighteen of his songs. These transcriptions, composed for more advanced pianists and often performed by him at parties, gave Gershwin the chance to write several variations on themes he had previously composed and, hopefully would prolong the life of the songs. As technically demanding as Gershwin’s own transcriptions are, they ain’t nuttin’ in comparison with Earl Wild’s dazzling transcriptions. [see Earl Wild – Earl Wild Plays His Transcriptions of Gershwin]

After the concert, lunch with Anthony Wilkinson and his wife. Anthony is festival director of the Wimbledon Music Festival. On the world scene, Wimbledon may be noted for the world’s most important tennis tournament, but under the leadership of Anthony Wilkinson, it is rapidly gaining a name for hosting a world class music festival. This year, 10-25 November 2012, the theme will be A Music World Fair, with 23 events bringing to Wimbledon performers from around the world.

Before lunch we dropped off programmes at the Guildford Tourist Information Office. I suggested mid-September drop off more and drop off at the Guildford Institute.

Had there been time, I would have given a guided tour of Guildford. But we were all three starving, having not been invited to lunch at the concert. All the best places to eat in Guildford were closed as they all stop serving at 3pm.

After lunch I looked in on Ben in Ben’s Records. This too would be a good place for programmes as Ben is a keen supporter of live music.

Top Story in Business in Berkshire Daily News (Thursday 19 July 2012).

%d bloggers like this: