Saturday, May 28, 2016
Pumeza Matshikiza (soprano), Aarhus Symfoniorkester/Ringborg (Decca)The South African lyric soprano Pumeza Matshikiza, now enjoying an international reputation, has versatility, range and huge personality. Her voice is rich without heaviness, capable of teasing lightness and flexibility, as the selection here demonstrates. She opens with a tender Si, mi chiamano Mimi from Puccini’s La bohème (Mimi is one of her signature roles) and travels via Hahn, Fauré and Ravel back to Mozart, Gluck and, in an anguished Dido’s Lament, Purcell. The African Cuban Punto de habanera shows her in playful mood. All texts are supplied. Enunciation is not Matshikiza’s greatest strength. A detailed note places her in the great tradition of Tebaldi and Rosa Ponselle: too early to say, but this album is enjoyable on its own terms. Continue reading...
Whether raunchy or religious, everything Purcell wrote had the same unstuffy grit. Ahead of her show at the London festival of baroque music, the folk star pays tribute to champion of the vernacularWhen I was nine or so, a nymph-like young woman with long blond plaits and steel-rimmed specs (think Joni Mitchell meets Virginia Woolf) came to teach me and my friends in Oxford Girls’ Choir “baroque dancing” on Saturday mornings.I’m not sure how authentic our interpretations were, and the older girls joked about having to wear “doilies” on our heads. But the countless period performances of Dido and Aeneas, the first English opera, which we toured around the UK and Europe, were deeply formative and fun. The music was as beguiling and alive for me as a drunken sailor, a witch or a cupid, and this is where my relationship with Purcell began. Continue reading...
Uploaded by Steve Purcell, who directed several videos for Prince in the 1990s, the take illustrates the acute musical ear and pianistic facility of the late rock star. Steve Purcell writes: ‘ This is August 2, 1990 sound check Osaka Japan. I spent six years of my life working for, creating with and laying the foundation for the rest of my career with Prince. Long nights, remote parts of the world and creative growth beyond my wildest dreams. This may not be the Prince you think of but it is the Prince I knew. Those years were and will always remain the highlight of my career. Thanks for the good times RIP Kid. ‘
St John’s Smith Square, London This year’s roster of fine young musicians and composers made merry with everything from James MacMillan to oysters and EurostarThe Park Lane Group young artist series, which gives a platform for highly talented soloists, ensembles and composers at the start of their careers, is in its 60th season. For decades the PLG concerts have been in early January at the Purcell Room: dark, post-festive dog days when a dedicated handful of supporters can feel like a friendly throng. Removed in venue and season (the Purcell Room currently being shut), the PLG’s struggle to find an audience is yet tougher. St John’s Smith Square can feel cavernous even when full, as it deserves to be for these prodigious musicians. Each of the five nights focused on an established composer – among them James MacMillan, Robin Holloway and Helen Grime – alongside young, new names. Tuesday night featured two quartets: the Hermes Experiment – by its own designation an idiosyncratic combination of instruments consisting of harp, clarinet, soprano and double bass, vigorously pursuing new commissions – and the Alke Quartet which is, whichever way you shake it, a string quartet. Continue reading...
The programme is being announced in London as I write (in New York). First out of the hat: Martha Argerich playing Liszt with Daniel Barenboim and the West/East Diwan here, And Gergiev conducting the Munich Phil in Ustvolskaya… now that’s a Proms first. And Mirga, the new CBSO music director, makes her London debut with Barbara Hannigan in a Hans Abrahmsen piece. UPDATE: press release: New Proms Director David Pickard introduces an innovative series Proms at … that explores spaces outside the Royal Albert Hall and Cadogan Hall. The series matches music to four venues across London with Shakespeare-inspired works by Purcell at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe in Southwark, Rossini’s Petite messe solennelleat The Chapel, Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, the music of Steve Reich at the Bold Tendencies Multi-Storey Car Park in Peckham and the return of the Proms to the Roundhouse in Camden with new work by British composer David Sawer. The cello is put under the spotlight this summer with ten concertos ranging from Elgar’s Cello Concerto performed by Sol Gabetta on the First Night to the world premiere of Huw Watkins’s Cello Concerto written for and performed by his brother, Paul Watkins. 400 years since the death of Shakespeare, the Proms marks the anniversary with a broad survey of music inspired by the Bard from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet to Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you and extracts fromKiss Me, Kate. In the year in which the Olympics are staged in Brazil, the Proms celebrates the music and musicians of Latin Americawith performances from the São Paulo and Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestras, pianists Martha Argerich andGabriela Montero, conductors Daniel Barenboim and Gustavo Dudamel, cellist Sol Gabetta and Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez who appears at the Last Night of the Proms. The music of Villa-Lobos and Ginastera, who would have been 100 this year, also feature. A special Late Night Prom from the string players of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and members of the São Paulo Jazz Symphony Orchestra promise to get everyone into the carnival spirit as they celebrate a century of Brazilian popular music. A vital part of the Proms mission remains bringing classical music to new audiences, and youth music-making and youth audiences are a major focus this year. The hugely popular CBeebies Proms return and there will be two Proms devoted to BBC Music’s Ten Pieces II, part of a ground-breaking nationwide initiative for schools designed to open up the world of classical music to primary and secondary school children. As part of a series of weekend matinee concerts aimed at family audiences, presenter Tom Service and conductor Nicholas Collon introduce and unpick Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, played from memory by the Aurora Orchestra. With young musicians firmly at the centre of the festival, the world’s most famous classical concert, the Last Night of the Proms, opens with a BBC commission for former BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition winner Tom Harrold. The Proms Youth Ensemble also performs at the Last Night, side-by-side with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and 16 young singers take to the stage for Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music. The season celebrates some of the world’s most eminent living composers including Steve Reich, Magnus Lindberg and Jörg Widmann as well as celebrating the birthdays of three leading British composers, Anthony Payne at 80, Colin Matthews at 70 and Sally Beamish at 60. The Proms remains firmly committed to new music with 30 premieres including 13 world premieres. The anniversaries of Satie and Dutilleux are also marked across the season. From gospel to Gershwin, the season presents a broad-ranging programme of music. Katie Derham presents the first everStrictly Prom with the help of professional dancers from the BBC Television series, musical giant Quincy Jones is joined by Jules Buckley and the Metropole Orkest to celebrate his extraordinary career and and John Wilson and his eponymous orchestra return to the Proms to mark the 120th anniversary of Ira Gershwin’s birth. A selection of handpicked singers from leading gospel groups come together for a Late Night Prom and Jamie Cullum returns to the Proms with the Heritage Orchestra, and special guests including emerging talent from BBC Music Introducing. In the year that we lost two musical pioneers, the Proms pays tribute to Pierre Boulez and David Bowie in two Late Night concerts. Star soloists taking to the stage include Martha Argerich, Juan Diego Flórez, Barbara Hannigan, Stephen Hough, Steven Isserlis, Sir András Schiff, Stuart Skelton, Bryn Terfel and Alisa Weilerstein. A platform is also given to the brightest young stars of the musical world with 132 artists and ensembles making their debut at the festival this year and no fewer than 15 current or former members of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Artists scheme performing at the festival. Many of the world’s finest orchestras and conductors also make a welcome return to the Royal Albert Hall stage including the Berlin Philharmonic with Sir Simon Rattle,Budapest Festival Orchestra with Iván Fischer, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra with Herbert Blomstedt,Berlin Staatskapelle and West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with Daniel Barenboim and Dresden Staatskapelle with Christian Thielemann in his first performance at the Proms. Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo, opens and closes the festival, and in the 50th-anniversary year of his first appearance at the Proms, Bernard Haitink conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with theLondon Symphony Orchestra in what will be his 88th Prom. Lithuanian conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla makes her Proms debut, her first London appearance with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra before she becomes the orchestra’s Music Director in September. In addition to the six BBC Performing Groups who are once again central to the festival with a total of 32 performances across the season, the rich wealth of the UK orchestral landscape is on show including performances from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,Hallé, London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras, Philharmonia, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra and many of the UK’s chamber orchestras and ensembles. In the spirit of its founding vision to make the best music available to the widest audience, every Prom is broadcast live onBBC Radio 3, and in 2016 BBC Radio 2 and Radio 6 Music each broadcast multiple Proms. Audiences will be able to watch the Proms on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four, CBBC, CBeebies and iPlayer. Proms Extra, the Saturday-evening magazine show, returns to BBC Two for its fourth season. David Pickard, Director, BBC Proms, says: “I am hugely proud to be presenting my first season as Director of the BBC Proms. I cannot think of another festival anywhere in the world which offers such an extraordinary range of music performed by the world’s leading orchestras, conductors and soloists. The BBC’s ongoing support not only allows the Proms to reach millions through broadcasting, it also ensures that those attending concerts can hear the very finest performances at an astonishingly low cost. I look forward to continuing the founding vision of the Proms – to bring the best of classical music to the widest possible audience.”
Blaze, Clayton, Grevelius, Hughes, Nelson, Rose/Middleton (Champs Hill) Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears were early advocates of the glorious songs of Henry Purcell, including some in almost all their recitals together. As pianist, Britten developed elaborate accompaniments for them that today seem a little overworked, but it’s fascinating to hear their period style on these two CDs, especially with the unifying and responsive playing of pianist Joseph Middleton. The vocal styles vary rather widely, from early music, in Ruby Hughes’s shining Fairest Isle and Robin Blaze’s pure Sweeter than Roses, to full-on in the magnificent bluster of Matthew Rose, who brings Britten’s version of Music for a While to a huge climax. There are fun ensembles too. Continue reading...
Great composers of classical music