Once again we had the privilege of attending a University College Opera production, this time J.C. Bach’s Amadis De Gaule, at the Bloomsbury Theatre.
We have seen them at work before with Acante et Cephise (Rameau), a colourful work which became known as the ‘pink opera’ due to their stunning costumes (see a photo here). This time, set in what appears to be a dark post-apocolyptic world the colours are dark, grey and torn: a ‘brown opera’. This complex story of love, loss, revenge and redemption was performed with power and emotional energy by the four leads (see below). The University College Chorus did a beautiful job adding stage movement with a warm eery sound, a timbre that was quite mesmerising. Charles Peebles did a fine job as MD with a large and conscientious orchestra.
Thanks UC Opera for a great night. Full details below.
Amadis De Gaule (An opera in three acts), Bloomsbury Theatre London, March 28th 2015, 19:30
Amadis: Lawrence Olsworth-Peter
Arcabonne: Katherine Blumenthal
Arcalaues: Nicholas Morris
Oriane: Alice Privett
Producers: Nick Randall & Gemma Charlton
Director: Jack Furness
Music Director/Conduction: Charles Peebles
(Photo: Dante Kim)
For full list please go to www.ucopera.co.uk
It was great to hear one of London’s finest Orchestras, the London Philharmonic, play on Saturday night and to see Vladimir Jurowski conduct. Jurowski conducted the Russian composers with flair, his physicality demonstrating the shape of the sound he intended.
Yefim Bronfman did a fine job with the UK premiere of Magnus Lindberg‘s Piano Concerto No.2. It fit nicely with the programme, the Debussy and Russian influences clear to hear with great ranges in textures and relationship between piano and orchestra. Bronfman brought the work to life with ease – singing, stomping and dancing all over the piano.
The Prokofiev excerpts were dynamic, and the Stravinsky was played with a warm rich sound. Stravinsky’s animal sounds were played fabulously – you could feel the bear walking across the stage with his thudding steps. Beautiful.
Great evening all round. Full details below.
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, 19:30, 21.03.2015
Vladimir Jurowski – Conductor, Yefim Bronfman – Piano
Prokofiev – Chout (Excerpts)
Magnus Lindberg – Piano Concerto No. 2 (UK premiere)
Stravinksy – Petrushka (1911 version)
With an evening out in Soho, you never know what to expect. Sat in MeWe360 it was a surprisingly traditional urban setting. It is a ‘modern office’, but this space with its sofas, random chairs and a piano made a great setting for chamber music – a genre as old as music itself. It’s rare to be sitting on the floor listening to great contemporary music in such intimate surroundings and as Riot Ensemble‘s Artistic Director Aaron Holloway-Nahum introduced the evening we knew we were in for a great night.
The programme started with Felipe Lara‘s, “Livro dos Sonhos” (Book of Dreams) a song for clarinet with piano. Angular angry unisons began the piece which was full of timbral contrasts. Moments of diatonic melody spattered this sound world of harmonics, accents and frights with masterful clarinet control by clarinettist Harry Cameron-Penny. Adam Swayne on Piano played with precision and the pair play very well together.
Next up was the UK premiere of Marco Momi‘s ‘Reloading Vanishing’ for solo flute. Kate Walter played this so very engagingly. The piece calls for vocalisation, gasps, emotive outbursts as well as simultaneous flute playing. Walter’s character brought the piece alive. A Riot Ensemble trademark is to use other media in their work (see our previous review here). This evening they had a screen with information, most interestingly a preview of the score. Thus in ‘Reloading Vanishing’ it was intriguing to read the instruction ‘confidentially’ at the top of the score, getting a glimpse of the composer’s ‘intention’.*
Amy Beth Kirsten‘s ‘Speak to Me’ for pianist finished the first half, with Holloway-Nahum introducing Kirsten’s composition style as a ‘physical not intellectual’ activity. Swayne absolutely owned this piece – which is based on the myth of Echo, Narcissus and Juno – and eloquently (and helpfully) reminded the audience of the story. The music has three parts. Firstly Echo talking incessantly to distract Juno, her adulterous husband, secondly Juno cursing Echo and finally Echo frustrated that she can no longer speak. Kirsten is just a great writer. Her improvisational influences are so evident. The first section is great stream-of-consciousness for pianist in which Swayne both sings/speaks and plays. The cursing is dark and repetitive – a migraine of intensity of a curse and Swayne’s quite remarkable skill as an actor emerged as he spoke with harsh intensity. Finally when Echo is trapped and can no longer speak, the music recalls what was once spoken and Swayne (consciously or not) realised the pain on his face. Someone had taken away his power to speak. Echo tries to recall the music but can’t assert herself. This is an epic piece of music by Kirsten. The end is heartbreaking, a requiem for a voice that has been lost and a soul destroyed.
The second half opened with Augusta Read Thomas‘ ‘Capricci’ (Hummingbird Romance) a piece inspired by New Orleans jazz improvisation. It was a great dance for flute and clarinet and showed Thomas’ clear and intimate understanding of these instruments. This duet was great to observe. Cameron-Penny and Walter moved together as they played demonstrating flawless technique and great virtuosity. At moments the tonalities echoed Schoenberg just as he was beginning his 12-tone experimentation.
‘Invocation to Ate’ by Arne Gieshoff was next up, a piece focussing on obsession. Once more the range of the flute’s colours was superbly demonstrated by Walter’s excellent technique and performance.
The night finished with two trios, the first being Jose Manuel Serrano‘s ‘Espantajo de Resca’. Holloway-Nahum once more told the work’s story: music evoking the ghostly figures left on the sand and bark as the flood recedes from Serrano’s hometown. This piece is an echo of an image with haunting breezes of melody. Once again Swayne at the piano uses his voice in the work – but the eery sounds don’t add human reality to the work, rather they take it away, creating an even darker, beautiful sound. The rich sounds from Walter and Cameron-Penny developed Serrano’s world into a beautiful soundscape.
The evening’s title piece ‘The Riot’ by Jonathan Harvey finished the night, a work designed to show the (as Holloway-Nahum put it) ‘sheer virtuosity’ of the musicians and how it was ‘utterly clear how hard’ it is to play. This is a mayhem of a piece. Moments of utter diatonicism (cycle of fifths, major thirds) were interspersed with exclamation and madness. It’s actually great to hear a composer who’s not afraid to use even pulse and functional harmony every now and again – jazz influences too were clear.
It was a great concert with phenomenal music and well thought out programme. The setting was intimate and this made a big change to how the music was received: sitting comfortably with a drink in your hand is an inviting setting. It is a new (and yet so old) way to hear the music. Holloway-Nahum’s great insight into the composer’s ideas and thoughts (Harvey’s daughter Anna and Gieshoff himself were present too) made the music much more tangible and thought-provoking.
Check out the Riot Ensemble’s upcoming performances here. Well worth it for this breath of fresh contemporary musical air.
Clarinet – Harry Cameron-Penny
Piano – Adam Swayne
Flute – Kate Walter
1) Felipe Lara ‘Livro dos Sonhos’ (Book of Dreams)
2) Marco Momi ‘Reloading Vanishing’
3) Amy Beth Kirsten ‘Speak to Me’
4) Augusta Read Thomas – ‘Capricci’ (Hummingbird Romance)
5) Arne Gieshoff – ‘Invocation to Ate’
6) Jose Manuel Serrano – ‘Espantajo de Resca’
7) Jonathan Harvey – ‘The Riot’
*there is no way on earth we are going to get into a discussion on the realisation of the composer’s intention and whether or not it is a valid idea. This is just a review. Hence the quotation marks. The end. ~BF
The Old Vic Press Release describes The Crucible as ‘the story of one man’s fight to save his identity in a repressive Puritan community where intolerance collides with lust and superstition, fuelling widespread hysteria with tragic results.’
Quite. Get ready to have that for 3hrs45 mins. But Yaël Farber‘s production is a great success. Beautifully set in the round, there is a full five minute dramatic overture before a word is heard. With subtle incidental music (not going to lie – definite hints of the dwarves song a la The Hobbit) great lighting and good use of ‘mist’ the first act opened onto the distraught Reverend Parris at the bedside of his ‘sick’ daughter Betty.
The fairly large cast (24) is lead by Richard Armitage as the tortured John Proctor – who despite previous ‘sins’ seeks redemption and what is right, to the bitter end. Of particular note were Samantha Colley (Abigail Williams) and Sarah Niles (Tituba). Colley’s passion as the manipulative Abigail highlighted the destructive and twisted culture of accusation and Niles as Tituba had us entranced with her weary ‘dance’ around the space. Whilst the moment Richard Armitage removed his shirt did not appear to have a direct dramatic merit, we’re not going to complain. The ensemble cast of ‘witches’ were also strong – moving with unity when under the ‘spirits spell’ and creating a very dark presence on stage.
We’re keeping this brief – but a clear highlight from the show was the moment in court when Elizabeth Proctor (Anna Madeley) is asked if she suspected her husband of infidelity. Of course, set in the round, the audience is naturally part of the court observers. Such was the tension of awaiting her response – the entire audience gasped at her (we won’t give spoilers) response. That’s a great success. When the audience forgets they are watching a play.
A great and dark production, Faber’s Crucible explores the confusion of identity, belief, persecution and prosecution, family, state, individuality, love, infidelity and truth.
The Crucible runs until September 13th 2014. Get tickets here. Full cast list below.
Disclaimer: we saw the pre-press previews – so it can only get better! ~BF
The Crucible, Wednesday June 25th 2014, Old Vic Theatre London
Richard Armitage – John Proctor
Harry Attwell – Thomas Putnam
Samantha Colley – Abigail Williams
Marama Corlett – Betty Parris
Jack Ellis – Deputy Governor Danforth
Ann Firband – Rebecca Nurse
William Gaunt – Giles Corey
Natalie Gavin – Mary Warren
Christopher Godwin – Judge Hathorne
Catherine Hammond – Voice of Martha Corey
Hannah Hutch – Ensemble
Lauren Lyle – Ensemble
Anna Madeley – Elizabeth Proctor
Paddy Navin – Sarah Good
Sarah Niles – Tituba
Tom Peters – Marshall Herrick
Neil Salvage – Francis Nurse
Rebecca Saire – Mrs Ann Putnam
Adrian Schiller – Reverend John Hale
Michael Thomas – Reverent Parris
Alan Vicary – Ezekiel Cheever
Daisy Waterstone – Susanna Walcott
Matt Weyland – Hopkins
Zara White – Ensemble
Director – Yaël Farber
Designer – Soutra Gilmour
Lighting – Tim Lutkin
Music & Sound – Richard Hammarton
Movement – Imogen Knight
Casting – Maggie Lunn & Camilla Evans
We’ve heard that some of the fine people at the International Rameau Ensemble are putting on a Summer School in the very beautiful Ingestre Hall this July 21st-26th 2014. So, if you’re into all things Rameau, click here for the brochure, or head over to RameauSchool.eu….
We’re very excited to be attending the next concert featuring the International Rameau Ensemble this Friday, 21st February 2014. We interviewed their Artistic Director, Lawrence Olsworth-Peter, back in October. You can read it here.
2014 is the 250th Anniversary year of this fabulous French composer, and this is a rare and great chance to hear the beautiful motets: ‘In Convertendo’, ‘Quam Dilecta’ and ‘Deus Nost Refugium’. These three works are based on the Psalms and are performed by some of the world’s leading Early Music Performers.
You can hear them preview their work on BBC 3’s In Tune with Sean Rafferty on Tuesday 18th. It will be available to hear, here.
See you this Friday at St George’s Hanover Square. Ticket information is below. We can’t wait!
A shot from Achante et Cephise, extracts of which will be performed on November 22nd. (Anna-Louise Costello, Katherine Blumenthal & Lawrence Olsworth-Peter. Photo: Chris Cowell)
Tell us a little bit about this new project, the International Rameau Ensemble. Where did the idea come from?
I like getting people together for projects and I am also passionate about theatre. Creating the International Rameau Ensemble was as much about building relationships and creating opportunities, as it was about the music itself.
Having said that, I also started this project to share how extraordinary Rameau’s music is and to spread it outside the ‘informed musical elite’. His music is still relatively unknown in the UK although over the last couple of years major opera companies have been trying their hand at it. With the 250th anniversary of his death next year this is the perfect opportunity.
So do you think today’s modern audiences will respond to a rather unknown old French composer?
The thing that drew me to Rameau’s music when I was first introduced to it at music college was its flamboyant risk taking and sense of pageantry as well as the ability to pull on your heart strings so tenderly with gorgeous scrunchy harmonies. It is the capacity to move the human spirit which makes it appealing to any audience!
Give us a teaser for the concert on November 22nd…
Our inaugural concert will follow the theme of ‘Amour’ which is so prevalent in Rameau’s work and will include interwoven scenes from some of his most wonderful characters such as a cynical fairy, a jealous tyrant, gods and separated lovers. All the players and singers play at the highest level around the world and have kindly agreed to donate their time for the love of this music. There will also be a drinks reception afterwards.
Thanks Lawrence! We’re looking forward to it, and you’ll see a review up here shortly afterwards… ~BF
One of the most popular proms of the BBC season, the ‘Hollywood Rhapsody‘ performed by the John Wilson Orchestra was a storm of colour and energy. (Full programme below).
Two things stood out. Firstly: whilst we went to listen to the music of the films we may have seen, in listening the result was mirrored: it inspired us to see the films (again). It is a great thing that the visual and aural complement each other so well.
Secondly: despite the first point, the music still stands in its own right without any need for the visual: Psycho and Tom & Jerry are case in point.
The perfomance was fantastic. The 1950s Hollywood sound was generated with full horn, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and rhythm sections, alongside the great sweeping and warm tones of the strings.
Herrmann’s Psycho invoked one of the most bizarre responses we have ever seen in a live music audience. As soon as the repeated violin lines with full harmonics emerged – there was a physical lurch and bizarre involuntary murmur. The question really is whether the ‘screeching’ violin timbre invoked the response, or whether the association with the film is so vivid that it is that which raises the hackles. Either way – the JW strings played this wonderfully. It was also interesting to watch the orchestra ‘breathe’ during the ‘stabbing’ patterns. They literally lent in and out of their instruments with their bow movements giving us a visual stab pattern.
Tom and Jerry was hilarious. The audience were laughing and cheering. The orchestra itself plays cat and mouse. The muted trombone had his line stolen by the flute; the clarinet came and surprised us then stole the melody again; the trumpets and cymbals argued with one another as to who could play the shortest and loudest. Then of course we had the literal humour: water splashing around, bubble wrap being crinkled, snoring. It’s so refreshing to listen to this without seeing the cartoon: the quality of the music is high, and it was so well performed. It was clear the JW orchestra were enjoying themselves and therefore so did we.
The audience adored Venera Gimadieva with her rendition of Citizen Kane and Howard McGill’s sax playing in A Place in the Sun was wonderful. His pure tone resonated beautifully. Playing alone in the great Royal Albert Hall he had the audience in the palm of his hand. Too rarely does the RAH hear solo sax fill that great space. Jane Monheit and Matthew Ford did a fine job with the Movie Medley and it was great to hear the orchestra come alive and burst into full on Big Band sounds. Mike Lovatt did a top job on trumpet.
The night finished with Ben-Hur, a tale of a man whose life changes when he sees Christ’s crucifiction and the forgiveness that brings. It was a genius way to end a great night. What more could you want than that great RAH organ on full whack – with 15 of the best brass players going full blow.
Great programming, great spectacle, spectacular playing. Don’t miss it on BBC Four – August 30th.
Alfred Newman: 20th Century Fox Fanfare
Alfred Newman: How to Marry a Millionaire / Street Scene
Bronislau Kaper: Forever, Darling / Confetti
David Raksin: Laura / Suite
Bernard Herrmann: Psycho / Suite for Strings
Bernard Herrmann: Citizen Kane / Salammbô’s Aria
Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Adventures of Robin Hood / Suite
Jerome Moross: The Big Country / Main Title
Max Steiner: Casablanca / Suite
Move Theme Song Medley: An Affair to Remember / Something’s Gotta Give / Young at Heart / It’s Magic / The Tender Trap / My Foolish Heart / Three Coins in the Fountain / Love is a Many-Splendoured Thing / That’s Amore / Que Sera, Sera / All the Way
Franz Waxman: A Place in the Sun – Suite
Scott Bradley: Tom and Jerry at MGM
Miklós Rósza: Ben-Hur / Suite
This review is short and sweet – simply because we weren’t planning on putting pen to paper (or rather, fingers to blog…). However our ears were so stimulated, we just had to share.
Two bands. Metamorphic and Røyst Trio. Three sets.
First up: Metamorphic, launching their new album ‘Coalescence’. Headed up by pianist Laura Cole, they place themselves on the ‘folk-jazz’ side of the music scene. It was great to hear groove based lines juxtaposed with wild improvised sections. The writing is great, and they were tight. There were beautiful moments with horn stabs and stops suddenly let the pure vocal line of Kerry Andrew shine through. Alto Sax player Chris Williams stood out: he clearly loves playing with the group and fed off the rest of the band to create some beautiful virtuosic solo lines.
Then we were silenced by Royst, a trio of voices creating harmonies we didn’t even know existed. What makes them quite so wonderful, is that each of their voices really is VERY different , and yet they can still blend beautifully. Interlacing complex rhythmic loops (acoustically) with melody and panache, it’s impossible to take your eyes and ears away from these three. ‘This Is Sound’ by Kari Bleivik stood out for it melodic flavours, exploring scales and modes alongside rhythmic switches.
The final set brought these two groups together. Reeds are as lyrical as voices – and the mix was just sublime. There were moments of serenity when each member of both groups sang, chaos when the horns were let free over the voices.
You must grab a chance to see this collaboration. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear ‘jazz’ with such original variety and freedom.
See it: June 27th 2013, Lost Voices, Liverpool.
Buy it: ‘Coalescence’ by Metamorphic,
Laura Cole (bandleader, piano/composer/arranger ), Chris Williams (alto sax (Led Bib)), John Martin (tenor/soprano sax), Kerry Andrew (vocals/loops), Tom Greenhalgh (drums), Paul Sandy – (bass (The Rude Mechanicals)) + Seth Bennet (bass)
Kari Bleivik, Cecilie Giskemo, Maria Jardardottir
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