Master Class at the KPO

Musica Universalis Organization promotes the first edition of the International Conducting Master class with M° Ennio Nicotra will be held in London (UK), 15-18 July 2021. Information at https://musicauniversalis.org.uk. The course is dedicated to orchestral conducting foundation and technique. The program of these events will feature works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn and Dvorak. At […]

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New chapter for KPO

Kensington Philharmonic Orchestra starts a new chapter with new conductor Claudio Di Meo. The KPO, founded in 1965, is one of London’s leading amateur orchestras. It provides opportunities for advanced players of all ages to perform works from the classical and modern repertoire, including pieces that are rarely heard in the concert hall.

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Tanks crossing the Rhine

Tanks and Rivers?  Let me start with Smetana’s Vltava, one of his great cycle of Symphonic Poems written in 1874 and known as Ma Vlast. We left Rostropovich in 1968 weeping for Prague as the Russian tanks crushed the liberalising efforts of Alexander Dubček. It is a city which has endured more than its fair share […]

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When nothing is as it seems

Stravinsky was, of course, a chameleon who changed his styles as often as Picasso.  Six years after the premiere of his Rite of Spring had caused a riot in Paris, he embarked on his neo-classical period with the one-act ballet “Pulcinella”.  It qualifies for tonight’s list because it sounds as much like Pergolesi as […]

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Three great Russians and bit of Shostakovich too…

I don’t subscribe to the theory that things ain’t what they used to be.  But I back my fantasy Trio of Oistrach, Rostropovich and Richter against any and all comers.  So here are two pieces to explain why. Dvorak’s cello concerto could have been written for Rostropovich, so completely does he inhabit its inner […]

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Themes, Variations & Fugues

Brahms wrote the Handel Variations for his “beloved friend” Clara Schumann in 1861, when the young composer was just 28 and achieving complete mastery both of the piano and of large-scale forms.  For many people it is one of the half-dozen great sets of variations and still sometimes overlooked by those with their gaze […]

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Swans

Saint-Saens’ swan is a familiar friend.  Composed in February 1886 and never out of the repertoire since.  The cello glides serenely on its way, with the piano suggesting something of the paddling that goes on underneath. The piece is simply conceived and executed; but the comments for the two YouTube clips below bear witness to the extraordinary […]

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Pianists

After the rough and tumble of full orchestral Berlioz and Wagner, I thought it was about time for some piano music.  So here are two of my favourite living pianists with a mind-blowing encore thrown in. The Leeds International Piano Competition has enriched our lives by “finding” a succession of truly great pianists.  Even […]

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Fantasias

I have three Fantasias, two films and an encore, which acts as a brief apology to those who think I should have included something from Toutes Les Matins du Monde last week.  And I include something to give us all hope for the return of live music soon soon soon. The word Fantasia itself […]

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Maestros

John Adams wrote his orchestral fanfare “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” in 1986.  His description of it was suitably postminimalist: “You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?”   For me, it conjures up a jalopy ride in Kansas or some such […]

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