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Pianist and scholar Robert Levin appeared with us last night in two concerts (a 7pm and a Night Shift) and today has been on a bit of a media blitz, appearing on Radio 4′s Today programme and the World Service too. There’s also something in the Evening Standard.
The reason? Well Robert has been talking about two things. Last night he performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23 with us, and Robert’s research strongly points to it being written for a pupil of his, Barbara Ployer, something previously unknown. One of the reasons he suspects this is that he found a coda written for the piece, which was intended for Barbara, and this coda hasn’t been performed for at least 200 years. But alongside this, Robert has been talking about how we perform Mozart these days. Modern performance very much sticks to what is written on the page, with no deviation. But Robert argues that in Mozart’s day there would have been a lot of free rein given to the soloist, to embellish the basic musical line, improvise around it etc. In fact, Robert, argues that his hero, Duke Ellington, is really like a modern-day Mozart.
Robert is performing the Concerto with us again on 4 October, as part of our very first The Works event. In the event he’ll be joined by presenter Suzy Klein, and the first half of the concert will be given over to a ‘guided tour’ of the concerto. More on the event in this previous blog post.
Here’s Robert talking about the concerto, plus links to today’s coverage.
Charles Hazlewood opens our 2011-2012 Southbank Centre season with us tomorrow, conducting music by Weber and Mendelssohn, in our Fingers, Felix and the Freeshooter concert. Later on, he’ll join us in The Night Shift.
What/when was your big breakthrough?
Winning the European Broadcasting Union Conducting Competition in 1995
What do you fear the most?
Losing my children
What – or where – is perfection?
At the end of the rainbow I guess, or in Mozart’s Magic Flute
Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?
Withnail (from the film Withnail & I) because he’s a very flawed (sort of) genius whose own worst enemy is most definitely himself.
What’s your favourite ritual?
Story telling or making risotto
Which living person do you most admire (and why)?
What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
What is the most played piece of music on your MP3 player or in your CD collection?
The slow movement of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante K364, Sibongile Khumalo live at the Market Theatre and Radiohead’s Paranoid Android, even stevens.
What’s the best thing about working with the OAE?
The sound and the way they listen
“My picks of the season: All of them of course….but if I really have to make a choice I’m really looking forward to the French romantic programmes. I can’t agree with Mendlessohn – I love Berlioz’s orchestration and particularly the subtle and effective ways he uses the double bass, and I can’t wait to hear what Debussy’s La Mer sounds like on period instruments. But just as exciting is the prospect of working with Laurence Cummings and the amazing energy and colour he brings to Handel and Bach, And then there’s the fab soloists like Levin, and Bostridge, and Podger, and Isserlis, and Faust and, and, and…you see I’m back where I started: all of them!
Cecelia Bruggemeyer, Double Bass
I’m very much looking forward to the Glory of Venice in January. The Monteverdi Vespers in 2010 was such a wonderful project I’ve been wanting to do more of that repertoire ever since. The Choir of the Enlightenment were fantastic and Rob Howarth has real insight into that style. For the Vespers I bought a new instrument – a beautiful copy of a Spanish bajon tuned in Dorian Mode - and it hasn’t had an outing since then! I’m also really looking forward to Romeo and Juliet with a team of four bassoons all playing early 19th century French originals – that’s a real rarity!
Andrew Watts, Bassoon
The French programme with Sir Simon Rattle in June is particularly exciting and challenging for the OAE’s timpani and percussion players. Spending our lives firmly in the rhythm section in classical repertoire, through the second half of the 19th century composers started to use timpani more as a harmonic instrument and percussion to create tone colours and effects. As the OAE branches out once again into a new area, we’ve got to select our instruments carefully with Debussy’s fascination with oriental music firmly in mind.
It’s reasonable to assume that Debussy’s La Mer , with its exotic influences and soporific moods, to be solely influenced by the Mediterranean, but it’s an interesting fact that Debussy actually finished the composition during an extended stay in Eastbourne! I haven’t yet been able to identify the “kiss-me-quick”, fish ‘n’ chips and donkey rides influences of the British seaside, but I’m sure they’re there somewhere…. Definitely one for a pub quiz….!
Adrian Bending, Timpani
It’s that time of year again, the start of a new London season. And that means that it’s also time for our staff picks of the year. Here’s what we’re all looking forward to – some definite themes emerging. Players pics will follow tomorrow!
“I’m really excited about the opening concert this season on 29 September- featuring the ever-excitable and amazing pianist, Robert Levin. After seeing him perform at the Night Shift back in February 2008 (the first concert I worked at as an official member of OAE staff (!)), it’s going to be fabulous seeing him direct another of Mozart’s Piano Concertos- he’s got such a passionate and energetic way of presenting pieces- which always comes across really well on stage, especially in the more informal, relaxed atmosphere of the Night Shift. Can’t wait!!”
Natasha Stehr, Press and Marketing Officer
“It’s the opening concert that is going to do it for me! Weber’s magical Der Freischütz Overture; Mozart’s exhilarating A major Piano Concerto with the incomparable Robert Levin; and Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony which I can never tire of listening to, not just for the attractions of the music but because of the story behind it: Mendelssohn’s journey through Scotland in 1829, aged 20, made so vivid through his sketches and the letters that he wrote about his experiences, and the very specific moment when the opening theme came to him during his visit to the ruined chapel of Holyrood Palace (pictured above)” info/tickets
Stephen Carpenter, Chief Executive
“Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet (18 February). I’ve loved Romeo and Juliet as a subject matter ever since yr 9 (age 13) when I spent nearly an entire year of English classes getting to grips with Shakespeare for the first time. I’ve since been fascinated about all the various takes on the story covered by so many art forms and composers from Berlioz to Bernstein (something we’ll look into much more detail at this years study day). I can’t wait to hear Berlioz’s almighty (there are 4 harps!!!) version.” info/tickets
Ceri Jones, Projects Director
“I’m most looking forward to the next Night Shift (29 Sep). After experiencing the format for the first time at the ‘mini’ event last week, I was most struck by how the audience were so uninhibited in their response to the music, the oppressive and weird ‘rules’ of how to view classical music really were thrown out the window. I can’t wait to see if this is maintained on the bigger stage of QEH and to be a part of one of the most forward-thinking classical nights in London.” info/tickets
Toby Perkins, Graduate Intern
“As usual, I’ve struggled to narrow it down to only one! I was tossing up between ‘An Olympic Thread’ (10 Feb) and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (18 Feb), I love the orchestra when it has swelled to the forces needed for a piece like Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet, but ‘An Olympic Thread’ has won as I’m also a fan of the OAE in an intimate concert like this. Handel and the OAE were made to go together, so I’m really looking forward to hearing the Handel pieces, but I’m also interested in hearing a new commission, something which fairly rare for us. And I think it will be perfect timing to start getting excited about the Olympics which will be just round there corner.” info/tickets
Megan Russell, Projects Manager
“It is hard to decide which concert I am looking forward to most as there is such a variety this season. Berlioz’s epic Romeo and Juliet conducted by Sir Mark Elder (18 Feb), a new commission by Sally Beamish (10 Feb) and a visit from Mozart impresario Robert Levin (29 Sept, 4 Oct, 3 May) are just a few magical moments which I am sure not to miss. But which is my favourite? After much deliberation I think it is a tie between Bostridge sings Bach (25 April) and French Impressionists (10 June). Ian Bostridge is a personal favourite of mine and I’ve cleared my diary to make sure I am free to experience two of my favourite Bs in one concert; an event which promises to be a sumptuous Baroque feast. For my second choice, we need to fast forward in time to 19th century France. Sir Simon Rattle and Pierre-Laurent Aimard are set to take us on a journey with three French masters, Debussy, Fauré and Ravel. I can’t wait to hear the orchestra interpret this shimmering, decadent music; a real wake up call to anyone who thinks the OAE only play ‘old’ compositions!” info/tickets (Bostridge) info/tickets (Rattle)
Natasha Riordan-Eva, Communications Intern
“So hard to choose! 1700s London & the Fab Four (21 Nov) because Rachel Podger is such a joy to watch, and the two programmes with Brandenburg concertos – Baroque Giants: Bach with Lisa Beznosiuk’s enchanting flute playing (4 March) and Bostridge Sings Bach (25 April) with the captivating Ian Bostridge and the wonderful Steven Devine.” info/tickets (21 Nov) info/tickets (4 March)
Lucy Pilcher, Corporate Relations and Events Administrator
“So, I’m most looking forward to the first and the last of the Southbank concerts, although I will enjoy all in between I’m sure! 29 September is a pick for me because I love Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony. Really excited about 10 June for the French Impressionists concert with Sir Simon Rattle because it is so different, I can’t wait to hear Prelude a l’apres midi d’une faune on period instruments.” tickets/info (29 Sept) tickets/info (10 June)
Ellie Cowan, Education Officer
“As ever, hard to choose. I, like others, will cheat and pick two. First, The Works (4 Oct). This is a totally new venture for us (read about it here), so I’m both excited and nervous about it. Robert Levin is an amazing speaker though, so we will be safe in his hands, and it’s an incredible piece of music too, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23. My second pic is our concert led by violinist Matthew Truscott on 10 February. I’m really excited that we will be playing a brand new piece by Sally Beamish, written for the Olympic year. It’s of course rare for the OAE to play new music, but I think the concept of new music written for old instruments is quite interesting. Definitely worth checking out.” tickets/info (4 Oct) tickets/info (10 Feb).
William Norris, Communications Director
If you’ve been following our Night Shift page on Facebook or our Twitter feed you might have seen some odd pictures posted in recent days…the office giving each other a hug (repeated here for your viewing pleasure), pork scratchings, a pint, a bunch of postcards…
Well we can finally reveal what it’s all about. As you may have read on here, or perhaps you were there, earlier this month we put on a Night Shift event in a pub in King’s Cross. It was a great evening, and it seems that performers and audience enjoyed it equally.
So we’d like to do more. 5 more in fact. The idea is to do a tour of London pubs in February next year, taking in all corners of London. But, there’s a problem. As with almost every other event we do, ticket sales don’t cover costs, even with a sell-out. So we’re embarking on a fundraising campaign with a difference to make up the shortfall.
We’re doing something called crowdfunding. This is a quite new form of fundraising – all done online and based on the principle that a lot of people donating small amounts can make a big difference. We’ve partnered with Crowdfunding site wedidthis and have 30 days to raise the £1,200 required.
But it’s not all about take take take. A key part of crowdfunding is giving you, our funders (we hope!) the chance to get something back too. So, depending on your donation we have a whole raft of interesting thank yous lined up. For example, give us a fiver and we’ll say thanks on Facebook and Twitter. A tenner gets you a postcard sent to you from an OAE tour. £50 buys you a group hug from the office.
There’s some more background about the campaign on the video below, including footage from our ‘pilot’ pub gig.
So, if you’d like to make our pub tour happen please visit our campaign page. Any donation, large or small, is useful. We have just 30 days to raise the money and if we don’t meet the target we get nothing at all. No pressure.
Thanks for reading, and a final, very unBritish plea: Get your credit card out and get crowdfunding!
If a change is as good as a rest then we OAE musicians should be well refreshed after this summer.
For me one of the highlights was playing the rarely performed Liszt Faust Symphony, a piece that required us to expand our numbers somewhat. One day we were a double bass section of two playing Handel’s Rinaldo at Glyndebourne, the next a section of eight, rehearsing Liszt, and what a fab eight it was!
It was a delight to be joined by bassists from other symphony and chamber orchestras – a chance to exchange musical ideas, and find out how things are done elsewhere. The wealth of information was mind boggling, from knowledge of instruments, players and conductors, to the best restaurants in Warsaw, – and it was very good.
We at the OAE are different to most orchestras, symphonic or chamber, in that the size of orchestra fluctuates all the time depending on the repertoire and the venue (Three players in a pub last week, I hear, taking The Night Shift new places). So when we come together for a big project such as the Faust Symphony we may not have worked with many of our colleagues for a year or more. The first rehearsal has a real sense of ‘getting to know you’ as we all have our antennae out to the max – listening, adjusting, blending.
What I’ll never forget about this Liszt project is the way that this large gathering of wonderful, talented players, came into focus as a cohesive whole. The feeling was almost physical; a seismic, earth-trembling sense of plates coming together to form a new musical land. Fanciful language, maybe, but the fantastic resulting concerts, such as the one at the Edinburgh Festival, will stay in the memory for a long time.
Cecelia Bruggemeyer, Double Bass
Many of you will know of, or will have been to, one of our Night Shift events. We introduced these late-night concerts about 5 years ago, for a number of reasons – the prime one being that we wanted to appeal to a different audience to that which comes along at 7pm. But also at the OAE we like experimenting and trying new things – and the idea of a late-night informal concert simply appealed to us. As evidenced by the fact we’re still doing them 5 years later, the series has been a great success, but a year ago we started thinking ‘what next’?
When I say ‘what next’ I mean in terms of types of concert. We really like the idea of varying the concert format, so that we have a range of things that appeal to different people. We already have our ‘standard’ 7pm concerts, the Night Shift and also our amazingly popular Tots events. So we started thinking about other ideas. A shortlist was drawn up, we debated it at a board meeting, and we decided to go for something which at the time was called an ‘explorer’ concert. Read the rest of this entry »
We’re all up early and ready for the fun and games that is check in at Heathrow. 3 staff narrow their eyes at the theorbo at once: “Have you ever travelled with it before?” ummm… I refrain from saying “only the last 20 years” and smile as they figure out the procedure about extra seats. These days (and I hope no one from BAA is reading this) you can’t buy seats for “lute” or “theorbo” so I have to go under cover as “cello”. And hope it fits. Which on the way back, it doesn’t. Fortunately the stewardesses on the plane itself are very chilled, and we rig up an arrangement involving more than my fair share of seat in a prime place next to the loo…
This is the first outing of Heiner Goebbels Songs of Wars I have seen since we were in Modena in May. One of the pleasures of this piece, aside from getting to catch up with the London Sinfonietta in glorious form, is checking out the audience reaction to the mixture of Gertrude Stein and old and new instruments. When we did it in New York in March several friends and friends of friends said the weirdest thing was hearing us read the Stein with our apparently “cut glass” British accents (not sure my Mum would recognise the cut glass bit…). Reminded me that the texts already have a music of their own, before Heiner adds his definitive mix of swing, last-post trumpet and ammunition effects and the odd bit of Matthew Locke, to Stein’s words. Read the rest of this entry »
You’re never too young to experience the OAE, as I and Rachel Beckett (recorder player and flautist) showed last Sunday, when more than forty 2 and 3 year olds had their first taste of baroque favourites.
The ethos of the OAE education programme is that every project is inspired by the orchestra’s core repertoire. These workshops at King’s Place were no exception, including music by Handel, Vivaldi, Telemann and of course J. S. Bach.
I absolutely love working with this age-group. Their responses are so immediate and truthful. They don’t yet know how to hide boredom or fain enthusiasm. When you could hear a pin drop as woolly dog introduced the recorder, I knew our young audience was hooked.
The story of The 3 Billy Goats Gruff was perfect to demonstrate Rachel’s different sized instruments; descant and treble recorders, and mellow flute. What about the bass you ask? The ugly troll of course.
The tots were skipping goats to the Country Dance from Handel’s Water Music, sleepy goats to the slow movement of Vivaldi’s Il Gardellino Concerto, and dancing goats to the Badinerie from Bach’s Flute Suite.
As a final climax all were given instruments with which to make quiet ‘mouse’ music, or noisy ‘lion’ music. It may not be what Telemann had in mind when composing Wassermusik, but the Tritons movement works brilliantly to tell Aesop’s Fable ‘The Lion and the Mouse’.
It was Rachel’s chance to weald her sopranino recorder – about as far away in pitch as it’s possible to get from a double bass . It was also a chance for education director, Cherry Forbes and our new education officer, Ellie Cowan to let their hair down as they took charge of the puppets and led a lively chase across the room.
The only problem…finding the best angle to get a photo of your tiny tot next to a huge double bass.
Cecelia Bruggemeyer, Double Bass