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Nigel Kennedy has kicked off quite a debate this weekend, with an article in The Observer picking up on some programme notes by him from a recent performance of Bach. In it, he criticises modern-day performances of the composers music, and period-performance in particular, stating:

“Even the description of oneself as being ‘authentic’ is unbelievably arrogant – and, in the case of so-called ‘period’ performance, misguided. How can music … be authentic if it is stripped of passion and made into an exercise of painfully self-conscious technique?

Read the full article here

Obviously we’d take issue with this. And from a personal point of view I’d probably add that period-performance and ‘dry’ academicism are not the same thing – an academic or historically informed approach does not mean a passion-less performance. But anyway, what do you think? Does he have a point?

William Norris, Communications Director

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Here’s the latest in our series of pre-concert talks which we’re making available as podcasts. In this talk from our Baroque. Contrasted. Festival, Tom Irvine, a music historian from the University of Southampton, talks about Bach’s Double Violin Concerto and Purcell’s Fairy Queen.

Now you get to hear from a player rather than just office bods! In this latest vid OAE leader Matthew Truscott talks about the concert he has devised and is directing at Kings Place on 9 April, – a programme which features Purcell, Bach and Handel, including how the concert fits into the Baroque. Contrasted. theme of the festival.

Next up, another round of Baroque trivia.

Here are some reviews from our recent tour of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio:

The Guardian on 10 December concert at St. George’s Bristol

Bristol Evening Post on 10 December concert at St. George’s Bristol

Classical Source on 12 December concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

Classical Music Blog from Robert Hugill on 12 December concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall

If you were at one of our performances in London, Southampton, Bristol or Southwell, let us know what you thought!

John Butt is currently with us conducting our tour of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio which has its last performance tonight, in Southwell. We put our speed interview questions to him:

What/when was your big breakthrough?
Well, I’ve had some fortunate opportunities in several aspects of my career, but I suppose as a conductor, the most significant was the first recording I did with the Dunedin Consort (Messiah in its Dublin version, 2006), which got a couple of major awards.

What do you fear the most?
In terms of performing, about which I tend to be quite intensive, it’s probably about having a complete energy block. This does happen often in everyday life (owing to an underlying condition) but never, so far, in performing or rehearsing. I suppose, in general, I fear most a decline in physical and mental abilities.

Which mobile number do you call the most?
My wife, Sally’s, by a long way – she’s very fond of the phone.

What – or where – is perfection?
Difficult one – I tend to think of it as an infinite process rather than as something that’s ever achieved. Bach’s attitude to composition is an obvious example of this – I’m sure that if he were still alive he’d still be working on the same pieces. And, if perfection ever seems to be achieved, isn’t it often a little dull? Performing with period instruments is an excellent case in point: you give up some of the perfections of what some might see as technical ‘progress’ (in terms of both instruments and the playing techniques), but gain other types of perfection in terms of tone, intonation, articulation (and, not least, the enquiring attitude of the performer). With older types of tuning you get some intervals that are acoustically close to perfect, but others that definitely aren’t, and these often have expressive connotations – thereby heading in the direction of yet another type of perfection… Read the rest of this entry »

The second leg of our tour took us to Amsterdam. This date of the tour was unusual in that it was only actually confirmed a few months ago. Usually tours like this are planned up to 2 years ahead. In this case the orchestra originally booked to perform at the Concertgebouw was unable to perform, so we were asked if we would be free, and luckily we were, although with the exception of mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotjin, who was replaced at this performance by Anna Stephany. Read the rest of this entry »

Today it’s official – this is the coldest place in the USA at -20C.

On Thursday we shared a concert with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. We played Mozart, CPE Bach and Haydn in the first half and then they played a Shostakovich chamber symphony. Afterwards our hosts held a reception for us at Stella’s Fish Cafe where we were given a wonderful buffet meal and a real welcome. We presented them with a signed poster and a copy of the OAE’s 21st birthday book – it’s the SPCO’s 50th anniversary this year so we are still adolescent by comparison!

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