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Showing posts with label BBC Radio 3. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BBC Radio 3. Show all posts

Friday, 23 June 2017

Marcel Duchamp and the signed, porcelain urinal called Fountain (1917)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

23 June

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Ever-ambitious¹ Aimard wows with authenticity

This is a review of Pierre-Laurent Aimard's solo piano recital in June 2014

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

24 June (updated, with link, 6 July)

This is a review of a solo piano recital given on Monday 23 June 2014 at The Maltings, Snape, by Pierre-Laurent Aimard during the 67th Aldeburgh Festival (@aldeburghmusic) – relayed live on Radio 3 (@BBCRadio3)

Also on Aldeburgh...

A swaying, snarling, even spitting Schubert for our times

The Humphrey and Andy Show (Britten on Camera)

The best £13 ever spent !

Why are all concert / recital programmes not like this, mixing memory and desire, as Eliot once wrote ?

That was written at the end of the first half, but it could have been inspired by later seeing the Aldeburgh music booklet ‘Leaving a legacy in your will’, which has Eliot on the back cover (You are the music while the music lasts (which seems sure to be from Four Quartets)), and the words Make Your Mark¹ on the front :

If Pierre-Laurent Aimard (PLA – just as Kristin Scott Thomas is always KST in these postings) has not made his mark on people’s consciousness to-night, that of the bewitched audience at The Maltings, Snape, and in those listening to Radio 3 (@BBCRadio3), he never will !

PLA at The Friends' Reception

(One almost hesitates, having perfectly seen those fingers and hands crossing, separating, interlocking, even one above the other, to go to the Radio 3 web-site and Listen Again (for seven days only), but, as one of my fellow occupants of the front row suggested, one wants to hear again the juxtapositions that PLA has made here.)

He has built on the wonderful curation in past Aldeburgh Festivals, both in partnership with the amazing Tamara Stefanovich (on both one and two pianos), and his solo piano non-stop miscellanies, which had seemed, until last night, to be ground-breaking music marathons. Not that they were not, but PLA has now shattered the unhelpful image of separateness in and between composers and their compositions, and, with the sheer dynamism with which he interpreted these two, differing halves, thrown down a sort of gauntlet to the question of what we listen to – and why : with the first sounding as though it contained some Scriabin (although it actually did not, because studies of his, exquisitely rendered, had only been scheduled, according to the running order, after the interval), the second with a complete short set of pieces by Bartók, whose score alone (and not exclusively) was remarkable for resembling pyramids, upwards triangles of notation.

Afterwards, when a couple was heard comparing this Festival very positively with previous ones², they appeared (unless they were talking about another performer) to be saying that PLA’s response is an intellectual response, not an emotional one, whereas one could not agree less. Yes, he is clearly a shy man (on the level of being unassuming, but proud of what he has the conviction to attempt, and succeed with), but he clearly accepts that a public face is part of performance (as, maybe, Glenn Gloud could not), and he entered into this recital as another John Ogden (who, one is glad, is being recalled just now on Radio 3) :

No one who saw Ogden, for all that he had these feats of memory and technique at his fingertips (pun intended), could doubt how brilliantly he felt the music in his soul. (Quite apart from whether having the experience of worlds known to Alexander Scriabin [the programme prefers the spelling 'Skryabin'] allowed Ogden to enter into the landscape of his harmony, and make so many remarkable recordings that we can go to³.) With PLA, one could see the pleasure, joy, surprise, anguish and discomfort with what all this music, at its height, had to say to him from the page.

He has little physical resonance with the look of Ogden on stage, but there was a resemblance in that he had clearly fixed the order of works in his head not only so that he could transition into the next one as the page-turner moved the concertina, booklet or collection of pages that was (as the case might be) the score, but be fully present to the music in each case :

And this was not ‘compartmentalization’ at all, in no sense a glib characterization of the next composer, but internalizing the essence not only of the moment, but also of the connection that he had, in scheduling the works, made with what went before : the quotation from Eliot is so relevant here, that, whilst the music – in each case – lasted, he was not only with it, but was it.

A butterfly on the lavender in the lovely garden at By The Crossways
(where The Friends' Reception was held)

Performers as different as Stile Antico (@stileantico), Britten Sinfonia (@BrittenSinfonia), and (to name but one other pianist) Vladimir Horowitz⁴ all have had their notion of a sequence, but the programme of PLA’s two halves was curated in such a way that we only (especially if one had a clear view of PLA’s hands, and where he was on each score) incidentally noticed the practice-elements in these various Études, such as octaves, chimes, dissonances, or even what, at the beginning of the very first piece, presented just as a simple scale (and how it developed from there !).

He had not, of course, not just jumbled these pieces all together, and the programming alone deserves enormous acclaim (though could another have brought off delivering it ?), alongside the precision and pianism with which PLA played. (Some might have wanted to follow the listing, to see what he was playing, where ‘we had go to’, but that seemed unnecessary (although one was partly still playing The Radio 3 Guessing Game, when, having switched on during a piece, one tries to guess what it is, before it is announced).)

More so than through enviable technique and stamina, it was in the integrity, the conviction that this should – and would – work. Rarely, then, in a second half will we have heard the top note struck and stroked to such effect, but entirely integrally and organically, as much as finding pentatonic scales, or bell-notes, and chimes. PLA did seem to be saying two things very clearly :

Why do we need opus numbers, keys, and sets of pieces so often brought to us as sets⁵, etc. ?

More importantly :

Why, in all these things, do we seek what divides music from music ?

Do not just take @THEAGENTAPSLEY's word for it that this recital excelled - read The Guardian's review, which gave it five stars, and with the following extract from which one cannot at all disagree !

Yet he will surely never make a more heartfelt tribute to Ligeti than this recital, where he placed the Hungarian composer squarely in the context of the piano greats. This was an exquisitely constructed programme, interlacing 12 Ligeti studies with 12 by Debussy, Chopin, Bartók and Scriabin, first paired and then heard in blocks of three. It made for spellbinding listening.

Rian Evans

Also on Aldeburgh...

A swaying, snarling, even spitting Schubert for our times

The Humphrey and Andy Show (Britten on Camera)


¹ In the good way, that of extending an ambit, here that of musicality and the true life that is, and is of, music.

² Not, though, that they seemed in any way let down with them, but highly impressed this time, whereas, at The Friends’ Reception on Sunday, someone had sounded a note that there had been uncertainty about how successful of this year, but that it – and PLA – had proved him or her wrong.

³ An excellent choice, made available by gullivior, is his interpretation of Beethoven's Opus 111...

⁴ Who could seem almost impatient to move on to the next piece in a recital, and not to be ruffled by applause…

⁵ In a recent piano recital (15 February) in King’s College Chapel (@ConcertsatKings), Leon McCawley (@leonmccawley) had brought us Rachmaninov’s whole Opus 32 (from 1910) in his second half, Thirteen Preludes, and, stunningly nice though it was to hear them through (the familiar and the less familiar), they made no connection of this kind :

Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Brahms were still the other side of the interval, in another place. And, with the Songs Without Words, there had seemed little feeling for the three pieces played : how often (and what does it tell us ?) might we have been to a recital where we could take or leave staying after the interval ? (Yet, to give an example, Sodi Braide’s all-Liszt second half redeemed a performance at Cambridge Summer Music Festival where one had initially felt exactly that.)

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Review by Tweet of events on the evening of 5 March 2014

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

6 March (updated, with some credits, 8 March)

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Friday, 1 November 2013

Brahms and Liszt

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

1 November

Yes, we know that it is Cockney rhyming slang - but where does the Brahms part of it come from ?

Why isn't it Bach and Liszt (preserving the single syllable, although it could just as well be Chopin and Liszt) ?

Was it the adoptive Viennese German composer's Hungarian Dances (which I prefer for solo piano, but did not realize that those first ten dances were for piano four hands), making a link with Liszt and, amongst other, better things, his Hungarian Rhapsodies (in my view - not the reason for preferring the piano versions with Brahms - Liszt was not strong at orchestration :

Endlessly, we are having played (by @BBCRadio3) the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 (and told the story about the coach, the parts, and how it is really No. 1), but we never hear No. 1, and I would prefer to hear more of the quality for the Sonata for Cello and Piano (now, also, coming to the fore) than these, let alone the Liszt Concertos.

Brahms and Liszt, inseparably linked with inebriation, and not a reliable source in sight to check whether my febrile musings have any meaning, o fallible Internet...

PS In fact, though, other web-sites are not at all inventive : Wiktionary and Oxford Dictionaries offer no explanation.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Gala with a glitch

This is a Gala review of Underground (1928), screened in NFT1 at the BFI

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

10 January

This is a Gala review of Underground (1928), screened in NFT1 at the BFI

Confession : I am not very practised (or confident) with how to view silent film :

* self-perpetuating lack of exposure to the field

* which means that my lip-reading* never gets better

* and disinclines me to make the effort to choose silent

For I find the concentration needed even greater than for a poorly subtitled film, where there is the anxious race to read and make sense of captions before the next ones come up (and, necessarily, the one in hand disappears).

None of this deterred me from this gala screening:

It had all the elements : a Q&A (and hosted by Francine Stock, to boot); the buzz of a first night at the BFI; in Underground, the restoration, by the BFI, of a film 85 years old; the involvement of silent-film musical interpreter Neil Brand, not as accompanying musician this time, but as composer of the score; and the tie-in with the 150th anniversary of the tube, with a film that almost made a character of its tunnels, staff, trains.

It brought out all sorts, from the train enthusiasts (there was one on the panel, with a looping presentation of stills) to, as it were, the silent crowd, and, of course, film buffs in general (into the latter two categories of which Brand and Stock** fitted, as did Bryony Dixon (curator at the BFI) and ?? Ben Thompson ?? (from the team of restorers)).

However, there were only two drawbacks, the minor one that, with a panel of four, each of whom had to be given a say, there was only time for five (it may have been four) audience questions, and the major hitch, which had Brand leaping from his seat and disappearing within minutes, which was that the soundtrack was no longer in synch with the projection (which, apparently, it had been earlier).

So, for example, an urchin playing on some sort of whistle was heard before he was seen. As Brand had, of course, carefully scored each moment of the 84 minutes, it was immensely distressing for him (hence his sudden exit to voice his concern), but it seemed from the apology at the end from the BFI’s director that there had been a lack of confidence that stopping the film would have allowed the problem to be remedied***.

I asked for a complementary ticket to allow me to see it as it should have been, because, although there was no doubt of the power and skill of the scoring (and of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s performance****), the concentration involved in hearing a soundtrack that did not match the visuals compounded my interpretative impairment.
That apart, it was a grand evening, and I was pleased to be able to talk briefly to Neil Brand again and offer my congratulations (and commiserations). This is why :

I had heard Brand talking to Sean Rafferty last year, on Radio 3’s late-afternoon programme In Tune (one could equally say early-evening, as I choose not to say ‘drive-time’), and was very interested both in what he had to say about the film’s dynamics, and to hear not only some of the music, but also how it had been composed. So I knew that Anthony Asquith, son of the prime minister of that name, had been the art director, I knew a skeletal amount about what the film dealt with, and I had heard Brand’s palpable enthusiasm for this commission.

I knew, therefore, that I wanted to see it, and, when I saw Brand at the Silent Film Festival (I only managed to see one film, though, where he had been playing with Mark Kermode’s band The Dodge Brothers) and then at Festival Central, I learnt that all the attention was focused on a likely release timed with the tube anniversary.

This film – including in its original sense - is terrific, and there is no doubt that the patient work of restoration, of composing the score, and of recording and tracking it has been an excellent use of resources. I want only to say enough about it that is consistent with leaving it to unfold to a new viewer, but showing what there is to be appreciated.

My Tweet will have alerted to the scheming and self-centredness of Othello, but (in no particular order) there is also, as Bryony Dixon put it, a love quadrilateral, a fight and other moments of tension, shots of trains and escalators in and around Waterloo tube-station, a magnificent chase, and a picture of the metropolis and a romantic trip to (as a member of the audience asserted, since no one knew) Hampstead Heath. What more could one want... ?


* It is a useful adjunct to indistinct speech, as a clue (or cue) to what is being uttered, but a different proposition, I find, with no speech sounds. A film of this kind has few inter-titles (have they always been called that?), and for me, used as I am to the dialogue driving many a scene, there’s a frustration at not knowing what is said.

** Aurally, it has the ring of a partnership, warehousing, maybe, designer goods.

*** When I talked, at a later date, to Cambridge Film Festival director Tony Jones, he was confident both as to the nature of the problem, and how the technology caused would have made it not capable of easy remedy : he also seemed to know, but lost me in the detail of the technicality, how it should have been done, and so would not have been beyond repair on the spot.

**** Brand provided information about how the recording from a live performance at a screening last year, once the audience noise had been taken off, had to be intermixed with taping from that event’s rehearsal. Here, too, there had been a technical issue, because the frame-speed of the projection when the two had been recorded differed !