Wednesday, February 22, 2017
On Fenruary 1, 2017, I interviewed violinist Esther Abrami. She was at her home in London. I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, about 5400 miles away. I’m separating the interview into two posts and in this first one, we cover her upbringing, her teachers, and her wonderful violin. It was a very enjoyable conversation! HZ: Did you grow up in a musical family? EA: My parents love music, but I did not grow up in a musical environment. However, my grandmother is a violinist, living in France. HZ: How wonderful for you that your grandmother also plays the violin. Did you see her often as you were growing up? EA: I don’t see her very often unfortunately, but I always love calling her and telling her all about my up coming concerts and the pieces I am practicing. HZ: What performances are coming up for you? EA: I am doing some recording in the U.K. and in France. And in June, I am going to perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Waterloo Festival, which takes place at Saint Jones Church. In the second half of this concert, I will lead the Blackfriars Camerata orchestra from the concertmaster’s chair in Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony . The date of the concert is June 10th. For the Four Seasons, the date is already up on the Blackfriars Camerata website. It will be on the 10th of June at Saint Jones Church in Waterloo, London. HZ: Please tell me about your violin; I understand that it was crafted by Carlo Giuseppe Testore. (aside) Carlo Guiseeppe Testore was born in 1625 and crafted instruments in his workshop in Milan in the early 1700’s. Esther’s violin is more than 300 years old. EA: Some years ago I went to several shops, as I began to look for a new instrument. At one of the shops I was handed an instrument, and I did not know who the maker was. After playing this violin for two minutes, I said to myself “This is my violin”. I found a connection with it. I have owned it for about five years. I purchased it in Amsterdam. HZ: From your own Web site, I learned that you participated in a Master Class with violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi. Would you share with me and with my readers how that experience was for you? (aside) Shumel Ashkenasi is a music teacher I’m familiar with and have seen his work in videos online and I was interested in how Esther’s experience was with him. EA: Yes… it was a 1-1 session, and it lasted about 45 minutes. He gave me some helpful technical insights on my performance of the Faure violin Sonata. He showed me how he would play it. HZ: Oh, yes… teaching violin is a very complex skill. Back in the day of Heifetz, there also was just one way of playing (the right way, the way the teacher would play it). Later, however, things changed and as an example, the teacher of Yitzhak Perlman, Dorothy Delay , was always interested in how the student might bring new and exciting interpretations to the music … EA: Yes, exactly. My teacher now is Leonid Kerbel , and I have my violin lessons at the Royal college of Music. We always discuss the music that I am working on. And I find that this type of teaching can lead to my being completely inspired. HZ: I understand that you also have a career in modeling? EA: I am a violinist. I am lucky to be able to do some modeling. I have benefited from it; it helped me a lot – especially with yoga… and in other physical ways as a violin player, with my posture, etc. HZ: Tell me about the orchestra conductors under whose direction you have performed? EA: It is interesting how important a conductor is. I find that I connect, emotionally, with what a conductor is doing, and the sections of the music that receive their emphasis. HZ: One of the huge challenges for any performer is the requirement for travel. Have you had to deal with a lot of travel so far in your career? EA: My travel so far has been mostly in Europe, so it has been reasonable. But I hope to come to the US next year, possibly in an exchange program with the Manhattan School of Music. ———— In my next post of this interview with Ms Abrami we will talk about Esther’s description of an upcoming concert in which she will perform three compositions for violin alone. This was really interesting. The selections she will perform are by Khachaturian, Prokofiev, and Biber. So stay tuned to My Classical Notes for the next installment of my enjoyable talk with Esther Abrami. Here she is on YouTube, performing the brief and humerous Scherzo from Beethoven’s Spring Sonata:
Nigel Redden, in an op-ed in South Carolina's largest newspaper: "Whether presenting an opera by Antonio Vivaldi or a play by Samuel Beckett, the Festival depends on works created by artists from many parts of the world. ... [Their] varied outlooks come from lives and personal histories that differ from many in the audience who flock each year to the Festival. And this is why they flock: they come looking for the kind of personal connection that the performing arts provide especially well. ... To limit these possibilities limits us as human beings."
Max Richter © Wolfgang Borrs The work of Virginia Woolf , in common with that of many great artists, is not easy to summarize. It is profound, visionary, daring and experimental, but equally at times playful, personal and intimate – and it is always deeply humane. Her subject matter is a kind of pure research into the nature of language, personality, voice, and the question of being itself. She seems constantly to ask us: ‘how can we live?’ It’s this that drew me obsessively to her writing in my early twenties. And so, having worked together previously on Infra and Future Self, I was excited when Wayne McGregor invited me to collaborate again on Woolf Works , his new ballet based on three of the novels: Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves. The process of finding the musical languages for the three sections of Woolf Works was two years of theorizing, planning, research and experiment. Clearly the three novels are distinct universes, each needing their own coherent musical grammar, and yet the ballet needed to hold together, to have an overall musical fingerprint, embodying the voice of the author in her manifold guises. Finding a way to reconcile these demands was the fundamental question, and led me to a hybrid language: the score for Woolf Works uses the traditional orchestra, soloists, real-time and prerecorded electronic music, live digital signal processing and spatialization . The music for the Mrs Dalloway section of the ballet, entitled ‘I now, I then’, opens with an extraordinary recording of Virginia Woolf herself , reading the essay ‘On Craftsmanship’ in a BBC recording of 1937. How incredible to hear her voice. It’s actually Virginia Woolf! Next comes a multi-layered and elusive web of musics that prefigures all that is to come: disparate rhythmic and melodic strands, pulsations, electronic atmospheres, found sounds and field recordings populate the aural space as our focus is shifted by the continuously unstable metrical scheme. The music shimmers as Clarissa Dalloway hurries through it. After the opening material, the act focusses on three central characters in this remarkable novel: namely, those of Peter, Sally and Septimus. The 'Peter' music and the 'Sally' music are related, since both characters are, for Clarissa Dalloway, people with whom she had a strong connection in the past – roads not taken on her journey through life. For this reason, the music, while deliberately simple, hides a number of asymmetries and trapdoors in the harmonic and rhythmical language; I wanted it to feel subliminally as though the material is misremembered after a long absence. The music for Septimus, the shell-shocked war veteran, is a mini de profundis, built around the typically English device of a ground bass, over which the cello solo unfolds, starting at the bottom of the instrument, and ascending to a space beyond our sight. Throughout the act we hear the city of London, represented by a field recording of Big Ben, a sound Virginia Woolf would have heard every day. I always felt that the city itself is an important voice in the novel – much as Dublin is the canvas for the the wanderings of Joyce’s Mr Bloom in the near-contemporaneous Ulysses, so the streets of London accommodate the trajectories of Clarissa Dalloway and her friends. ‘Becomings’, which forms the second part of the ballet, is based on Woolf’s Orlando, a novel of transformations, stretching across many locations and historical episodes. I immediately started to think about the similarities with variation form – the musical process where a recognizable theme is transformed and re-ordered to reveal new aspects of its character – so I chose this process of variation as the basis of the Orlando music. The theme I chose for these variations is the well-known fragment La Folia, which has been used by numerous composers since the middle of the 17th century, among them Corelli, Marais, Lully, Vivaldi, Bach , Scarlatti, Handel and Geminiani. However, I wanted the palette to be one which could only exist today; so in addition to variations for the whole orchestra, for solo instruments and for chamber groupings, there are also variations which are wholly electronic, incorporating analogue modular synthesis, sequencing, digital signal processing and computer-generated synthesis. Of the 17 variations in the ballet, about half use this extended palette – for me these reflect the shifts in personal and chronological perspective in the narrative. ‘Tuesday’, the third act of the ballet, is a journey through Woolf’s dream-like novel The Waves, and is prefaced by a reading by Gillian Anderson of her last piece of writing, her profoundly moving suicide note. This ‘theme’ of suicide connects to the Septimus episode in Act I, and so I wrote music that relates to that material, in that it is once again structured around a ground bass. The wave-like melodic contours in the music build over 20 minutes and incorporate a solo soprano, as if she were a solitary submerged figure in the oceanic orchestral texture. What a brilliant, creative human being Virginia Woolf was. It’s been extraordinary once again to have the chance to be engaged in the matters that troubled her, the questions she wrestled with and the visionary quality of the answers she discovered. Woolf Works runs 21 January–14 February 2017. Tickets are still available. Max Richter's new album, Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works , is out on 27 January 2017 on Deutsche Grammophon.
Nicola Benedetti is surely Scotland’s best known violinist. Have a look at one of her amazing recordings, and note the diversity of the individual tracks: Nicola Benedetti: My First Decade Brahms: Hungarian Dance No. 5, with Tamas Andras, Thomas Carroll, Ksenija Sidorova, Petr Limonov Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 – Adagio, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jakub Hrusa conducting. Chopin: Nocturne No. 20 in C sharp minor, Op. post. With Petr Limonov (piano) Gardel: Por Una Cabeza Ksenija Sidorova, Alexander Sitkovetsky, Leonard Elschenbroich, Alexei Grynyuk Hess, N: Ladies in Lavender – main theme Tamas Andras, Thomas Carroll, Ksenija Sidorova, Petr Limonov Massenet: Meditation (from Thaïs), with London Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding conducting Monti, V: Csárdás Tamas Andras, Thomas Carroll, Ksenija Sidorova, Petr Limonov Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35: III. Allegro vivacissimo, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jakub Hrusa conducting. Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Litton conducting. Vivaldi: The Four Seasons: Summer, RV315 – Presto, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Williams, John: Schindler’s List: Theme, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Kirill Karabits conducting. All performed by Nicola Benedetti (violin) Just 29 years old, Nicola Benedetti has been making chart-topping recordings for more than 10 years. This album celebrates the best of those recordings, and her other successes – from winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2004, to her 2012 best-selling album ‘The Silver Violin’. A collection of great violin music – from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending to the Tchaikovsky and Bruch violin concertos and Arvo Part’s Spiegel Im Spiegel. The disc also features brand new recordings – Brahms’ invigorating Hungarian Dance no. 5, Monti’s ever-popular Czardas, and Chopin’s emotional Nocturne in C# minor. Let’s listen now to Ms. Benedetti playing the wonderful second movement of the Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata for violin and piano:
How many of the classical world’s comings and goings, openings and closings, bouquets and brickbats do you remember from the past 12 months? Try our quizWhich one of these pianistic partners did Martha Argerich not play duets with in London this year? Daniel Barenboim Stephen Kovacevich Alberto Portugheis Which mezzo-soprano lost her head as Holofernes in a staggering concert performance of Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans at the Barbican? Ann HallenbergMagdalena Kozena Delphine Galou‘A civilisation that conserves is one that will decay’ said which composer, whose life and music nonetheless were celebrated throughout the year? Pierre BoulezJohn CagePeter Maxwell DaviesWhich operatic anti-hero came to an unfortunate end in a disused sewer in Vienna in English Touring Opera’s new production? Don Giovanni RigolettoHarry LimeWhich one of these conductors pulled out of an engagement to conduct in the Bayreuth Festival this year in as yet unexplained circumstances? Christian ThielemannAndris Nelsons Kirill PetrenkoWhich of these UK opera companies did not welcome a new music director or artistic director (or both) this year? Royal Opera HouseGlyndebourneEnglish National Opera Whose music was performed in a Peckham car park as one of this year’s Proms? David Bowie Benedict Mason Steve ReichThirty-year-old Latvian Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla is the newly appointed chief conductor of which British orchestra?City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra London Symphony Orchestra Philharmonia OrchestraWhose opera debut, Pleasure, was set in the toilets of a gay nightclub? Colin Matthews Mark Simpson Anna MeredithSoprano Sarah Tynan sang Britten’s Les Illuminations at the Aldeburgh festival. Who did she perform alongside? A group of acrobats, clowns and aerialistsAn elephant and a camelA virtual reality projection of Britten accompanying her on the pianoIn May, Sheku Kanneh-Mason won the BBC Young Musician competition. Which cello concerto did the 17-year-old perform to take the title? Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minorShostakovich's Cello Concerto No 1 in E flat majorWitold Lutosławski's Cello ConcertoSofia Coppola directed an opera - her first - at Rome's Teatro dell'Opera. Which one?Verdi's La TraviataWagner's Tristan und IsoldeMark-Anthony Turnage's Anna Nicole Who threatened strike action at English National Opera? The boardThe stagehands The chorus Why was Philip Glass's music featured at this year's Glastonbury festival? There was an open-air screening of Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi with Glass's soundtrackEnglish National Opera took the opening act of Akhnaten to the Pyramid stage for a Sunday early afternoon performanceCharles Hazlewood and his Army of Generals performed Glass's Heroes Symphony, inspired by David Bowie's 1977 album.This year's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Kings College Chapel features - as it does every year - a specially commissioned carol. By who?Kanye WestMichael BerkeleyJudith Weir Continue reading...
Lucie Horsch, a 17-year-old prodigy, has just scored a major label contract, but she’s the latest of many great musicians to decide the recorder isn’t just for kidsLucie Horsch arrives with a small backpack from which she produces half a dozen recorders of various sizes. Showing the skills of an assembler of Ikea furniture, she puts them together at lightning speed, before giving a demonstration of her art.Horsch is the latest big thing in recorder playing, if that’s not a contradiction in terms. She is 17, Dutch, gamine – as, it seems, recorder players ideally should be – and has just released a charming disc of Vivaldi concertos, the first recorder player ever to sign to Decca Classics. Recorder playing, sometimes seen as the Cinderella of classical music, is going to be allowed to come to the ball. Continue reading...
Antonio Vivaldi (March 4, 1678 - July 28, 1741), was an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Vivaldi is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over 40 operas. His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons. Many of his compositions were written for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi worked between 1703 and 1740. Vivaldi also had some success with stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. After meeting the Emperor Charles VI, Vivaldi moved to Vienna hoping for preferment. The Emperor died soon after Vivaldi's arrival, and the composer died a pauper, without a steady source of income. Though Vivaldi's music was well received during his lifetime, it later declined in popularity until its vigorous revival in the first half of the 20th century. Today, Vivaldi ranks among the most popular and widely recorded Baroque composers.
Great composers of classical music