Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Kanye West makes a case for silence

From an online post relating the contents of Kanye West's talk to Oxford University:

“OK, everyone please be completely quiet, because I can literally hear a whisper, and it’ll throw off my stream of consciousness, and when I get my stream of consciousness going that’s when I give the best, illest quotes. Literally, a whisper can throw it off."

Um, right, so if Kanye West needs quiet in order to deliver this talk (you can read "more or less exactly" what he said at Oxford in that post), why should a pianist trying to perform the last three Beethoven sonatas need anything different? Hopefully this should put the kibosh well and truly on trendy ideas that we should allow talking, eating and texting in the concert hall.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


Today a dream has come true for the LSO.  They just confirmed that Sir Simon Rattle is to take over as music director in 2017. Congratulations, guys. Brava, managing director Kathryn McDowell, with her well-placed butterfly net. And good luck with everything this may bring to London at long last.

Wondering what this means for the rest of the orchestral scene in London, meanwhile.

Rattle said of his appointment:

“During my work with the LSO over the last years, I noticed that despite the Orchestra’s long and illustrious history, they almost never refer to it. Instead, refreshingly, they talk about the future, what can they make anew, what can they improve, how can they reach further into the community. In terms of musical excellence, it is clear that the sky's the limit, but equally important, in terms of philosophy, they constantly strive to be a twenty-first century orchestra. We share a dream in which performing, teaching and learning are indivisible, with wider dissemination of our art at its centre. I cannot imagine a better or more inspiring way to spend my next years, and feel immensely fortunate to have the LSO as my musical family and co-conspirators.”

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Just in: BBC Young Musician piano winner leads the charge in Warsaw

We've just received the list of 160 pianists who have qualified for this year's "elimination rounds" at the Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw. Among the initial 160 contestants are five from the UK. Most familiar to our audiences is Yuanfan Yang, winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year piano final in 2012. The others are Otis William Beasley, Ashley Fripp, Kausikan Rajeshkumar and Alexander Ullman.

Those interested in statistics might like to know that Warsaw will host a total of 26 candidates from China, 25 from Japan, 24 from South Korea and 21 from Poland. Russia and the US are each the home of 11 contestants, there are six from France, five from Italy, four each from Canada and Ukraine and two each from the Czech Republic and Taiwan. Further competitors are from Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Latvia, Mongolia, Romania, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and Uzbekistan.

Note, though, that this is just the "elimination round". From these, 80 will be chosen to go forward to the actual competition. Five candidates are being allowed to "bypass" the elimination round, having won other big competitions before.

Last time the Chopin Competition revealed an extraordinary number of fine young artists, with Yulianna Avdeeva, Ingolf Wunder and Daniil Trifonov placed respectively first, second and third.

Good luck, guys. Full list here.

Here is Yuanfan in a spot of Chopin.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"This is a period of mass intimidation"

I went to visit rehearsals for The Indian Queen at ENO's West Hampstead studios and found the one and only Peter Sellars, who's directing it, tackling the ongoing situation with hugs.

Substantial interview with him proved fascinating and provocative.

"This is a period of mass intimidation, one where it's no accident that governments are not only cutting the arts but destroying education...They want a frightened, docile population that's easily manipulated – and the arts are about thinking for yourself..." 

Read more of it today in the Independent.

Here's more about the music - "A sadness so deep it's life-giving," says Sellars.