Listen: Herbert Howells’ Oboe Sonata

Thoroughly Good Listens are first time-listens. They’re the thoughts that emerge when I hear a work for the first time. Active engagement with works of art. Special treats.

I was first introduced to Herbert Howells last Saturday afternoon. It was the perfect introduction. Unassuming. Throwaway. Blink and you’d have missed it.

“The Herbert Howells is amazing,” said Jess. That was the moment I was hooked in.

There was something in the way Jess talked about Herbert Howells’ sonata for oboe – an unequivocal enthusiasm – which made me want to listen to it as soon as I got home.

That’s what I most attuned to at the moment – people mentioning works or composers that take me by surprise. I don’t need to gasp or articulate that surprise. It’s more subtle than that. It’s more like someone flicking a switch and a beam of light cutting through the darkness. It demands attention. It promises everything.

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Philharmonia’s landmark interactive experience set for a UK tour

I know. It’s an attention grabbing headline. One of my finest. Very proud of it.

But there is much to be excited about. The Philharmonia’s virtual reality and interactive exhibition is touring the country – Leicester, Bradford, Canterbury, Basingstoke and Bedford in 2018 and 2019.

It’s a cracking experience. And I am genuinely excited about the prospect of more people across the country getting a chance to participate. Free. Powerful. Emotional. Basically, I want everyone to cry like I did. (No really, I did.)

The most chilling thing about the Philharmonia’s announcement today is the money aspect of it. I don’t question the amount – a chilling £1million to take it five cities across the UK. The money needed comes from three foundations: Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (£255,180); Paul Hamlyn Foundation (£235,000), and; John Ellerman Foundation (£80,000)

I don’t think its too much. It’s a big installation, involving all sorts of technology and security too. Importantly, I think its a telling statement of the amount of money necessary to provide a moving experience to people in the digital age, and also make it free at the point of delivery. I’m very pleased to see The Virtual Orchestra has reached this point.  This kind of work takes a solid strategy and a steely nerve. 

Go see it. It’s a wonderful thing. More information on the Philharmonia website. 

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That Daniel Hope Thing

Forbes writer Jens Laurson has penned a brutal tear-down of the Daniel Hope ‘thing’.

Are you not aware? Well, truth be told, I wasn’t until this morning. Largely because I don’t read Norman Lebrecht’s blog where the story surfaced. I don’t know whether that says something about how I need to up my game, or whether it points to a PR strategy in need of a bit of a refresh. I’m veering on the latter.

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Review: A Child of Our Time \ Mendelssohn Violin Concerto \ Hilary Hahn \ Edward Gardner

Lots of people complain when concerts come with a political message.

Fuck knows why. When a work as thought-provoking and brilliant as Child of Our Time is inspired by a political event and communicates a political message that is as relevant now as it was at its premiere in 1944, to deny politics a place in the concert hall is to sanitise the world around us. 

When classical music is aligned with an albeit self-selecting audience, a powerful united force emanates. That’s when classical music has grit. 

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