Music: Paganini Variations Nielsen ‘Inextinguishable’ RSNO

God bless conductor Thomas Sondegard whose recent concert with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra turned out to be an unexpected joy to listen to on BBC Radio 3.

I’ve included his picture – shamelessly lifted / embedded from the CBSO website – because it’s a telling one. Sondegard has a wild look about him. And it’s reflected in the performance he demanded from his players last week when the concert was recorded. And that’s reflected in the broadcast, unusual for us radio listeners who don’t have the budget or the time available to experience music-making outside the capital. (Yes, I would relish the opportunity both afforded.)

Whilst I agree with Peter Cudmore’s assessment of piano soloist Lukic’s “immaculate, sparkling performance” of Rachmaninov’s Paganini Variations for piano and orchestra, I’m of the mind his assessment of the Nielsen symphony – ‘The Inextinguishable’ – performed in the second half of the concert stands as an indispensible primer for the composer’s work. It was exciting. Gripping, in fact. All in all an engaging listen.

Still, each to his own.

:: The performance (will, if it isn’t already) be available via the BBC Radio 3 website or via iPlayer (when it’s cooked)

Connect with your inner queen

Is this clip – quite possibly – now the best feelgood dancing at a party clip?

It is for me. Possibly because it is exactly what I used to dream of doing when I was a spotty teenager desperate to feel comfortable at otherwise painful sixth form parties. The opportunity to say ‘look at me – I’m not such a dweeb after all’ was all too difficult to avoid dreaming about. And, it might just be the case that I *may* have realised that dream in the safe confines of my bedroom .. from time to time.

It’s from the recent comedy drama wotnot Whites which has – contrary to what I heard one ill-informed PR-type say during a tiresome event recently – been brilliant. Not least because far from concluding the series with a happy ending for everyone,  character Skoose – the ‘dancer’ in this clip – gets his comeuppance from the boss he was trying to impress. It turned out he wasn’t the ‘big I am’ he thought he was when he arrived in his new job at the beginning of the series. And, as we all know, there’s nothing better than seeing someone getting their comeuppance.

Free Thinking Festival 2010: Vultures Roy Williams

Vultures is a play written by BAFTA award winning playwright Roy Williams.

It was recorded at the 2010 Free Thinking Festival on Saturday 6 November and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 7 November at 8.30pm.

Listen to an interview with the playwright or read the reasonably interesting text below.

The Radio 3 Drama recorded live at the Free Thinking Festival every is year is always a must-see for me. After all the discussion during the day, the opportunity to sit down and see a spot of fiction is a relieves the senses. It’s live theatre, recorded ‘as live’ (meaning it’s recorded all in one take) in front of an audience.

This is the third Free Thinking drama I’ve been along to. Tony Marchant’s play two two years ago was upsetting. Last year’s entitled ‘Beware the Kids’ was disturbing. This year’s – written especially for Free Thinking by Roy Williams – was immersive and thought provoking.

Williams’ play – ‘Vultures’ – joins a growing list of memorable dramas, in part because of it’s simple premise. Author Yvette is participating in a Q&A at a bookshop at the launch of her recently published book. But there’s a fly in the ointment. To what extent is the book autobiographical? A strong opinion emerges from the audience. Initially finding it difficult to speak out, Sean – someone from Yvette’s past – bursts out.

The presence of two of the actors in the audience during last night’s recording did come as a surprise. The moment Sean is introduced was – quite unexpectedly – an incredibly tense moment from where I was sat on the back row. I didn’t know he was there, wasn’t expecting him to be there and was – quite frankly – petrified of him.

This despite director Kate Rowlands advising us all that they were “dotted around” before the recording started. Mind you, us lot in the audience were perhaps concentrating on our role in proceedings. To the side of the stage throughout the play a production assistant held up pieces of cardboard with instructions on them. Yes, the audience you hear in the recording are part of the drama too. And yes, this means that I have – in a sense – been on the radio. At last.

But it was the audience participation – none of us knew before we got there – which was one of the risky elements. Whether or not that contribution necessarily works is open to interpretation and – thankfully – won’t impact on the interesting themes playwright Roy Williams introduces in the play.

I spoke to Roy shortly after the recording. He seemed utterly cool about the whole thing. Mind you, it was over by then.

:: Listen to ‘Vultures’ recorded at the 2010 Free Thinking Festival on BBC Radio 3 at 8.30pm on Sunday 7 November.

Free Thinking Festival 2010: Speed Dating

The speed dating event is always fun at the Free Thinking Festival. It’s noisy. Bustling. Vibrant. It’s a spectacle. There are always people smiling.

Present day transparency
The Radio 3 Horn

If you’re still needing the idea explained, here’s how it works. There are thinkers and thinkees. Groups of thinkees sit around a thinker and listen to them posit on somesuch for a minute or so. The thinker’s proposition can be about anything. For the remaining few minutes the thinkees are sat with that thinker, questions can be asked and arguments challenged. Then, after a few minutes The Radio 3 Horn is honked (only specially trained BBC people can use it – I can’t, I’m not allowed) and thinkees move on to the next thinker.

Then, when all the thinkees have heard all the thinker’s propositions, scores are totalled up and the winner announced.

And, in a development from previous years, the winning thinker – this year, Natalie Haynes defending Latin – gets to trot out their thought in a special reprise surrounded by the thinkees. You know, just like the Eurovision winner gets to reprise their song at the end of the scoring. Nice.

See host Ian McMillan explain to Louise Walter what the Speed Dating event is all about in this video report from last year’s Free Thinking Festival.

Free Thinking Festival 2010: Matthew Sweet

Think for a moment about the last man standing. The caretaker who hovered around the school. The same man you knew remained in the building long after the kids had gone home. Nobody wanted that job. Nobody wanted to be left after everyone else had gone home. What a lonely prospect.

So it is with lovely Mr Sweet. After all the Free Thinkers have gone home after a frightfully couple of days spent thinking and gassing and wotnot, so Matthew remains at the helm of ship steering us through some of the highlights of the Free Thinking Festival.

I felt rather sorry for him when I spoke to him earlier on this afternoon, so much so I momentarily forgot about my splitting headache and flagging energy levels.

:: The Free Thinking Festival kicks off on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday 7 November and is available on BBC iPlayer for 7 days afterwards. Broadcasts continue throughout the week and right up until Christmas.