Ian Rosenblatt collects his OBE at Buckingham Palace

Very pleased to see Ian Rosenblatt received his OBE on Friday. Prince William did the honours (boom tish, etc) with an award that recognised the soliticor’s ‘philanthropic services to music’, specifically the Rosenblatt Recital series.

There have been over 180 concerts since the Rosenblatt Recital series were established in 2000. I came to experience his artistic endeavours rather late once the series had moved to Wigmore Hall. It was central to sparking my growing interest in vocal and operatic music which had up until then been a bit of an unexplored genre.

  • Listen to a Thoroughly Good Podcast interview with Ian Rosenblatt from June 2016.
  • Read reviews of Rosenblatt Recitals
  • Discover more on the Rosenblatt Recitals website

BBC Proms 2016 / 75: Last Night of the Proms

We passed on the first half of last night’s Prom, choosing an early booking at nearby Chapter’s Restaurant in Blackheath. The service is prompt, the portions generous, and the bill modest. We opted to walk back home afterwards, making back just in time to see Katie Derham say goodbye on BBC Two and for proceedings to get underway on BBC One.

I expected to not enjoy the Last Night, but as it turned out the second half was a reassuringly warm affair with Vaughan Williams’ blissful Serenade to Music, Tom Harrold’s frothy world premiere Raze, and a gorgeous rendition of Britten’s arrangement of the National Anthem.

Most touching were the inserts from the nations – when that element was first introduced to the Last Night a few years back I wriggled a little uncomfortably. The logistics of getting three four performances to dovetail one another are considerable and, like the season itself, another element which us as TV viewers take for granted. This year was a polished link-up, presenting one traditional song from each nation to the country as a whole.

And true to form, I cried a bit during Jerusalem. It always gets me.

The Verdi Requiem seems like a world away now. All the anxious talk about failed ambition befuddle me now.. Where did it come from? Why did it spill over? Why did I succumb?

That’s symptomatic of the season being over. Like the Eurovision, the Proms is a platform – a world of opportunity – for this in it and looking in on it. When that platform has been packed away, so the opportunity and the need disappears.

Also like Eurovision, I did tweet quite a lot last night – not as much as I did during the Eurovision final this year, but at least it made sense (aside from one or two messages which got deleted after the event) and there weren’t any pictures of filled pint glasses.

What follows now feels like an exciting prospect.

After the razzmatazz of the Proms, where do I find the classical music events which fill some of the void? I count five season programmes on my desk as I write this. How does the experience of those events differ from the highs of the summer festival? How does the Proms act as a gateway for wider range of cultural experiences over the next ten months? And how does this blog develop as a result?

BBC Proms 2016 / 71: Trifonov plays Mozart Piano Concerto No.21 with Dresden Staatskapelle

My energy levels have sapped. I think it’s because the Proms is coming to an end. It’s not that I want to hasten their end, it’s just that I suppose I’m quite looking forward to them coming to end. All good things come to an end so that we can appreciate their absence and then their subsequent return.

The lack of energy may also something to do with Prom 71. I haven’t been quite so gung-ho about the prospect of getting to grips with Bruckner’s symphonies. Yes, his sixth was far more engaging than his fourth, but I’ve failed before the end of the first movement with Symphony 3 played last night by the Dresden Staatskapelle. I bowed out. Switched it off. Abandoned it. Shock horror:  I didn’t feel guilty either.

Trifonov’s Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24 was a far more engaging listening, in part because of the ambitious approach he took to the almost schizophrenic cadenza in the final movement – smatterings of Rachmaninov and, I’m fairly certain, hints of Gershwin too which seemed to take the work in a whole different direction.

But it was also the rare moment of jeopardy in the first movement which grabbed my attention. For sixty seconds there felt like piano and orchestra were distinctly out of step with one another.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rubbing my hands together with glee at that – I don’t revel in others misfortune. Instead, it was a timely reminder of how fragile a live performance can be and perhaps of the extent to which we take it for granted too. More to the point, it was a gripping demonstration of how professionals can get things back on track.

LSO to stream Verdi’s Requiem live on YouTube for free on Sunday 18 September

Very pleased to see news of another live stream to be made available on YouTube later this month.

Following Wigmore Hall and the Royal College of Music, now the LSO will stream its 2016/17 season opener on Sunday 18 September from 7pm.

The concert – a performance of Verdi’s Requiem – will feature soprano Erika Grimaldi, mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona, tenor Francesco Meli and baritone Michele Pertusi performing alongside the London Symphony Chorus.

There’ll also be a live backstage pre-concert broadcast from 6.20pm on the LSO’s Facebook page.

This LSO ‘first’ is something other orchestras need to do. With home broadband connections getting faster, and decent audio-visual easier to set-up, and streaming video platforms available on connected TVs and relatively inexpensive third party devices, linking up with a common distribution platform like YouTube makes for a potentially wider audience.

Live YouTube streams still present themselves as a classical music treat (similar to that experienced when concerts were first streamed in cinemas). If they’re not already, it’s surely only a matter of time before orchestras begin working in partnership, sharing one another’s infrastructure and skill sets to bring rich experiences, independent from the traditional broadcast model.

Find out more on the LSO website.

BBC Proms 2016 / 69: Staatskapelle plays Bruckner 4

Tradition has it to dismiss Bruckner’s symphonies as nothing more than ‘washing machine music’.

When a former colleague once threw that disparaging remark into conversation about the composer, I hit back with the retort, “Yeah, but you love Wagner. And he rarely reached a climax.”

I didn’t win the argument. Now I ‘get’ Wagner, I do rather regret saying it. Such a puerile response.

More to the point, I’m not entirely sure why I felt the need to defend Bruckner. Listening back to the Staatskapelle’s Prom from last night, I agree with my former colleague’s original assertion. I might even feel the need to tweak it.

Bruckner isn’t washing machine music in the way we’d expect a washing machine to function. Bruckner’s music is essentially nothing more than a rinse cycle.

This has nothing to do with Daniel Barenboim’s direction of the Stadtskapelle. We need to go a little deeper for the reason I struggle with Bruckner.

The first time I heard Bruckner’s 4th symphony was at a concert hall ten or so years back. I’d been asked to shoot some video of an orchestra, conduct some interviews and edit together a video package which could be embedded on their website.

The interior of the hall made for a scintillating view (and I’d just purchased a delicious wide angle lens too) and the shimmering opening to the symphony being rehearsed in the hall at the time of the shoot fitted the visuals perfectly.

I’d discovered the joys of tilts and pans on a fixed tripod too. Simple shots emphasising the drama of the surroundings cut to the seemingly understated beauty of Bruckner’s music seemed like a no-brainer.

The person commissioning the piece didn’t agree (to this day I remain unclear what he really knows about video production anyway), refused to pay costs, a fee and, to add insult to injury, insisted I handed over all the material I had shot. “We’d like to edit the material together instead.” Instinct kicked in, the words ‘trust’, and ‘lack of’ were bandied around quite a lot and there the situation was left.

From that day to this Bruckner’s 4th has been a closed door to the rest of his works. I approach it and the rest of his symphonies with prejudice. His climaxes are over-prepared and ultimately underwhelming. His scoring is overworked – the musical illustration of someone so concerned about the detail that the bigger picture seems to be lost. Bruckner 4 at least is something one just gets through.

The Staatskapelle are playing three Bruckner symphonies this week. What I’m wondering is whether I’ll have changed my mind about Bruckner by the time they leave the country.