Thoroughly Good Podcast 3.6: Peterloo and the EU Referendum

This week’s podcast is a bit late, 48 hours late.


It has been an unusual week for a lot of us in the UK. Shock results, and surprising announcements.

In the race to report things, there’s been a distinct lack of narratives about the impact of this week. So, in pursuit of that goal I had a search of my Spotify playlists and rediscovered Malcolm Arnold’s Peterloo Overture. It helped me understand this week’s events too.

Listen via Audioboom, via download, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes. Previous episodes available here

Rosenblatt Recitals 2016/17 – New season unveiled today

The 2016/2017 season of Rosenblatt Recitals was made public today. An interesting selection of soloists looks set to grace the Wigmore Hall stage. The first recital kicks off in September this year.

As part of the season launch, I spoke to series founder Ian Rosenblatt about his introduction to classical music, about snobbery in the classical music scene, and why he thinks his recital series is about entertainment, not narcissism.

Monday 26 September 2016, 7.30pm, Wigmore Hall

Alek Shrader tenor
Roger Vignoles piano

Monday 10 October 2016, 7.30pm, Wigmore Hall

Eleonora Buratto soprano
Nazzareno Carusi piano

Tuesday 1 November 2016, 7.30pm, Wigmore Hall

Simone Piazzola baritone
Giuseppe Vaccaro piano

Tuesday 10 January 2017, 7.30pm, Wigmore Hall

Stefano La Colla tenor
Maria Katzarava soprano
Simon Lepper piano

Monday 6 March 2017, 7.30pm, Wigmore Hall

Tara Erraught mezzo-soprano
James Baillieu piano

Thursday 16 March 2017, 7.30pm, Cadogan Hall

Sondra Radvanovsky soprano
Anthony Manoli piano

Monday 3 April 2017, 7.30pm, Wigmore Hall

Ivan Magrì tenor
Iain Burnside piano

Tuesday 9 May 2017, 7.30pm, Wigmore Hall

Lise Davidsen soprano
James Baillieu piano

Monday 5 June 2017, 7.30pm, Wigmore Hall

Nahuel di Pierro bass
Alphonse Cemin piano

Thoroughly Good Podcast 3.2: What good is a comfort zone anyway?

In the second episode of this (still) new series of Thoroughly Good Podcasts, I speak to recital series founder Ian Rosenblatt about his love of classical music, how he was introduced to it, why he thinks there’s snobbery in the classical music scene, and why his Rosenblatt Recital series is about entertainment, not narcissism. The 2016/2017 season of Rosenblatt Recital is announced today – more details in this post.

Listen via Audioboom, via download, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes

Thoroughly Good Podcast 3.1: Intense Introductions

This new series examines my lifelong love of classical music, what got me (as well as others) hooked, and how we can introduce others to a genre most dismiss as elitist, boring, or inaccessible.

Beginnings are always the most difficult. After the relative ease of making seven podcast letters about my trip to Eurovision in Stockholm this year, getting a new series about classical music underway has been a little more challenging.

So, just like the first day in a school year, I’m easing myself (and you) in easily with a 20 minute orientation session. Think of this introduction to the third series of Thoroughly Good Podcasts as the first lesson of term when the teacher dished out the new text books.

In the first episode, I explain how an old friend introduced me to his considerable music collection. Is a short intense burst of the unfamiliar the best way to introduce someone to something new?

Listen via Audioboom, via download, or subscribe via RSS or iTunes

Review: Mozart Piano 27 / Strauss ‘Metamorphosen’ / Benjamin Grosvenor / Britten Sinfonia / Milton Court

The Britten Sinfonia’s Milton Court concert on Sunday 1 May saw an inventive and intense programme celebrate its leader Jacqueline Shave’s ten years with the band.

Bartok’s second string quartet opened the concert, a working made up of energy, seduction, and urgency. This was muscular playing right from the off,  creating a visceral performance, in turn establishing high expectations for the rest of the concert. The Britten Sinfonia didn’t disappoint.

The world premiere of Elena Langer’s Story of Impossible Love – solo violin plus chamber orchestra – combined ravishing pastoral splashes with melodic and harmonic language reminiscent of Britten and, at times, Vaughan Williams. Langer’s musical language has a gritty realism to it, depicting a world slightly out of phase with that we regard as vaguely recognisable. At the same time, she maintains an immediacy to her writing, ensuring accessibility isn’t sacrificed. Haunting melodic lines in the oboe, chilling decorations in the piccolo, and seductive string textures underpinned what was a compelling work.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.27 – a deceptive work riven with musical complexities – saw the Britten Sinfonia’s breathtaking ensemble work come to the fore. Rapport was quickly established between soloist/director Benjamin Grosvenor and the Britten Sinfonia, the relationship between the two was clearly based on mutual respect. What emerged was a gratifyingly democratic relationship.

Throughout the first movement Grosvenor’s trademark fluid lines were delivered with poise, never sacrificing personality (watching his hands on the keyboard is a real delight). The arresting quality of the second movement’s subject demanded we stop and reflect and reminded us of the theme which seemed to string the concert together as a whole: the complexities and contradictions of life are difficult to fathom out, but we should at least try. Here, the acoustic revealed more than I’d previously understood about the work, not least the magical moment when the subject is played on the keyboard, first violins and the flute.

The third movement was taut but never fraught, with a precision in the keyboard that cast a spell over the auditorium. It was at this point that the Britten Sinfonia’s distinctive approaching to playing really shone: pulling out all of the over-arching lines that straddle the work as a whole, going beyond the shape of each melodic line and pointing to something altogether more fundamental. This was an incredibly special and personal interpretation contributed to by everyone on stage.

The Britten Sinfonia’s total engagement in the music they’re playing, already demonstrated in this concert, gave a hint to what we might expect during Strauss’ Metamorphosen. They didn’t disappoint. This is an unrelentingly work, shifting from sorrow and regret to warmth and beauty and stopping off at everything in between. The work’s deceptive tensile strength allowed for a robust interpretation. The same level of commitment and enthusiasm was present here as with everything else they’d played during the evening. This was an intoxicating performance, enveloping the audience with a strength with sought to reassure us that the vulnerability Strauss’s music had invoked in us wasn’t a weakness but a strength. The Britten Sinfonia played to us and cared for us at the same time in the Strauss.

The Britten Sinfonia are the classical music cognoscenti’s private passion. They’re also the classical music world’s PR dream. If ever there was a group who demonstrated how vital the UK classical music scene is to this country, it’s the Britten Sinfonia. The audience bore witness to some tremendous music making last night. This orchestra should never be overlooked, they are something to be incredibly proud of.

The Britten Sinfonia Milton Court concert featuring Benjamin Grosvenor will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Monday 9 May 2016.