‘So You Want To Play The Piano?’ – Melanie Spanswick’s Book Launch at Steinway Hall

So, you want to play the piano? First task: choose your piano.

A lovely early evening spent at the Steinway shop meeting not only Melanie Spanswick – author of So You Want To Play The Piano? – but a whole host of other music-loving types who when asked the question ‘How do you know Melanie?’ mostly replied, ‘via Twitter’. Take it from me, Melanie Spanswick, (pianist, blogger and author) has social media nailed.

The evening invitation included the opportunity to try out the many grand pianos in the next door Steinway Hall, a prospect which filled me with fear and dread when I arrived. One glass of wine later however, and I felt a little more daring.

I just wished I’d been encouraged as a kid to play the piano from memory. Not having the music in front of me mean I spent most of my time just playing scales up and down a £121K keyboard, badly. Still, maybe it’s time to give the piano at home a tune.


So You Want To Play The Piano? is available via Amazon

Melanie Spanswick writes about the piano and music education on her blog.

Follow @ClassicalMel on Twitter.

Summing up Sir Colin Davis

Colin Davis Mstislav Rostropovich Proms 1964 Brahms Cello Concerto
Davis pictured with cellist Rostrapovich taken during rehearsals for a 1964 Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, published by BBC today.

Just over 24 hours ago, the LSO announced that conductor Sir Colin Davis has died at the age 85. A page on the LSO was swiftly distributed on Twitter and Facebook, where people were directed to leave their messages of condolence. In the space of an hour.

The Guardian’s Conol Urquhart acknowledges the speed at which the news of Davis’ death was reflected on Twitter:

Minutes after his death, Davis’s name began trending on Twitter. Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour party wrote: “Colin Davis made a historic contribution to music – in this country & worldwide. Condolences to his family”. Katherine Jenkins, the Welsh soprano, was one of hundreds of fans who expressed their sadness.

Unexpectedly, I was drawn to the radio an hour or so after I discovered of Davis’ death, first expecting that Radio 3 continuity would make reference to it in between the end of Drama on 3 and the beginning of World Routes. When Classic FM tweeted they’d be playing a special selection of Davis-related recordings from midnight, it was then I realised how much I wanted to pay homage. Radio 3 picked up the baton at Breakfast between 6 and 9 the following morning with Petroc Trelawny introducing a selection of notable Davis recordings too. Classic FM changed their scheduling for a ‘Full Works’ concert with an interesting programme of works conducted by Davis.

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Benjamin Britten on BBC Radio 3 & 4

This blog post curates some of that programming throughout the year and includes links to catch-up and download material (where available). Links to material which has fallen outside of the 7-day catch-up window is still included in case a subsequent re-broadcast makes them available again.

This list isn’t exhaustive but will grow over time. It’s drawn from BBC press releases and programme information, archived material still available, chance listens and a trample through past schedules. Surprisingly, there’s no one signal destination which curates this stuff on bbc.co.uk. A topic on the BBC’s /programmes site must surely be in order.



Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / War Requiem / Wednesday 8 May 2013

Ben and Imo / Mark Ravenhill / Sunday 30 June 2013
Recorded in March 2013 for BBC Radio 3’s late night drama slot



Discovering Music: Sinfonia da Requiem
Another edition covering Sinfonia da Requiem from 2004 presented by Charles Hazlewood is also available.

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra / Runnicles / Thursday 18 April 2013
A programme including Britten’s Sinfonia Da Requiem.

Radio 3 New Generation Artists: Tuesday 16 April 2013
Programme includes Britten Nocturnal after John Dowland & Greensleeves, The Ash Grove

Turn of the Screw / London Symphony Orchestra / Tuesday 16 April 2013

Sacconi Quartet: Britten String Quartet No.2
Still available, live from St Paul’s Hall in Huddersfield (the picture is of the Ulster Hall)

Ulster Orchestra: Suite on English Folk Tunes & A Time There was
Still available, the Ulster Orchestra performed live from the Ulster Hall, Belfast on Wednesday 13 April 2013

BBC Concert Orchestra: Sinfonia da Requiem
Still available (just),
 a repeat of a BBC CO concert from King’s College, Cambridge

Book of the Week: Alex Jennings talks about voicing Britten

Tales from the Stave: Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
Still available from 2012, episode 1 of series 8 on Radio 4 features conductor Steuart Bedford.

Discovering Music: Britten
An archive of Discovering Music episodes dedicated to Britten’s music is also available, listed below:

Composer of the Week: Benjamin Britten

Donald Macleod explores Benjamin Britten’s music in the light of two enduring influences – his life partner, the tenor Peter Pears and his beloved native county of Suffolk. One hour long episode remains available.

It’s My Story: Music and Silence
Britten’s godson composer and presenter Michael Berkeley talks to musicians who like him have suffered from partial hearing loss. (December 2012)

Lunchtime Concert: Lawrence Power, Simon Crawford-Phillips
Performance of Britten’s Lachrymae: Reflections on a Song of Dowland from 2012.

New York Philharmonic Digital Archive

The New York Philharmonic Digital Archive may possibly be my most favourite thing in the world right now.


The most obvious explanation is that it offers an online experience of something I longed doing when I was in my first job as an orchestral librarian in the mid-nineties. Back then, I’d sit at my desk and spend hours looking over old sets of orchestral manuscripts, almost drunk with pleasure at the thought of touching documents that had been used in performances long before I’d even been born. Transferring conductor’s markings from score to orchestral parts was the librarian’s equivalent of jostling with musical celebrities.

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LSO advertising on the London Underground

Impressed with the LSO’s bold picture-led advertising on the Bakerloo Line at Charing Cross, in a walkway somewhere underneath Trafalgar Square.

Puts the critically acclaimed brand at the heart of London, juxtaposing an iconic location in the capital with a world-renowned orchestra.

The copy gives an otherwise anonymous player a clear voice amid a busy metropolis, telling us about an exciting event from last year’s Open Air Classics season. The overarching message is that the LSO programmes popular accessible live events which bring audiences together.
The messaging about mainstream populist programming doesn’t undermine the brand: a clearly signposted URL will reveal to a new visitor the breadth of the orchestra’s output.