Bramwell Tovey to take up new role at BBC Concert Orchestra

British composer and conductor Bramwell Tovey takes up the role of Principal Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra from January 2018, taking over from Keith Lockhart whose seven year run on the podium is coming to an end.

Tovey will occupy the role for five years, including artistic programming duties, and leading on learning and education activities. Hell also be mentoring new conductors and orchestral players from a range of backgrounds.

His first concert will be on Thursday 15 February 2018 at Watford Colleseum – the BBCCOs home.

Listen to Bramwell Tovey and the BBC Concert Orchestra live from on BBC In Tune on Radio 3 from 5pm on Wednesday 22 November and for 30 days after broadcast.

Review: Sondheim Inside Out / BBC Concert Orchestra / QEH

 BBC/Chris Christodoulou
BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Two familiar Sondheim stalwarts were joined by two relatively fresh-faces and one recent graduate on the QEH stage for an enchanting mix of some of the composer’s finest songs accompanied by the BBC Concert Orchestra. The concert was recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 20 December 2013.

Watching the BBC Concert Orchestra play is to observe a band who clearly love playing the repertoire they have on the music stands in front of them. They’re not there to just ‘play the notes’. They immerse themselves in what’s going on to such an extent that the occasional swaying from one side to another isn’t so much unusual as de rigeur. And if they’re swept away by a particularly good solo performance, none of them hesitate to turn in their chairs and offer their grateful thanks.  Despite the considerable size of the group – 30 strings and a whopping 47 wind, brass and percussion – this was an intimate affair and the gig benefited from that no end.

Sondheim Inside Out_Maria Friedman_CR Chris Christodoulou (1)
Yes Maria. You’re fab. (BBC/Chris Christodoulou)

The near capacity audience helped, of course. Perhaps that should have been no surprise. Despite Sondheim naysayers who reckon the music is impenetrable (fools), a Sondheim programme with a classy billing like Kim Criswell and Maria Friedman (UK musical theatre royalty) is always going to pull in the crowds. And like the 2010 Proms birthday concert, the excitement such a crowd brings to proceedings only helps things along.

Sondheim Inside Out_Stuart Matthew Price_CR Chris Christodoulou
Stuart Matthew Price at the Sondheim Inside Out concert, singing the best song of all – Beautiful Girls. (BBC/Chris Christodoulou)

Some comparatively unheard of numbers were included in what could so easily have been a fairly run of the mill programme: Everybody Says Don’t, March to the Treaty House (Pacific Overtures) and More (Dick Tracy).

These combined with a breathtaking performance of Losing My Mind by Maria Freedman (who with conductor Keith Lockhart set up the perfect conceit for the fiendishly difficult but a hugely entertaining performance of Getting Married Today), the devishly handsome Michael Xavier with his irresistible vocal hints of Mandy Pantinkin paired with the infectiously warm welcome of Laura Michelle Kelly’s in Happiness made the event a special mid-Sunday afternoon treat.

Much applause too to the Maida Vale Singers and Stuart Matthew Price who proudly stepped forward for the ultimate MC numbers Beautiful GirlsLovely work.

Laura Michelle Kelly with Turlough Convery. Laura's utterly gorgeous and fantastic. But keep an eye on Turlough. He's going to be something big.
Laura Michelle Kelly with Turlough Convery. Laura’s utterly gorgeous and fantastic. But keep an eye on Turlough. He’s going to be something big. (BBC/Chris Christodoulou)

The real revelation of the concert was recent Guildford School of Acting graduate and winner of the Stephen Sondheim Student Society award Turlough Convery (pictured above). One to watch. An impressively mature performance by someone who belies his age. His performance of Calm (Forum) was a study in concert-performance characterisation. Watch him fly.

Sondheim Inside Out_Maria Friedman 2_CR Chris Christodoulou

Sondheim Inside Out_Kim Criswell 2_CR Chris Christodoulou (1)

Aldeburgh Festival 2013: That Obscure Hurt

Another much-anticipated event in this year’s Aldeburgh Festival programme was the Aldeburgh Music / BBC Radio 3 co-commission from jazz arranger Guy Barker’s and Robert Ryan, That Obscure Hurt, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

I originally listened to this premiere through a prism clouded by wine-fuelled cynicism, convinced the edgy abstract modernism juxtaposed with original yet strangely family jazz numbers was a shameless attempt at pursuing an audience demographic who would normally dismiss the likes of Aldeburgh and Radio 3 as not their ‘kind of thing’.

This may have been down to what seemed at the time as a slightly tenuous link the co-commission had with Britten, exacerbated by the clunky way the Britten references were signposted in the 8 minutes of explanation provided before the performance got underway.

All we really needed to know was that, That Obscure Hurt is a 90 minute jazz soundtrack of almost continuous music, and that it was the musical equivalent of a BBC Four biopic promising (and delivering) just the right amount of originality to offset any occasional moments of self-indulgence.

Read More

Prom 31: Gwilym Simcock’s Progressions

Why go to the Royal Albert Hall when it’s live on TV? I didn’t really see the point. So I devoted Saturday to relaxing, made a lightningly effecient trip to Sydenham Sainsburys and prepared a smashing meat balls in tomato sauce with some left-over pork mince and an old tin of chopped tomatoes. As you see, we’re paying close attention to Gordon Brown’s recent advice.

Sadly, such smug self-satisfaction at having reduced our freezer fodder came at a price. I failed spectacularly to get to the TV screen or a nearby radio in time for the beginning of the concert. Instead, we switched over thirty one minutes after the concert had begun.

No matter really. The high-point was undoubtedly Gwilym Simcock’s Progressions. Here was an orchestrated jazz odyssey in the form of what seemed to me to be a piano concerto with Simcock playing the lead.

Simcock’s contribution to this year’s season made me think of Benjamin Britten at the Proms and his entertaining Piano Concerto. I loved hearing that last year for the first time too. Britten had written something accessible and engaging yet still challenging at the same time.

It struck me that Simcock had done the very same with Progressions and having done all of that at such a relatively young age, to then sit on stage and play the solo line was deeply impressive.  It made Gershwin’s American in Paris which followed, pale into insignificance.

Catch Part One and Part Two (Simcock’s Progression) on iPlayer if you can. Audio only at the time of writing.

Been listening to this all day

Keep it simple, that’s what they say when you’re thinking about what to write.

So it is with this particular (rushed) blog posting. There’s strawberry jam to be made this evening (yes really) and some cleaning up and general preparation for a big day tomorrow. I can hardly wait. I am, quite literally, counting down the hours until 6pm when I’ll be home (albeit at work still) but at home.

I only have one MP3 on my mobile phone and I’ve been listening to that one track all day long. Sadly, rules and regs prevent me from posting a link to the MP3 itself. To do that, frankly, would be Thoroughly Bad.

Nothing to stop me from pointing you to the original soundtrack as featured in the opening credits of one typically British, entirely lewd, corney and brash film from a series entitled “Carry On .. ” This particular is my favourite.

The music you’ll hear in the clip featured in Prom 2 performed by BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by the marvellously enthusiastic John Wilson, who I’m delighted to say will be conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Festival Hall in their 75th anniversary season which starts in September time.

Now .. to the kitchen.

Oh and by the way .. if I had the choice I’d probably want to play the scurrying violin part although would probably settle for the thunderous timpani solo in the middle of the clip. Oh yes .. that’s an indication of just how many times I’ve listened to this one minute thirty seconds.