Leeds Piano 2018 first round performances of second round competitors now available online

It’s as though my birthday has come early. A fortnight of blissful self-powered exploration awaits with the unveiling of Medici TV’s Leeds Piano Competition coverage. 

Filmed in April, all of the first round performances of those through to the second round are now available on a dedicated Leeds Piano/Medici website. All performances will be available for catch-up for three years, plus live webcasts presented by the best in the presenting business, Mr Petroc Trelawny. Yay. 

Enhancing not just supporting

I like having the preview material being made available now. It shows how content direction has been shaped to meet the demands of the audience rather those of the broadcaster/distributor.

Throughout the ‘revamping’ of the Leeds Competition this year, that informed approach has been reflected in the staging of events throughout the year (instead of just a few weeks before the main competition). If it’s seen to work, I think it could demonstrate how digital can enhance a brand like the Leeds rather than the strategy to date where digital has merely supported it. 

Including those who have made it through to the second round provides audiences with some exclusive content and, importantly, gives 24 pianists more exposure ahead of the competition. 

Second round competitors

Twenty-four pianists (selected from the 68 original competitors) will compete in the second round of the Leeds Piano Competition 2018 which starts on 6 September. 

With that in mind, I’ve listed the second round competitors below and will include links to each video after I’ve watched them. I’ll post a series of reviews between now and the beginning of the second round.

Jean-Sélim Abdelmoula | Switzerland first round

Evelyne Berezovsky | United Kingdom first round

Florian Caroubi | France first round

Salih Can Gevrek | Turkey

Anna Geniushene |Russia

Taek Gi Lee | South Korea

Mario Häring | Germany

Yilei Hao | China

Wei-Ting Hsieh | Taiwan

Fuko Ishii | Japan

Aljoša Jurinić | Croatia

Yoonji Kim | South Korea

Siqian Li | China

Eric Lu | United States of America

Alexia Mouza | Greece

Jinhyung Park | South Korea

Tamila Salimdjanova | Uzbekistan

Samson Tsoy | Russia

Chao Wang | China

Xinyuan Wang | China

Andrzej Wierciński | Poland

Yuchong Wu | China

Yuanfan Yang | United Kingdom

 Paul ZemenCzechia

Medici TV to live stream Leeds Piano Competition; Steinway to provide the pianos

The Leeds Piano Competition (or ‘The Leeds’ as it would now prefer to be known) is a big ole’ thing.

The renowned piano competition started life in 1963 at the behest of Dame Fanny Waterman. The biennial award has helped build the careers of many of the big names in the classical music world since.

This year The Leeds is reaching a little further. It’s first round (featuring 68 hopefuls) kicks off in Berlin in April. Twenty four musicians will then convene on Leeds in early September, stay in accommodation provided by The University of Leeds, and each will have access to their own Steinway piano during their stay. That’s a considerable number of Steinways.

The entire competition will also be streamed live via Medici.TV too, adding an important now international classical music competition to the live-streaming calendar.

Most importantly for the University of Leeds, this also gives an institution in the north-east of the UK a valuable platform from where it can project a vital international image.

Tickets are available from 12 March. Very much looking forward to it.

Medici TV to stream Royal College of Music concerts and masterclasses

C’mon Bernard, give us a smile. After all, the Royal College of Music is teaming up with medici.tv to live stream at the conservatoire’s campus in London’s South Kensington.

This represents another major step towards a new era for UK conservatoires – something I’ve noticed over the past twelve months – who are feeling the pressure to project their brands further than UK borders.

With more than 300,000 subscribers across 182 countries, medici.tv is the largest online platform broadcasting classical music to audiences around the world. The RCM is the first UK conservatoire to partner with medici.tv.

To launch the partnership on 2 February 2018, a concert conducted by Bernard Haitink (pictured above) will be streamed live (and free) to audiences around the world at 7.30pm GMT. The concert features the RCM Symphony Orchestra and BBC Young Musician Martin James Barlett and includes Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony and Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C minor.

There will also be an archive of masterclasses made available on a dedicated RCM page on medici.tv, viewers can also watch an impressive array of past masterclasses. Peachy.

It’s mildly disappointing that medici.tv still don’t have a connected TV app. At the moment I need to either purchase Apple TV or risk sync issues as cast the video via Chromecast. I’ve tried accessing Medici via the TV/Blu-Ray browser and its OK. But as soon as there’s a connected TV I can install like the Berlin Phil’s Digital Concert Hall, I’ll be signing up.

Even so, this is a great development. One step closer. It’s also good to see that the live streams (including some videos in 4K I see) will also be available via the RCM’s YouTube Channel and via www.rcm.ac.uk/live.

The Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra will be streamed live for free on Medici.TV and YouTube from 7.30pm GMT on Friday 2 February. The programme includes Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.24 in C Minor played by Martin James Bartlett.


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Trialling Medici.TV and the Berlin Phil’s Digital Concert Hall

Just this weekend, I received a 7-day pass to the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall giving me access to over 1000 archived performances of works by 190 composers. There are concerts from every season since 2004, plus concerts from further back including works conducted by Claudio Abbado in 1996, Rattle in 1997, and Herbert von Karajan in the mid-70s. The new season of live transmissions doesn’t start until 28 August (hence why the Berlin Phil’s management have sent out a tempting 10% early bird discount on their £104 annual subscription, no doubt), so there’s time to dig deep into the archive and cogitate before I retrieve my credit card (or inform gifters of my birthday present list for this year).

At the same, I’m also in receipt of a month-long trial subscription for Medici.tv which I received when I was in Verbier a few weeks back. A similar offering of live relays from a wider variety of venues, festivals and bands, plus a richer archive of performances, rehearsal footage and documentaries. At £124 for an annual subscription, it’s a little more than the Berlin Phil’s package.

How do the two compare, and how the specialist streaming services compare in terms of say BBC iPlayer and iPlayerRadio? What is the user experience of all three? What is the content like? And – given the present restrictions on my technical setup (see below), what is the experience of watching a classical music concert on a mobile, tablet or PC?

Initial thoughts are shared below. I’ll update these in a subsequent blog post at the end of trial. But for now …

1. I don’t have a connected TV, SMART TV, there’s no Sony Playstation PS3 app and my Chromecast dongle doesn’t work

I want to watch this stuff on the big 56″ TV we’ve got downstairs in the lounge. It’s hooked up to a sound system. It would make for a totally immersive experience akin to broadcast TV. If I could get my Chromecast to work on our network then I’d be able to watch both services from my tablet on the TV, thus far the Chromecast has been a disappointment (I’m not sure whether this is down to the device itself and we need a replacement, or whether Chromecast is a bit shit).

There’s no Sony Playstation PS3 app available for either service. This seems a great shame as I figure that if the development time has already been put in for Android, iOS, Windows PC and a browser version, would it be that much extra investment to support gaming devices?

Consequently, I’ve had to experience both the DCH and Medici TV via laptop, tablet and mobile phone. Not a major drawback necessarily, but it does make for a rather lonely experience. Mind you, I may get used to that over the coming weeks, who knows.

2. The content is brilliant

A quick scoot around the DCH saw me land on a breathtaking performance by Janine Jansen of Britten’s Violin Concerto conducted by Daniel Harding. After that it was a performance of Schoenberg’s ravishing first Chamber Symphony (whilst it may have lacked the urgency the usual pared back scoring has, the slow section was exquisite), and then an archived recording of Karajan conducting Brahms 1. My God, the man was intense. Screenshots below. herbertvonkarajan_berlinphilharmonic_brahms1_3

herbertvonkarajan_berlinphilharmonic_brahms1_2Medici’s offering is much broader. Opera, concerts, documentaries, rehearsals and archived performances. They also offer free replay of recent festivals like Verbier, for example. A similarly swift scoot around uncovered some real gems for me: Britten conducting Rostrapovich and the English Chamber Orchestra at Snape Maltings in 1970, Britten conducting at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon in 1954, and a documentary of John Eliot Gardiner recording a Bach cantata at Abbey Road in 1999 talking about his self-made challenge of performing every cantata on the Sunday’s they were originally written for during the anniversary of the composer’s death in 2000.

By far the most striking find was a filmed BBC Symphony Orchestra rehearsal staged in Television Centre conducted by Leonard Bernstein including initial introductions between maestro and front desk players, an agonisingly slow and drawn out Nimrod variation which (once you’ve bought into Bernstein’s languid style actually comes good), and a prickly exchange between the second trumpet and the conductor. A real gem of the kind that would never be captured in rehearsals nowadays or, if it was, it wouldn’t be made available publically. Thank God for the vision of BBC classical music producer Humphrey Burton who made the film. Telling too to see an interview with Barry Norman and the conductor in which Bernstein is smoking throughout. Screenshots below.
leonardbernstein_bbcsymphonyorchestra_elgarrehearsal

leonardbernstein_bbcsymphonyorchestra_elgarrehearsal_2

leonardbernstein_bbcsymphonyorchestra_elgarrehearsal_3

3. The programme notes on both services are brilliant

No fannying around with programme notes which do little more than massage the ego of the writer. Both services offer metadata which lack pretension and seek to point out the interesting things to look out for. Copy reassuringly lacking in superlatives. Let the music speak for itself, ey?

4. In the absence of a satisfactory TV set up, I’ve taken to listening to the live performances as audio only

That makes both services a potentially expensive audio-streaming service. I’m not sure I could justify signing up for both, at least not until I can somehow stream the video on the TV screen.

5. Unmediated concert performances are increasingly the only way I’ll pay attention to a concert

There was a time when I really appreciated the context given by a TV or radio presenter for a concert. Now I’ve had a taste of unmediated concerts however, I’m increasingly seeing presenters getting in the way and, like programme note writers, allowing their egos to get in the way too. Consequently, so long as there are wide shots of the audience from time to time, that’s enough for me to know I’m watching a live performance.

benjaminbritten_englishchamberorchestra_rostrapovich_snape
Benjamin Britten and Rostrapovich perform Tchaikovsky at Snape Maltings with the English Chamber Orchestra in 1970.

It’s worth noting that BBC iPlayer has collated complete works (without commentary) performed in this year’s BBC Proms. This is the only service which I can get on the big TV screen though the performances are limited to those which have been recorded for TV or video-on-demand.

6. Navigation could be improved on both services a bit

The Digital Concert Hall has the edge in terms of user experience, I think, certainly on a PC. Font sizes and layout make looking for things a little difficult. What surprises me about both services is that drilling down to a specific work is surprisingly difficult. I’d like to pick out a composer and see the works that are available, rather than having to click through to each programme running order. That said, what I do really appreciate is the way I can ‘land’ on a performance of a particular work and when that’s come to an end the player will automatically take me on to the next thing in the programme. That means both services are putting classical music discovery at the heart of their user experience. Top marks for that.

Both have a good search function – good metadata is key to this – but I’d put the DCH a bit ahead of Medici’s. DCH’s search results are presented in a slightly easier format meaning I can see the full running order, where I have to click on a result to see the result on Medici. Hardly a deal breaker, but its a comparison worth flagging.

I’m going to spend some more time delving in to both DCH and Medici services to see what else I uncover in a bid to work out which one I’ll sign up for. Both annual subscriptions would amount to £20 a month (which I suppose isn’t that much of a dent on finances really). But I’m interested in seeing what the offering represents at this stage in comparison to broadcast subscriptions and licence fees, for example and where both are going in the next five years.