Category Archives: Music

New Season of Thursday Lunchtime Concerts at St John’s Smith Square. The Fidelio Trio and Learning to Play the Cello

Fidelio Trio poster for September 6th 2018 1.05pm

Delighted that the Thursday lunchtime concerts at St John’s Smith Square London SW1P 3HA have started again after the August break.

And what a fabulous concert to open with: the Fidelio Trio playing Fauré‘s (1845-1924) Piano Trio in D Minor op 120 – which I feel rather lukewarm about – and Schoenberg’s (1874-1951) Verklärte Nachte Op 4 which was fantastic.

Something so exciting about the stage set for the trio and an expectant audience

Composed in 1899, the Schoenberg was written as a sextet and arranged beautifully as a trio by Eduard Steuermann in 1932.

This was the first time I’d heard Verklärte Nachte in full. I’d previously only heard excerpts in lectures on Schoenberg and the 2nd Viennese School. I hadn’t realised how many lyrical passages he had written as well as his signature discords.

All three musicians – Darragh Morgan (violin), Adi Tal (cello) and Mary Dulles (piano) were great but i especially liked the cello. Adi Tal’s playing made me almost wish i hadn’t given up playing the cello when i left school.

Listen to my account of learning to play the cello from my memoir Woman in a White Coat Chapter 7 Music Studies Pages 96-98

 

You can buy a copy of my memoir Woman in a White Coat on Kindle at £2.99 or as a Paperback on Amazon at £9.99

Memoir Extract – Learning to play the Cello

An ex-student, who’d gone on to play second violin in the London Symphony Orchestra, gave our school a cello. I put my name down to have free lessons, but I wasn’t very hopeful because I was already having piano lessons. I wasn’t altogether pleased when my form mistress stopped me at the end of the week and told me I had been chosen to learn the cello. We always had loads of homework and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit in practising the cello as well as the piano. Continue reading New Season of Thursday Lunchtime Concerts at St John’s Smith Square. The Fidelio Trio and Learning to Play the Cello

Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos 1, 3 & 5 at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall

Swedish Chamber Orchestra. Conductor Thomas Dausgaard

Another visit to the BBC Proms 2018. A wonderful concert in a pleasantly cool Albert Hall. The three fabulous Bach Brandenburg Concertos were interspersed with three modern pieces.

Cellist Maya Beiser taking a bow after the piece ‘Maya’ written for her

The first modern piece was Maya by the British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage with the brilliant American cellist Maya Beiser – an interesting virtuoso piece, moving and exciting.

After the Brandenburg Concerto No 3  the orchestra played Bach Materia by Swedish Anders Hillborg with the Finnish violinist Pekka Kuussisto . A fantastic piece – especially the duet between the violin and double bass.

Last modern piece was Hamsa by the American composer Uri Caine playing the piano part himself – for me a sorry parody of the great 5th Brandenburg Concerto which preceded it. Much of the piano part was a cacophony sounding like a cat walking over the keys – banging out tight discords.

I was nine years old when I started to learn to play the piano with the organist of the local church. At the time, 1940-1942,  I was evacuated to a hostel for Jewish Children in Dawlish, South Devon.

Listen to my account of that experience from my memoir Woman in a White Coat. You can buy my book on Kindle at £2.99 or search on ISBN 9781979834391 for the paperback version on Amazon at £9.99

Memoir extract from Chapter 5 Pages 68-71 To Dawlish

Matron put up a notice saying she had written to our parents asking if they wanted us to learn to play the piano. I didn’t think my parents would agree to pay for lessons though they were quite cheap, especially as I had just been in trouble for refusing to wash on the Sabbath. Continue reading Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos 1, 3 & 5 at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall

Fabulous Rachmaninoff Duo at St John’s Smith Square, London

Brilliant Duo

Timothée Botbol (Cello) and Dinara Klinton (Piano) played Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise arranged for cello and piano and his Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Minor. Dinara played his Prelude in D Op 23 No 4  and his Prelude in G minor Op 23 No 5.

Both brilliant performers, I had never heard the cello played with such richness of tone. I was blown away. And Dinara Clinton’s brilliant musicality and technique were amazing.

St John’s have a membership just right for me as I don’t like going out alone to evening concerts. For £45 (£40 with Direct Debit) you can attend 10 of their Thursday lunchtime concerts – only £4 each!!

Timothée’s brilliant performance was a far cry from mine when I learned the cello as a 15-year old and played in a quartet at our school’s prize day.

Memoir Extract

An ex-student, who’d gone on to play second violin in the London Symphonia Orchestra, gave our school a cello. I put my name down to have free lessons, but I wasn’t very hopeful because I was already having piano lessons. I wasn’t altogether pleased when my form mistress stopped me at the end of the week and told me I had been chosen to learn the cello. We always had loads of homework and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fit in practising the cello as well as the piano.

Continue reading Fabulous Rachmaninoff Duo at St John’s Smith Square, London

The London Mandolin Ensemble at the Victoria Music Library, London

12 mandolin players, I double bass and the Musical Director, James Young
Nicely varied programme

Pleased that Victoria Music library invited the London Mandolin Ensemble back. There were 12 mandolinists and a double bass player – needed to give a bass ground. – under Musical Director James Young.

They played a varied programme of Baroque, Classical and Modern music.

For me, the adaptation of Handel’s Water Music didn’t work – you really need the full force of an orchestra.  In spite of there being 12 players it sounded thin. However, The two concertos – one by Nicola Conforto (1718-1793) and the other by Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783) were very pleasing as was the modern mood piece Tänkeplatsen by Olof Näslund (1952- ).

The most enjoyable pieces were the last three modern pieces with a Brazilian twist that worked really well for the ensemble – Sleepwalk by Santo and Johnny Farina, Stone Flower by Antönio Carlos Jobim (1927-1994) and best of all You only live twice by John Barry (1933-2011).

Very much look forward to the next concert at the Victoria Music Library – always a pleasant surprise.

Note: Now that I’m getting into my stride finishing my memoir Woman in a White Coat, if you email me at abby@abbyjw.com I will send you the first chapter and if you comment I will send you another. Hope to hear from you.

The Harmonium in Concert at St John’s, Smith Square

Fun concert with harmonium

Had never been to a classical music concert including a harmonium.

When I was young, some families had a harmonium instead of a piano and churches unable to afford an organ might have a harmonium instead. Piano shops certainly had one or two on display.

I had mixed feelings about the combination of harmonium with piano and strings at the concert at St John’s, Smith Square.

I loved the Cesar  Franck (1822-1890) Prelude, Fugue et Variation Op 18 for the Harmonium and Piano. Written by him for two of his students,  the haunting melodies made the combination of instruments really work.

For the rest, I didn’t feel the harmonium added to the works and for me adding the harmonium in the first piece – Wagner’s (1813-1883)Marsh der Meistersinger arranged by Karg-Elert (1877-1933) – spoiled the music, though I enjoyed two of the five Dvorak’s  (1841-1904) Bagatelles – the two jolly folk tunes.

I was surprised to find that it was Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) who had arranged the Johann Strauss (1825-1899)  waltz medley with which the whole ensemble finished the concert. Fun and making me want to tap my toes, I’m afraid it most reminded me of my youth and cinema organs!!

The four string instrumentalists – 2 violin’s, a viola and the cello – were excellent. Hope to see them in a Chamber Music concert some time.

Lunchtime Concerts at St John’s Smith Square

Programme for Lunchtime Concerts

Just started to feel able to go to the lunchtime concerts at St John’s, Smith Square. I was worried that it might be too cold for me – I had a nasty shivering attack when I went to a residents’ meeting in a cold church – but it was fine.

A fascinating concert by Oliver Wass, Harpist, and Chloe Treharne, Mezzo Soprano, part of the Young Artists’ Series.

Harp and Mezzo Soprano Concert January 12th

I hadn’t heard a male harpist before and he was an excellent – as befits the winner of multiple prizes.

Chloe Treharne has a gorgeous pure voice that filled the church to overflowing. She sang Schumann, Schubert and Mendelsohn Lieder.

Oliver Wass

Besides accompanying Chloe, Oliver Wass played a fascinating new piece by Julian Philips (b. 1969) Winter Music as well as a Prelude by Ravel and a Hindemith Sonata.

It seemed strange watching his graceful hands when I am so used to seeing female harpists.

What a wonderful re-introduction for me to the Lunchtime Concert series.

The Threepenny Opera at the Olivier Theatre, London

Entrance to the National Theatre on the South Bank
Entrance to the National Theatre on the South Bank

Went to a brilliant matinee performance of The Threepenny Opera – a Socialist critique of the capitalist world by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill – at the National Theatre on the South Bank. It first opened on August 31st at Berlin’s Theater am Schiffbauerdamm.

As we are warned on the National Theatre website, this new translation by Simon Stephens certainly does contain a lot of filthy language and immoral behaviour – a lot more than in the production we saw in 1956 – the Lord Chancellor’s rules were stringent then.

Rory Kinnear, son of the comedian Roy Kinnear, was great as Macheath, with a surprisingly good singing voice. I always enjoy seeing live musicians on the stage – the last time was the production of Nell Gwynn. The deep bass tones of the Balladeer (George Ikediashi) and Mr Peachum (Nick Holder) resounded in the Olivier theatre.

Mr Peachum's Souvenir Shop
Mr Peachum’s Souvenir Shop

If you’re in good time you can browse the ground floor souvenir shop. I’m always a sucker for little things – I have a large collection of erasers from the major London galleries and museums.

The view from the balcon with the London Eye in the distance
The view from the balcon with the London Eye in the distance

 

 

 

Take a river trip on a sunny afternoon
Take a river trip on a sunny afternoon

Or wander out onto the  balcony for fabulous London views.

JOHN FIELD COMPOSER (1782-1837)

His 18 Nocturnes
His 18 Nocturnes

Amazing to think that John Field, an eighteenth century Irish composer, travelled all the way to Russia, braving all the hardships associated with long distance travel at that time, settled there, married and had an illegitimate son (Leon Leonov) later a famous tenor as well as a pianist son, Adrian, by his wife, Adelaide percheron, a French pianist and former pupil.

He had moved to London by 1793, where he became a pupil of Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) and travelled with him to Paris, Vienna and St Petersburg, where Clementi left, and Field settled in Moscow.

We tend to associate nocturnes with Chopin  (1810-1849) and Liszt (1811-1886) but they had been very much influenced by Field’s work – his 18 nocturnes in particular.

As well as going back to Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No II, I have started to play Field’s delightful Nocturne No 5. Not difficult to play, but hard to play well.

ST JOHN’S SMITH SQUARE, WESTMINSTER

The entrance to St John's in Smith Squarae Sw1P 3HA
The entrance to St John’s in Smith Square SW1P 3HA

My son Bernard first introduced me to the lunchtime concerts at St John’s Church some years ago. At that time you could buy a membership for only £30 which covered the lunchtime concerts for the whole year for you and a companion. I went regularly, hurrying from or to one of my classes at one of the Further Education colleges. Bernard came when he could.  Bronze Membership is now £35 for vouchers for any 10 lunchtime concert during that year – still very good value.

Built during the years 1713-1728, St John’s was reconstructed in 1742 after a fire,  gutted in 1940 by enemy bombs during WW2 and restored to its present glory during the years 1964-1969.

Advertising the Concert on Thursday April 14th
Advertising the Concert on Thursday April 14th

Sometimes the musicians playing at the Thursday lunchtime concerts are established, like the brilliant organist of Westminster Abbey. Often, like the Attard-Zerafa Duo, who played on Thursday April 14th, they are young musicians starting out on their careers. The virtuosity of these two was amazing. They chose modern pieces by Milhaud, Denisov, Schmitt and Albright – mostly the sort of complex modern classical pieces that you need to hear several times before you can get a handle on it. Two – Brazileira by Milhaud and La Folia Nuovo: a lament for George Cacioppo by Albright – were more lyrical and easier to appreciate at first hearing.

FABULOUS PRODUCTION OF THE PLAY NELL GWYNN

Nice to have a n oldfashinioned set for a change
Nice to have an old fashioned set for a change

Brilliant production of Nell Gwynn by the British Woman Playwright, Jessica Swale,
at the Apollo Theatre. All the members of the cast are wonderful with the incredible Gemma Arterton in the lead. Fantastic all acting, all singing , all dancing production with live musicians on-stage.  A must-see.

The original ceiling from 1901
The original ceiling from 1901

We had tickets for The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time a couple of days after the roof of the Apollo Theatre collapsed on  December 19th 2013. We were offered tickets at the John Gielgud theatre to which the play transferred but we had bought tickets for Louise and her family and she was about to return to Spain.

The new ceiling post the collapse on Dec 19th 2013
The new ceiling added after the collapse on Dec 19th 2013

On their next visit they saw and loved the Curious Incident. We saw it in the cinema – a film of the National Theatre production – but felt it didn’t quite come off. CGI in films is so brilliant now. Filming the audio-visual effects suitable for a theatre just didn’t do it for me.