Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Steven Isserlis meets the pearls of wisdom in Robert Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians, originally meant to accompany the master’s renowned 1848 piano suite, Album for the Young, with directness and allure. Isserlis relates guidance from his vast experience as a performer, educator and writer/broadcaster, which, while closely based on Schumann’s precious aphorisms, adds his own didactic playfulness. His revised suggestions and bonus chapter, which outline his personal interpretations on Schumann’s original work in a light-hearted and humorous tone, avoid the trap of haughty weightiness while managing to address high-minded ideals with the seriousness of the matter at heart. With recommendations like the importance “to stay true to one’s convictions, courageous in facing adversity and to never lose the love for music itself,” Isserlis keeps the conversation simple, real and encouraging, counterbalancing much of the anxiety-provoking frenzy that generally dominates the competitive scenes typical of music institutions. With many contradicting opinions on the subject available, Isserlis does not underestimate the importance of putting things into perspective, especially when it comes to overzealous practice habits: “Genuine technical command allows us to play the music we’re performing without having to think about the [technical] difficulties; it gives us the freedom to listen to ourselves. The point of scales and exercises, ultimately, is to help our fingers/voices acquire the precision they need in order to produce the interpretation we hear in our heads/hearts.” With his don’ts striking wit more often than his dos, he may just prevent another generation’s disastrous misconstruction of the craft: “…Don’t turn your performance into a lecture-recital! How many times does one play Bach, for instance and we hear from their playing what they’ve learned about double-dotting, ornamentation, etc.; and we also hear that they know when the music is changing key, because they take time over every modulation. The music will modulate whether you point it out or not…Ideally there should be no sense that you’ve made decisions in advance – more the impression that you are (re)creating as you perform. That way, the music you play will always sound alive – and new.” Intrigued by the composer’s musical genius, Isserlis, an acclaimed British cellist, has devoted much of his illustrious career up to this point to Schumann’s oeuvre, making him a recipient of the Schumann Prize of the City of Zwieckau, where Schumann was born. The cellist’s chamber cycles have been staged internationally and include programs about varied aspects of the fascinating composer’s life and work, revealing a keen understanding and personal kinship to the fantastical world of the master’s imagination, musical idealism and purity. Especially noteworthy are Isserlis’ efforts in ‘recovering’ the masters’ lesser-known works as part of a vehement effort to promote Schumann. In 2010, Schumann’s bicentenary, he wrote Grammophone (with Philistines in mind): “Schumann’s music is curiously alive today. One cannot pigeonhole him (perhaps that’s why critics have difficulties); he is too experimental, too close to the edge of the known sound world. Harmonically, rhythmically, emotionally he is way ahead of his time – outside of time, in fact, looking simultaneously into the past and the future…In short, he is a genius, unlike any other, one who can lead us into worlds undreamed of by anyone else. Every time I work on his music (as I am now doing for my upcoming residence at the Cheltenham festival), I marvel afresh, not just at the power of his imagination, but also at the brilliance of his mind. It is so exciting to follow his thought patterns as he moulds formal conventions into new, half-hidden shapes: miracle after miracle,” he offers, explaining his ongoing fascination with Schumann, the man his work. “This bicentenary is the chance for more of us to engage with him (concert promoters, record companies and performers permitting). Far be it from me to be fanatical – but if you catch anyone being condescending about any aspect of Schumann’s music or personality this year, please feel free to gently, but firmly, shoot them. For their own good.” Isserlis’ examining of the master’s directions on how to implement artistic goals into routine principals could open up a slew of possible reflections on the creative process. He presents thoughtful critique on the role of the musician within society, the tradition of music education and the goal of music performance to a higher end, leaving room for a more in-depth evaluation of the creative experience of young musicians. While Isserlis could clearly analyze such matters in a wider context, he rather chooses here – in tune with Schumann’s inflections – to adhere to the more concrete approach, giving comprised, practical ‘how-to’ directions, and addressing the nascent musician in this intimate discourse. Bestowed with a direct lineal heritage of musical tradition, as well as a code of ethics, by his great mentors Jane Cowan, Sándor Végh, György Kurtág and Ferenc Rados, each of whom inspired Isserlis the musician and helped shape Isserlis the cellist in their own personal manner, Isserlis the educator is in turn consistently reaching out to the next generation. About the teachers in his life he has said: “I think I am right in saying that all four of these unique visionaries, different as they were/are, shared a basic set of musical values. In every lesson I took or observed with any of them, there was an over-riding goal: to help the student realize the composer’s vision. It hardly needs saying that none of them were interested in career for its own sake – in treating music like a competitive sport, in fact, which alas is the case in all too many institutions around the world today. These sages followed their musical ideals, and tried to help others do the same; what is the point in being a musician if one is not an idealist?” (Quoted from his 2014 speech at the Prussia Cove Chamber Music Festival). One of the fascinating discoveries of Isserlis’ mentorship may lie in his recognition that disciplined timing is everything. A set routine – a crucial element for the fostering of inspiration – builds a central aspect of his illustrated children books: Why Beethoven Threw the Stew and its sequel, Why Handel Waggled his Wig, both published by Faber and Faber in 2001 and 2006 respectively. Implementing good habits from the beginning, Isserlis describes the minutely detailed daily schedule of Tchaikovsky, for example, explaining the importance of making time for the mundane to the process of achieving the sublime: “Tchaikovsky will work from 9.30 until one o’clock. After that will come lunch, the main meal of the day, and then a walk of exactly two hours. (An hour and fifty-five minutes isn’t enough. Tchaikovsky is sure that he needs precisely two hours for the sake of his health.) He has to be alone for this, because he’s still composing in his head. The only problem is that the local children know that he’s a soft touch, because he loves children, and also because he loves to give his money away; so they will probably ambush him and beg for coins until he gives in and they run off, satisfied.” (Quoted from Why Handel Wagged his Wig). Isserlis delivers his commentary with a particular ‘soft touch,’ always reflective of the joy he takes in passing his love for music and Schumann on to the next generation.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Alexander Campbell as Hans Peter and Francesca Hayward as Clara in The Nutcracker © ROH / Tristram Kenton 2013 Peter Wright’s production of the quintessential Christmas ballet The Nutcracker will be relayed live to cinemas around the world at 7.15pm GMT on 8 December 2016. Download your Nutcracker Digital Programme for free using the promo code FREENUT and enjoy a range of specially selected films, articles, pictures and features to bring you closer to the production. The cinema relay will be presented by former Royal Ballet Principal Darcey Bussell and broadcaster Ore Oduba . The story On Christmas Eve, a young girl called Clara creeps downstairs to play with her favourite present – a nutcracker. But a mysterious magician, Drosselmeyer, is waiting to sweep her off on a magical adventure. After defeating the Mouse King, the Nutcracker and Clara travel through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets, where the Sugar Plum Fairy treats them to an amazing display of dances. Back home, Clara thinks she must have been dreaming – until she bumps into a handsome young man that looks just like her Nutcracker soldier... Read: Our Essentials guide to The Nutcracker The production The Nutcracker is based on a fairy tale by E.T.A Hoffmann . The story was first brought to the stage in 1892, when the director of the Russian Imperial Theatre commissioned Tchaikovsky to create the now iconic score. Lev Ivanov provided the original choreography. Peter Wright's staging of The Nutcracker was first performed by The Royal Ballet more than 30 years ago and includes a magical Christmas tree which appears to grow during the iconic transformation scene. Julia Trevelyan Oman’s designs draw upon 19th-century images of Christmas, which deliver sparkle and charm in abundance for the festive season. Read: Painting with music – How Tchaikovsky used the orchestra to create unrivalled ballet scores The choreography During Clara’s visit to the Kingdom of Sweets she is accompanied by some of the best-known melodies in ballet, including the flurrying sounds of the Waltz of the Snowflakes and the dream-like Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. The Waltz of the Snowflakes is one of the best-loved moments in Lev Ivanov ’s original production of The Nutcracker. Peter Wright incorporated the original choreography in his 1984 production. With the help of Professor Roland John Wiley , he reconstructed the floor patterns danced by Ivanov’s female corps de ballet, forming his own version of this glittering snowstorm. Read: Why The Waltz of The Snowflakes is our highlight from The Nutcracker The cast Francesca Hayward dances the role of Clara for the live cinema broadcast, with Alexander Campbell performing as the Nutcracker/Hans-Peter. Principals of The Royal Ballet Lauren Cuthbertson and Federico Bonelli will dance the roles of Sugar Plum Fairy and The Prince. Review Read audience reactions to this Season's opening night and add your own review. After the relay, we will publish a roundup of audience tweets, so share your thoughts with the hashtag #ROHnutcracker . The production will be relayed live to cinemas around the world on 8 December 2016. Find your nearest cinema and sign up to our mailing list . The production is supported by Van Cleef & Arpels and is staged with generous philanthropic support from The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund .
On this CD the Heath Quartet brings us a contrasting program of Tchaikovsky’s String Quartets: his Quartet No. 1 (well-known for its “Andante cantabile”) and the amazing Quartet No. 3. Tchaikovsky: String Quartet No. 1 in D major, Op. 11 String Quartet No. 3 in E flat minor, Op. 30 As performed by the Heath Quartet. Since winning 1st Prize at the Tromp Competition, the Heath Quartet has earned a strong international presence. In 2011 they were awarded a Borletti-Buitoni Special Ensemble Scholarship and undertook complete Beethoven cycles at the Facyl Festival in Salamanca and in Edinburgh. Highlights over the last year have included recitals at Wigmore Hall in London. Future engagements include complete Tippett and Bartók cycles, and a recital with the soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci at Wigmore Hall, debut recitals at the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay in Paris, return visits to the Concertgebouw. The Sunday Times wrote earlier this month that: “Russian interpreters have tended to dominate this repertoire in the catalogue, so it’s good to hear these outstanding young British musicians in still relatively neglected works…the Heath players pour out Tchaikovsky’s grief for his friend with a depth of tone and virtuosity – in the allegros – that matches the finest Russians on disc. A notable debut”. Here is the Heath Quartet playing Schubert:
Best Instagrams taken at The Royal Opera House © 2016 Instagram. Photos by @smallcarbigcity, @tobytobytoby65, @harriettelane Each day in December, we'll be sharing a festive photo on our Instagram channel from behind-the-scenes at the Royal Opera House, capturing the magic of this very special time of year. But we're not the only ones snapping away as we marvel at the beauty of the building; we always enjoy seeing the thousands of photos you've taken during your visit and have selected a few of our favourites. If you're an Instagram user, why not share your own using the #royaloperahouse hashtag? @Smallcarbigcity Arriving in style at the main entrance of the Royal Opera House on Bow Street. Best. Car. Ever. A photo posted by smallcarBIGCITY (@smallcarbigcity) on Oct 12, 2016 at 1:38am PDT @Togather_Events The Crush Room, positioned next the auditorium, is a room steeped in history: many of its oil paintings and fittings have been in place since 1858. How beautiful is this place ✨ Royal Opera House in London . . . . #RoyalOperaHouse #Opera #Norma #Dinner #Food #London #UK #Restaurant #Event #Events #Discover #Explore #AmazingPlace #History #Historical #NeverStopExploring #LifeOfAPlanner #LifeOfAnEventPlanner #Travel #Traveler #Traveling #InstaTravel #TravelGram #InstaGood #InstaPic #DailyPic #PicOfTheDay A photo posted by ToGather Events (@togather_events) on Oct 12, 2016 at 2:19pm PDT @barbarazorzato The ultimate souvenir – this audience member went away with a programme signed by Principal dancers of The Royal Ballet Steven McRae and Natalia Osipova . #ROHfille @stevenmcrae_ is literally the best Colas ever Programme signed by Steven McRae and Natalia Osipova #nataliaosipova #stevenmcrae #lafillemalgardée #royalballet #royaloperahouse A photo posted by Barbara Zorzato (@barbarazorzato) on Oct 6, 2016 at 1:53am PDT @tobytobytoby65 Capturing the beautiful architecture of the Paul Hamlyn Hall, formerly known as The Floral Hall. Fabulous Architecture...Covent Garden...the Royal Opera House #london #londonsights #londonwalks #lovelondon #londonlove #royaloperahouse #opera #architecture #architecturelovers #architectureporn #londonphotography #like4like #followme #likeforlike #iphoneasia #iphoneonly #iphoneography #photogram #historicbuilding #glazing #windows #londonattractions #theatre #coventgarden #operaclub #operalover #contemporary #contemporaryphotography A photo posted by Toby Forer (@tobytobytoby65) on Oct 5, 2016 at 1:23pm PDT @jennifer.godden A bird's-eye-view of the Paul Hamlyn Hall champagne bar, all lit-up during an evening performance. #london #royaloperahouse A photo posted by Jennifer Godden (@jennifer.godden) on Nov 16, 2016 at 8:33am PST @ines_designes A night view taken on Floral Street of the bridge that connects the Royal Opera House to the Royal Ballet School, known as the 'Bridge of Aspiration'. #London #bridges #coventgarden #royaloperahouse #roh #architecture A photo posted by Aga Anastazja Szypicyn (@ines_designes) on Nov 21, 2016 at 1:37pm PST @nickyjanealger The morning sun shines through the windows and illuminates the wondrous cast iron skeleton of an empty Paul Hamlyn Hall. The view through Royal Opera House atrium.. #royaloperahouse #beautifularchitecture A photo posted by Nicky Alger (@nickyjanealger) on Nov 22, 2016 at 12:13pm PST @wonilson Ever sat in the Royal Box? It overlooks the pit and is adjacent to the stage, allowing you to see the fine details of each performance. Be warned though, the box was designed to allow everyone else in the house to see you too. Queen's box, Royal Opera House #opera #roh #royaloperahouse #coventgarden #royalbox #operahouse #london #manonlascaut #tennor #redandgold A photo posted by Wonilson (@wonilson) on Nov 22, 2016 at 3:51pm PST @corinna.parker They may be the cheapest seats in the house, but the view from ‘the gods’ is priceless. Let the entertainment BEGIN #RoyalOperaHouse #Nutcracker A photo posted by Corinna Parker (@corinna.parker) on Nov 30, 2016 at 1:19am PST @magdalena.stefanni ‘The Young Dancer’, sculpted by Italian-born British sculptor Enzo Plazzotta , sits on Bow Street opposite to the entrance to the Royal Opera House. Rainy London #London #londonlife #royaloperahouse #coventgarden #ballet #anastasia #weekend A photo posted by Magdalena Stefanni (@magdalena.stefanni) on Nov 15, 2016 at 4:33am PST @metropolitan_discoveries Curve appeal – a view of the horseshoe from a seat in the Amphitheatre section of the auditorium before a performance of The Royal Ballet’s Anastasia . Anastasia at the Royal Opera House from yesterday's performance-- a throwback to the Russian Revolution, the death of the #Roumanov family and questions of identity. #Anastasia #ballet #RoyalOperaHouse #ROH #Tchaikovsky #MacMillan #KennethMacMillan #PyotrIlychTchaikovsky #London #classicalmusic A photo posted by Sara (@metropolitan_discoveries) on Nov 13, 2016 at 11:37am PST @harriettelane Things are looking up! Don’t miss the beautiful light blue ceiling of the auditorium, intended to replicate the sky. Look at the ceiling.... #datenight @royaloperahouse #roh #ROHhoffmann #offenbach #opera #coventgarden #lights #interiors #gold #royaloperahouse #london A photo posted by Harriette Lane (@harriettelane) on Nov 16, 2016 at 6:39am PST Make sure you're following us on Instagram over the Christmas period as we count down to the 25 December with a selection of behind-the-scenes images, as part of our Royal Opera House Instagram calendar .
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, 1893. By Nikolai Kuznetsov The instruments of an orchestra are like the paints on an artist’s palette: which colours are chosen and how they are combined is vital to the mood and character of the finished work. The drama of the stories and the characters that inhabit them in Tchaikovsky ’s ballets The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty are ideal for description through instrumental colour as much as through harmony, rhythm and melody. And Tchaikovsky’s use of orchestral ‘colours’ plays a big part in making these scores so exciting and engaging. The Arabian Dance in The Nutcracker is a perfect example of how instrumentation makes musical ideas clear. Its Orientalist fantasy is conjured up through several elements that each have their own tonal quality. A repeating, rhythmic bass begins with low strings of cellos and violas, later with muted double basses. A first melody twists its way up like rising smoke. This is played by muted violins with ‘much expression’ to sound smooth and sensuous. A second languorous melody, written for a solo oboe, floats down through a series of gracious curves. A little punctuating phrase for predominantly low woodwind sound of clarinets with cor anglais decorates the changes of section. Flute chords and a tambourine rhythm add more decoration around these central elements. The contrast of timbres and pitches makes each part of the music stand out on its own while still complementing the others. Different timbres can also evoke specific characters. In Act III of The Sleeping Beauty, Puss-in-Boots and the White Cat are two of the fairytale guests. They dance a pas de deux in which their identity is described in sound. The opening phrase is a musical version of a cats ‘miaow’, with the reedy quality of oboes and bassoons imitating the penetrating animal tone. Tremolo strings that follow (with a little pizzicato explosion at the start of the sound) tell us that nervous suspense is in the air. In fact, the pas de deux is a stylized chase by one cat of another, with feline jumps, twitching whiskers and ears in the choreography synchronized with the music. A more sustained quality of motion is conveyed in the Dance of the Snowflakes in The Nutcracker . At the start, the orchestration depicts lightness and flurry: swift breaths of flutes and piccolo are echoed by a shimmer of cellos, intensifying in frequency and length as the snowflakes appears in greater quantities. With the waltz fully under way, a sustained melody is made distinctive through unexpected children’s voices, not singing as characters but as another quality of sound in its own right. The use of the full orchestra is one of the thrills of both these ballet scores, and even here Tchaikovsky’s lets us hear individuality too. The Overture to The Nutcracker is a big effect on a small scale. Upper strings are used and woodwind are pitched high in their ranges – no cellos or double basses, and no blaring trombones. A ringing triangle emphasizes the high frequencies. It’s a full orchestra – but a toy one to match the theme and scale of this Christmas Eve adventure. The Prelude to The Sleeping Beauty is of an entirely different order. It’s as full as you like from the start: a dramatic attention-grabbing theme, interspersed with strident brass. The harps are the only instruments not playing in the opening bars – the sound is too loud and aggressive for their delicate, ringing quality. Yet in the second section, harp arpeggios sweep magically over the repeating low notes of the strings to introduce the flowing Lilac Fairy theme on flutes and clarinets. As this section builds, all of the violins, cellos and violas play the main theme together – a glorious, soaring sound where Tchaikovsky uses as a whole orchestral group as though it was just one big solo. You’d think nothing could top that, but Tchaikovsky finds a way: trumpets! And the Prelude concludes with a glorious fanfare over shimmering chords of strings, woodwind and harps. It’s another huge orchestral sound – and so different from the one that began the Prelude. Whether on the scale of just a single instrumental line, a small group or the entire orchestra, Tchaikovsky knew how to use all the potential of orchestral sounds to animate the drama, direct our ears and – with these great ballet scores – complement our eyes. The Nutcracker runs until 12 January 2017. Tickets are still available. The performance on 8 December 2016 will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world. Find your nearest cinema . The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from Hans and Julia Rausing, Lady Jarvis, Peter Lloyd and the Friends of Covent Garden. The Sleeping Beauty runs 21 December 2016–14 March 2017. Tickets are still available. The performance on 28 February 2017 will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world. Find your nearest cinema . The production is staged with generous philanthropic support from Mrs Aline Foriel-Destezet, Hans and Julia Rausing, Lindsay and Sarah Tomlinson and The Royal Opera House Endowment Fund. The production is sponsored by Van Cleef & Arpels. Original production (2006) made possible by The Linbury Trust, Sir Simon and Lady Robertson and Marina Hobson OBE.
Batiashvili/Staatskapelle Berlin/Barenboim (Deutsche Grammophon)Naming the soloist on the last concerto recording you heard is probably easy. But can you name the orchestra? On this disc, there’s no danger of forgetting that it’s Daniel Barenboim’s Berlin Staatskapelle; the quality of the orchestral playing, the warmth and depth of tone are constant reminders. They offer worthy support to outstanding, insightful performances from violinist Lisa Batiashvili, who, like Barenboim, here commits the Tchaikovsky concerto to disc for the first time. She’s a dreamy-sounding, inward soloist at the start, shaping the melodies with care yet propelling them forward – this mammoth work has rarely seemed so concise. The Sibelius soars and sings in the first movement, and dances in the finale with a rare agility. As for Barenboim, he gives the orchestral parts the depth and scope of symphonies: the climax of the first movement of the Sibelius will knock you flat. Continue reading...
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (May 7, 1840 - November 6, 1893) was a Russian composer of the Romantic era. His wide ranging output includes symphonies, operas, ballets, instrumental and chamber music and songs. He wrote some of the most popular concert and theatrical music in the classical repertoire, including the ballets Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture, his First Piano Concerto, his last three numbered symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin. Born into a middle-class family, Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant, despite his obvious musical precocity. He pursued a musical career against the wishes of his family, entering the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1862 and graduating in 1865. This formal, Western-oriented training set him apart from the contemporary nationalistic movement embodied by the influential group of young Russian composers known as The Five, with whom Tchaikovsky's professional relationship was mixed.
Great composers of classical music