Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Kaija Saariaho interview

By Peter Culshaw
From The Telegraph - 07/07/2007

I'm sitting in Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's flat in Paris, which, like her music, is sparsely decorated with occasional flashes of unexpected colour. Now 53, she is recalling with some disbelief an article she read when she was a 20-year-old student in Helsinki.
"It had various composers explaining why women could not be composers - that their hormonal balance was wrong, that they were incapable of abstract thought - and that was how many people thought only 30 years ago, in what was supposed to be a liberal country. Naturally the article spurred me on, and made me angry."
These days, Saariaho is probably the best known female composer in the world. Her first opera, L'Amour de loin ("Love from Afar"), had its première in Salzburg in 2000 and went on to cause a sensation at the Santa Fe Opera in 2002. The story of a medieval troubadour consumed by a love for a woman he has never met, it was directed by the adventurous American Peter Sellars.
Saariaho credits Sellars as the man who inspired her to write opera: it was only seeing his updated, controversial settings of Mozart in the 1980s that she "started to think that opera could mean something in the modern world".
If L'Amour de loin was notable for its shimmering beauty, Saariaho's new oratorio, La Passion de Simone, commissioned by Sellars for his New Crowned Hope festival in Vienna, is tougher in both musical language and subject matter. It recounts the life of Simone Weil, who starved herself to death in 1943 at the age of 34 ("between the ages of Jesus and Mozart" as librettist Amin Maalouf puts it).
It was written for Dawn Upshaw, who was also the stunning, soulful lead voice in L'Amour de loin. Upshaw, who was ill for the première in Vienna, sings it for the first time in London on Tuesday as part of the New Crowned Hope highlights season at the Barbican.
"I read Simone Weil's books as a teenager," says Saariaho, "and they were important to me - I was impressed how she was always trying to find the answers to the big mysteries of life in mathematics, in philosophy."
Weil starved herself "in empathy with those who were not eating in the war, and she had many problems in her life, but I was fascinated by her inner world, her search for the profound, her gravity and her grace."
Saariaho may be angry at what she sees as the "patriarchal attitudes" of the Finnish musical establishment, but in person she barely raises her voice above a whisper.
She spent years living like a musical hermit at the electronic music think-tank IRCAM in Paris (although she did meet her husband there - fellow composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière ) and says that her first thought for a musical career was "to be an organist in some remote village in Finland".
This rather mystical side of her character is reflected in her other-worldly music. Fans often regard her as a spiritual guru. "I have nothing special to teach," she claims. "If there's something spiritual in me it's my search for music and how to create in the very commercial society we are living in."
Though not from a musical family, she remembers being drawn to music as a child, telling her mother that there was "music coming from my pillow. I would ask her, 'Can't you turn it off?' I imagined music all the time."
She lived in Helsinki but spent summers in the country. "I had strong feelings about birds and nature and rain and forests," she says. She took up the violin but was too shy to be a natural performer.
"Then I became somehow diminished in the search for identity as a teenager." By the time she was a student, "I was writing little songs of settings of poems - it was all I thought I was capable of."
She talks of her good fortune to be taught by composer and pianist Paavo Heininen at a heady time in the 1970s at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.
Partly thanks to the Finnish government's establishment of a national network of music schools in the 1960s, a gifted crop of students taught by Heininen emerged - fellow students included the composer Magnus Lindberg and the conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
"I had a very strong desire to express myself in music and Paavo gave me the technical tools and the confidence," says Saariaho. "As a woman I didn't have big composers to identify with. But he helped me find my way back to the imaginative world of my childhood."
It's an introspective musical world with an often lyrical, timeless quality. "That is a temptation for me as a composer - to stop time. It's a place I am longing to go always."

Maxwell Davies' The Seas of Kirk Swarf Premiered

By Keith Bruce
From The Herald - June 29 2007

The influence of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was, naturally, all over the work from the St Magnus Composer's Course showcased at the cathedral on Wednesday lunchtime. Of the works created over the past week, the most popular among the large audience who turned out to hear them was by RSAMD graduate in traditional music James Ross, but all the work was of a very high standard.
Maxwell Davies himself had a new piece in the closing concert, for much of its length an exercise in varied string colourings as well as a mini-concerto for the bass clarinet, played by Simon Butterworth. The Seas of Kirk Swarf makes virtuoso demands of the soloist - nimble fingering across the entire vast range of the instrument - whose part stands like the thought processes of a figure in the landscape at a point on the coast of the island of Sanday, where the currents and waves of two seas meet. Groups of notes recur in the ebb and flow of its three interlinked movements until, gloriously, there emerges a statement of peace and contentment in a lovely hymn- like tune. It is classic Max that should also find a welcome in the repertoires of other orchestras.
The new piece sat at the heart of a very big programme, with the orchestra's strings on top form in Beethoven's Coriolan Overture and the horns sparkling in a no-holds-barred take on Strauss's Don Juan - plus Mahler's Blumine as a between-course appetiser. Beethoven's Fifth might seem a very safe choice with which to end a festival that has a dedication to new music - but it was, as ever, a popular one. Conductor Stefan Solyom had one destination in mind from those opening bars, and every note was played in service of reaching the glorious finale, dynamics and pauses seemingly exaggerated to build up the tension en route. It was certainly explosive when it came - particularly for the first violinist, who found herself replacing a string halfway through.

First complete performance of Peter Maxwell Davies's The Birds

By Amy Parker
From The Herald - June 28 2007

This afternoon's concert, as part of the Academy's Summerfest series, gave us the first complete performance of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's The Birds, a four-movement song cycle replete with evocative images of Hebridean landscapes. Kenneth Steven's words painted pictures of places rich in colour and texture, whose Arcadian contentment was disrupted only by the looming figures of gloomy ministers and grey sheets of rain.
The metaphors of flight and freedom that ran through the text, though seeming to correlate with the ornithological theme, were strangely, and effectively, at odds with the highly wrought musical textures. Lines were tightly woven and self-controlled, dissonant and sombre; characteristics that were reinforced by mezzo-soprano Jane Irwin. The final movement, especially, which used words from John Barbour, was a sparse, solemn affair that allowed us to listen to the grain of Irwin's voice. She was accompanied by students of the Academy, who for the most part gave an admirable performance - yet one couldn't help noticing their relative inexperience in the face of such demanding work.
A second ensemble gave a performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No 14, arranged here for piano quintet, with soloist Alexander Kanchaveli. Again, hesitancy prohibited the full realisation of some of this music, but Kanchaveli's playing more than impressed, and the spidery melodic lines were given a depth and roundness, particularly during the andantino movement, which provided him with the opportunity to develop his expressive tone.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mark-Anthony Turnage's new work About Water

By George Hall
From The Guardian - Wednesday June 20, 2007

Mark-Anthony Turnage's new work About Water is a kind of a song-cycle comprising folk songs, spirituals and standards, intertwined with new tunes by Turnage and jazz singer Barb Jungr, and interspersed with instrumental interludes.
If its premiere with the London Sinfonietta under Stefan Asbury is anything to go by, 70 minutes is too long for the patchy material. The theme itself is pretty loose, a mention of rain or tears in the lyrics being scarcely enough to sustain a connection in some items. The result has less the feel of a work with a genuine structure than of a suite or an extended set.
The best part of the piece lies in Turnage's stylish instrumental writing, brilliantly realised by the Sinfonietta players. Long, liquid lines hover over an often urban musical landscape that gives them a sharp profile, with punchy rhythmic interjections and the odd explosion, like the one that jolts the attention near the close of the final song, Nick Drake's River Man. But sometimes Turnage's approach works to the material's disadvantage: the jumpy, percussive treatment of Otis Redding's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay robs it of its lazy charm.
A quartet of singers contributes further items, though their writing is the least effective. The jazz element is central to the piece, represented not only by Jungr's feisty vocals but also by a quintet of instrumentalists: saxophonists Martin Robertson and Mark Lockheart, pianist Gwilym Silcock, cellist Gabriella Swallow and bassist John Patitucci. But the two worlds do not always coincide, as in the best of Turnage's pieces, so much as collide.

The saint and the shebeen

By Keith Bruce
From The Herald - June 20 2007

The Master of the Queen's Music may now be well into his seventies, but Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is not much given to reminiscing. Apart from anything else, he doesn't have the time, as we shall see. Nonetheless, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the festival he founded on Orkney, "Max", as he is universally known, can be persuaded to look back on its early days.

The story is well-known of how the iconoclastic young composer from Manchester came north in search of peace to write, had a fortuitous meeting with the great poet of the islands, George Mackay Brown, and restored a house on Hoy, where he composed The Martyrdom of St Magnus, the cathedral premiere of which begat the festival. The local paper was not an early ally. "The Orcadian was very much against me and my music," remembers Sir Peter, "but these things are sent to try you - and I quite enjoy a fight".
This much we know about Maxwell Davies. Even people who have not heard a note of his music are probably aware that he revels in a scrap. Sometimes they are directly concerned with his work, at times only tangentially so. Currently well off-limits is the arrest of his long-time manager Michael Arnold, after the alleged discovery of a £500,000 "black hole" in the composer's finances. At another extreme there was the revelation that he was not averse to a little locally reared terrine of swan, although the birds are famously under the protection of Her Maj. His plans to tie the knot with long-term partner Colin Parkinson have also made the papers recently when Orkney Islands Council refused to allow the local registrar on Sanday, where the couple now lives, to conduct their civil partnership.
On that last battle, it would seem the composer has admitted defeat. " I think we are going to do it in Manchester. The council disgraced themselves and the people on the island are outraged - it would have been a hell of a party. But they've always been like that. At least they give money to the festival these days."

At which point it is probably helpful to those who currently steer the St Magnus Festival to allow Maxwell Davies to point out that it long since ceased to be him.
"I always thought that after 10 years it would have disappeared or taken root - and it has flourished. I don't interfere but it's nice if I'm around and people appreciate it."
While he's technically absolutely correct and the programme is the creation of director Glenys Hughes, the presence of Max is much more than that of an incidental audience member and absolutely central to three major planks of this year's programme. After the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra is the band most associated with St Magnus and this year's residency culminates in a concert with a Maxwell Davies premiere: The Seas of Kirk Swarf. It is a short concerto for bass clarinet and strings which he has written for the SSO's bass clarinettist, Simon Butterworth.
The composer knew Butterworth at the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, where he had already performed his saxophone concerto. "There's not much written for bass clarinet and this, though quite short, exploits its virtuosity. It is very high."
Butterworth must be up to the task, however, as he's asked for no changes. "I'm always prepared to do that, but I've had no speals of complaint," says Sir Peter.

His other contribution has been to songs and incidental music for this year's community play. Tales of the Golden Slipper is based on George Mackay Brown and written by long-term friend of the festival, playwright Alan Plater. Plater makes a date with St Magnus whether he is working or not, but has twice before written for it with another Mackay Brown adaptation, Greenvoe, and Barriers, about the causeways between the southern islands constructed on Churchill's orders during the Second World War.
The combative Maxwell Davies loves the story of The Golden Slipper, a war-time shebeen outside "dry" Stromness that defied the local constabulary because it was patronised by too many of the friends and families of those in positions of influence on the islands.
Maxwell Davies has written "incidental piano music" and scored "a few songs" with lyrics by Plater, and delights in the fact that both George MacKay Brown and his friend, the radical left-wing painter Ian McInnes, are represented onstage. "It's very funny," he promises.
Then there is the rebirth of the composer's course. For eight years on Hoy, Maxwell Davies ran a composer's course and this new venture is a companion to the successful conducting course in Kirkwall, and under the direction of Alasdair Nicolson and Sally Beamish. Max is contributing a session on composing for amateur musicians (like his beloved Sanday Fiddle Club). "I'm not running it and I'll be interested to see how it is getting on. It is a big help being in touch with a real audience. There's such a rarified atmosphere about new music concerts down south."

Maxwell Davies is busy enough to be more than familiar with the contemporary music scene beyond Orkney. The last of his string quartets commissioned by the Naxos label will be premiered in October at London's Wigmore Hall and he has recently returned from the premiere of a new piece in Bremen. Following the controversy surrounding John Tavener's new work for Westminster Cathedral, it is intriguing that the Master of the Queen's Music has composed a service for Westminster Abbey - the first since William Byrd, he claims. His return to the world of orchestral composition, signalled by the new work for the SSO, includes a violin concerto which wil be premiered in 2009.

Although the St Magnus Festival "keeps a serious centre with new pieces", as Maxwell Davies puts it, the contemporary music that is at the heart of the programme is never po-faced and is rewarded with one of the most curious, open-minded audiences anywhere in the world, much of it local. This year's programme partners Bach with Piazzola and Cage in a concert by Concert Caledonia with Lisa Milne. The Aberdonian soprano can also be heard with the SSO and singing Janis Joplin. Violinist Viktoria Mullova plays Bach Partitas in the cathedral and can also be heard with her cellist partner Matthew Barley's group, Between the Notes, playing the Human League and the Hollies.
The other drama highlight of 2007 is the National Theatre of Scotland premiere of Tam Dean Burns's adaptation of Luke Sutherland's Venus as a Boy, a novelised memoir of his Orkney upbringing that was so controversial as to be unobtainable in island bookshops, and for which the writer is performing the music.
The other writer-in-residence, meantime, is Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, and jazz fan Plater has ensured a healthy representation of that music in association with saxophonist Alan Barnes. For the first time, St Magnus also has the presence of that stalwart venue of festivals worldwide, the Spiegeltent, with a programme to supplement the one annually provided at the shebeen-for-our-times, The Festival Club. It is just as well that the sun never really sets there at this time of year.

The St Magnus Festival runs from Friday to June 27. Read The Herald next week for daily reviews.

Saariaho's Terra Memoria Premiered

By Bernard Holland
From the New York Times - June 19, 2007

The Emerson String Quartet ended its long and busy residency at Carnegie Hall on Sunday night fittingly, with Beethoven’s farewell to the medium but also with a new piece by Kaija Saariaho. In the last three weeks the Emerson has coached and presented young ensembles and itself gone through the Beethoven repertory onstage, adding other composers to its programs here and there.
I can’t resist repeating that a 2,800-seat space is not the right place to hear four string players play chamber music, but you can’t argue with the economics. Carnegie’s Stern Auditorium was not as full as it seemed to be on my last trip to this series two weeks ago, but there were certainly two or three times more ticket buyers than the building’s two smaller (and more appropriate) Weill and Zankel Halls could have held.
For his last quartet (Op. 135) Beethoven revisits his “happy” key of F. Just as with the Sixth and Eighth Symphonies, there is the joy-in-living theme together with a don’t-waste-my-time methodology. We experience sunlight, in other words, but with it an abruptness that is happy to jump suddenly into the listener’s consciousness and do away with elaborate throat clearings and polite introductions.
As in most of Beethoven’s last pieces, exquisite melodiousness, colored by his fascination with antique scales, alternates with a roughness approaching brutality. We shall never figure out whether a deaf musician had simply lost contact with the sound of live performances and the technical difficulties attached, or whether the man who had earlier created such luxurious color schemes as the “Pastoral” Symphony just wanted his audience to squirm.
Like the late C sharp minor Quartet that came after intermission, Beethoven’s sweeping sense of organization is exchanged for chains of events. The Emerson played the lyrical elements with great beauty, although the Presto of the C sharp minor was rushed and roughed up to the point of unintelligibility.
No rough sounds for Ms. Saariaho’s “Terra Memoria,” commissioned by Carnegie Hall and having its first performance here. Ms. Saariaho’s elegant music begins and ends in whispery near-silence. Her care for the sound properties of instruments is a double gift to listeners. The overlapping conversations between voices are received as counterpoint, and yet the assembled sounds create a single cloudlike sonority. Most of the piece sings in a pervasive tenor-to-treble range reminiscent of Ravel or Fauré. The more Ms. Saariaho engages the past, the more original her music becomes.


Emerson concludes string quartet cycle with panache

By Ben Finane
From the Star-Ledger - June 18, 2007

Beethoven's joyous Quartet in F Major (Op. 135) was played by the Emerson String Quartet on June 17 with a grand American sweep, impressive in its emotional honesty, inspired in its pacing. This performance at Carnegie Hall opened the last of the Emerson String Quartet's (violinists Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violist Lawrence Dutton and cellist David Finckel) dozen concerts there, featuring the Beethoven String Quartets. The month-long series looked to present the Beethoven cycle in context, and included works by Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Bartok, Shostakovich and other masters of the medium.

As for Beethoven, a ruddy Allegretto delighted for its playfulness, while a vigorous Vivace, executed with brisk attack, approached insanity in the way the players dove into the runs, jettisoning technique overboard to achieve maximum ramming speed. This was contrasted with a gentle Lento, where the Emerson achieved a quiet place in the chorale section, playing with such extreme pianissimo that the audience seemed to hold its breath. The work was given a convincing conclusion, earning Beethoven's written direction in the score "Es muss sein!" (It must be!).

The Emerson's final concert of the series, delivered to a packed hall, featured a world premiere by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, bookended by two late Beethoven quartets. This work, "Terra Memoria," is only the second string quartet by the 54-year-old Saariaho. The premiere of "Terra Memoria" began softly, with low and high strings establishing the peaks and pits of the landscape that was to unfold. Languid motives gradually developed and expanded, sliding up and down the register, advancing and receding within the aural spectrum. The schema of the piece, which was simply to explore a sliding wash of color, made for music that was vociferous and angst-ridden, but also cold, clinical and removed. Dedicated by the composer "for those departed," the work clearly has an element of lament and nostalgia, but there is no catharsis here. The only brightness in the premiere arrived in the form of Saariaho's vivid pink scarf, which came into view when the composer emerged from the audience and made her way to the stage to exchange bisou bisou (kisses in French, Saariaho lives in Paris now) with the members of the Emerson -- 12 in all for four bewildered players.

After intermission, disaster struck. The mighty Quartet in C-sharp minor (Op. 131), which offers little space to catch one's breath (or to tune), slipped away from the Emerson early on and seemed only to increase its lead as the players stumbled after it in an attempt to catch it before the finish line. The quartet dragged, and there were great problems with tuning, which grew more and more severe as Op. 131 wore on. Worse, the performance was scarred by insensitive playing. The Carnegie Hall audience did not seem to mind, as concertgoers leapt to their feet with applause and shouts at the work's conclusion, perhaps acknowledging the feat of completing the Beethoven cycle (and more) over a dozen concerts as much as that night's performance. As an encore, the Emerson played the final Allegro from Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat Major (Op. 130). "The last piece he ever wrote," said Drucker from the stage. The tender reading was certainly a fitting denouement to the concert series.

UK music "wunderkind" Ades comes of age or does he?

By Michael Roddy
From Reuters - Mon Jun 18, 2007

Composer Thomas Ades has scored the pounding beat of a dance club for orchestra, got a soprano to sing a breathtaking 17 high E's in her first minute onstage and ended a concerto by slamming down a piano lid.
Just don't call him the "wunderkind of British music" anymore. On March 1, the Londoner whose prodigious talent has taken the music world by storm, turned 36.
"My friend said to me...'You stop being young when you turn 36'," Ades, his face beaded with sweat, told Reuters in a rare interview following an orchestra rehearsal last week.
"In a way, it's a huge relief. I seem to have been young for a very long time. I've been the 'wunderkind' for ages."

Everyone should have such an enchanted youth, and end it with prospects so bright.
Almost from the moment he started composing seriously, at age 17, Ades, a graduate of King's College, Cambridge and London's Guildhall School of Music, has been heralded as the shining star of British music, a successor to Benjamin Britten, possibly another Mozart.
The tall, almost teddy-bearish Ades, is so multi-talented -- he's a superb pianist and conductor -- he could have had his pick of careers, but in the end, he had to compose.
"If you are lucky enough to find your voice...you really have no choice. You kind of have to do it, no matter how many offers you're lucky enough to get to perform.
"That little voice in the back of your head just keeps saying, 'If you can write you have to'. Somebody, (French novelist Andre) Gide or somebody, said, 'If you can stop, do.' ...It's a lot of hard work."

No one knows that better than Ades, who has had his share of crises on the way to success, including having premieres of both his symphonies conducted by one of the world's top conductors, Sir Simon Rattle, and an opera produced at Covent Garden.
That was his second opera, "The Tempest", based on Shakespeare's play, and its 2004 premiere almost was one of the great train wrecks of music history.
As "one of the last of the old steam-powered composers", Ades shuns computers and writes out everything by hand -- which takes time.
"I rang them...and said, 'We can postpone this or I can do it but it will be a nightmare for everyone, I mean, cast, orchestra, everyone'...And I understand, they just can't postpone...
"The dress rehearsal, we had to close, it was so terrifying they didn't let anybody in, and they pulled it out of the hat on the first night, but it was the skin of the teeth."
A revival last March worked better after Ades had a chance to fine tune. It gave the cast, including American soprano Cyndia Sieden, the only one so far to tackle the suicidal role of the sprite Ariel singing the 17 high E's, a chance to shine.
"She swears she's not the only one who could do it...but we'll have to clone her, I think," Ades said with a laugh.
Asked if "The Tempest" might be headed for The Metropolitan Opera, America's showcase house where his work has yet to be performed, Ades said there had been talk, but he could not confirm anything other than "I have my fingers crossed".

And what next?
"It's high time I do a new string quartet. I'm looking forward to that. What it will be like, I don't know yet. We'll see."
String quartets -- you have been forewarned.

Rare TV film reveals early life of the comic and composer Maxwell Davies

By Ben Dowell
From The Guardian - Sunday June 17, 2007

One is a painfully short Essex boy who went to Oxford, became one of the foremost satirists of his generation and had four marriages and numerous glamorous girlfriends before his untimely death in 2002.
The other is one of Britain's most respected composers who now lives in quiet isolation on the remote Orkney island of Sanday and is the Master of the Queen's Music.
Dudley Moore and Peter Maxwell Davies were brought together in a television documentary, made before Moore appeared in Beyond the Fringe and shown in 1961. Called Two Composers, it tips them both for musical greatness. The programme has just been unearthed by chance in the BBC archives.

The half-hour segment from the arts show Monitor was made by the programme's groundbreaking editor Huw Wheldon, who later became the BBC's managing director. Both musicians were only 25 at the time, and the episode has not been seen for 46 years.
In the film, which will be shown on BBC4 on 29 June, Moore is very well spoken, unlike the voice we are used to in his often acerbic and profane comedy work with Peter Cook. His accent also appears to fly in the face of his upbringing as the son of a shorthand typist and railway engineer on a council estate in Dagenham, east London.

The film shows Moore leading a life of domestic chaos, sharing a flat on the Kilburn High Road in north-west London with jazz singer Cleo Laine and her bandleader husband Johnny Dankworth. At the flat, Moore's bed is a fold-up sofa with an old coat for a blanket.
The film also includes scenes of him performing with the Dankworths in cabaret and pictures of him stumbling round Soho in a long coat and sporting what appears to be a colossal hangover.
The film praises Moore's brilliance as an improviser with an enormous range of music at his disposal, whether composing jazz, more formal pieces or jingles for television adverts. The performer, who had a club foot and was only 5ft 2in, also provides a revealing insight into his personal demons before he found fame in Not Only...But Also
'I started fooling around at school really when I was 15 or so,' says the performer who went on to earn the nickname the 'sex thimble'. 'I wasn't popular at school when I was young, being a very serious boy. It wasn't easy to be popular but I wanted to be less unpopular which is why I started to fool around. That is why I started to cash in on this [his music].'
Nick Awde, co-author of the West End play Pete and Dud: Come Again, about Moore's collaboration with Cook, welcomed the discovery. 'As the film suggests, Dudley was often crashing at people's flats - often because he just liked the company,' said Awde. 'But the music is very important to stress with Dudley - it grounded him all his life and gave him such impeccable comic timing.'

In Beyond the Fringe in which Moore starred alongside Cook, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller, he once memorably sang the words to 'Little Miss Muffet' to a pastiche of Benjamin Britten's music and in the manner of Britten's partner, the tenor Peter Pears.
According to Francesca Kemp, the BBC producer who found the film, the discovery indicates what an 'amazing musician he was and could have become had fate not held something else in store for him'.
The footage of Moore contrasts with that of Maxwell Davies who, in 1961, is shown living a life of almost monastic dedication, refusing to cook for himself and preferring to spend the time he is not teaching at Cirencester Grammar School on composing music.
Perhaps the only thing the two men have in common is their humble backgrounds: Maxwell Davies, now a knight, is the Salford-born son of a factory worker.

Kemp, who came upon the video in the BBC archives when working on an upcoming episode of the BBC4 music series Classic Britannia which will use some of the footage, said that she was 'thrilled' by the discovery.
'It is quite astonishing really that these two people were used in the film because there must have been dozens of young composers in Britain at the time they could have used,' she said.
'They were in no way dead certs for fame - they were both very young and in many ways undiscovered at the time and could have slipped off the radar at any time. And yet something, maybe instinct, made [Monitor's producers] go for these two very different people and profile them.
'The devotion Maxwell Davies shows to musical education impressed me a lot and it is something we could learn from today.
'What we also have is a picture of Moore just before he was whisked off to fame as a comedy performer but at an amazing time.
'There is also something quite shocking in the way he louchely stumbles around Soho with a hangover and lives in such squalor. I think my grandmother would have been shocked.'

Amid Alleluias, Festival Hall Resurrected

By Anthony Tommasini
From the New York Times - June 13, 2007

All four of the resident orchestras at the Royal Festival Hall — the London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment — took part in the grand and substantive gala concert on Monday night to reinaugurate the hall after a major two-year, $234 million renovation. The refurbishment was both keenly and nervously anticipated. When the Festival Hall opened in 1951 on the south bank of the Thames, this formidable concrete building, rising almost literally from the ashes of World War II, was embraced as a symbol of British fortitude and renewal.

The center had a populist mission: to bring diverse cultural events to an inviting modern concert hall. But from the start the place was plagued by troublesome acoustics. Repeated attempts to fix the deadness of the sound proved unsatisfactory.
Moreover, the neighborhood around the Festival Hall in the Southbank Center deteriorated badly over time. Just five years ago a report from a select advisory committee to the center described the area as “squalid, seedy and menacing.”
No longer, it would appear. The renovation of the hall and its public spaces has created excitement all over the city. Offices, storage areas and shops that had claimed much of the building have been moved out, creating space for airy foyers and a grand ballroom. There are fine new restaurants and 35 percent more public space in the hall, most of it with great views of the Thames.

On the east side of the building, next to dark railway arches, a pedestrian walkway that not long ago was popularly known as “mugger’s row” has been turned into a strolling boulevard, with inviting restaurants on the ground floor. Full-length windows in the new offices of the Southbank Center on the top floor reveal the administrative bustle inside.

As a gift to the citizenry, and to emphasize that the renovated Royal Festival Hall and 21 acres of the Southbank Center are back in business as accessible resources, Monday night’s gala was preceded by “The Overture”: a full weekend with 48 hours of free, nonstop public events.
There were concerts of classical, ethnic and popular music in the hall and its ballroom, on the plazas, on the banks of the Thames and even on the Thames, with shipboard concerts. Some 18,000 musicians, dancers, artists and filmmakers took part. More than 250,000 people attended.
The refurbished auditorium looks recognizably like the old Royal Festival Hall yet seems completely different. The stage has been thoroughly modified, with rows for choristers or audience members behind. The flooring and seats in the hall have also been redesigned. New carpets replicate the original 1951 designs. Elm and Australian walnut interior wood has been restored. The 2,780-seat auditorium feels more intimate than it did.

So often gala programs are festive to a fault. This one was both challenging and entertaining. It opened, as all inaugural programs should, with a premiere: “Alleluia” by the English composer Julian Anderson, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, led by the brilliant 35-year-old Russian conductor Vladimir Jurowski, who becomes the orchestra’s principal conductor this fall.
Mr. Anderson’s 15-minute work is not some generically celebratory piece but a mystical, agitated, high-strung and complex score, filled with thick-textured Messiaen-like sonorities, spiky harmonic writing and jagged contrapuntal episodes. During one frenetic section the chorus breaks into a gaggle of shouted alleluias.
Next Mr. Jurowski conducted a lush, detailed and rhapsodic account of the suite from Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” I have seldom heard the ruminatively lyrical sections of this score performed with such wistful tenderness. The orchestra sounded great.
In Part 2 Marin Alsop took the podium for Ives’s “Unanswered Question,” with members of all four ensembles participating. Then the London Sinfonietta gave the evening’s second premiere: “Cortege,” by the English master Harrison Birtwistle, a major 15-minute score for large chamber ensemble. The musicians sit in a circle but come forward one by one to play skittish solo lines, passing them on as in a relay race.
Mr. Birtwistle’s ingenious and engrossing score creates spans of astringent harmony and sputtering melodic riffs, suspended in a rhythmically rigorous yet somehow timeless space. After this Purcell’s Symphony from “The Fairy Queen,” elegantly played by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, proved an ideal chaser.

So what about the acoustics? Lawrence Kierkegaard was the acoustician, and the improvement is remarkable. The sound came through with bloom, detail and richness. There is a bright, modern quality to the acoustics, which fits with the mission of the hall.
Still, to judge from this first impression, if the hall was too dead before, Mr. Kierkegaard and his team may have swung things too far in the opposite direction. High, full-volume sustained sounds — the soaring sopranos in Mr. Anderson’s work, the high flutes and brasses in the Stravinsky — were hard on the ears.
Maybe a little tweaking can remedy the problem. Or maybe we are just in a time when concert halls are conceived for people who spend too much time injecting music from their iPods directly into their ear canals.

For the final segment of the program, Christoph von Dohnanyi, the revered principal conductor of the Philharmonia, led his orchestra and chorus in the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with a strong quartet of vocal soloists: Joan Rodgers, Patricia Bardon, Philip Langridge and Neal Davies. To make just this movement into a more musically complete statement, Mr. Dohnanyi, with his gift for juxtaposing old and new, preceded it with Ligeti’s nine-minute “Atmosphères.”
Segueing into the Beethoven without a break, the Ligeti, with its shimmering and cosmic sound clusters, seemed like the 20th-century fulfillment of the ethereal premonitions in the Beethoven, when the chorus and orchestra evoke the starry firmament. Needless to say, Mr. Dohnanyi gave masterly accounts of both works.
As a scheduled encore, Ms. Alsop returned to conduct members of all four orchestras in Ravel’s “Boléro,” with the relentless bolero rhythm in the snare drum impishly introduced by drum corps flourishes from the balconies. The performance was fun and also meaningful: a symbol that four distinctive ensembles are poised to share the hall for the public benefit.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Husband of Peter Maxwell Davies's Manager Arrested in Connection with Disappearance of £500,000

By Vivien Schweitzer
From PlaybillArts.com - 22 May 2007

Michael Arnold, a longtime friend of composer Peter Maxwell Davies and the husband of Davies's manager, has been arrested in connection with the possible embezzlement of £500,000 from the composer's bank accounts. The 73-year-old Arnold was arrested and questioned in London last week about money missing from Davies's business account. He was released on bail in advance of a hearing on May 30, according to The Times of London.
Judy Arnold, Michael's wife, has been Davies's manager for 32 years, according to The Times, and the composer is reportedly good friends with both Arnolds and has dedicated compositions to them. Davies became suspicious when a large sum went missing from the proceeds of MaxOpus, the company he founded in 1999, which operates one of the oldest classical music download websites. The Arnolds were made directors of MaxOpus in 2000, according to The Daily Mail. A police investigation resulted in Michael Arnold's arrest on April 18.
Davies, 72, has been a prolific composer since the 1960s and in 2004 was made Master of the Queen's Music, a honorary position dating back to the 17th century. There are no fixed requirements for those honored with the role, but the holder is sometimes requested to write pieces for royal or state occasions.


The maverick Master of the Queen's Music

From ThisIsLondon.com - 19.05.07

The finances of the Queen's official composer are at the centre of a fraud investigation after the discovery of an alleged £500,000 "black hole" in his accounts.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music, is one of Britain's most influential and respected musicians.
Last week, Michael Arnold - his friend and long-serving manager - was arrested after Sir Peter, 72, found sizeable discrepancies in his business dealings.
Mr Arnold, who has looked after the composer's financial affairs for more than 25 years, was later released on police bail. He has not been charged.
Sir Peter, who has conducted some of the world's finest orchestras, including the BBC Philharmonic and Royal Philharmonic, refused to discuss the on-going police investigation.
But friends said he has been deeply disturbed by the alleged fraud, thought to involve his private company Maxopus, one of the Internet's first classical music download websites.
Sir Peter set up the service with Mr Arnold and his wife Judy in 1999 and Mr and Mrs Arnold were appointed directors in 2000. Sir Peter has dedicated pieces of music to the couple.
The composer, who lives on the remote Orkney island of Sanday, contacted the Northern Constabulary in Inverness after becoming suspicious about proceeds he should have received from his work.
After initial inquiries were made in Scotland, the investigation was passed to the Metropolitan Police. An officer from Northern Constabulary has also travelled to London to assist in the operation.
Mr Arnold, 73, was arrested by the Met's Kensington branch on April 18 and has been bailed to return to Notting Hill police station later this month.
On Friday, Mrs Arnold refused to discuss the investigation at the Fifties home she and her husband share near Earl's Court underground station in West London.
Mrs Arnold was sunbathing on the balcony of the couple's third-floor flat when a Mail on Sunday reporter called.
She said her husband was away and could not be contacted. Asked about his arrest, she added: "I can't comment. I don't want to talk about it." But both Northern Constabulary and Scotland Yard have confirmed the investigation.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "The Metropolitan Police Force and Northern Constabulary conducted a joint investigation into an alleged fraud.
"On April 18, a man of 73 years was arrested. He was interviewed at Notting Hill police station in connection with this investigation and later bailed to return in late May pending further inquiries."
Police in Inverness also confirmed their involvement in the case following the complaint by Sir Peter.
A spokesman said: "Northern Constabulary and the Metropolitan Police are involved in a joint inquiry into a complaint made by Sir Peter Maxwell Davis, Master of the Queen's Music.
"The complaint surrounds an alleged fraud in relation to his business account and subsequently the arrest of a man was made on April 18.
"As it is an active police inquiry, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."
An agent for the composer, who works at London's Royal Academy of Music, said Sir Peter was abroad and could not be contacted for comment.
He is understood to have been in Bremen, Germany working on a new commission.
The police investigation is the latest blow to hit the flamboyant musician, who is openly gay and enjoyed a reputation as an "enfant terrible" during the Sixties.
Last year he became embroiled in a bitter row with Orkney council leaders after he was banned from marrying builder Colin Parkinson, 52, in a civil partnership.
Sir Peter, who has lived on Sanday for the past nine years, planned to tie the knot with Mr Parkinson, his partner of six years, at the Sanday Light Railway in front of friends, including Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish.
However, the council refused to give local registrar Charlie Ridley, who is also Sir Peter's friend, permission to carry out the ceremony on the island, which can only be reached by ferry or plane.
He is now seeking legal advice and threatening to take action against the council.

International Cello Festival @ RNCM

By Robert Beale
From Manchester Evening News - 7/ 5/2007

The Manchester cello festival, founded by Ralph Kirshbaum over 20 years ago, has become an extraordinary gathering, not only of young enthusiasts (and there many of them) but also of the world’s great virtuosi. Indeed it seems as if hardly any these days dare not be present. And the death of Mstislav Rostropovich – who was to have been specially celebrated at the festival, but whose non-appearance was known of several weeks ago (he died just days before) – seemed to give proceedings a special atmosphere, as players sought to emulate the passion, dedication and virtuosity of that great cellist and musician.

It was also a celebration of British cello music, with every work written for the instrument by Benjamin Britten included, and many others. Evening concerts began on Wednesday, with the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Garry Walker, and opening with Tippett’s triple concerto for violin (Mihaela Martin), viola (Nobuko Imai) and cello (Frans Helmerson). Their playing was noble and sumptuously lyrical. The Philharmonic also played at the Bridgewater Hall on Saturday, in the all-British programme (Bridge, Britten, Elgar and Walton), performed by Colin Carr, Natalia Gutman, Ralph Kirshbaum and Yo-Yo Ma. On Thursday, Manchester Camerata, under Douglas Boyd, accompanied Thomas Demenga and Ivan Monighetti in Haydn’s concertos, and Raphael Wallfisch played Rubbra’s dark and disturbing Soliloquy of 1944.

There was a myriad of masterclasses, recitals and quintet performances also – a quite dizzying schedule of attractions.

But standing out within it all was a series of British and world premieres. On Wednesday, Colin Matthews’ Berceuse For Dresden was given its UK premiere by Raphael Wallfisch, with the BBC Philharmonic. If it has a weak spot, it is pitting the solo instrument against gorgeously rich textures in the orchestra (broadcast performance will surely overcome it) – but what magic those textures have, exploring the sound of bells and their overtones, being based on the bells of the Frauenkirche. It is a moving and masterfully written meditation on wartime pain. It was followed by Anatolijus Senderovas’ Concerto In Do, played by David Geringas (UK premiere). Although this is, we are told, big in Lithuania, it seemed a peculiarly vivid example of the kind of “accessibility” that can be created by a very slow rate of harmonic change. Thursday’s concert saw the Camerata’s role as backdrop to Roberto Molinelli’s Twin Legends – its UK premiere given by Enrico Dindo. Cellists will be overjoyed they have a genuinely jazzy piece at last, but I felt in its lyrical interlude there was not much that Paul McCartney could not have written with a little help from Carl Davis. Edward Gregson’s A Song For Chris concerto (world premiere, Li-Wei the soloist), however, was concise, varied, personal and yet universal in its journey from agony to exaltation. It is a very fine work, exploring cello technique (for instance in its use of pizzicato chords), and at the end deeply felt and exceptionally powerful.
Friday’s marathon gala recital brought us two superstars about to be honoured by the festival. Natalia Gutman gave an unforgettable performance of Britten’s first Cello Suite – her virtuosity and musicality conveying more, perhaps, than anyone else the sense of Slava’s presence – and Yo-Yo Ma had fun (with Kathryn Stott, piano) playing Gismonti and Piazolla. Mischa Maisky (with Lily Maisky, piano) brought his singing tone to three Rachmaninoff arrangements (one the ubiquitous Vocalise), and then we had our other world premiere: A Little Trowie Music, for six cellos, by Peter Maxwell Davies. Inspired by a legend of troll-like beasties, it was, he says, meant to sound like their underground dance band. The six young players gave it their all in its mischievous, melodic and jolly moods.

Taking note of Mansurian

By Chris Pasles
From the Los Angeles Times - May 6, 2007

Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian may not be a household name. But in his homeland, in Armenian diaspora communities, and in Europe's new music circles, he is regarded as Armenia's greatest living composer. Recently, he's been getting even wider notice.
The tastemaking German label ECM has issued four CDs of his music ("Monodia" was nominated for a 2005 Grammy), and a fifth is planned. Recently, New York has heard two U S premieres: "Con Anima" for string sextet at Merkin Concert Hall and an Agnus Dei for clarinet, violin, cello , and piano at Carnegie Hall. And last month the Glendale-based Lark Musical Society presented three concerts to commemorate the 92nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
Highlights included his epic a cappella choral work, "Ars Poetica," and the US premiere of his Violin Concerto No. 2, titled "Four Serious Songs," and his Viola Concerto, ". . . and then I was in time again . . ."
Mansurian specializes in "very strong, emotional music," said Anja Lechner, cellist of the Munich-based Rosamunde String Quartet, which has recorded three Mansurian works for ECM. "That's maybe why it goes directly to people's hearts."
Mansurian believes that music has a spiritual purpose. "There are two main roots to music," he said recently. "The first one is the religious, Christian aspect, the issue of pain and spirituality, the pain of Christ being crucified and the guilt that comes from it and our relationship to God. The second one is our instinctive search for paradise lost. That's what makes music."

Because he shifted between Armenian and Russian, Mansurian was speaking through several interpreters at the Lark Musical Society offices. A gentle, elegant man with flowing white hair, he spoke in a light, precise tenor, often animating his remarks with eloquently shaped gestures that belied the struggle he said composing has been for him.
"Since childhood to now, my fingertips are bleeding from the conflict," he said. "It was always my personal fight or mission."

Born Jan. 27, 1939, to Armenian parents in Beirut, Lebanon, he moved with his family to Soviet Armenia in 1947 and then in 1956 to the capital, Yerevan, where they settled. He studied at the Yerevan Music Academy and at the Komitas State Conservatory, where, after earning a doctorate, he taught and later became rector.
He won two first prizes in the All-Union competition in Moscow in 1966 and 1968 and the Armenian State Prize in 1981.
Armenia is still his home, but his daughter, Nvart Sarkissian, lives in Glendale, and because his wife, Nora Aharonian, died last year, he plans to spend more time in Southern California.

His early works combined neoclassicism and Armenian folk traditions. Subsequently, he adopted 12-tone and serial techniques. His more recent works are a mix of all these influences.
"I have tried to find myself in the old Armenian music," he said. "I have tried to find myself in Boulez's serialism. When you go deep in these traditions, you will find the things that are true to your individual roots. "
In addition, he said, he always has been drawn to the written word. "As a musician, the Armenian language was one of my first teachers," he said.
"Four Hayrens," for example, is a setting of Armenian poems. "Ars Poetica" consists of poems by Yeghishe Charents, a victim of Stalin's purges. The title of his Viola Concerto, ". . . and then I was in time again . . ." is a line spoken by Quentin Compson, the doomed hero of Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury."
"I have devoted 10 years of my life to Faulkner," he said, before spontaneously reciting the opening of that novel in Russian.
"If I were to choose the person who was most significant to me, it would have been Quentin, because of his incredible honesty."
Mansurian read the book first in Russian, but upon later reading an Armenian translation, he said, he discovered that the Soviet version had been heavily censored.
"Just like the Soviet state got involved in every other aspect of life, it got involved in translations," he said. "That's how things were done."
Living under the Soviet system, he added, was "some sort of different Faulknerian tale. It was another monumental feeling of loss."
For all his identification with his homeland, Mansurian said he preferred to regard himself as a composer rather than an Armenian composer.
"To be truthful to myself, I have to rely on my genetic memory and my way of praying and my whole being, which is of course very Armenian," he said. "But not in order to be called Armenian -- just in order to be true to myself."

Woojun Lee wins University of Aberdeen Music Prize 2007

By Alan Cooper
From The Herald - June 23 2007

The winner of the University of Aberdeen Music Prize 2007 was, like the first prizewinner in 2005, a young composer from South Korea. Woojun Lee wins a cash prize of £5000. More valuable still for a young composer, he receives a commission from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for a new work to be premiered in the Music Hall next year.

This prize is the result of a unique co-operation between Aberdeen University and the BBC SSO, who have just completed a three-day residency in Aberdeen in connection with the competition. Workshops and concerts in the Cowdray Hall have gone on throughout the three days of the event. On Sunday, an organ recital by Dr Roger Williams presented new compositions by two of Aberdeen's graduate students as well as by Paul Mealor, host and organiser of the Music Prize. There followed a composer profile of one of this year's judges, Judith Weir, during which some of her finest vocal music both solo and choral was discussed and performed.
The 400 manuscripts for string quartet originally submitted for the Prize were reduced to the five finalists whose music was performed at the Aberdeen Prize Gala Concert by a quartet from the BBC SSO led by Elizabeth Layton. Barnaby Hollington and Bushra El-Turk, both from England, were competing with Ian Wilson from the Republic of Ireland and Giovanni Albini from Italy. All of their compositions were stunningly imaginative and refreshingly original in their exploitation of the string quartet idiom. However, the judges, Judith Weir and John Casken, composer and professor of music at the University of Manchester, awarded the prize to Woojun Lee for his composition Langsam musik, which they reckoned created some of the most beautiful sounds in the competition.

Mstislav Rostropovich dies at age 80

By Allan Kozin
From the New York Times - April 27, 2007

Mstislav Rostropovich, a cellist and conductor who was renowned not only as one of the great instrumentalists of the 20th century, but also as an outspoken champion of artistic freedom in Russia during the final decades of the Cold War, died in Moscow on Friday. He lived in Paris, with homes in Moscow, St. Petersburg, London and Lausanne, Switzerland.
The Russian Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography confirmed that Rostropovich died in a Moscow hospital after a long illness. His press secretary would not release the cause of death.

Rostropovich was hospitalized in Paris at the end of January, but decided to fly to Moscow, where he has been in and out of hospitals and sanitoriums since early February. Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin called Rostropovich’s death “a tremendous loss for Russian culture.”Rostropovich will be buried in Moscow at the Novodevichy Cemetery, where on Wednesday his friend, Boris Yeltsin, post-Soviet Russia’s first president, was laid to rest.

As a cellist, Rostropovich played a vast repertory that included works written for him by some of the greatest composers of the 20th century. Among them were Shostakovich Cello Concertos, Prokofiev’s Cello Concerto, Cello Sonata and Symphony-Concerto, Britten’s Sonata, Cello Symphony and three Suites. He also played the premieres of solo works by Walton, Auric, Kabalevsky and Misaskovsky, and concertos by Lutoslawski, Panufnik, Messiaen, Schnittke, Henri Dutilleux, Arvo Part, Krzysztof Penderecki, Lukas Foss and Giya Kancheli.

Perhaps because his repertory was so broad, he was able to make his cello sing in an extraordinarily range of musical accents. As a conductor, Rostropovich was an individualist. He happily molded tempos, phrase shapes and instrumental balances to suit an interpretive vision that was distinctly his own, and if his work did suit all tastes, it was widely agreed that the passion he brought to the podium yielded performances that were often as compelling as they were unconventional. He was at his most eloquent — and also his most freewheeling — in Russian music, particularly in the symphonies of Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

Rostrapovich was the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, in Washington D.C., from 1977 to 1994, and retained close ties with the orchestra as its Conductor Laureate. But he has maintained strong relationships with several of the world’s great orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Last year, Rostropovich announced that he would stop playing the cello publicly, but his conducting remained as vigorous as ever, and his schedule included commemorations of the Shostakovich centenary in New York, Washington, San Francisco, Moscow and Tokyo.

Rostropovich, who was widely known by his diminutive, Slava (which means glory in Russian), was also an accomplished pianist. He was often the accompanist at recitals by his wife, the Russian soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, whom he married in 1955, and who survives him, as do two daughters, Olga and Elena.

Rostropovich became famous well beyond musical circles, as a symbol of artistic conscience and his defiance of the Soviet regime. When the writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn came increasingly under attack by Soviet authorities in the late 1960’s, Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya allowed him to stay in their dacha at Zhukovka, outside Moscow. He was their guest for four years, and Rostropovich tried to intercede on his behalf, personally taking the manuscript of “August 1914” to the Ministry of Culture and arguing that there was nothing threatening to the Soviet system in it. His efforts were rebuffed.His own troubles began in 1970 when, out of frustration with the suppression of Solzhenitsyn and other writers, artists and musicians, he sent an open letter to Pravda, which did not publish it, and Western newspapers, which did.“Explain to me, please, why in our literature and art so often people absolutely incompetent in this field have the final word,” he asked in the letter. “Every man must have the right fearlessly to think independently and express his opinion about what he knows, what he has personally thought about and experienced, and not merely to express with slightly different variations the opinion which has been inculcated in him.”After the publication of the letter, Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya, both among the Soviet Union’s most internationally renowned stars, found themselves unable to travel abroad, and facing dwindling engagements at home. Occasionally, it would seem that the ban was lifted. In 1971, Rostropovich conducted and Vishnevskaya sang in Bolshoi Opera performances of Prokofiev’s “War and Peace” in Vienna, and Rostropovich was allowed to travel to the United States for concerts. But the next year, scheduled appearances in Austria and Britain were canceled without explanation.It was not until 1974 that they were allowed out of the country again. That year they were given two-year travel visas. In the West, Rostropovich continued to be outspoken, telling interviewers that he missed Russia and longed to return, but that he would not do so until artists were free to speak their minds.“I will not utter one single lie in order to return,” he said in 1977. “And once there if I see new injustice, I will speak out four times more loudly than before.”The Soviet Government’s response was to revoke his and Vishnevskaya’s citizenship in 1978. Thereafter they traveled on special Swiss documents. But they outlived the Soviet system. With Mikhail Gorbachev’s program of increased openness, Rostropovich began to renew his contacts with his homeland. He met with Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1987, and in Nov. 1989, immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Rostropovich gave an impromptu concert there. He returned to the site in 1999 to perform in a concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of the event.In January 1990, Rostropovich’s Soviet citizenship was restored. The following month, he took the National Symphony to Moscow and what was then Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). His return was the subject of a television documentary, “Soldiers of Music: Rostropovich Returns to Russia,” released on video in 1992. In 1991, when Communist hard-liners tried to topple the more open regime. Rostropovich went to Moscow to stand beside Boris N. Yeltsin. And two years later, during the siege of the Russian White House, Rostropovich, who was touring Russia again with the National Symphony, gave a free concert in Red Square, attended by 100,000 people. Originally planned merely as a gesture to music lovers who were unable to attend the formal indoor concerts, the performance was transformed into a show of support for democratization. “Russians need to be reminded at times like this that they are a great people,” he told a New York Times reporter at the time. “Events disrupt things a little sometimes, but listening to this music is a reminder that there’s a great nation here.” His soloist for his 1993 Russian tour was Ignat Sozhenitsyn, a pianist and the son of Solzhenitsyn.

Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, on March 27, 1927. His parents, Leopold Rostropovich and Sofiya Nikolaevna Fedotov, were both musicians, and his mother began teaching him the piano when he was four. When he was eight, he began to study the cello with his father, who had been a student of Pablo Casals, in Paris. In the mid-1930s, the family moved to Moscow, where Mr. Rostropovich entered the Gnesin Institute. He made his debut at age 13, playing a Saint-Sakens Concerto in Slavyansk, Ukraine, and in 1943, when he was 16, he entered the Moscow Conservatory as a student of Semyon Kozolupov.He also studied composition with Shostakovich, and continued to do so even after the Soviet authorities condemned both Shostakovich and Prokofiev for “formalist perversions and antidemocratic tendencies.” He later studied composition privately with Prokofiev, and although his compositions are not well known, they include two piano concertos, a string quartet and several solo piano works.By the late 1940s, Rostropovich had won competitions in Moscow and, in his first trips outside the Soviet Union, in Prague and Budapest. He toured widely during the 1950s, and in 1956 — the year he was appointed to a professorship at the Moscow Conservatory — he made his American debut at Carnegie Hall with a recital program that included sonatas by Brahms, Shostakovich and Bach, and as the soloist in the Prokofiev Concerto with the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos. Rostropovich was fond of concerto marathons. In an eight-concert series with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1967, he played 30 works by 24 composers. He celebrated his 60th birthday in 1987 similarly. In New York, he gave five concerts with three orchestras — the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony and the National Symphony — playing 15 cello concertos (half of them contemporary) and conducting a handful of symphonies, as well as the Britten “War Requiem.” As a bonus, he also performed Bach’s six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello. He presented similar series in Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, London, Boston and Washington.Rostropovich made his conducting debut in 1968, when he led a performance of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” at the Bolshoi. He made his British conducting debut with the New Philharmonia Orchestra in 1974. His first American conducting performances were with the National Symphony and the San Francisco Opera, both in 1975.“I never studied, but I had the best teachers,” he said of his new career in 1975. “I played with the best conductors of the world. Each has his own quality and from each I find what style is best for me.”

In 1977, Rostropovich accepted the directorship of the National Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Antal Dorati. For one of his first concerts, Leonard Bernstein wrote “Slava!,” a festive overture that captured the ebullience of Rostropovich’s style. And although critics complained at first that his repertory was unduly conservative, he quickly threw himself into contemporary works, including many composed for him and his orchestra.During his tenure, he made significant improvements in the orchestra’s sound and cohesiveness, partly by reseating the strings — he moved the violas to the outside and the cellists to the center, to create a richer blend — but also by systematically upgrading the roster. He also brought the orchestra into the world spotlight, taking it on its first tours of Europe, Asia and Russia, conducting it regularly at Carnegie Hall and making many recordings with it.The most frequent criticism of Rostropovich as a conductor was that he sometimes became so carried away with the music that he let the performance get out of his control. Rostropovich object to this analysis.“When I go to a rehearsal,” he told The New York Times in 1985, “I have already a model in my mind for the sound of a piece, for the shape of the interpretation. Maybe I’m wrong, but if there are no special acoustical problems in the hall, I produce exactly what I want. If there is a choice, I would rather have ideas and some difficulties of technique than a perfect technique and no ideas.”

For several years, Rostropovich was a director of Benjamin Britten’s summer festival at Aldeburgh, England, and for a few seasons beginning in 1983, he had his own festival nearby, in Snape. Although conducting seemed to be his principal interest from the late 1970s on, he continued to pursue an active recital and concerto career as a cellist. His instrument was the 1711 “Duport” Stradivarius, which he had fitted out with a special bent tailpin that made the angle at which the cello is held more comfortable.He also continued to make superb recordings, making his way through the great cello works several times. Yet it was not until 1991, when he was 63, that he decided to record all six of the Bach Suites, a set he considered the crowning glory of the instrument’s literature. It was a project over which he maintained complete control. He chose the site, the Basilique Sainte-Madeleine, in the Burgundian village of Vaezelay, France, because he considered the church’s acoustics perfect and the simplicity of its architecture inspiring. He produced and edited the recordings himself, and paid for the sessions so that if he were dissatisfied, he would be free to destroy the tapes. As it turned out, he was pleased with the results, which were released on CD and video in 1995.Rostropovich frequently presided over cello master classes, and in 1997 he began offering a regular series of such classes, as well as performances, in his hometown, Baku, Azerbaijan. In 2004, the house in Baku where the Rostropovich family lived from 1925 to 1931 was opened as the Leopold and Mstislav Rostrovich Home-Museum.Rostropovich’s charitable work outside music includes the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation, established in 1991 to provide health services and immunization from childhood diseases to children of the republics of the former Soviet Union. The foundation also underwrites AIDS research, and in April, 2006, Rostropovich was appointed Special Representative for Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.

Many honors were bestowed on him. He was an Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire, a Commander of the Legion of Honor of France, a Commander of the Phoenix Order of Greece and a holder of the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. President Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this country’s highest civilian award, in 1987, and he was the recipient of Kennedy Center honors in 1992. His Soviet and Russian honors include a Stalin Prize, from 1951, the title People’s Artist of the Soviet Union, awarded in 1956, and the Defender of Free Russia Medal, awarded in 1993. He also held honorary doctorates from more than 30 universities, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the Curtis Institute of Music, Oxford, Cambridge, Georgetown and Tel Aviv.


'The greatest cellist of all time'

By Julian Lloyd Webber
From the Telegraph - 28/04/2007

Rostropovich was quite simply one of the greatest musicians to have ever lived.

In cello terms he was a colossus – most probably the greatest cellist of all time.

For quite apart from his superlative playing, Rostropovich looked to the future and inspired an astonishing number of new works for the cello. Britten (five major pieces), Shostakovich (two concertos), Prokofiev, Walton, Lutoslawski, Dutilleux, Khatchaturian, Penderecki – the list seems endless – all composed for him.
It would be difficult to name any other musician who has come near to matching his achievement in creating an entire new repertoire for their instrument.
I first heard 'Slava' Rostropovich when I was 13. I had heard other cellists before but none had made the same impact on me.
In 1964 he gave a series of nine concerts in London, playing 30 different concertos in just four weeks.
In the programme Rostropovich wrote: "The cello has become, in our times, a tribune, an orator, a dramatic hero."
It was a phrase that struck an immediate chord within me and it was undoubtedly Rostropovich who inspired me to make the cello my own profession.
Rostropovich had such extraordinary magnetism as a performer that he would often receive a standing ovation before he had even played a note.
Nobody present at the Royal Albert Hall Prom in August 1968 will ever forget his extraordinary performance of the Dvorak Concerto.
It was the day that the Soviet tanks had rolled into Prague and Rostropovich was playing the most famous Czech concerto of all with a Soviet orchestra under a Soviet conductor.
Many people felt the concert should be cancelled but it went ahead with protesters both inside and outside the hall.
The tension was unbearable and when Slava reached the beautiful cello theme in the first movement there were tears streaming down his face.
No one in the hall was left in any doubt where his sympathies lay.
When Rostropovich walked into a room everybody seemed to be energised. His enthusiasm was wonderfully contagious.
Musicians, statesmen and royalty all loved Slava. When Senator Edward Kennedy heard of his troubles in the Soviet Union he personally asked Brezhnev to intervene. Astoundingly, Rostropovich was granted a two-year visa to "travel for artistic purposes".
When I interviewed Rostropovich for this newspaper in 2004 I asked him whether, given his top-level contact with politicians, he had ever been tempted to go into politics.
He replied: “People make a big mistake to think that I am interested in politics. I am interested in people. At first, I was a very good 'Soviet citizen'. But when I heard of Solzhenitsyn's plight, I went to see him and he was being treated like a dog. I offered him refuge and that is when my troubles started."
It has often been said that the cello is the nearest instrument to the human voice and Slava made the cello 'speak' like no other. The secret lay not only in his phrasing but in his sound. Rostropovich cajoled his audience through his cello and its sound was filled with the breath of God.


"The Magnificent Maestro" of the NSO

By Tim Page
From the Washington Post - Friday, April 27, 2007

Mstislav Rostropovich died this morning in the city he had always considered his home -- in Moscow, where he had been flown from Paris by private jet in February after it became apparent that he could not long survive.
"Music and art are a whole spiritual world in Russia," he once said. "In Russia, when people go to a concert, they don't go to it as an attraction, as an entertainment, but to feel life."
The life force that was Rostropovich ceased exactly one month after his 80th birthday. On a day of mourning for all those who love music, the grief is felt acutely in Washington, where the exiled Rostropovich was the music director of the National Symphony Orchestra from 1977 to 1994.
Even had he never picked up a baton, Rostropovich would still be remembered as one of the great musicians of the 20th century -- a noble and impassioned cellist whose stated intention was to combine the qualities he most admired in his famous predecessors: "sound from [Gregor] Piatigorsky, ideas and personality from [Pablo] Casals, feeling and beauty from [Pierre] Fournier." He was an unabashed Romantic who played with a full, burnished tone, effusive emotionalism and a virtuosic command of the instrument.
Moreover, he was a bold proponent of contemporary music. In addition to the works created for him by Soviet composers such as Serge Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, Reinhold Gliere and Aram Khachaturian, Rostropovich had pieces dedicated to him by Lukas Foss, Leonard Bernstein, Henri Dutilleux and Benjamin Britten. Indeed, the cellist is credited with reawakening Britten's interest in instrumental music after a long period of mostly vocal composition. Britten works created especially for Rostropovich include three suites for unaccompanied cello, a sonata for cello and piano, and a symphony for cello and orchestra. It is a huge gift to the cello repertory -- and to 20th-century music.
Yet Rostropovich had always wanted to conduct. "It was my first dream," he said. "If I play cello or piano, I make sound through instruments, but this instrument is not alive. A conductor must make a very deep connection, not with instruments but with people. He must use not only the baton but also eyes, expression and, most important, his musical personality."
Rostropovich made his American conducting debut with the NSO in March 1975. Three weeks later, he was selected as the orchestra's fourth music director -- which came as a distinct and unpleasant shock to its third music director, Antal Dorati, who was informed of the board's decision immediately before he was scheduled to lead a matinee concert featuring Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." By all accounts, Dorati had improved the orchestra enormously after he took it over in 1970, and the Hungarian conductor had planned to stay until 1980.
Instead, Rostropovich began his music directorship a little more than two years later, at the beginning of the 1977-1978 season. According to Ted Libbey's authoritative history of the NSO, Rostropovich's "stellar reputation called attention to the orchestra wherever it played -- not just in Washington but all over the world. Audiences were captivated. Critics found themselves reaching for the sort of romantic imagery usually reserved for fiction. He was a knight in shining armor, riding out of Russia to 'glory' (which is what his nickname 'Slava' means in Russian). He was the passionate suitor, arriving unexpectedly, sweeping the orchestra and its public off their feet and then -- to the surprise of many -- staying for the long haul."
It didn't hurt that Rostropovich the man was as warm and generous as his artistry. It was not unusual for him to leap from his conductor's podium after a particularly satisfying interpretation and hug and kiss every musician within reach. He was a shameless, irrepressible flirt, and a connoisseur of fine food and drink, a man who gulped vodka in much the same way -- and with much the same enthusiasm -- that a professional athlete might gulp Gatorade. He was good copy for anybody who wanted to write about him: Time Magazine put Rostropovich on its cover, calling him "The Magnificent Maestro."
He was also a figure of considerable moral stature. While he was still a student, his mentors Serge Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich were condemned by Soviet authorities for adhering to "formalist perversions and antidemocratic tendencies, which are alien to the Soviet people and their artistic tastes." (This line -- a mixture of ersatz populist idealism and vicious personal attack -- could stand as the perfect template for Stalinist criticism.) Prokofiev knuckled under; Shostakovich, who had been one of Rostropovich's teachers, was dismissed from the Moscow Conservatory. "For two years, not one piece by them was played in my country," Rostropovich said in 1977. "But I did not change my professors like the other students."
As one consequence of the liberalization that followed the death of Stalin, Soviet artists were able to undertake concert tours of the West. Rostropovich made his London debut in March 1956, and his American debut the following month, at Carnegie Hall. Recordings helped to further his fame (he would eventually record virtually all of the standard cello repertory). During the late 1950's and the 1960's, Rostropovich and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, pursued highly successful careers. They lived in a grand apartment in Moscow and at their dacha in the village of Zhukovka outside the capital.
Yet at the turn of the 1970s, Rostropovich proved himself a man who was willing to put principle and friendship ahead of his celebrity and privilege -- one of the few real heroes in the Cold War. When Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a leading dissident, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in October 1970, official attacks on the author and his already-controversial books increased until Rostropovich decided to mount a formal public protest. .
"This was the greatest step of my life -- the greatest!" he recalled. "With my whole soul, I said 'now I will not be silent!' " He addressed his letter to four Soviet papers, all of which refused to publish it -- an eventuality that Rostropovich had foreseen and surmounted by leaking copies to Western journalists.
"Explain to me, please, why in our literature and art so often people absolutely incompetent in this field have the final word?" the letter read, in part. "Every man must have the right fearlessly to think independently and express his opinion about what he knows, what he has personally thought about and experienced, and not merely to express with slightly different variations the opinion which has been inculcated in him."
Solzhenitsyn was exiled shortly thereafter, but Rostropovich and his wifewere chastened in a different manner. Their professional engagements dwindled, and their recordings were no longer played on the State radio. When Rostropovich performed with the pianist Sviatoslav Richter, only Richter's name appeared in the reviews.
Still, if Rostropovich was treated as a "nonperson" by the Kremlin, he became a hero to Soviet intellectuals. When he played a concert at Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in early 1971, he was greeted ecstatically. "The audience rises and applauds for 10 minutes in one of the few Moscow political demonstrations that cannot be punished," Susan Jacoby wrote in The New York Times Magazine. "Who can take down the names of everyone at the concert? Who is to say the audience is not simply paying tribute to a great musician?"
In May 1974, the Rostropovichs were permitted to leave on a two-year visa. They would not return until 1990, when the NSO made a triumphant debut in the last days of the liberalized Soviet Union under Gorbachev. Three years later, the NSO returned and played the first-ever orchestral concert in Red Square. After the fall of communism, Rostropovich's relations with his native country grew markedly warmer; Russian president Vladimir Putin visited him in the hospital in February and toasted him at an emotional 80th birthday celebration at the Kremlin last month.
I met Rostropovich in 1982, when I was sent to write about him for the Saturday Review. His time was already booked through 1984, it was three days before the NSO was scheduled to leave on a European tour, and the morning rehearsal had gone on too long, putting him a precious hour behind. Yet he greeted me with a hearty bear hug and betrayed not a trace of impatience during the course of our interview. He understood English, but generally answered in Russian, translated by an interpreter.
In the latter part of his career, the number of Rostropovich's conducting appearances just about equaled his performances as a cellist. He was generally considered a mercurial, passionately enthusiastic orchestra leader, always at his best in Russian music. Indeed, he was probably the closest thing we had to a grand, shamanistic maestro in the tradition of Serge Koussevitzky and Wilhelm Furtwangler. Like those legendary conductors of yore, Rostropovich was never mistaken for a flawless technician. Nor did Rostropovich especially care. "There is too much emphasis on technical perfection nowadays, and not enough on what music is actually about -- irony, joy, human suffering, love," he told me.
I had mixed reactions to his conducting. It seemed to me that his performances of the standard repertory could be downright awful -- sloppy and unbridled and seemingly purely impulsive. And yet, when he was inspired, he summoned such eager and electrical playing from his forces that he banished all doubt. At such moments, the NSO musicians seemed happy to respond to Rostropovich's perpetually rudimental stick technique (up and down and down and up) and they gave him more music than they gave to many other, more polished maestros.
And rightly so, for Rostropovich's tumultuous, urgent and ecstatic artistry seemed a virtual embodiment of the great line from Walt Whitman: "I am the man, I suffered, I was there." Let us be glad that we, too, could be there to listen.

New season for the SCO

By Kenneth Walton
From The Scotsman - Thu 19 Apr 2007

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) is to add a fresh dimension to the Edinburgh concert scene next season with a brand new series of rush-hour concerts called CL@SIX, to be held on a single Tuesday each month in the centrally located St Cuthbert's Parish Church. It's one of several neat mini-packages outlined in yesterday's launch of the orchestra's 2007-8 season.
The timing is noteworthy. While the Royal Scottish National Orchestra - also announcing its new season plans yesterday - revealed that its experimental Symphonies at Six initative was being dropped after only a year, to be replaced in Glasgow only with a series of popular early evening Classical Bites, the SCO was stepping bullishly into the east-coast breach with a series of easy listening programmes aimed unequivocally at the popular tea-time market.
The formula of CL@SIX is perfectly straightforward - programmes of accessible music, lasting an hour at the most, in a venue close enough to the city centre to capture the homebound worker. They range from concerts featuring Vivaldi's Four Seasons, directed by violinist Anthony Marwood, and Mozart's wind extravaganza, the Gran Partita, to more composite programmes of city symphonies - Mozart's The Hague and Paris and Haydn's Oxford - and a choral concert of Bach and Górecki by the SCO Chorus.
But that's only one aspect of a season peppered with intrigue - one which opens curiously not in Edinburgh but Glasgow and Aberdeen, and under the baton of the orchestra's new principal guest conductor, the impressive Estonian, Olari Elts.
These two opening concerts mark - by all but a fortnight - the 50th anniversary of Sibelius's death.
Elts combines works representative of each creative phase in the Finnish composer's life, including the Seventh Symphony and Violin Concerto.
The list of debut artists heralds even newer blood in a season that covers every conceivable area of repertoire, from Handel's opera Theodora to a cello concerto by the contemporary Icelandic composer, and former SCO principal cellist, Haflidi Hallgrimsson. Newcomers among the SCO's guest performers include violinists Reka Szilvay and Ranaud Capucon (also appearing next season with the RSNO), conductor Okko Kamu (more Sibelius) and singer Lucy Crowe.
Among returning SCO regulars are the conductors Andrew Manze, Joseph Swensen, the inveterate Sir Charles Mackerras, and the supercharged Nicholas McGegan, whose presence in the Viennese New Year Concert is guaranteed to put a rocket up even the most graceful of Strauss waltzes.
In a post-New Year fourconcert series called Director's Notes, four well-known pianists adopt the fashionable dual role of performer/director.
Finnish pianist Olli Mustonen - who so impressed Glasgow audiences last week in a stunning appearance with the BBC SSO - tackles Prokofiev and Mozart symphonies alongside Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto; Piotr Anderszewski couples Beethoven's First Concerto with Haydn's D major; Christian Zacharias (an experienced hand with the SCO) goes for a complete Beethoven show; and Stephen Kovacevich throws Mozart into the equation.

The SCO's commitment to the more modern repertoire remains undiminished, packaged mainly as the excellent Adventurer series. Here, Garry Walker and the Rascher Saxophone Quartet join forces for a mouthwatering concoction of Sally Beamish's Concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Strings, the late Thomas Wilson's Fifth Symphony, the outrageous H K Gruber's Manhattan Broadcasts, and Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks - a work Walker successfully conducted with the RSNO only a few weeks ago.
Among a barrage of premieres are works by Judith Weir, Oliver Knussen and Mark-Anthony Turnage, whose concerto for bass/bass guitar brings back to Scotland the brilliant American multi-styled bassist, John Patitucci.

Stanford Lively Arts 2007-08 Season

By Vivien Schweitzer
From PlaybillArts.com - April 19, 2007

For John Adams, it seems, one Chamber Symphony isn't enough. This fall, taking a cue from Frankenstein movies, he follows up his 1993 score with Son of Chamber Symphony, whose world premiere will be a high point in the 2007-08 season of Stanford Lively Arts, the performing arts series at Stanford University in California's Silicon Valley.The upcoming season — which features birthday celebrations for Adams (60th), Philip Glass (70th) and Elliott Carter (100th) — will be the first season planned by Jenny Bilfield, who began her tenure as the presenter's artistic and executive director last August.

The Glass celebration opens Stanford Lively Arts’ season on October 9, with the West Coast premiere of his Book of Longing, a 12-part cycle based on Leonard Cohen's poetry collection of the same name. Choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Susan Marshall directs the staging, and Michael Riesman conducts an ensemble which will include Glass himself on keyboards. Cohen's voice will be heard on recording reading selections of his poems, and his artwork will be incorporated through projected imagery and scenic design by Christine Jones.
Later that month, Glass and director JoAnne Akalaitis will be involved in the two-week Public Theater Residency at Stanford, culminating in workshop performances of Euripides's The Bacchae, directed by Akalaitis with incidental music by Glass. November 30 brings the world premiere of Son of Chamber Symphony, a co-commission of Stanford Lively Arts, Carnegie Hall and the San Francisco Ballet. The concert, by the admired new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, also includes works by Michael Gordon and Harrison Birtwistle and transcriptions of two Studies for Player Piano by Conlon Nancarrow and of music by the electronic sound artist Aphex Twin.
Elliott Carter's 100th birthday will be honored twice, with performances of two of his string quartets by the Pacifica Quartet (No. 5, January 9) and the Juilliard String Quartet (No. 2, April 9).

To mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of Stravinsky, Stanford will host "The Stravinsky Project," a three-day festival in March dedicated to his works. Pianist Alexander Toradze and his colleagues in the Toradze Piano Studio will join author-historian Joseph Horowitz for a look at "Stravinsky the Pianist" (March 7), featuring a chronological traversal of his piano works and transcriptions (including the two-piano version of The Rite of Spring). On March 8 and 9, Toradze joins the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and conductor Jindong Cai for a cross-section of music from Stravinsky's Russian, French, and American periods, including the rarely-performed Capriccio and the popular Firebird Suite. Horowitz and Peter Bogdanoff examine the Symphony in Three Movements as a World War II victory symphony with a visual presentation incorporating wartime newsreels.

Stanford Lively Arts' new music lineup also features the Kronos Quartet performing Terry Riley's Sun Rings (January 18), a multimedia work featuring imagery by Willie Williams inspired by NASA telescope footage and accompaniment by the Stanford Chamber Chorale under the direction of Stephen M. Sano. The Emerson Quartet (February 6) will give the West Coast premiere of a yet-untitled work by Bright Sheng, on a program with Kaija Saariaho's Terra Memoria and music of Martinu and Bartók.
The St. Lawrence String Quartet, Stanford's ensemble-in-residence, presents Adams's witty cycle John's Book of Alleged Dances, along with quartets by Haydn and Beethoven (October 14); Beethoven's Op. 131 and Osvaldo Golijov's Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, with clarinetist Todd Palmer (January 13); and a new quartet by Stanford faculty member Jonathan Berger, plus music by Haydn and Korngold (April 6).

Other classical highlights include violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott in a joint recital (December 9); Christopher O’Riley juxtaposing piano preludes by Shostakovich with his transcriptions of songs by Radiohead (January 23); the Academy of Ancient Music performing concertos by Bach, Handel and Telemann (February 13); the all-male choir Chanticleer in a Christmas program (December 11-12); a wide-ranging recital by baritone Jubilant Sykes (February 9); and percussion virtuoso Evelyn Glennie in an evening of improvisations with guitarist Fred Frith (April 23).

The season also features an increased emphasis on jazz, with performances by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (January 27) and by pianist/composer Uri Caine (March 19).

The 2007-08 season concludes on April 26 with China's Jin Xing Dance Theatre making its U.S. debut tour, led by choreographer Jin Xing. The ballet Shanghai Tango will be paired with a pageant-like production of Orff's Carmina Burana performed with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and Symphonic Chorus, presented in partnership with Stanford's Pan-Asian Music Festival. Other dance highlights include the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (January 25-26) and the Elisa Monte Dance Company in its Bay Area debut (March 14).
Stanford University is planning to construct a new performing arts center; the first phase of the center is a new concert hall scheduled to open in 2011, made possible by a lead gift of $50 million from Helen and Peter Bing announced last October.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A case for classical music, old and new

By Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
The Guardian - Tuesday April 10, 2007

Keynote speech for the Incorporated Society of Musicians annual conference, April 12, 2007.

In De Divisione Naturae, written in the 9th century, Erigena, more popularly known as John the Scot, wrote: "musica innata est quaedam communis secundam seipsam delectatio" - that is, "music, by its very nature, is a delight to everyone". In this talk I shall take his dictum as my central proposition, remembering that "diversi diversis delectantur" - "different people enjoy different things"; and that according to Vitruvius, "ars sine scientia nihil potest" - "art is powerless without knowledge".
In a recently published essay, Susan Sontag wrote: "Take care to be born at a time when it was likely that you would be definitely exalted and influenced by Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, and Turgenev, and Chekhov". I understand her enthusiasm for those four Russian writers, but the choice of examples for influence could be almost infinitely varied: on many lists would appear the names of Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, for instance, as well as far less well-known authors.
What all these authors have in common is that they are serious, their work concerned with the most fundamental aspects of our humanity, our relationships with each other, and with our environment. All require time and patience to get to know. To return briefly to Susan Sontag: she adds something I think is most significant - "be serious, which doesn't preclude being funny".
An educated person could construct a list of authors who have influenced his whole life and outlook, and will be able to refer to characters and situations, and even to quote directly - it is extraordinary how, in Britain, phrases and characters from Shakespeare and Dickens have made their way into the collective imagination and into everyday conversation; although there are now attempts by educators to undermine this, and dumb down a young person's contact with literature, as if this were something from which the young must be shielded.
Let us turn to music.
How often do we meet people who are otherwise cultured and educated, who have no awareness whatever of even the very existence of serious music? The epitome of this ignorance is particularly cruelly exposed on the radio programme Desert Island Discs, where you listen to the musical choices of someone whose work you admire enormously, who can discourse on science, theatre, literature and most things cultural outwith his speciality, but who is happy to display absolute ignorance of our musical culture.
Of course one has sympathy with the Desert Islander's choice of a musically insignificant gobbet which happened to be playing when marriage was proposed and accepted, and Mahler and Shostakovich have demonstrated how such a musical morsel can be highlighted to make private significancies become universal in the course of an extended symphonic argument.
This is a time when one can not only be "definitely exalted and influenced" by Dostoyevsky, etc; but we have an equal chance, theoretically, to be influenced by Tchaikovsky, Borodin, or whomsoever. However, it would appear that young people are being ever more actively dissuaded from having contact with these masters than with the literary giants.
Before I attempt to elucidate what I think of as some of the unique qualities of serious Western classical music, I would like to mention certain attitudes within the professions of music and music education which have disturbed me most.
The first and most common abuse hurled at the likes of me is that an education towards an understanding of, and working with, serious Western classical music is "elitist". Michael Billington, discussing this year's Edinburgh Festival in the Guardian, wrote: "there is a strange reversal of values, particularly in the media. A concert or opera attended by 1,000 people or more is seen as 'elitist'; a small-scale event attracting a dedicated handful is regarded as 'popular'" - ie, inverted snobbery at its most pungently destructive.
"Classical" music these days, as Colin Bradbury has pointed out, does not mean music from the Classical era of Haydn and Mozart, as opposed to Baroque or Romantic music; but everything from plainchant to Palestrina to Purcell to Puccini to Prokofiev to Penderecki, as opposed to other genres from folk to pop to the latest "popular" music fashion, as elucidated in page after page, with additional specialist "music" supplements, in the most respected national newspapers; while "classical" music receives ever less coverage, relegated, often heavily edited and cut, to obscure nooks and crannies.
I have great respect for Marc Jaffrey, of the "Music Manifesto", and have had what I hope has been constructive dialogue with him: he is, however, working for an utterly philistine government, whose Prime Minister recently read a platitudinous speech about the health of the arts in Britain, when his own horizons are rock and pop. I do not wish to be unfair, but the only minister I ever saw at a "cultural" event was Roy Hattersley at an Ibsen play - apart from the last night of the Proms, and a Royal concert I arranged to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War 2, which they had to attend.
Perhaps one should turn Howard Goodall's complaint around - "how many hip-hop commentators, teachers and pedagogues have diverted their analytical skills to classical music?"
When I was working at the Royal College of Music a few years ago, as part of an "outreach" programme, I met music teachers who thought that even to teach standard Western musical notation was to indulge in extreme elitism, claiming that it would inhibit the children's creativity, and was alien to the "working-class values of ordinary people". Just imagine not teaching how to write the alphabet, or numbers .....
Had I - and I can speak for Birtwistle as well - as an archetypal working-class child, not been taught musical notation, as well as having a totally free education, through scholarship at Manchester University and the nearby Royal College, the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and Princeton University in New Jersey, I would have been stymied. As it was, I learned all about the absence of music in the curriculum at Leigh Grammar School in Lancashire, and even then realised what a useful thing in life it would be, to do everything I could to make music available in all schools. I had to teach myself to pass the Lancashire County Music Scholarship, sitting the exams behind the headmaster's back, as he forbade me to take them, since it would "interfere with my schoolwork".
In 1959, when I took on the challenge of becoming Director of Music at Cirencester Grammar School, it quickly became clear that in order to enjoy music from within and without, a knowledge of notation was necessary. The boys and girls learned maths, Latin, physics, etc, with no qualms, and were simply expected to be numerate and literate. Why not musical notation?
I determined to give the children the musical childhood I never had. I had them sing the sounds before they wrote them down - this is important - so that the sign on paper represented a meaningful sound-object, part of a line as an expressive means of communication. Soon, they were vocally improvising together in class - without crutches in the form of a piano accompaniment - simple chordal sequences with passing notes: it reminded me of the well-known improvising choral groups of fishermen in harbourside pubs in Genoa. There was already a decent school choir, and I established a school orchestra - Gloucestershire County Council was very generous with instruments and peripatetic teachers in those days - also a junior orchestra. By year three, I expected an ordinary class to be able to sight-read simple Palestrina; and I remember particularly, with about 500 children, performing whole chunks of the Monteverdi Vespers, in my own private edition, to an extremely enthusiastic audience new to the work. Many of the children composed, performed and conducted their own music with the various forces available, and new music by the children of all kinds featured regularly at the daily morning assembly.
These musical activities, supervised by me, encouraged the spontaneous formation of jazz and pop groups, and even the establishment of a small choir of sixth formers, called (as opposed to anything I led!) Pro Musica Optima, to explore more arcane regions in the choral repertoire. There were chamber concerts by professionals in the school. I took groups to the Cheltenham Contemporary Music Festival, to the BBC Invitation Concerts at Maida Vale, and to regular symphony concerts in London, Gloucester and Bristol. At the Bath Festival in 1962, after the school had given a morning concert, broadcast live by BBC radio (imagine that now!), Yehudi Menuhin, whom I had accompanied in a violin and harpsichord work by a very gifted school pupil, insisted we attend his concert that afternoon in Bath Abbey. It was sold out, so Pierre Monteux, who was to conduct, insisted that the schoolchildren be placed on stage next to someone who played their instrument. I don't think the children involved will ever forget that concert.
Those children had no difficulty listening to anything from Bach to Boulez, and I had, on the bus rides back to Cirencester after performances, very constructive discussions with them about the merits of the interpretations and of the new works. I learned a lot. Teaching is an education for the teacher, too, for you learn far more than you teach - as I am discovering again these days, doing some work with very gifted young composers and performers at the Royal Academy of Music.
I found out, writing new works for the Cirencester children, that if you do not let on that something is difficult, such as a high note on an instrument, or a so-called "difficult" interval for a choir, and you can hear and sing the thing yourself, they will not find it hard, so long as it is composed or arranged with their technical capacities understood constructively. You can be very demanding - young people love a challenge when it is musically meaningful, and leads towards technical virtuosity rather than just being awkward to perform. The same is true of listening capacity, given an informed and literate musical environment. This is classless.
I mentioned "outreach" programmes. Some are exemplary, but so often, with the best intentions, and with the best will in the world for the orchestras, etc, who sponsor them, they simply fail. There is little insight gained into how music works when a child with no musical experience bangs a percussion instrument, or sings a slogan-like motto while members of the professional group have the real meat of the specially-written composition. Everyone is delighted that something is happening at all with the children, but all too often they remain musically ignorant and illiterate, and there is no follow-up to this one-off encounter. There is no substitute for having a professionally trained and led music department in a school. Were there consistent, dedicated teaching and funds, classical music, big band, brass, folk, jazz, pop, etc, would all flourish. I have been very moved by performances, by British children as well as by Indians, of classical Indian music. Here, if I may, a personal plea - the unthinking use of Western-tuned keyboards destroys the very essence of the microtonal inflection of many ragas, and the use of amplification, particularly redundant in small halls, distorts the carefully-modulated nature of Indian voices and instruments. The unthinking use of amplification in many kinds of music turns what should be an intimate and sensitive experience into a soul and ear-numbing imitation of a Hitlerian or Stalinist rally, with all sensibilities subsumed in blather and beat. I suppose the theory is that young people respond best to loud thumping music with a deep mechanical beat, so let's attempt to jump on to that bandwagon.

Here one should not forget that much "popular" music is manufactured purely for commercial gain.
Since the possibility of making megabucks out of young people by feeding them the lowest common denominator of "music" has been realised, "music" became an industry, not a profession, where, for the least possible work put in, the maximum profit is extracted for the fat cats, with "music" becoming ever more zombie-like, and the bands ruthlessly exploited. (There are, of course, honourable exceptions.) This is new. Folk music, the equivalent of pop music, etc, in the past, and in some places, of the present, is a spontaneous musical expression of a folk, of a people, with no commercial intent or purpose. Its creators were largely anonymous, and we are eternally grateful to exponents like the Wrigley sisters in Orkney, and Kathryn Tickell in Northumberland, for bringing to our ears music we otherwise would not have known. But this wonderful legacy is also being dumbed down, exploited for sheer profit. In this commercial atmosphere, it is hardly astonishing that so little of its kind is produced of Beatles or early Rolling Stones quality. Some months ago, Buckingham Palace gave a magnificent reception for "the music industry", and it took some persuasion to include in this "the music profession", so one begins to understand how far purely commercial values have penetrated. Indeed, observing the present condition of music education, and the new aims of education generally, not only in music, to bring the inquiry into knowledge for its own sake in all fields to heel, while promoting newer specialities calculated to facilitate quick money for business, perhaps one should modify Descartes' dictum "cogito, ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am") to "consumo, ergo sum" ("I consume, therefore I am"). That could well be the motto for our government. "Classical" music has so far proved comparatively resistant to commercial exploitation, unlike certain types of music we are pressed, now, to regard as its absolute equal.
To return for a moment to extremely loud music with a gut-churning thudding bass beat - in 1984, Orwell envisaged the future of mankind as the perpetual stamping of a jackboot on the face of humanity. In this regard our consumer culture has achieved something more subtle and more penetrating than Lenin's Agitprop or Goebbel's Reichspropagandaministerium, or anything envisaged in a Huxleyan or Orwellian nightmare future. The exploited victims do not feel themselves the exploited subjects of designs upon their minds and pockets, and while having mind, heart and intellect stamped upon and numbed, and their pockets emptied, they enjoy and welcome the experience, which becomes a drug, an all-powerful soporific, insulating the victims from all reality, and particularly from political reality. To witness "music" being used as an instrument of mind-control or mind-erasure in this manner is as repulsive, in its way, as was witnessing Mozart and Schubert played by the concentration camp band as Hitler's victims were marched to their fate. Each period of history, each phase of civilization has the art and music it deserves. If this is so, this music reflects something every bit as disturbing in our collective psyche as communism or fascism at their genocidal worst. Perhaps it will slowly become clear to us all in what this consists - and by then, it will be too late to make constructive change. Much minimalist music exhibits the same alarming features, albeit less aggressively.
Many young people can cope, and this musical experience becomes merely a part of their social experience, with no psychic damage, although their ears must deteriorate relatively early in life. Its real victims remain largely inarticulate.
Two generations have now been deprived of the state music education available to many when I was a schoolteacher in the early 1960s. The Thatcher cuts separated millions of children from what we regarded as a God-given human right - access to our own culture, in all its forms, and particularly, access to serious music, in any literate or informed way. Now, in an atmosphere of philistinism actively encouraged from on high, we - you and I - must make our case for serious Western classical music of the past and present, to those in authority not qualified to respond in any positive way, or even to be interested.
This brings me back to the largely inarticulate victims of commercial musical exploitation at its worst. From really deprived area schools, so many complete their education with a very limited spoken and written vocabulary - this in itself is absolutely shameful. It amounts to imprisoning young people in the Sun newspaper's newspeak. Poor education has deprived millions of the possibility of expressing themselves cogently in English, with a vocabulary and syntax capable of encompassing thoughts and feelings associated with any deep experience - particularly those to do with changing from child to adult. Even where communication in English is attempted, so often it is hampered and compromised by ballast getting in the way - "sort of" - "you know" - "like" - "you know what I mean" - a terrible indictment. This has nothing to do with accent or dialect - these are wonderfully rich and expressive, and a joy to us all.
Of course, keeping people in a state of ignorance is good for the government in power - it precludes the possibility of articulate criticism, induces political apathy, and its by-product is a frustration which bursts forth into seemingly mindless, unmotivated violence. Education, or its perverse inversion, becomes a tool with which to keep the underclasses in their place, incidentally ensuring bursting prisons. One begins to understand what the Prime Minister might have had in mind when he uttered his mantra "education" three times. I will not explore here the very real relationship between failed education, certain kinds of commercial music, and drugs.
Perhaps I am being too cynical. However, it would be encouraging to see the government putting real money into real music education of all kinds - its "Music Manifesto" is full of worthy aims, with much very positive outcome already - but we are far short of having, for instance, the musical conditions at Cirencester Grammar School of the early 1960s, obtaining as a general state of affairs. Remember, these were ordinary, unprivileged state schoolchildren. Remember, too, that school music-making, with its physical, emotional and intellectual disciplines, becomes a catalyst for improvement in all other school subjects, and that early exposure as a listener to music which explores the deepest of human experience, at length, abstractly, away from words, can be a life-saving matter for the adolescent.
William of Auvergne wrote, in the early 13th century, "a symphony [a rather free translation of "concentus"!] is a marvellous harmony of different sounds, from the highest to the lowest, producing in us a feeling of extraordinary joy".
This leads me into a discussion of the major qualities of Western music: I set aside my educator's hat, and I know I am not trying to convert bureaucrats. You do not need persuasion, so I shall wear no hat of any kind, and give a very personal and - given the time limit - a very incomplete account, from a very particular hearing point of an idiosyncratic composer.
I take for granted that my listeners here at the ISM could well give a brilliant discourse on the qualities of classical music, and that is the background I take as given, while offering my modest contribution.
The masterpieces of Western music are the equivalent in sound of the greatest buildings in our history. I think particularly of the great cathedrals, churches and chapels: it is often said, perhaps sometimes glibly, without understanding the exact parallels, that symphonies are cathedrals in sound, and cathedrals symphonies in stone. I shall try to be precise.
Each work on a large scale is a usually wordless narrative, and is a spiritual journey, often with three or more movements, where the whole, and within that whole, each individual movement, forms a quest, with a beginning, then a wandering away from that - an exploration or development - and maybe a return, but certainly a conclusion.
When I read or perform a great work of our musical literature, I regard the music as a living organism, with its birth, life and its apotheosis, or its death, or simply a satisfactory conclusion, all to be treated as seriously as a person's birth, life and conclusion, and every bit as alive and meaningful; and never forgetting, so return to Susan Sontag, the possibility of humour in the discourse.
(A little step aside, to say that performing Haydn particularly, it is often impossible to be straight-faced. When Alexander Goehr, John Ogdon, Harrison Birtwistle and I were students in Manchester, we were summoned all together to the Principal's office in college, the day after a Manchester Chamber Concerts Society evening had finished with a very funny Haydn finale. It had been impossible not to smile, and even laugh, discreetly. We were told our behaviour was unforgivable in a serious concert, and that we were a disgrace to the college, and should have more respect for the composer and the string quartet. I still have to suppress smiles, even giggles, when conducting the finale of some Haydn symphonies, when I try, by emphasising gently the irregular phrasings and the irrepressible wackiness and eccentricity, to put the humour across - I trust without destroying the essential line and cohesion.)
Every quartet, concerto, symphony, has its particular discourse, each of which, despite so many formal archetypes, harmonic progressions, rhythmic shapes, cadences, etc, in common, is absolutely unique. Each was a way of creating a world, or even the world, and each performance, a way - perhaps a new way? - of hearing, of experiencing that world, or even the world.
Classical music is a most excellent way of making clear and meaningful to our human understanding our instinctive perceptions about the nature of time, and possibly, it gives us intimations of eternity. To discuss time sensibly, we must borrow familiar terminology from considerations of space, in painting and in architecture.
Just as much as in the visual arts, passing time in Western music has a foreground, middleground and background. This is clearly expressed in the writings of Heinrich Schenker, who is perhaps to music what Sigmund Freud was to psychiatry and psychology. One can think, in tonal music, of the home key's tonic as the vanishing point in time and sound, as the vanishing point of visual perspective is in space, as first formulated by Brunelleschi in the early 15th century: the harmonic rhythm - crudely put, the basic-rate change of harmony - being the audible background. This is an oversimplification, but probably a good working model - the middleground can be heard as the inner parts moving against that background, and the foreground is the main part, floating above, in, or under the middleground. The play of change as to what is, at each moment, at each phrase, back, middle or foreground, is one of the special delights of our music. I always enjoy particularly listening to Sibelius symphonies - wondering whether the conductor will get it right - Sibelius was a great innovator in this field, which is tightly bound up with his melodic and harmonic transformation processes, with foreground, middleground and background melting into each other, as these transformations occur.
A related feature, presaged as early as in the Sonata sopra Sancta Maria of Monteverdi, is the change of focus possible, particularly when a large orchestra is involved. Think of the zooming-in of the lens - or of the ear - in so many instances in mahler symphonies, when the texture suddenly transforms into the tightest chamber music, or of the extreme pathos of the sudden close-up of the bassoon solo in Shostakovich's Symphony No 9; and, in Sibelius again, the painful intimacy of the flute and bassoon resigned figure, after the passion of the strings, at the close of his Symphony No 7.
A good composer can play with perspective, and with fore, middle and background, and with focus, in a way that involves us in completing the picture: think of the empty space between the high solo and the deep bass accompaniment at the opening of the second movement of Ligeti's Piano Concerto, which space our ears and imagination transform into a vast and desolate inner soundscape, a kind of hollow, resonating, extremely lonely moonscape, if you like. All the composer did was to give us a foreground and background, enough to suggest how we, the listeners, should imagine the infill, the middleground.
An earlier and more familiar example would be the arioso dolente in Beethoven's Piano Sonata in A flat Op 110, where the steadily pulsating three-part background accompaniment is so far below the foreground melody that we, in our minds, must fill in the space between, taking our clues from the almost expressionistic dissonances, made bearable by, and filling up, that space between.

At the risk of being repetitive, I must insist that it is supremely important to understand the unique concept of perspective in time, etc, in the way just outlined, to grasp one of the most extraordinary contributions of Western music to human culture. Without the dimensions liberated by harmony, unfolding through rhythm in time, this music would have been as impossible to create as Florentine Renaissance painting and architecture would have been, without scientific spatial perspective.
The form of classical music is one of its most distinguishing features. When Ulrich of Strasbourg discussed consonantia dispositionis ad formam (the consonance of form and content), I have no doubt that he did not foresee the application of medieval metaphysics to modern musical theory, but such speculations, controversial in their time, have helped me to clarify differences between form, structure and architecture in classical music.
In some institutions, "form" is still talked of, and taught, as a given, where it becomes an abstraction, after the event, from an overview of the musical literature of a defined period of time. I would like to think particularly about sonata form, which, as such, was only talked about after the Classical period of Haydn through to Schubert, sonata form movements from that time being held up as perfect examples of the type: that is, sonata form was only discussed when, as many have argued, it found itself in difficulties in the Romantic era, starting with Mendelssohn.
Books on "form" by Ebenezer Prout, and RO Morris, for instance, or the article on "form" in Percy Scholes's Oxford Companion to Music, treat form as a one-dimensional abstraction, or as a set of bottles with different shapes, into which to pour the wine of music; and as such, "form" was used, in my student days, as a stick with which to beat the likes of Birtwistle and me.
At best such studies of "form" were some kind of very general post-mortem, from which guidelines for music's present and future could be extrapolated: even rules were invented.
Let me pluck out of the air a few random examples, where such rules are seen for what they are worth.
We are told about sonata form having an exposition, then a development, which modulates, and works the material from the exposition, leading to a recapitulation in the original tonic. However, think of Schubert's posthumous Piano Sonata in A major, whose first movement has a development which hardly modulates at all, only slipping (and that's the right word - it hardly modulates!) the semitone several times between C major and minor and B major and minor, with no actual development of material, while the bridge passage of the exposition modulates madly and rampageously, exhibiting all the characteristics of a development.
Moreover, towards the end of the exposition, there is a whole bar of silence. It is certainly a dramatic pause, but becomes much more interesting when you calculate that, without that bar's rest, the "golden section" mathematical proportion would not apply. Now there's an interesting and controversial element in Schubert's conscious or unconscious form-building - did this just happen spontaneously, as it does in the mathematical Fibonacci series growth of pineapples or sunflowers, or did he perhaps calculate? And how about Debussy's La Mer, whose forms Roy Howat has demonstrated are entirely mathematically Fibonacci-based?
Thinking about second subjects, how about the first movement of Haydn's String Quartet Op 50 No 1, where the second subject is just a slight re-ordering of the first? Or that of Beethoven's Symphony No 5, where the second subject is as the first, but with the internal intervals of a third doubled to a fifth, with some minimal rhythmic modification?
Of course the pundits love to point out exceptions to their own rules, such as in the first movement of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, the "new material" in E minor after the climatic E/F dissonance over A and C chord, hammered home in the development - without having noticed that Beethoven carefully prepares us for this E minor theme, which is why it sounds so right. The first violins have a version of the "new" theme, albeit a minor third up, then the first flute and first oboe have it in very long augmentation, untransposed: it just needs X-ray ears and an open mind to hear the process, and, paradoxically, it always sounds astonishing and prepared at the same time, when we hear the theme in E minor. Clearly, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert would not pass an elementary form exam, no more than would Bach one in fugue.
I prefer to think of musical form in a more scholastic, medieval way - of structure and architecture, "consonantia dispositions ad formam", whereby structure becomes a means, or act, of putting together a meaningful arrangement of parts or sections, and architecture, the means of achieving coherence of these diverse structural parts or sections in macro and micro dimensions. As a listener, the understanding of a work consists in being able to unify these macro and micro dimensions throughout its time-space, on physical, emotional and intellectual levels - an effort of very real re-creation.
In his book The Classical Style, Charles Rosen writes, "to speak of any of Haydn's structures without reference to their material is nonsense. Any discussion of second themes, bridge passages, concluding themes, range of modulation, relations between themes - all this is empty if it does not refer back to the particular piece, its character, its typical sound, its motifs."
And again - "With all of Haydn's works of the 1780s, it becomes more difficult to disentangle the central musical ideas from the total structures in which they work themselves out."
In Quasi una Fantasia, Theodor Adorno discusses the first movement of Mahler's Symphony No 6. (This is my lumpy translation, but I find his German lumpy, too!) "Integral to the 6th is the way that no individual element is accountable merely as such, but only as that which is unveiled in the whole form. In order to understand such works, one must not assume to fix an identity on the themes, but wait and give them credit according to what happens to them."
In his masterpiece Die Entstehung der Kathedrale, unhappily not translated, Hans Sedlmayr makes much the same point, discussing the unity of motif, content and form in Gothic cathedral architecture. His analysis of "übergreifende Form" (overlapping form) influenced my thinking greatly, particularly in relation to Bach.
To return for a moment to the Eroica Symphony - while it is fine to understand the first movement, up to a point, as being "in sonata form", I think it is most useful to hear the sonata form dimension we have all been taught as a backdrop against which the real discourse occurs. The C sharp at the end of the first cello figure gives us a clue to the quest (just think of the organ-like D flat chord, functioning as a flattened supertonic to the surprising C major, where harmonic function crosses harmonic division) - and we can hear the whole movement as a quest for the full theme, only sketched incompletely at the outset, and only heard in fulfilled glory in the coda. In other words, the form is duplex, and it appears to me to be thus in any work of real, captivating interest: it works, on the truly fascinating level of its form, with an individual form evolving against a familiar given form, and from this superposition all structural tensions and architectural individuality derive.
Similarly, the finale of the Eroica is billed as a "theme & variations". Indeed, theme and variation form is in the background, but how can the so-called "theme" be anything but a framework upon which, eventually, to hang material, or a space to be filled in? This is indeed the case, and, like the first, this is a movement in search of a theme, heard in full glory only towards the end.
I enjoy the fact that the triumphant theme of this movement comes from the Bacchus Dance in Beethoven's 1801 ballet Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, and that a much later jotting on a musical sketch from 1818 outlines, in words, plans for a choral symphony, but finishing up with a celebration of Bacchus, god of wine. Here we see a seed not only of Symphony No 9, but also of the finale of Symphony No 7, where Beethoven very carefully employs suitable metres of ancient Greek poetry, as his pupil Czerny pointed out, to make a Bacchic dance wilder that that in Prometheus, the Eroica, or anywhere else before it in musical history.
Recently at the Royal Academy of Music, we studied Beethoven's violin and cello sonatas, with piano. We found that the forms in the individual movements of Cello Sonata No 4 - in A minor? no, in C major - are incomprehensible heard conventionally, and become musically logical only when plotted across the whole work, and in Sonata No 5 in D major, we observed how the whole harmonic progression of the sonata form first movement is transformed into something transcendental, in ten bars just before its conclusion. These ten bars are a passage which opens windows on to the then as yet unrealised visions in Beethoven's last piano sonatas and quartets - and (this is very important!) this passage of ten bars could, in fact, be omitted, and there still would be grammatical and syntactical sense. But one also realises that the - in this D major context - other-worldly F minor and D flat major chords, against the conventional sonata form backdrop, are the formal climax; or better, a climax by inversion (the dynamics are hushed!) of the whole movement, and its still kernel and raison d'être. Cutting out these conventionally superfluous ten bars would be cutting the heart out of the work.
I would like to dwell briefly on an aspect of "classical" music which, even by musicians, is often taken for granted, and perhaps insufficiently understood.
In his 1944 treatise Technique et mon Langage Musical, Messiaen devotes considerable space to rhythm in his own work in a way which became influential not only among his students at the Paris Conservatoire, but worldwide. Thus, rhythm consists of a single line of note-values, which can be divided into "cellules", and each of these little cells (say, of three rhythmic values) subjected independently to different kinds of diminution and augmentation by extremely simple subtraction or addition of time values. These lines of note-values can, in theory, be superimposed ad infinitum.
This has produced some fascinating results - think of some of the rhythmic writing in the Turangalîla Symphony (the composer was stimulated by misreadings of ancient Indian musical theory); and some extraordinary analytical work, as in Pierre Boulez's analysis of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in Strawinsky demeure, published in 1953, where the work is examined in terms of these "cellules".
The custom among the avant-garde of that period was to dismiss the rhythmic procedures of older music, from Monteverdi through to Schoenberg, as played-out and exhausted, and also far too simple-minded, with their regular metric structure.
However, if we examine the metric structure of older western classical music, it is heard to consist of something with far deeper resonances that that which we read from the surface of a written page of score. Think of a work for solo instrument, say, a violin or cello piece by Bach. It is as if the surface of the page has infinite depths below it, with layer upon layer of rhythmic meaning below its façade.
First, there is the line of note-values which the musician plays. Beneath that is the beat pattern, say, of quavers, perhaps divided into a 6/8 pattern. This is not apparent, beyond the time-signature and the bar-lines, but is always present, subliminally determining our comprehension of the surface line throughout. Were the composer to write a 3/4 hemiola or a 12/16 syncopation against the 6/8, no time-signature change is needed - it would register implicitly as an irregularity. The 6/8 bars group themselves into strong and weak bars - again, nothing is written: the rhythmic pattern is just heard and played from the minimal information given by the composer on the one written line. The notes group themselves into phrases, determined by upbeat - accent - afterbeat patterns, with all this dynamic, expressive contour-shaping determining the resultant multi-bar periodicity. We take for granted the four-bar phrase archetype present under the surface of the music, and in our unconscious expectation, also an eight-bar sentence, a sixteen-bar paragraph - and we register the event subliminally when the composer deviates with a three, five, six or seven-bar grouping; in our inner perception we breathe more quickly, or slowly, as this occurs. A rhythmic pattern of harmonic change is set up, sometimes a regular one, say every two bars, but often irregular. I repeat, we hear this behind the one written line of music - there is no need to write it out literally - it is all implied, and present. Often there is a pattern where one chord governs two bars - another chord governs the next two bars (usually tonic and dominant), then we hear one bar on the first chord, followed by one bar on the second, then half a bar by half a bar, a quarter by a quarter, and an eighth by an eighth. (The opening of Beethoven's very first Piano Sonata is F minor is a famous example of this, where, if one wrote out the right hand melody alone, all would be implicit - one doesn't in fact need the left hand chords to be stated at all - our imaginations would fill in the harmonic rhythm without hearing the left hand, with its regular halvings making a harmonic rhythm acceleration towards the end of the phrase.)
Obviously there are, again, infinite variations on these patterns; but to return to Bach solo string works, all is audible behind the surface of the page. Rhythm is not just a line of note-values - it becomes clear that rhythm and harmony, phrase and sentence, are all a part of the same matrix. I come back to Heinrich Schenker, who traced all movement of harmony and rhythm back, and further back, right back to the architectural vanishing point of the tonic, ultimately governing all.
With early 20th century music, this became far more complex and difficult to hear: when tonality is finally abolished, these rhythmic perspectives formerly implied in one notated line disappear, along with the tonic - the aural vanishing point - and just as in abstract painting, where all perspective melts, so this occurs in music, and it became necessary to indicate very carefully what are foreground, middleground and background. Schoenberg writes Haupstimme and Nebenstimme (main and subsidiary voice) on such abstract scores.
I examined rhythm just to point out how, in our music, harmony and architecture have given rhythm, as such, a multi-layered depth unique in all of music history. To reduce all of this subtlety by placing a rock beat behind Mozart's Symphony No 40 is like sticking orange plastic boobs on the Mona Lisa. Those people who, because it does not have a thudding, repetitive beat behind it, should perhaps rather have those spaces behind the surface of the Mozart opened up in their emotional, spiritual and purely musical imaginations. Education, education, education. Expensive, and even dangerous, as it makes people sensitive, and liable to think. Subversive. Perhaps that thudding beat, or such a modification of Leonardo's infinitely sensitive, illusive and allusive masterpiece, helps towards deeper understanding, ultimately, in some people - if so, fine; but in all honesty I have my doubts, and I hate to hear or see great art of any kind misrepresented. When you really love and care about something, possibly to a state nearing insanity, it can't help but get to you when it is subject to what you interpret as abuse, even for the most high-sounding principles of making it "accessible" - but, more realistically, just exploiting it for quick profit. But then, I do not own, and have no rights on, Mozart or Leonardo.
I know that the tendency in all fields of our culture is to "dumb down" for the sake of accessibility. I am reluctant, and unqualified, to investigate in depth the relationships between this trend and exploitative capitalism, globalisation and the convenient alleged reduction of people's attention span down to the length of an advertising commercial.
Despite all of this, on the one hand, I try to raise the profile of classical music as much as possible through my position of Master of the Queen's Music. Here, Buckingham Palace, and the Queen particularly, are being most helpful, supporting, for instance, my suggestion of a children's concert at the Palace, and my idea of a Queen's annual medal for music - even to the extent of the Queen presenting her medal live last year on stage at an Albert Hall Prom, when it went to Bryn Terfel - I think Her Majesty was as nervous as I was!
On the other hand, I will always continue to believe in music education as I understand it, writing music for children to perform; particularly, recently, for the children at the school on Sanday, Orkney, where I live.
For most musicians, with the instinct and sensitivity of musicians, such verbal discourse as I have indulged in is superfluous, though I hope at least in part of some interest.
And, while attempting to define what must ultimately be indefinable in words, I remember words by the Aquinas scholar Étienne Gilson - "Si nous connaissons le singulier nous pourrions le voir, mais non le définir." - I think what is meant by "le singulier" might approximate to Aquinas's Latin "quidditas", or the "whatness" of a thing, an idea, a proposition. "If we know a singular thing, we may be able to see it, but not define it." Let us substitute "hear" for "see", and be humbled by the infinitely indefinable in Western "classical" music, while still trying, by example in every way we can, without condescension or compromise, to put our message across.
Herder wrote, "Every concert is a symbol of cosmic harmony". I would go farther - every moment we deal with this great music, we are privileged to participate in cosmic harmony.
It is this cosmic harmony which, in whatever form, must fill the world, and we, as musicians, must do our utmost to contribute towards this, through the music we know and love best.
Dante wrote: "Leva dunque, lettore, a l'alte rote / meco la vista" - "So, reader, raise your sight [I would say, "your ears"] to the high wheels with me: that is, to the wheels on high of a divine cosmic order.