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April - June
2018

Leslie Howard at 70 – an appreciation

Edward Morton Jack

Leslie Howard

The distinguished musician – pianist, conductor, composer and musicologist – celebrates his 70th birthday this year, also marked by the release of several new recordings, including the 100th CD in his astonishing complete Liszt project for Hyperion Records. In this tribute, Edward Morton Jack outlines several aspects of this remarkable artist’s career and future plans.

Many congratulations to Leslie Howard on his 70th birthday. We look forward to his 70th birthday recital in the Wigmore Hall (on his birthday itself, Sunday 29th April), a tantalising programme of Liszt operatic paraphrases and transcriptions. Howard is best-known for his recordings and performances of the music of Liszt. Among Howard’s many distinctions is his having been invited, still aged only 39, to be president of the Liszt Society upon the death in 1987 of its previous president, Louis Kentner. Howard has remained president of the Society ever since, and has worked tirelessly to promote understanding of the music and life of Liszt, that most misunderstood of composers. Howard has been awarded the American Liszt Society’s Medal of Honor, and has been further honoured and awarded all over the world. It is perhaps inevitable that for many people Howard will be thought of as only a Liszt player.

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A Passion for working with Young Singers

Dr Brian Hick

Garsington Opera

Brian Hick talks to Susanna Stranders, Head of Music for Garsington Opera about the Alvarez Programme, and some of the young singers who have recently benefitted from it.

‘More than anything, you need a passion for working with young singers, and over the last few years I know this is the real reason for the success of the programme we have been running. It is much more than just vocal training – important as that is – we realise the need to prepare young singers for all the challenges they will face, not just the vocal ones. This is why we have a wide range of input for them, including how to organise your tax returns, how to prepare for auditions and how to work with agents.’

Susanna Stranders’ enthusiasm for her work came over instantly as we began to talk about the Alvarez programme which was established in 2014 following a number of years of more ad hoc support for younger cast and chorus members. Last summer 32 singers were invited to join the programme and we talked about the wide range of support available to them.

‘I work together with our Casting Consultant Sarah Playfair, and Director of Artistic Administration Laura Canning, to cover all the main areas young singers need. Early in the season Sarah runs a session on formatting CVs, biographies, head shots and tips on applying for parts. Her long experience on audition panels is invaluable, and singers are able to try out their new skills by auditioning for Artistic Director Douglas Boyd. This not only gives them a chance to put all they had learnt into practice, but for those who were not going to feature in the Cover Showcase later in the Season, this was their chance to be considered for principal roles in coming seasons.

The Cover Showcase is an important feature of the programme as it gives singers a platform to demonstrate their professional skills. Every year, Garsington Opera provides those who have understudied roles in the main season with an opportunity to perform scenes from each opera to an audience of agents, directors, sponsors and peers, all specially invited by Garsington Opera. This frequently leads to offers of new roles and enables them to perform roles that they have been working hard on over the summer.

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From Britten to The Goons: a 90th birthday tribute to harp legend Osian Ellis

Ceidiog Hughes

Osian Ellis

The life and work of a globally-renowned harpist who started playing again as he approached his 90th birthday will be celebrated at an international festival.

The fourth Wales International Harp Festival in Caernarfon this April will be honouring the legendary Dr Osian Ellis CBE who collaborated with leading British composer Benjamin Britten and played on the madcap radio comedy series, The Goon Show.

Sixty years on Dr Elllis, a native of Ffynnongroyw in Flintshire who now lives in Pwllheli, still receives an annual royalty cheque of £100 for his appearances with comedy pioneers Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Harry Secombe.

As well as being Professor of the Harp at the Royal Academy of Music, Dr Ellis was for many years principal harpist with the London Symphony Orchestra and was held in such high regard by Benjamin Britten that he wrote his Harp Suite specifically for him.

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Beethoven today

Dirk Joeres

Beethoven

The distinguished German pinaist and conductor outlines the approach to his new integral recording of Beethoven’s nine symphonies.

Beethoven is certainly the composer whose work has been subject to the widest variety of approaches. There was the ’romantic’ Beethoven, the ‘heroic’ Beethoven, the ‘structural, objective’ Beethoven, the ‘historically correct’ Beethoven, etc. The fact that Beethoven’s work has so many facets is proof of its greatness and that certain aberrations in these approaches could not damage it, demonstrates its powerful compositional qualities.

Today we can assess all these approaches to Beethoven, while at the same time we must be aware of the changes in society and cultural attitudes in our times. “Beethoven Today” therefore does not just mean: what does Beethoven offer to us but also: what do we offer to Beethoven? Or, in other words: what is the fascination stemming from Beethoven’s works two hundred years after they were written and what do we bring in today from our side to do these works justice?

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Towards 2020: A new Beethoven Museum for Vienna and the world

Malcolm Miller

Beethoven

With Beethoven 250 in 2020 on the horizons, we may expect an array of anniversary initiatives, festivals, recordings, conferences, publications, even new compositions. This is particularly so in the cities in which Beethoven lived, Bonn, where he was born on 16 December 1770, and Vienna, where lived from 1792 till his death on 26 March, 1827. For a long time Bonn has hosted the Beethovenhaus, the composer’s birthplace, which in addition to being a museum is also an archive, research centre, publishing house and concert hall. Yet it is only since last November that Vienna, the city in which Beethoven lived for the greater part of his life, has gained what promises to be a major cultural landmark, namely its own Beethoven Museum. Marked by a distinctive plaque and a flag, the renovated building is situated in the narrow cobbled street at Probusgasse 6, Heiligenstadt, once a spa-resort on the city outskirts, and now a fashionable suburb in the 19th district, easily accessible by train and tram.

The development of Vienna’s first ever fully-fledged Beethoven museum is a historic achievement the significance of which cannot be underestimated: it is unique in the character of its highly imaginative and accessible permanent exhibition, full of interactivity, opportunities to listen to music, and innovative use of installations and displays. The emphasis on experiential learning offers an exciting new experience for the public as for musicians and scholars to gain new appreciation of Beethoven’s life and creative career and its relevance to our contemporary world. There is also a fitting focus on the significance of Heiligenstadt, where in 1802 Beethoven penned his famous testament that affirmed his faith in art in the face of increasing isolation through deafness.

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Sir Adrian Boult, Adrian Brown, the Bromley Symphony Orchestra and The Planets

Derek Holland

conductor

This year marks the opening of the Centenary season of the Bromley Symphony Orchestra under its long-serving Music Director Adrian Brown, a pupil of Sir Adrian Boult – Music Director of the Orchestra during World War II – and finalist in the Herbert von Karajan conducting competition in Berlin. The Bromley Symphony Orchestra’s unbroken 100 years of regular concert-giving is outlined in this commemorative article.

Saturday May 19th is a big one in the calendar this year and not just because of a certain wedding! This is because on that night the Bromley Symphony Orchestra, one of London's very finest amateur orchestras will be performing Holst's The Planets under the baton of their distinguished conductor since 1980, Adrian Brown. This will ensure that this performance in anticipation of the Centenary of the first performance at the Queens Hall on 29th September 1918 will have a musical significance beyond the merely good performances that will not doubt swamp our concert halls this year.

As is well known, the first performance of this extraordinary work was conducted by Adrian (later of course Sir Adrian) Boult. One day in the Autumn of 1918, Holst himself burst into the office where Adrian was doing his war work, having been rejected for military service saying “Adrian I have got to go to Salonika quite soon for the YMCA. Balfour Gardiner, bless him has given me a parting present of consisting of the Queens Hall full of the Queens Hall Orchestra.

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My Desert Island Film Scores

John and Monica McCabe

John-Mccabe

During the mid-1980s a pressure group was formed in Britain on behalf of composers, of all types and usages of music. One of the main instigators was Nicholas Maw, and he approached my husband, John McCabe, to join also. Another of the primary group was Barrington Pheloung, who was much in the news around that period, because of his music for the television series, Morse.

Soon a whole raft of composers was active to a greater or lesser degree in this movement, which named itself the Association of Professional Composers, or APC for short. Among the composer members, which ranged from classical, electronic and jazz, to film and other media were Howard Blake, Tim Souster, Michael Berkeley, Stephen Oliver, Stanley Myers, Wilfred Josephs, Christopher Gunning, Edward Gregson, Barry Guard, and many more. Nicholas Maw was the first Chairman, but when he moved to the USA, John took over as Chairman, and much good work was done in all those years, including the production of an excellent handbook by Annie Gunning, wife of Christopher, who was very knowledgeable in the world of media music.

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‘All the right notes, necessarily in the right order’

Robert Matthew-Walker

Bebbington

The Editor outlines his orchestration of the fragments of Grieg’s unfinished Second Piano Concerto, recently recorded by Mark Bebbington and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Jan-Latham Koenig for the SOMM label.

In 1881, the 38-year-old Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg entered into an exclusive contract with Max Abraham, director of Peters Edition, the famous music publishing house in Leipzig. Abraham was pleased to have secured Grieg’s music, as he was one of several publishers who had initially turned down the composer’s Piano Concerto in A minor, which was fast becoming one of the most frequently-played concertos of the day.

That same year, Abraham wrote to Grieg, asking him to consider writing a number of new works, including a new piano concerto and some chamber music, mentioning a piano trio. Grieg replied, broadly in the affirmative, but pointed out he would feel more inclined to accede to Abraham’s request if he had an annual retainer, alleviating his constant concerns over his income. Abraham replied at once with a generous offer, and Grieg began work on the various compositions he had been asked for.

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