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October - December
2018

‘The Wonder from Kazan’

Gregor Tassie

Alexander Sladkovsky

The Tartarstan National Symphony Orchestra, little-known in the West, has recently come to prominence through the release of a remarkable series of recordings, which have demonstrated the fine qualities of the orchestra under its charismatic conductor Alexander Sladkovsky. The author, who recently visited the beautiful city of Kazan, where the orchestra is based, writes on this remarkable musical phenomenon.

Recently a German newspaper defined the Tatarstan National Symphony Orchestra as ‘The Wonder from Kazan’. Their recordings of Mahler and all the Shostakovich concertos and symphonies have been highly praised, so I was more than curious to discover what has made this orchestra from the provinces become a top-class orchestra. To do so, one needs to dig a little into the country’s history.

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‘Nordic Fire’ – a new Concerto for viola & orchestra

Here Caroline Dooley of the SCO interviews the composer and asks some leading questions about the new work.

Nordic Fire

How did the commission come about?

More often than not, a new composition generates or inspires me with ideas for the next work - and this is how ‘Nordic Fire’ – Concerto for viola and orchestra - came into being.In January 2015 the SCO and Joseph Swensen premiered my tribute to Carl Nielsen, ‘Out of the Silence’. At one point in that work I had written a short viola solo – something that I included because it gave a little colour to that moment in the piece and for no other reason. However, the more I heard the work in performance and on recording, the more I became attracted to the idea of featuring the instrument on a much bigger canvas. That then was the start of a plan to write a full blown concerto for the instrument – but in particular for SCO principal viola, Jane Atkins whose playing I had admired for many years.

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Visually Off-Key

Madeline Salocks

Mozart

The author touches on a sensitive aspect of modern opera productions

A few years ago, having splurged and travelled a considerable distance, I sat near the front in the first balcony at a performance of one of my favorite operas, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, presented by a world-class cast of performers. Musically, it was superb. The conductor, impressively conducting from memory, and the orchestra delivered a superior performance with great energy, polish, and precision. The singing was on an equally high level, as was the nuanced and spirited recitative accompaniments by the harpsichordist.

 

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Parry's Progress, 1918-2018

Part 2, 1968-2018

Parry

Michael Trott concludes his review of Parry's fortunes over the century since his death.

In 1971 Lyrita in association with the R.V.W. Trust issued an LP recording of Parry's Overture to an Unwritten Tragedy, An English Suite, Lady Radnor's Suite and the Symphonic Variations; the London Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. In the sleeve notes Michael Pope asserted, 'No more remarkable man has appeared on the British musical scene than Hubert Parry. The range of his activities was exceptional: the distinction he achieved in many of them is almost without parallel.'

On 21 November 1972 Michael Pope chaired a BBC radio discussion on 'The Real Parry' with Sir Adrian Boult, Herbert Howells and Sir Keith Falkner (1900-1994, Director of the R.C.M. from 1960-1974). Boult recalled Parry as 'a person of enormous vitality and enormous general feeling'. Howells remembered being struck by Parry at the R.C.M. 'giving us over and over again evidence that his mind was not solely in that building or even in music'. He was also struck by young people a generation on who were aware of the 'kindling quality' in the man even if they were uninterested in his music.

 

 

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A New Acceptance of Time

Hesketh - photo courtesy Liz Thornton

Guy Rickard

2018 has been, more than usually, a year of anniversaries, and particularly emotive ones, too, largely due to the centenary of the Great War’s final year, and the legion of associated commemorations, from the Black Day of the German Army (August 8th) to the death of Wilfred Owen (4th November), just a week before the Armistice. For composers, too, there are some remarkable centenaries, whether of the premiere of The Planets, the birth of Leonard Bernstein—a multiple celebration, given his overlapping careers as composer, pianist, educator and conductor—or the deaths of Debussy, Lili Boulanger, Parry, Morfydd Owen and many others.

One unfortunate side-effect of these high-profile events, all marked with considerable fanfare at this year’s Proms, for instance, is that many of the anniversaries of the living have been eclipsed, for example of two of Britain’s most important composers: Robin Holloway’s 75th birthday (marked in the January-March issue), and Kenneth Hesketh’s 50th.

Photo Courtesy Liz Thornton

 

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Take Note

Jack Pepper

Jack Pepper

Zoltán Kodály was a musical evangelist. A passionate believer in the importance of making music available to all, his so-called ‘Kodály Method’ took folk music, solmisation and singing as the platform from which to promote widespread musical literacy. Notably, it was after the Second World War that his educational efforts gained particular momentum, after backing from the Hungarian state made his aims more imminently achievable. In a lecture in 1946, Kodály said: “We have to establish already in schoolchildren the belief that music belongs to everyone and is, with a little effort, available to everyone.”Two years ago, I was privileged to be given a platform to speak about my experiences in music education. Whilst I appreciated that this is a discussion the musical corridors of power must (rightly) hold frequently, I was frustrated that all too often this is a debate about young people conducted solely between adults. The young voices whom this debate concerned were very rarely given a platform to share their own experiences.

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A Mahler Piano Series

Iain Farrington

Mahler

The modern Western world has recently become preoccupied with the idea of identity: national identity, religious identity, sexual identity. These concepts have become hotly debated, raising significant questions of who we are and where we belong. In the cultural arena, 'identity' is a buzzword filled with positive and negative meanings.

Composers are often defined by their musical identity and how it reflects the society in which they live. The music of Gustav Mahler is a remarkable product of the times and locations in which he lived, drawing together a wide range of different musical styles that he heard throughout his life. This stylistic diversity is a key aspect of Mahler's work, as he forged his identity through these disparate musical elements. While this eclectic musical mix is much written about in Mahler scholarship, it is rarely explored in concert programmes.

 

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A New Concert Hall for Cambridge

John Boyden

Cambridge Hall

The author outlines the rationale behind the new Storey’s Field Hall.

As someone who has spent more than twenty years promoting the acoustic advantages of the classic Double-Cube, or Shoebox shaped concert-hall over the fashionable Vineyard design I approached the new, 200-seat hall in Storey’s Field, developed by Cambridge University, with real interest. I need not have worried as the acoustics were in the hands of my old chum, Bob Essert, whose latest design matches that of any Great Room of a Renaissance palace - with one essential addition necessary for a general purpose building to function. Neither should we forget that the great concert-halls of the 19th century have only occasionally been matched in recent times, such as that in Lucerne while the violins of Cremona from the early years of the 18th century do not seem open to improvement. To my mind a Shoebox shaped concert-hall is the ultimate musical instrument.

 

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