Mozart, Così fan tutte & Chickens

From Wikipedia: ‘According to William Mann, Mozart disliked prima donna Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, da Ponte’s arrogant mistress for whom the role of Fiordiligi had been created. Knowing her idiosyncratic tendency to drop her chin on low notes and throw back her head on high ones, Mozart filled her showpiece aria Come scoglio with constant leaps from low to high and high to low in order to make Ferrarese’s head “bob like a chicken” onstage.’

Watch out for it at tonight’s concert at St James’s Church Piccadilly!

Adriana Ferrarese del Bene

Adriana Ferrarese del Bene

A love letter to 12 tone theory

Schoenberg

Schoenberg

Scott Good’s love letter to 12 tone theory…

There seems to be some kind of schism between those who appreciate the inventiveness of Arnold Schoenberg’s infamous 12 tone technique, and there are those who think it stinks. Not a huge grey area in the middle. I would like to propose some rather grey thoughts on the matter, but leaning much closer to appreciation, in fact, very much adored.

First, there has to be context. When this technique was pioneered, a much more profound change had already been brought to the fore – equal temperament. It had become the widely accepted standard.

Classical music was submitting to the will, and creative potential, of unrestrained modulation. Composers had shown that it is easy to move within a single movement, between all twelve key areas – a sequence of 5ths will do the trick, or perhaps some severe harmonic cross relations to expedite the transition. With equal temperament comes the facility to coordinate cleanly between any keys – there was no restriction, or hierarchy of intonation – any tonality is game all the time. This development made easier these undertakings for performers as well – relying on static spots to place notes (this is of course not the full truth – intonation is a major subject for performing…but the equal tempered standard is how we (I think most) have learned.) A =440Hz in the key of A, F, or F#.

In some ways, the widespread inclusion of equal temperament was an admission that traditional functional tonality was on the way out. The relationship between dominant and tonic, the fundamental harmonic structure of the common era, is founded upon a relationship of harmonics. Of course, there is something quite magical about the 12 equal divisions, and it’s relationship to the harmonics – the fifths are very accurate, and the other intervals are quite close. It is a strange coincidence that this works out so well – a fluke of mathematics. But not perfect – it is a compromise. Tonality was created to use the perfect relationships, and develop a system with more flexibility. Each stage on the path added, or subtracted “atonality” to the language, chords away from the tonic, harmonic extensions, to create asymmetries for artistic expressiveness. But until the implementation of equal temperament, each stage was founded upon the relationships between a tonic key, and it’s harmonics.

Intonation was not a given. Each note had its place in relation to the tonic, and modulations were prone to distortions, adding bite to their movement. It was chaotic, so needed a stable format to work on – hence a system that functions in relation to a tonic – hierarchy from chaos.

With this change, the music of the spheres has been abandoned for music of flexibility, and convenience. Out with perfect thirds and 7ths, and in with endless modulation. We had traded a parabolic system with a linear one – calculus out, algebra in.

IMHO, the three most significant advancements due to this change were 12 tone theory, spectralism, and jazz, particularly bebop. Jazz for being able to fully implement a dynamic, modulating tonal language through improvisation. The facility of which is expressed most in bebop, peaking with pieces such as Giant Steps by Coltrain- a mammoth undertaking in extreme harmonic motion – a pillar for jazz musicians to be able to shred. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of jazz harmony with equal temperament is the tritone substitution – the most dynamic tones of the dominant 7th harmony – 3rd and 7th are “switched” – so, the G7 – G B D F, is substituted with Db7 – Db F Ab B – the common tones of B and F create this dynamic. This is the roots of the kaleidoscope of jazz harmony, only possible within equal temperament.

Spectralism (for which I include, to a degree. Debussy-Wagner-Messiaen-Xenakis- Varese to a degree + many others, maturing with Grisey, Murail and now into the future) was born from the necessity to liberate the note from any external function – to be itself the material – timbre as theme. The infinite degree of intonation had been stolen from the creative process, denying notes to exist in relations to others, but rather fixed points, with infinitely less variation. 12 points of octave equivalence. Creativity had to be liberated by the focus on sonority. Once more detailed measurements of sound spectra were available, they became a source of material, but there are a multitude of examples of how this approach has affected music making and perception. For instance, Pop music is essentially a spectral phenomenon (and should be respected as such). It is also ancient, and better explains music such as gamelan, or Noh.

But I’m not writing to talk about those theories and genres, they have their own love stories, but rather the ugly little brother, the theory of composing with twelve tones. It must be first said that such a theory was bound to happen if the notes were to be all equalized. A kind of mathematical inevitability.

My perspective is biased. I look at music as a creative discipline. I’ve been drawn to composing in the same way that many do with writing, painting, poetry etc. The compulsion/obsession to express. Therefore, in my own logical presuppositions, any technique, theory, concept, is for me, a matter of usability. I’m at heart, a utilitarian in these regards. This is the perspective I want to describe what 12 tone theory has to offer – not as a static concept that would produce certain results, but as a dynamic tool capable of a vast array of aesthetic conclusions. This is how I love it!

So what is this theory all about? The basics are quite simple – a row of pitches containing all twelve tones, producing a sequence of intervals. It is the quality of intervals that is key to the system – creating a web of possible relationships for which the composer can draw out material, and develop.

The key from my perspective is the concept of row. In most music, pitches are structured around a scale, or a mode, relating to a tonic. It is how the material is designed, and developed. But a row implies other kinds of relationships – where the sequence of intervals themselves become the basis of material., allowing musical structure to be first defined by the melodic – the motive. It is a kind of flip of roles.

At the time, there was the need for a strong push to create anew. It had to, for various reason – the wars being very close to the heart, resulting from the desire to push from cultural norms. So a system that fully embraced equal temperament was born through atonality. There is a strong need to be pure in this system. Overt references to tonality must be avoided, in order to achieve a completeness and continuity. If a tonal reference is introduced, such as any tertian reference (triads and extensions), it spoils the structural integrity.

Thus, tone rows were designed for maximum atonality, and were always all 12 notes – no less, no more. The system needed this kind of dogma in order for it to manifest, and harmony looses it’s function, becomes subordinate to motive. Of course, the music of the western classical tradition till that time was always dependant on harmonic movement to shape form. This left a gap to be filled.

What is it like to hear when blind? What kind of sensitivity is induced through sound, or touch, to understand the world around when there are no “colours”? This to me is a good metaphor – music in 12 tone style becomes blind to functional harmony, and thus needs to exploit other parameters of musical expression – timbre, melody, density, tessitura to name some prominent categories. These are all, of course, part of all music – but what I am discussing is emphasis.

Many of the early uses of 12 tone composition were quite routed in traditional musical structures – take this charming little example of a musette by Schoenberg:

The pedal tone of G throughout gives a sense of a kind of tonality, over which a kind of wave of pitch undulates above. I find all of the chords quite gratifying – funny…but really humorous, not mocking or ironic.

But it became clear to the composers that a new kind of form would suit the new kind of pitch relationships – pieces would express different qualities of rows, and the structure surrounding would also compliment said row.

Schoenberg often used very angular and irregular rows – non symmetrical – suggesting a more fantasia like structure – expressionistic, and somewhat whimsical – playful at times, moody in others. A lovely example is his Fantasie for violin and piano:

However, Webern tended towards more symmetrical row structures, complimented with symmetry in form. His works have a sense of calm and proportion quite distinct from the exuberance and fantasy of Schoenberg. It is a music that fully embraces equality and atonality, allowing it to flourish in it’s own implied language. The motive is everything in this music – with pitch, and timbre – a synthesis. He is addicted to the major 7th and the minor 9th. I think he does this as they are the most crystalline of diads. In order to love this music, one must embrace these sounds as a kind of tonic sonority – a home base from which the rest of the material is spun.

Although no other composer inspires me more for creative thinking than Schoenberg – from the Chamber Symphony – Book of the Hanging Gardens – Ewartung – Pierrot – 5 Orchestra Pieces, (and we aren’t even at the invention of 12 tone!) Concertos – Chamber Pieces. Treatment of voice. For me he is an endless encyclopedia of incredible sonorities and instrumental writing…

…and the great gift Webern did by showing an entirely new path of musical syntax and expression…

…no piece of music has ever given me such sublime emotion on first hearing/seeing, than Berg’s Wozzeck.

It is no coincidence that these three composers are grouped. They form a web of variety within a system. Although Wozzeck was not 12 tone, Berg’s Violin Concerto shows a new path through this system – a reaching towards a new framing. In this work, tonality, and the sonority of the violin rule the row’s structure. This synthesis exposes a row’s structure mingling with tonal reference. The integrity of the row is compromised for sentimental reasons…primarily. But I think it is also important to acknowledge the timbre shift. Simply put, Berg is attempting to find commonality between diatonic sonority and atonal theory within the row construction.

Here is the most “radical” section of the Concerto, in which a Bach choral finds it’s way into the music:

I find it quite a fascinating story of classical music’s evolutionary history – one of the richest creative developments. As strict as this system may seem to be, it seems from just the output of these three early pioneers to be capable of extreme differences in aesthetic quality and emotional effect.

For my own craft, it has been an important tool for building scores. The liberation of tones from a static hierarchy to dynamic interrelations works well for the kind of music I want to compose. My direction is much more aligned with what Berg began, but I still find great inspiration from the others, and for this, I am very grateful.

Epilogue:

I fear some times, that 12 tone theory is not understood as a seed, but rather a rock. Schoenberg, along with others, formed a system with a specific purpose that required certain parameters and conditions – it was of it’s time, and beautifully so. But I worry that the future of its influence is clouded by political blindness and aesthetic miss-understanding. The logic behind the system can be opened, as was hinted at by Berg, to re-invigorate the classical tradition into new territory – applying motive based row structures to define material, but allow for any resonance to exist in the structure. We need to think of “atonality” not as a fixed aesthetic, but as a tendency of expressiveness – to distort from symmetrical fixed points to evoke artistic impetus.

Like visual stimulation, symmetry shows purpose and power – early humans would need exceptional skill to recognize symmetries in order to know what to pay attention to, as symmetry implies purpose or physical laws – the animals face, or a seed, fruit ,or vegetable – the orbits and cosmic proportions. We are deigned to pay attention to these phenomenon, as they are key to our survival. And thus, symmetry and grouping have been staples of artistic theory.

Sound also has similar functionality. We are able to identify sounds through the thickness of white noise chaos of our natural surrounds – wind, rain, running water, and so on. Sounds that have deliberate qualities of tonality, and strongly defining envelope, a kind of parabolic symmetry through the harmonic structure imply importance and purpose – animal sounds or snapping branches, earth quakes, lightning etc. Everything has resonance, and music exploits our perception of the ringing of sounds. I see no incompatibility with harmonic resonance and row structure, and in fact, can serve as a bridge between the tonal and the atonal with unifying thematic material. I think the theory should be presented to students as a much more plastic and malleable than it seems to be now – this will not only aid creative endeavours, but help the audience focus on the unique quality each composer brings to it. This is the most important part of what the theory is for – a structure on which to build unique works of art – no more, no less.

What the Folk!? at the Hole in the Wall

There aren't many good pubs left in London. The smoking ban was the killer stroke, driving good paying customers into the rain to smoke a cigarette, but they've been dying for years. Those that are left a too clean, ordered, and civilized. Alcohol has been associated with Dionysus since 1500 BC: the God of chaos, extreme pleasure, danger, the life of the senses not of the mind. It's crazy to serve the stuff in pubs that look like they've been entered for the Ideal Home Exhibition!

But if you emerge from the main entrance to Waterloo Station, look slightly to your right, you'll find a proper pub – the Hole in the Wall. Every few minutes the building shakes as a train passes overhead. Yesterday was live music night with the wonderful What the Folk!?

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A Hedgehog in Highgate

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The Red Hedgehog, situated diagonally across Archway Road from Highgate tube station in north London, is a modest venue. It does not shout “look at me!” from its frontage, nor does it play host to showboating ‘rock-star’ performers like Chinese Poster-Boy Lang Lang. Instead, inside this bright, cosy, friendly venue, one can enjoy music equal in quality to anything one might hear at the Wigmore, Cadogan or Queen Elizabeth Halls on any night of the week, played by serious, committed musicians, both well-known and up-and-coming.


Now just over four years old, the Red Hedgehog opened, without fanfare, in the summer of 2006. Named after a coffee house in Vienna, Zum Roten Igel, a favourite watering hole of Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn et al, in its first season it welcomed through its unobtrusive doorway the likes of grand old man of piano, Peter Katin, as well as Piers Lane, James Lisney, the late Yonty Solomon, soprano Emma Kirkby, ‘cellists Alexander Baillie and Steven Isserlis, and actor Simon Callow, among many others. It has enjoyed lively and varied subsequent seasons, combining solo recitals with chamber music, song, jazz and folk. Alongside the salon concerts are masterclasses, activities for children, drama events and art exhibitions. It continues to host concerts by some of the “big names” in classical music as well as offering an opportunity for newcomers to make their mark.

I first visited the Red Hedgehog in December 2006. It was, as I recall, rather a long haul up the Northern Line from my home in the leafy suburbs of south-west London, even with a stopover at Green Park to pick up a friend en route. Admittedly, we missed it the first time, mistaking it for a kebab shop; but once inside, we were intrigued and delighted by this unusual recital space. The music, Schubert’s complete Impromptus (with generous encores by Mozart, Chopin and Schumann), seemed just about perfect for this intimate venue. Schubert’s music as he intended it: played for friends and among friends. Afterwards, glass of wine in hand, we were in no hurry to leave: the atmosphere was convivial and friendly, as the soloist mingled with his audience. Warmed by a second glass of red wine, we trudged back to the station in the cold winter air, and began the long journey south.

I am sorry to confess I have not yet returned to the Red Hedgehog, though I have followed its fortunes closely. I have always enjoyed music in small or unusual venues. As a child, a “treat” for me was to sit behind the CBSO (when they were still based at Birmingham old town hall), so that I could watch the percussionists at work. On holiday in Venezuela once, I enjoyed chamber music amongst the tree ferns in the courtyard of a beautiful Spanish colonial house; in Zadar (Croatia) Bach played in a tiny Byzantine church. While I enjoy concerts in more traditional venues, the Wigmore, Queen Elizabeth and Cadogan Halls being my favourites in London, I do think that music in small venues offers a truly unique concert experience. It connects us to the music in a very special way, and reminds us that much of the music that was written before about 1850 was intended for the salon, something that can be forgotten when hearing music in a larger concert venue. 

Pianist James Lisney, someone who positively embraces performing in small, intimate venues, has been a loyal and active supporter of The Red Hedgehog (he suggested its name), and a regular performer there since its inception. He regards the venue as an “investment in London’s pianistic life”, and is concerned that the venue is not getting the attention it should, especially with an important Beethoven cycle coming up next month, when acclaimed British pianist Peter Donohoe will perform the complete Piano Sonatas of Beethoven in a series of eight recitals over four consecutive weekends. 

This concert series will provide listeners with a rare opportunity to experience Beethoven’s extraordinary music in the kind of setting he would instantly recognise himself: the salon. In a bigger concert venue, one does not have the chance to get “up close and personal” with the music – and the performer – and sometimes the immediacy of the music can be lost. At The Red Hedgehog, one can enjoy a very close rapport, true eye-to-eye contact, with performer, and music. 

A trawl through the very favourable reviews of past performances at The Red Hedgehog proves that music critics have really embraced the “small is beautiful” ethos of the place, describing it variously as “cosy enough to be ideal for the purpose of listening to chamber music”, “bohemian”, “….the next best thing to having musicians perform in one’s home” and “delightful, unexpected and welcoming”

This wonderful “small miracle” (Simon Callow) receives no funding; instead, it relies on its indefatigable artistic director, Clare Fischer, and a loyal group of supporters, volunteers and friends, as well as its artists, who are prepared to shrink, or even waive their fees to help keep the place alive, and lively. And its audience, crucially, mainly local people (and Highgate is famous for its intelligentsia and culturally aware), is interested and committed. But in these straitened economic times, when the arts seemed to receive the first swipe of the coalition Government’s vicious scythe, perfect little gems like The Red Hedgehog are under threat – a great shame when there was an upsurge of interest in classical music just before the credit crunch.

Right now, no one can predict what the future will bring, but while venues like The Red Hedgehog remain open, there is still hope – and the chance for “any true music-lover…….. to hear top-flight artists in an intimate setting” (Douglas Cooksey, classicalsource.com)

Links:

www.theredhedgehog.co.uk
www.jameslisney.com
www.crosseyedpianist.wordpress.com

FRANCES WILSON is a pianist and piano teacher and, as The Cross-Eyed Pianist, a blogger on music and pianism.
 
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Chattering on the Internet: Why & How People Do It

People love to chatter on the internet. They used to lean over the garden fence, prop up the bar in the pub, or stand outside church on Sundays gossiping in low voices so the vicar didn't hear.

In the US there's the lovely tradition of 'visiting' with the neighbours: sitting on the porch with a beer, hearing how the kids are doing in college, spreading malicious gossip about the Mayor, putting the world to rights.
 
All that still happens. But people now do it online too. They 'visit' with 'friends' they've never 'met' who may live thousands of miles away.
 
They gossip, flirt, exchange information, brag, tell fibs and funny stories, reminisce, get red-faced with anger at political enemies, confirm their political prejudices with friends, evangelise, attempt to recruit people to causes, engage in deliberate wind-ups (trolling) and generally enjoy themselves.
 
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With some well documented exceptions, e.g. murders or stalking episodes arising from online interaction, it's innocent and harmless. It's what humans do.
 
Authoritarian politicians detest it of course. Wikileaks is, basically, internet gossip writ large. But there's little they can do about it outside of China and a few other paranoid states. Even China leaks like sieve. It must drive the geriatric torturers nuts!
 
Social media or Web 2.0 – the framework within which the chatter occurs – is fast-moving. A few years ago there were only really forums and, before that, Usenet.
 
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Blogs, Twitter and Facebook broke that monopoly so people now have the freedom to move between the platforms, choosing what best suits them at different times.
 
The decline of MySpace after Rupert Murdoch bought it – ha! – shows how fickle users are. Facebook, currently riding high, could suffer a similar fate. You can't tell people where to gossip on the internet. Long may that blessed freedom last. It's worth fighting for.
 
One constant tension is between community and solipsism, engagement and individualism, interaction and ego.
 
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A blog, essentially, is a vehicle for projecting an ego into cyberspace. The writer says what he or she thinks and readers either like it or lump it.
 
Sure, they can post a comment but few bloggers allow sustained, well-argued, fundamental, criticism to occur on their bandwidth. That's not what the medium is for. Few people will even try – if they feel strongly about an issue they start their own blog.
 
Twitter and Facebook are more communitarian. People engage with each other on a broadly level playing field, from a position of equality. There are 'big beasts' on Twitter, e.g. Stephen Fry – a Twitter class system exists – but most people Tweet as equals.
 
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Then there are forums. These are self-governing internet spaces. Often the owners/managers are well known to members. Many have systems of self-government in place with users having a say in forum rules and the choice of bureaucrats.
 
A good social media operation melds each element – blogs, Facebook/Twitter and forums. It allows – encourages – people to move between the three areas as they please, satisfying their gossip-needs, getting their information-fix, interracting with others, projecting their egos into cyberspace.
 
No one knows where social media will go next. That's exciting and is one reason it's so popular.
 
Some good blogs and forums:*
 
 
* The writer is associated with some of them
 
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Detroit’s Cultural Jewel

The Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, and U.S. Senator Carl Levin are trying to jump-start talks between Detroit Symphony Orchestra management and striking musicians as the all-out strike enters its tenth week.


In a statement issued on 16th December they present a framework to get the two sides bargaining again. Basically, they propose a $36M contract, as opposed to the $33M to $34M settlement demanded by the management.


The musicians welcomed the framework:


We accept the proposal, and are prepared to return to the bargaining table immediately to seek a settlement under the framework it outlines. Source


According to press reports the management continue to play hard-ball:


DSO Board Chair Stanley Frankel said the $36 million package "is beyond what every consultant and our board have said is feasible."


"In order to fund our current proposal, we have already cut our staff and operations severely and pushed our revenue expectations beyond every adviser's recommendations," Frankel said in a statement. "Even with these dramatic cuts and ambitious goals, the DSO will continue to operate in a deficit position." Source

Let's hope the Governor, the Senator, and local business and labour leaders can persuade the management to show a little more enthusiasm. It is Christmas after all.

 

 

British Orchestras & the Cuts

Discuss this article

BBC Prom

The people who run Britain's great orchestras aren't stupid. Not only that but they include individuals who are not state-hating free-market ideologues. They sucked a commitment to publicly funded high art provision with their mother's milk.

Plus they have musicians, composers and patrons breathing down their necks, some of whom are very big noises indeed, and occupy strategic positions in the British state. These people – wealthy, connected, self-confident – won't go quietly.

As reported by the BBC on 16th November 2010 a second round of cuts is now hitting British classical music, with provincial orchestras in the frame:

The Halle, based in Manchester, received £821,300 from the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (Agma) this year – almost 10% of its total budget.

Like all recipients of Arts Council England money, the Halle's grant is being cut by 6.9% next year and the orchestra must reapply for support beyond that.

Halle chief executive John Summers warned the orchestra was in danger of slipping back into the "life-threatening" financial crisis it experienced a decade ago. Source

Look at the list of top British orchestras:

Academy of Ancient Music

BBC National Orchestra of Wales

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Hallé Orchestra

London Mozart Players

London Philharmonic Orchestra

London Symphony Orchestra

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Philharmonia Orchestra

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

The English Concert

See here for a fuller list.

That's a lot of public money to defend. Of course, some have diversified funding. The LSO, for example, does lucrative Hollywood film work. Many orchestral players are freelancers, moving from job to job.

But others are contractual. Effectively they're salaried civil servants. A top international orchestra can't exist on temporary staff. The players must work together over many years as an intimate, homogeneous group to produce high quality music.

Arguments to defend British orchestras, BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Proms, the great cornerstones of British musical high art, will hot up as the public expenditure cuts – deeper than anything ever attempted in Britain before – begin to bite.

It becomes increasingly difficult to defend tax-money spent on, say, a third oboe parping away at a Mahler symphony while old ladies on inadequate state pensions, shivering in poorly maintained public housing stock, have just had their meals-on-wheels cut. But the arguments have to be made.

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Closure of BBC Radio 3 Message Boards

The BBC has suddenly announced the closure of the BBC Radio 3 Message Boards:

 

BBC Radio 3 message boards closure

Source

Users are deciding where to go. R3OK is welcoming refugees and Friends of Radio 3 have revved up their forums. Both are excellent.

With the BBC facing cuts, the Murdoch brood wailing about BBC competition and licking their lips, the BBC orchestras under threat, and the Proms (funded by the BBC) always at risk in times of recession, the destruction of the Radio 3 online community sounds a warning bell.

Hopefully people won't just disappear, or get lost on Twitter and Facebook. BBC classical music needs all the friends it can get.

Roger Wright, Controller BBC Radio 3, Director of the BBC Proms

Greenwich International Early Music Festival & Exhibition 2010

Recorders

Another superb early music festival and exhibition at Greenwich. Slightly fewer exhibitors than last year, but both halls were packed. Given the length and depth of the recession that's a pretty good showing.

I went to just one concert: Rachel Brown playing Telemann's Twelve Fantasias for Solo Flute in the chapel.

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I sat at the front in case the small sound of the baroque flute was lost further back. But it wasn't necessary. The implied harmony of these solo pieces, aided by the chapel's acoustics, may even have been more pronounced in the centre or rear of the hall.

Hall management should do something about their blow heaters! The audience mustn't freeze, but the flute shouldn't be made to compete with electric motors.

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Rachel Brown is at the top of her game (she gave a festival master class the previous morning). These pieces, along with JS Bach's solo Partita and CPE Bach's solo sonata, are tremendously exposing, with the smallest error immediately visible.

She uses a sweet, bell-like tone, similar to that employed by Stephen Preston and Lisa Beznosiuk. Very different from the louder, breathier, more aggressive continental style of, say, Jed Wentz.

There were no errors of any importance. Ms Brown maintained a poise and a stamina to the end. That's a full hour of completely solo performance – a tremendous feat.

In some ways her performances are conservative. Not much extemporising, no showy cadenzas, little finger vibrato. But that means that when she does 'let rip' the palate's unjaded and it comes as a delightful shock.

For example, she deploys a wonderful technique whereby the final note of a phrase or section is given a gentle 'push' before she terminates it, sending it out into the hall to shimmer in the acoustics, like an exotic bird.

Worth keeping an eye on the concert schedules and hearing Rachel Brown play these pieces. She's recorded them recently.

This festival, and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance who host it, are gems. Long may they survive.

The following photos includes a few of the trip down-river from central London. High res copies are available. The image of Rachel Brown (shown above) is by C Christodoulou.

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Detroit Symphony Orchestra Musicians & the Dunkirk Spirit

Discuss this article

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Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians are doing what they do best: playing concerts. They're performing Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Brahms Symphony No. 2 tomorrow evening. Further concerts are planned.

While the musicians do what they've always done – bring music to the Detroit community – their "management" sit in their bunker paying themselves large sums of money, issuing press statements attacking the musicians, attempting, and failing, to organise a strike-breaking concert. Sarah Chang wisely withdrew from a performance planned for 11 October.

Is there a lesson here? Is DSO "management" a luxury which DSO musicians, and the wider classical music world, can no longer afford?

The London Symphony Orchestra, my local orchestra and, arguably, the most extrovert of the great London orchestras, is an independent, self-governing organisation. It was the first British orchestra to play in the States (due to sail on the Titanic, the booking was changed at the last moment). It sacked Elgar twice.

All LSO players are shareholders in London Symphony Orchestra Limited. Nine of the Board of Directors and Orchestra Committee of the Board are playing members.

Why shouldn't DSO musicians employ their own management? Why waste time with hostile bureaucrats?

Music's too important. The cultural life of Detroit is too important. DSO musicians are too important.

The LSO model is there, ready and waiting, to be investigated by DSO musicians and their union lawyers, accountants and strategic planners.

People need classical music in hard times. During WW2 in London the public emerged from the air-raid shelters and flocked to the free concerts at the National Gallery. During the Great Depression in the States, the Federal Art Project put thousands of artists to work.

Now is the time to expand classical music in Detroit and, perhaps, for the players to take control of their future. They have a lot on their hands at present – good luck to them – but this may be one more thing worth considering.

Starved of entertainment, crowds flocked to the Gallery for the lunchtime concerts. These performances were an opportunity to hear the foremost musicians of the day. Many were given by Myra Hess herself. Favourites in her repertoire were Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann. The aim was to make classical music accessible to all. The entrance price was set low at one shilling.

The concerts were a huge success. Even in the darkest days of the Blitz, they were nearly always full. An adjoining canteen serving delicious tea, coffee and sandwiches, concocted by a cohort of formidable ladies, added to their popularity. Source

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