Archive for the ‘contrabassoon’ category

I’m still here

October 9, 2013

IMG_1036Having acquired some rather snazzy business cards publicising my WordPress blog site, I felt it would be only fair to post something informative on it  – my blogging activity having fallen by the wayside, thanks to the ease and instantaneity of Facebook… so here’s a quick update.

Recent projects:

Surtitles
Nino Rota’s Il cappello di paglia di Firenze for Wexford Festival Opera (hilarious!)
Berlioz – Roméo et Juliette for the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall

Translations –
Songs for Elizabeth Watts recital in Bath
Richard Strauss songs for the Salmon Orchestra’s 50th birthday concert
Some interesting numbers for L’Arpeggiata at the Wigmore Hall

Programme notes –
English Chamber Orchestra concert on 9 October

Bassooning –
Invicta Wind Orchestra concert (including a featured contrabassoon solo!)
Salomon Orchestra 50th Birthday concert – contra in Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel and Shostakovich Symphony No. 7.  A quite amazing occasion

Coming soon:

Surtitles –
Another Roméo et Juliette for the LSO
Act II of Tristan und Isolde for the LSO
Weber’s Euryanthe for Chelsea Opera Group
Offenbach’s Fantasio for Opera Rara
…and bookings ahead into 2015, thanks to Chelsea Opera Group, the Philharmonia and the CBSO

Programme notes, etc. –
Programme note, synopsis and pre-performance talk on Weber’s Euryanthe (Chelsea Opera Group, 23 November at Cadogan Hall:  be there!)
Programme notes for ECO concerts in November and December
Article for The Royal Opera for a forthcoming programme book (no idea what it will say yet…)

Translations –
A large batch of songs for the Kirckman Concert Society

Bassooning –
Beethoven 5 (contra) for the Sussex Concert Orchestra
The Rehearsal Orchestra – Rheingold weekend conducted by David Syrus (can’t wait!)

So ‘retirement’ is a continuing to be busy and exciting experience!  And we love living here on the South Coast.

Will try to keep you all posted on this site…

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‘Cinderella’ at the Royal Opera House

April 24, 2011

Lovely dayout yesterday to matinee of Cinderella (Prokofiev ballet) at ROH. Rosie’s 6th birthday treat but we grownups adored it too! Glamour, magic, story clearly told, stunning sets and costumes, great music – reminding us what we go to the theatre for…

Classic Frederick Ashton choreography, with trademark Ashton figures in the hyperactive Jester (James Hay) and of course the pantomime-dame Ugly Sisters (James Wilkie and Thomas Whitehead, extremely funny). Yuhui Choe pretty and touching as Cinderella, Sergei Polunin likewise as her fairy-tale Prince. (But Rosie liked the Fairy Godmother – Francesca Filpi – best of all.)

Nice to see my old chum Mark Jonathan credited with the lighting, which was sumptuous and just right. And what a brilliant score – all the Prokofiev hallmarks of clarity, energy, ingenious and unexpected orchestration (particularly percussion, oboe, bassoon, contrabassoon and trumpet, all working incredibly hard! No ‘easy night off’ playing for the ballet in this one.) And he does that odd trick of putting a tuba on the bass line even in moving or touching passages – shouldn’t work but it does.

Not having seen a synopsis, I was fascinated by the reference to The Love for Three Oranges in the score, paralleled by the appearance of three oranges on stage… is this Prokofiev’s in-joke, or Ashton’s? Any insights welcome.

What a contrast to our dismal evening at The Tsar’s Bride earlier in the week. (No offence to Rimsky-Korsakov’s fine and sometimes amazing music, or to Sir Mark Elder’s equally fine but disappointingly ponderous conducting. But the ballet reminded us, by contrast, what a chore it is to sit through yet another grim updated staging that doesn’t fit the music and has us peering at a room full of dark-suited gents in a gloomy setting, trying to figure who is who and which one is singing. And that was just the first scene. Yes, we were sitting very high up in the Amphi! 😦

See review and photos of Cinderella at http://www.seenandheard-international.com/2011/04/09/prokofiev%e2%80%99s-cinderella-at-the-royal-ballet/

photo (c) Tristram Kenton

The BIG double reed day! – calling all oboes and bassoons

July 21, 2010

(…and contras!)

Calling ALL double-reeders, of whatever age or standard… Come to the BIG DOUBLE REED DAY at the Guildhall School of Music in London on Sunday 10 October.  Looks loads of fun as well as very educational.

Tutors include Gordon Hunt, Martin Gatt, Gareth Hulse, Meryck Alexander, John Orford and loads more.

Go to the website http://www.bigdoublereed.com/about.php and click on all the links for more details and how to reserve your place.

See you there. maybe?

Meanwhile, have a happy summer!

Reed Rage bassoon quartet

February 23, 2010

Definition: Reed Rage. An affliction commonly found in double reed players, especially bassoonists. Less serious than Reed Neurosis suffered by oboe players. It involves leaping up and down on reeds that don’t work or stabbing them into music stands…

 So… way back in October, we turned out to the wilds of Hampstead for a concert by REED RAGE, a brand new bassoon quartet which just happens to have my niece Rosie in it…

 More about them, and biographies of the four players (and their instruments), from their website – a very swish production which I suspect Tom had a hand in:

 http://www.reedrage.co.uk

 They are Rosie Burton, Alex Davidson, Llinos Owen and Tom Hardy.  The occasion was organised by Hugh Rosenbaum, who hovered over the proceedings like a benevolent but slightly anxious mother hen (and wrote a glowing review for Double Reed News afterwards! – Issue 89, Winter 2009, page 33).  The tiny room at Burgh House was packed to the rafters, and extra chairs had to be sent for to accommodate all the bassoonists, pupils, relations, friends and other interested parties who were eager to squeeze in.

The three girls are all alumnae of the Southbank Sinfonia, and Tom is a veteran of – well, lots of things.  Each of the four had a terrific, characterful sound, and as a quartet their blend, unanimity of attack, discipline and intonation were a joy.  Most of the contra duties fell to Tom, although Alex’s Big Bertha got a look in too.

The programme managed to avoid the usual bassoon quartet chestnuts (though it would have been nice to hear Alan Ridout’s Pigs played really well) and instead gave us wide-ranging repertoire, from Senaillé and Fucik to Prokofiev, Stravinsky and beyond, mostly in arrangements – the arrangers including Boris Turner (a.k.a. Rosie Burton), Graham Sheen, and Andrew Skirrow (who turned out to be an old chum of Tom’s).

The concert also included the European premiere of Dance of the Polar Bears by Gernot Wolfgang, enterprisingly commissioned by a consortium (including Hugh Rosenbaum) from this highly regarded Austrian-born composer, who currently lives in Los Angeles.

It was concentrated, jazzy and lots of fun – and very difficult (as I know from having taken part in the first UK read-through… but that’s another story).  Some of the audience thought it perhaps outstayed its welcome;  I was too busy listening to notice.

The programme concluded with The Lone Arranger by Philip R Buttall;  we were invited to count the number of quotations from familiar works that crept in along the way.  I’ve forgotten the answer…

But the highlight for me was probably Andrew Skirrow’s arrangement of The Poacher (which tickled Hugh Rosenbaum, as he had laid on Lincolnshire Poacher cheese for the interval – and very nice it was too). 

 Here is an audio clip, courtesy of Tom:

[click on the arrow — and wind the volume up to max…] 

The point of writing this review now – four months after the event – is that Reed Rage has unfortunately been in abeyance since Llinos was involved in a rather nasty car accident.  We’re glad to hear she has completely recovered, and wish her well;  meanwhile, Reed Rage are gearing up for another evening of delights – so watch (and listen to) this space…

 Thanks to Tom for the invitation to write this piece, and for the audio clip.  And to the Reed Rage website for the picture.

The Rehearsal Orchestra — Mahler 9

January 18, 2010

Amazing weekend playing Mahler’s 9th Symphony (4th bassoon and contra!) with The Rehearsal Orchestra under Lev Parikian.

 Orchestra leader was Eddie Reid, whom I well remember from the orchestra at English National Opera; serried ranks of magnificent players – amateurs and students – from all over the country, forming Mahler’s huge line-up. Shame there was no list of participants, as I didn’t know many of them apart from a couple of the other bassoons, and there were some really outstanding players.

Mahler 9 is an extraordinary work. written at the end of his life – subtitled by Leonard Bernstein ‘four ways of saying farewell’… Among Lev’s many illuminating and inspiring comments was the observation that the opening phrases represent ‘Mahler’s irregular heartbeat’ (which was soon to kill him) – and that the entire musical substance of the hour-and-a-half-long work is contained in the first six bars.

Saturday’s rehearsals were at Henry Wood Hall, a handsome deconsecrated 18th-century church much used by professional orchestras for rehearsals – well-lit, well-appointed and with a nice café in the crypt. For Sunday we moved to The Warehouse in Theed Street, in the hinterland behind Waterloo Station; a less comfortable venue but actually not too bad. Over the two days, Lev steered us through the complexities of the four movements, culminating in a ‘public’ run-through (I think there were a few brave souls upstairs listening) which was far more than a fair bash, and by the end was absolutely spellbinding.

Many thanks to Lev for his inspirational conducting (and cool head in adversity!); to Contac for suppressing my horrible cough for the duration; to Diana for pointing me in the direction of the Orchestra (and for playing too, and for stalwart ferrying of bassoon and contra as well as her double bass! – and for making the weekend such an enjoyable shared experience); to Caroline Stockmann for her tireless encouragement and fundraising (we each paid a fee to be there, but she told us that we are additionally being subsidised at between £75 and £115 per head: any generous musical millionaires out there?); and to Anne-Marie Norman for getting it all together – a fearsome administrative task executed with a light touch and a wry smile… What a great institution, and a great experience. Thank you!

London Phoenix Orchestra — A Little Light Music

February 9, 2009

phoenixlite

Yes, we’re here again! Lev Parikian conducts the London Phoenix Orchestra in a scintillating programme of American and Russian light music, with overtures to two great shows – Gershwin’s Girl Crazy and Bernstein’s Candide – and Gershwin’s brilliant tone picture, An American in Paris.   And there are three nice little pieces by Leroy Anderson (whose centenary was last year), and the so-called ‘Jazz Suite No. 2’ by Shostakovich, which isn’t jazz at all but is, er, a lot of fun (especially for the saxophonists).  Oh, and Shostakovich’s ‘Tahiti Trot’, better know to you and me as ‘Tea for Two’.

(And I get to play the contra!  That was a nice surprise.)

It’s on Tuesday 24 February (which happens to be my birthday) at Cadogan Hall

BE THERE!!

Belated Merry Christmas card!

January 2, 2009

Unfortunately I have been without internet and email over Christmas, so this is rather late, but here is my card for this year, with all good wishes for a belated Christmas and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I’ll also post an audio link so you can hear a computerised version of it — though the robot Santas can only sing ‘Ha ha ha’ so it sounds unintenionally somewhat sarcastic.

xmas08_11

 

 

xmas08_21

Click on this link to hear it:  xmasho08kontaktmp31