Posted tagged ‘Cambridge’

R I P Chris Hogwood

September 25, 2014

SSO Hogwood 1Very sad to hear of the passing of Christopher Hogwood (1941–2104).

Back in the summer of 1968, I had just left school and the family moved from Hitchin to Cambridge (where most of my father’s work was based). In those days the received wisdom was that ‘you couldn’t go to Oxbridge straight from school’, so I needed to find a ‘gap year’ course to prepare me for the big leap. We lighted on ‘Cambridge Tech’ (the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology, as it then was – now Anglia Ruskin University), which offered a one-year ‘Post-A-Level Music’ course for people in my position or otherwise with a year to spare. The college was in walking distance of our new house (which a secretary at the Tech had actually helped us find!) so every day I would trot over to the collection of ‘temporary’ Terrapin huts – creaking under the weight of grand pianos – which constituted the Music Department along with a car park full of garden sheds (each with chair, piano, music stand and electric heater), Male and female mobile loos, and the neighbouring (dark and freezing) Zion Baptist Chapel for extra performing space.

Course director and our tutor in Music History was a bright young chap named Christopher Hogwood, fresh from Cambridge and postgraduate studies in Prague (he was then 27). From the start, he was an inspiration to the rather random selection of musicians who were the eight of us on the course: ‘Wherever you’re going after this’, he said, ‘you’ll be learning about Beethoven and Mozart and Bach and all the usual people – so I’ll teach you about all the others.’ Thus it was that we learned about Louis Couperin, Froberger, John Cage, Janacek, Martinu, Penderecki – and ‘all the sons of Bach you haven’t heard of’ including WF and JCF.

He brought in David Munrow’s Early Music Consort (of which he was a founder member) to give us a dazzling lecture/demonstration; he brought in his clavichord, which he demonstrated and let us play; he gave me piano lessons (Brahms and Mendelssohn – not the repertoire we would instantly associate with him); he organised mini-concert tours using whatever talents and personnel were available – I particularly remember playing at the various Village Colleges around Cambridge; and outside official hours he took us on jolly trips and picnics…

Happy days – lots more memories I could recall. We kept in touch over the years; as his meteoric rise took him ever further afield, he maintained his base in his lovely house in Cambridge (although my memories go back to the one before!). To the last, we would exchange Christmas cards – his always especially printed, elaborate and witty.

I’ve dug out this 35mm slide of Chris (standing at the back, in shades) and some of our PAM group on a picnic in 1969… It’s how I’ll remember him – the twinkle, the grin, the giggle – although he hardly changed over the years.

Farewell, Chris, and thank you for everything.

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John Myatt, 1931-2011

May 27, 2011

Very sad to hear of the passing of John Myatt, my beloved bassoon teacher of 40+ years ago and so much more – clarinettist, fixer, conductor, source of inspiration and outrageous jokes, printing master, guru, family friend, clown, surrogate crazy uncle…

Aged 80, John had not been well for some time.  He had been living in retirement in Suffolk, with his devoted wife Janet and their equally devoted dogs.  I feel very fortunate that we were able to drop in and see him in March this year and catch up after so many years.  He was still on great form!

Happy memories of those days in Hitchin, and later in Cambridge, when he taught me almost all I knew about how to play the bassoon (and then generously passed me on to be finished off by Roger Birnstingl, who was another huge inspiration – I managed to catch up with him too at the recent William Waterhouse celebration at the Wigmore).

On Saturday mornings I would get on my bike (more…)

Berlioz — Grande Messe des Morts

October 11, 2010

Berlioz Grande Messe des Morts, Barbican Hall, Saturday 9 October 2010;  Crouch End Festival Chorus conducted by David Temple 

I played the Grande Messe des Morts with Cambridge University Music Society (in Ely Cathedral, circa 1970), so have always loved this amazing work (and the 3rd bassoon part is engraved on my brain forever).  And Diana is a Berlioz scholar (PhD) and member of the Berlioz Society, so how could we miss it.

 Conductor David Temple — despite his alarming resemblance to Alan Titchmarsh — did a great job.  He didn’t really conduct anyone except the choir, but the performance held together and the effect was overwhelming.  The Crouch End Festival Chorus delivered brilliantly — intonation, attack, energy, keeping pitch, dynamic contrasts, getting the words across, even synchronised sits and stands — all absolutely fine.  (Special bravas to the two lady tenors…)  The orchestra was the London Orchestra da Camera, which was a bit of a mystery — supposedly ‘ the country’s most talented freelance professional musicians’, but apart from the leader, John Bradbury (very fine), I didn’t recognize any of the names or faces.  They played really well — sonorous and in tune — though they could have done with more cellos and basses (6 and 4 not enough for this piece) and occasionally felt as if they could have done with more rehearsal too.  But they gave a magnificent performance.

 Tenor Robert Murray (a former Jette Parker Young Artist at the Royal Opera House) was, well, quite divine in the Sanctus, his voice floating effortlessly over the assembled company (from his position behind the orchestra but in front of the choir — a good solution).

 Slightly taken aback by the dress code — gents of the orchestra in full white tie and tails, ladies in workaday all-black (mostly trousers), choir all in black.  Conductor in a black bin liner worn outside his trousers* (an unflattering fashion also affected by Tony Pappano at the ROH).

 And I haven’t even begun to enumerate all the things that are so extraordinary about the piece.  It has been described as ‘really an opera’, like the Verdi Requiem – but it’s also an experimental laboratory of orchestration (chords on three flutes accompanied by trombone pedal notes?  Two cors anglais?  Six pairs of timpani?  Not to mention those four brass bands up in the balcony — I defy anyone to hear it live and not have shivers up your spine, if not a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes.  What an extraordinary composer.)  Well, just get hold of the Colin Davis recording and hear for yourself!

 (Once upon a time I was involved in a TV recording of the Berlioz Requiem with Leonard Bernstein at Les Invalides in Paris (Napoleon’s resting place), the venue for which the work was composed.  Just thought I’d drop that in.  Now THAT was absolutely amazing.)

 Many thanks to the Berlioz Society for our excellently placed seats.  Would be interesting to hear from anyone else who was there?  Didn’t spot many familiar faces among the (not full) audience.

 If your own orchestra or choir ever gets an invitation to perform this piece, don’t hesitate!  As I recall from a hundred years ago, it’s great fun to play as well as to listen to.  And Berlioz writes for four bassoons, so he has got to be a good thing.

* For elucidation:  David Temple actually wore an open-necked black shirt outside his trousers.  Tony Pappano sports an oversize collarless black shirt for which my boss coined the pejorative (but graphic) description ‘black bin liner’.  Comfortable, perhaps — but a disconcerting sight at recent concert performances of Les pecheurs de perles when the entire ROH chorus as well as the orchestra and soloists were in full evening dress.