Watch the Opera Holland Park Young Artists Masterclass with Amanda Roocroft

On Saturday 24 April the great lyric soprano Amanda Roocroft spent an afternoon with three of the 2021 Opera Holland Park Young Artists, giving masterclasses on music by Mozart and Strauss. Filmed by Simon Wall, and accompanied by the YA répétiteur Thomas Ang, Amanda worked with soprano Isabelle Peters and bass baritone Alex Jones on arias from Der Rosenkavalier and The Marriage of Figaro.

The film offers captivating insights into the complex business of combining vocal technique, musicality, physicality, imagination and stagecraft to create a compelling character in song. As Amanda brings empathy, wit and a wealth of experience to a rapid learning process, Thomas demonstrates the subtlety and strength required of a répétiteur. Available to watch online from Friday 14 May, this is a delightful behind-the-scenes document of life as an Opera Holland Park Young Artist in the tenth year of the training scheme.

http://www.operahollandpark.com/

HPO PASTORAL -HASTINGS PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA

Premiered online on 24th April this concert was recorded the previous weekend in the beautiful setting of Christ Church, St Leonards-on-Sea. Throughout the performance the orchestra and soloist were in fine form under the enthusiastic baton of Marcio da Silva.

Setting the scene for the programme was Beethoven’s Overture:Leonore. This gave an opportunity for the orchestra to be heard together before being joined by the soloist for Tchaikovsky’s well loved Piano Concerto No 1. Maxim Kinasov gave a very committed performance alongside the orchestra. Since winning prizes at the 2019 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition he has given a number of performances around the area as well as establishing himself further afield including concerts in Europe and the United States.

The final music gave the title to this concert. Beethoven’s Symphony No 6 “Pastoral” is another popular work and it was good to see and hear it here in St Leonards being played with appropriate energy or lyricism as the piece demands.

A thoroughly polished performance and presentation giving a taste of what is hopefully to come when Covid restrictions are lifted to allow for more “normal” conditions will allow audiences to return in person. For now, though, these online presentations are to be commended and enjoyed.

A socially distanced concert is planned at Christ Church on 22nd May 7.30pm.

Details at www.hastingsphilorchestra.co.uk

Stephen Page

 

Hastings International Piano Concerts – Celebration Series – Tzu-Ying Huang

Part of an online series of performances this concert featured the 2016 Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition winner. Tzu-Ying Huang played two substantial and lesser known works linked by their both being inspired by literature.

Lizst’s Vallee d’Obermann and Schumann’s Kreisleriana both contain passages of intensity and force alongside more lyrical movements. Naturally there was more opportunity for contrast in the second, the longer of the two works. Throughout the programme Tzu-Ying Huang gave fully of herself as she played this music with conviction and panache. A benefit of the online experience is the ability to see her dexterity and control up close on the keyboard. Opinions divide over the issue but, as a general rule, I like to experience an introduction to the music from the performer at the start of a concert and it was good to get that on this occasion.

Previous concerts from other performers are available on line. The next concert in the series premieres on 11th May. A newly recorded concert with Maxim Kinasov and the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra will be available from 24th April.

Full details are available from hastingsphilorchestra.co.uk

Stephen Page

Brighton Dome launches new online music courses

Having already inspired hundreds of children and young people to participate in music activities during lockdown through their Virtual Music Centre, Brighton Dome’s music education service have launched a new series of online music courses, accessible for all ages and abilities.

 

Brighton & Hove Music & Arts and East Sussex Music will be delivering three course styles to suit different skill levels. First is personal one-to-one tutoring sessions, with teaching available on 16 different instruments from keyboard, guitar, trumpet or saxophone to violin,  offering expert guidance every step of the way.

The second style of course on offer is a 10-week masterclass which specialises in song writing and production. Learning and participating as part of a group, this is a great opportunity to interact with other students and is a lower cost entry route to help learners get started. All that’s needed to take part in either one of these courses is an internet connection and a camera; upon completion, participants will earn themselves a digital badge, which could make an excellent addition to a musician’s CV.

The third type of course on offer are self-paced video courses available via instant video download; ideal for people with busy lifestyles, this course is designed to help people learn ukulele, drums or guitar at their own pace. The package is delivered in ten easy-to-digest sessions, alongside a support pack, to provide users with the perfect foundations to help them start on their journey towards instrument mastery.

All of these courses are available to residents in the UK, whether a beginner, intermediate or advanced performer.

As the largest music service in East Sussex, Brighton & Hove Music & Arts have over 20 years’ experience teaching thousands of students, their music teachers are some of the best in their field, and have finessed a fantastic approach to learning an instrument online.

Peter Chivers, Head of Brighton & Hove Music & Arts, said:
‘’Music has the potential to transform lives. Whether it is through the enjoyment of mastering instrumental and vocal skills, the excitement of developing creative ideas, the experience of seeing and hearing world class musicians or the thrill of actually performing, getting involved in music can be a truly fulfilling and lifelong experience.’’

To find out more information on pricing, course dates and more, visit the Brighton & Hove Music & Arts website bhma.org.uk or call 01273 261 565.

Isata Kanneh-Mason performs Clara Schumann, Coleridge-Taylor & Gubaidulina St George’s Bristol, Polyphonic Concert Club 15th April 2021 – available until 29th April 2021

www.polyphonic.club

The Polyphonic Concert Club concerts are a collaboration between television production company Polyphonic Films Ltd, artists and three leading arts venues outside of London: Bristol’s St George’s, Manchester’s Stoller Hall and York’s National Centre for Early Music.

As with all such online experiences there is the benefit of uninterrupted listening, a front row seat with excellent views and no rush to catch the last train home!

Pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason brings her assured but graceful presence to the platform and draws the listener in from her opening bars. This “personal selection of poignant music” is a beautifully programmed, contrasted set of piano works from names that may be familiar but are not really mainstream. Bookended with substantial works by Clara Schumann the concert begins with the Piano Sonata in G minor and ends with the Scherzo No 2 in C minor. A varied selection of song arrangements from Coleridge-Taylor’s 24 Negro Melodiesand the dramatic posturing of Gubaidulina’s Chaconne provide much interest. The reflective Notturno returns us to Clara Schumann before the final work.

Beautiful music in fine performances form a pianist who communicates so well. It just seemed a shame that without an in-house audience the performer receives no applause.

Stephen Page

 

The House of Life Ralph Vaughan Williams/Dante Gabriel Rossetti Opera Holland Park

The House of Life
-Ralph Vaughan Williams/Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Opera Holland Park

There are at least three good reasons for catching this short film from Opera Holland Park. Firstly, it is pleasing to encounter a work which doesn’t get many outings. Secondly, the rich resonance of David Butt Philip’s tenor voice is stunning. Thirdly, the musical rapport between him and pianist James Baillieu hits you between the eyes, especially during rubato passages.

The House of Life is a song cycle setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams of six of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s most heartfelt love sonnets. RVW wrote this in 1903/4 when he was in his early thirties. The poems, addressed to Rossetti’s troubled wife Lizzie Siddal, who died in 1862, had been published twenty years earlier.

Early RVW it may be but many of the hallmark intervals and harmonies are already there, especially in the third song Love’s Minstrels. The poems are through-set: lines sung one after another like a recitation in music without any of the repetition you get, for example in Baroque settings. Consequently they seem very direct and focused.

Philip delivers the big intervals, including octaves, with charismatic eloquence in Heart’s Haven and brings both passion and precision to Death in Love, with its fanfare intro and heavy chords for the dramatic climax.

James Baillieu, whose music is bravely on a tablet, has a terrific range of moods from a thoughtful, right hand introduction to the tortured ebullience which drives several of these pieces.

Leighton House, where this film was made, has a very warm acoustic which really adds an extra dimension to the recital. It was an appropriate choice, too, since it is very close to Holland Park and Frederic Leighton and Rossetti were friends.

Rossetti’s paintings are almost as well known and loved as Leonardo da Vinci’s or Rembrandt’s. He was also highly acclaimed as a poet in his own day. I have to say that his verse hasn’t stood the test of time very well. There’s only so much “deathless dower” and “hurtling harms” that a 21st century listener can take. That could just be why this work isn’t performed very often.

Susan Elkin

Shakespeare Re-shaped – Opera Up Close

The second of a pair of coffee concerts from Opera Up Close –at a time when live audiences are not permitted – this 30 minute programme explores the links between Shakespeare and opera. It also offers a few entertaining, sometimes moving thoughts about spring, new life and hope for the future.

We start with tenor Joseph Doody and soprano Claire Wild as Nannetta and Fenton duetting a Falstaff extract from their own homes with Kelvin Lim on piano also in his own home.

This is followed by Claire Wild, smilingly cross legged on her sofa bringing oodles of youthful excitement to Gounod’s take on Juliet – the change of key and mood for the middle section sensitively negotiated before an exuberant accelerando as Gounod brings her back to the original melody.

Another fine performance is actor Lara Steward perched on a window sill doing Juliet’s “Gallop apace” speech in British Sign Language. It is eloquent, passionate, sparkily bright-eyed and is quite a treat to see BSL silently allowed to speak for itself rather than being an added-on accompaniment to conventionally spoken dialogue.

Other high spots include Joseph Doody searching for Sylvia with Schubert and, back to Falstaff, the rich-voiced baritone Rodney Earl Clarke being outrageous by 21st century standards as Ford. “Only a fool wastes his time with a woman” and “How will I make her suffer?” he sings – his top notes finding all the clarity and resonance of a massive bell.

What an inspired idea, then to follow that with Isabella’s horrified commentary on male domination in Measure for Measure. Kat Rose-Martin’s warm, Northern voice gets the revulsion and disbelief perfectly and somehow makes it seem totally topical. I liked her monologue poem too in which, as an actor, she bewails the compliance of so many women in Shakespeare. “Stop the swooning and start to sway” she advises them. It’s wryly witty but the points it makes are deadly serious.

It makes sense to finish with an upbeat  trio (Finzi’s It was a Lover and his Lass) and even though the syncing is slightly off here so that the three singers are not always quite together, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this thoughtful little concert.

Susan Elkin

Calming the Tempest – Opera Up Close

One of a series of online coffee concerts from Opera Up Close, this 30 minute offering celebrates the poetry in music and the music in poetry – and does so with verve and originality.

The high spot for me is actor Althea Stevens reciting Sylvia Plath’s poem The Bee Meeting. She is poised, impassioned and totally compelling as she articulates the words defiantly past her disability. It is a moving account of the poem by any standards as is her later rendering of an Emily Dickinson poem.

Two singers offset the spoken work. Tenor Joseph Doody sings two Guy Woolfenden Shakespeare settings written for a 1987 Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Tempest. Mezzo Flora McIntosh sings settings of three songs by Nicholas O’Neill (who also accompanies on piano), each of them a setting of an Emily Dickinson poem.

The latter is a world premiere introduced by Fiona Shaw who explains that the three songs were commissioned by the mother of three siblings whose birthdays fall in March, April and May – a song cycle for spring, then. We see Flora McIntosh seated elegantly in a sitting room – presumably her own – as she sings these three songs. Given the rich formality of her voice it seems slightly incongruous to see her in a domestic setting, as if she were about to offer you tea, but the songs are warm and tender.
This mini concert – very loosely predicated on The Tempest – begins with Rosabella Gregory’s atmospheric piece about the storminess of the witches in Macbeth with lots of arrestingly jagged rhythm. Also included is actor Jade Anouska reading her own poem The Brave Vessel, which is a response to The Tempest.
The curation of this short concert is interesting – lots of links but nothing contrived. It is yet another tribute to pandemic ingenuity.

https://www.operaupclose.com/at-home/coffee-break-concerts

Susan Elkin