Look out for the Philharmonia at Cutty Sark on Apple Music

Oliver Zeffman conducted the Philharmonia and mezzo Dame Sarah Connolly in a filmed performance destined for streaming platforms last night, concluding the ‘Music x Museums’ series underneath the hull of the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

The performance was part of a series of live recordings released on Apple Music (to watch and listen to) and eventually to stream on Spotify too.

Acoustically the 19th-century tea clipper now homed in Greenwich didn’t disappoint. The polished hull cut an impressive line through the narrow audience space underneath which members of the Philharmonia charted a course through evocative music by Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar and Grace Williams.

I’m noticing more and more outings for the Sea Sketches in recent years. I see a link to the work of Dr Sophie Fuller from Trinity Laban a few years back who I spoke to about the Venus Rising project back in 2018 (listen to the podcast interview with Dr Sophie Fuller on Anchor).

I had assumed it was because of Venus Rising and similar projects that Williams ravishing score for string ensemble was seeing more light. What I discovered last night browsing through the first Proms brochure I bought back in 1991, was that Williams Sea Sketches was performed back in the year I first went to the Proms – the first time it appeared at the festival, forty-five years after it was written.

A pupil of Vaughan Williams, Williams score has a distinctive musical language setting her apart from the folk tune-infused music of her teacher. There are some beautifully heart-tuggingly lush sequences in Calm Sea in Summer that hint at the music of Peter Warlock and even reference bits of Britten’s language too.

Dame Sarah Connolly shimmered in a scaly dress made up of coral blues and greens (that’s about as far as this privileged white middle-aged male is going to go in describing an outfit) during Elgar’s Sea Pictures, gracefully riding the waves in Elgar’s sonorous score. I’ve been listening to Sea Pictures on repeat all day since.

The Cutty Sark is a surprisingly good venue, somewhere that has a considerable impact on arrival, and is served by attentive bar staff. Acoustically it works too. And whilst I know this was an event for filming purposes with supporting organisation Viking Cruises necessarily selling their wares, I’m wondering why the venue isn’t used more for live events, especially if seating could be made available at the elevated side positions too.

Keep an eye out on Apple Music for the performance in full. Music x Museum’s previous performance at the V&A with Victoria Mullova is available to watch and listen to now.

đŸ“· Matthew Johnson

First selection of live events announced for 2021

There’s a new phrase to look out for in press releases: live audience. Guaranteed to bring a smile to my face. Worthy of bringing to the attention of readers. Necessary to celebrate. Important to underline.

Now is the time to bring attention to those intrepid arts administrators who are scheduling their first events for people in real life.

I’m not entirely sure whether I can keep a regular set of updates on here, but I am going to try my very best. Here’s the first selection of ‘trailblazers’ bringing live music back to the real world.

Hertfordshire Festival of Music 2021 (4-10 June 2021)

Albion String Quartet

Conductor (and Thoroughly Good Podcastee) Tom Hammond and composer James Francis Brown are staging last year’s COVID-post-poned Hertfordshire Festival of Music, with the help of the music of Judith Weir, violinist ChloĂ« Hanslip, pianists Florean Mitrea and Danny Driver, the Albion Quartet (their Dvorak string quartets 5 & 12 released on Signum from 2019 is worthy of your attention if you haven’t already experienced it), and the ridiculously energetic cellist and actor Matthew Sharp.

Full list of performances on the Hertfordshire Festival of Music website.

London Piano Festival (8-10 October 2021)

It seems like a ridiculously way off (and in a far-away land in Kings Place, London), but the further away that live music experiences are billed, the more reliable the guarantee will be closer to, what feels like now, a nostalgic sense of normality. The brilliant Gabriela Montero, another Thoroughly Good Podcastee, brings The Immigrant, a recital culminating in a live improvisation to Charlie Chaplin’s short film to LPF this year.

There’s a premiere of premiere of Sally Beamish’s new two-piano work, Sonnets. In the same concert a group of five pianists – Katya Apekisheva, Finghin Collins, Gabriela Montero, Charles Owen and Kathryn Stott – perform works by Mozart, Schubert, Ravel, Rachmaninov and Poulenc on two interlocking Steinways.

The Festival culminates on Sunday morning when Charles Owen is joined by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy to explore the symmetry between maths and the music of J.S. Bach, including a performance of Goldberg Variations. Live performance AND immersion in nerdy detail. I’m in the queue before YOU.

Tickets and event details via the London Piano Festival website.

BBC Proms 2021 (30 July – 11 September 2021)

This completely passed me by. I didn’t see it in my social media feeds. And I am ENORMOUSLY relieved to discover that in whatever form the BBC Proms is going to go ahead this year. And I am prepared to wait my turn to attend.

London Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Concerts at Southbank Centre from 28 May

News from the Southbank Centre is that two of their resident orchestras the London Philharmonic and Philharmonia will announce their live audience events on 14th April.

Manchester Collective at King’s Place

Manchester Collective (18 June 2021)

Manchester Collective show interrogates the darker side of the American dream, evoking the intrigue and momentum of New York City’s sleepless nights and crowded streets. Steve Reich’s signature throbbing masterpieces bookend the programme and set the tempo throughout. Fast. Slow. Fast. The Double Sextet features an explosion of fractured rhythms and the composer’s characteristic shifts of mood. Elsewhere in the programme, the Collective perform the world premiere of a new work by the “inventive, challenging, and glorious” Hannah Peel. Finally, David Lang’s underhand masterpiece ‘Cheating, Lying, Stealing’.

A socially-distanced concert at King’s Place. Tickets at the Kings Place website. 

Nicola Benedetti, Aurora Orchestra & Nicholas Collon (4 July 2021)

Aurora Orchestra performs Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti. Benedetti could play a C major scale with orchestral accompaniment and would still be an uplifting affair.

Royal Festival Hall with a live audience. Tickets available here from 14 April. 

Nice work

The Philharnonia premiered a concert this evening via their YouTube and Facebook channels, with a simulstream via that other radio station dedicated to classical music, Classic FM.

Some thoughts bubbled up to the surface whilst I was chopping veg for the casserole tonight.

First, the slew of YouTube premieres from various bands are a lovely thing. But, tonight’s I find myself listening to the Philharmonia’s like it’s a radio broadcast. Then when there’s conversation in between performance, I focus in on what’s being said.

Second, the conversation challenges assumptions. Anne Marie Minhall is a brilliant broadcaster. Solid. Authentic. Trusted. The conversation she facilitates with Jaarvi and Benedetti is enlightening. Touching. Fitting perhaps. There is a sense of occasion about it even though I’m listening on my smart speaker not watching.

Third, I end up thinking that Classic are basically nipping at the heels of Radio 3. At least online they are. And that’s quite some achievement.

Lovely setting. Beautiful photography. And even though I’m getting a little sick of Lark Ascending there is a valid argument for the value of the work’s repetition right now.

Nice work everybody. You’re still my favourite band Philharmonia.