Rare opportunity to visit Schimmel workshop in Germany
14 July 2014
Peregrine’s Pianos is offering its customers the chance to sneak a peak under the soundboard with a trip to the Schimmel piano workshop in Germany this September.
Schimmel is the largest-volume German piano manufacturer, founded in Leipzig in 1885. Peregrine’s Pianos – who provide a Schimmel Konzert Grand piano for International Piano’s new recital series – specialise in high-quality European instruments, and also stock August Förster (see IP issue 26).
The visit is planned for 30 September and is open to any prospective customers. The day includes return travel from Heathrow to Braunschweig, introductions to the Schimmel management team, an extensive tour of the factory, a short recital, an opportunity to try the pianos, a visit to the old city and an evening meal. The excursion costs £250, which is redeemable against a subsequent purchase of a Schimmel Piano. This is an exclusive visit by generous agreement with the workshop in Braunschweig and numbers are limited to 20.
This is the third trip organised by Peregrine’s; the first, in 2012, was attended by IP editor Claire Jackson and reported on in issue 13.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information
REVIEW: Benjamin Grosvenor, Cheltenham Festival recital
11 July 2014
Benjamin Grosvenor, Cheltenham Festival recital
Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham
In Cheltenham’s Pittville Pump Room Benjamin Grosvenor, sober of suit and diffident of aspect, gave a recital of polished perfection, displaying the kind of musical maturity one might expect from an artist twice his age.
Grosvenor's glowing, singing tone, clear, unfussy phrasing and an innate stylish empathy breathed new life into Mendelssohn’s Andante and Rondo Capriccioso. No less delectable was Schubert’s G flat Impromptu – a clear precursor of Chopin’s Andante spianato.
Schumann’s unwieldly Humoreske followed, a ragbag of unmemorable ideas that even Grosvenor was unable to prevent from outstaying its welcome. The second half of his programme ranged from Mompou (three Paisajes) and Medtner (two Skazki) to Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales and the Gounod-Liszt Faust Waltz, each composer stylishly characterised, the coda of the last dashed off with such glittering ease that it reminded one of famous recordings by Petri and Barere. Grosvenor left us with a single encore: Dohnányi’s dazzling F minor Capriccio. It was all over too quickly.
REVIEW: Mariko Brown and Julian Jacobson (piano duet), St John’s Smith Square, London
30 June 2014
Mariko Brown and Julian Jacobson (piano duet)
St John’s, Smith Square, London
The chief interest in Mariko Brown’s and Julian Jacobson’s lunchtime concert in St John’s in early June was the first performance of Jacobson’s transcription of Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody, also known as the Rhapsody in Rivets, initially for piano and orchestra. Gershwin wrote it in 1931 to accompany a sequence in the film Delicious, where it was severely truncated to fit the action.
It has hardly fared better since: given that Gershwin felt that ‘it is the best thing I have written’, it’s astonishing that the only published version is a re-orchestration by a staff arranger. Julian Jacobson therefore used Gershwin’s manuscript to prepare his four-hand version, which was revelatory. Shorn of its (inauthentic) orchestral colours, its true place in the modernist current can be heard: echoes of Prokofiev and Ravel are clear, for instance, as is a reference to The Rite of Spring. Most excitingly of all, it pointed the way to a subtle and original harmonic world – which Gershwin, of course, never lived to explore more fully. Brown and Jacobson brought a tingle of excitement to it, as if aware they were looking into the unknown; with further performances, it will pick up contrast and colours of its own. It is a major addition to the four-hand repertoire.
The other novelty, sandwiched between a thoughtful Schubert F minor Fantasie and two witty transcriptions by Lucien Garban from Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, was Mariko Brown’s own Travels through a Mist of Chinese Mountains, a 17-minute tone-poem as atmospheric as a shanshui watercolour, clear-textured, inventive in its use of the instrument, and retaining a sense of mystery despite its range of moods.
Bee composed: Piano turned into beehive for Aldeburgh installation
16 June 2014
A sound artist has created a working beehive inside an upright piano to raise awareness of the plight of the UK’s declining bee population.
Bee Composed, created by Lily Hunter Green, is an audio-visual installation that comprises two pianos. The first, located on the Henry Moore Lawn at Snape Maltings, Suffolk, no longer functions as a conventional instrument, but as the viewer approaches, a sensor activates sounds from within the piano body.
Pre-recorded film footage of bees is projected within two beehive-like structures situated at the top of the piano. The footage is taken from a second piano, located close by but that is not accessible to visitors. This piano has been set up as a working beehive. As the hive evolves throughout the installation period, new footage will be relayed to the Henry Moore Lawn piano.
Green will then create audio that combines the bee recordings with piano music. ‘The bees will have direct access into the body of the second piano and are likely to interact with the soundboard and strings,’ explained Green, ‘I’m intrigued at this stage about the sounds the bees will make as a collective in the acoustics of the piano.’
Green worked closely with apiarist Penny Robertson and sculptor Alexander Johnson to create the piece. She will also be running workshops with local schoolchildren to raise awareness of the importance of bees. Bee Composed is part of SNAP 2014, part of the Aldeburgh Festival.
The project was possible thanks to donations made online via Kickstarter. Green’s video campaign can be seen here.
Bee Composed will be located on the Henry Moore Lawn at Snape Maltings, Suffolk, until 29 June
REVIEW: John Ogdon - Living with Genius, BBC Four, broadcast 6 June
11 June 2014
John Ogdon: Living with Genius
Directed by Zoe Dobson
Produced by Back2Back
BBC Four First broadcast 6 June, 60 minutes
John Ogdon: Living with Genius opens with a montage of doom-laden compliments; Ogdon’s was ‘a God-given gift’, ‘genius is precious but dangerous’ and ‘when he sat at the piano he became a man possessed’. Having safely rounded up the clichés, the BBC Four programme cuts to a television interview Ogdon and his pianist wife Brenda gave in 1989, discussing Ogdon’s illness and perceived recovery. ‘We’re playing together again, very happily,’ says Brenda. ‘Life is looking rosy?’ asks the interviewer. ‘Oh yes,’ Brenda agrees. Just two months after the interview, John Ogdon was dead, aged 52.
Ogdon’s meteoric rise to fame came after his success at the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1962, where he took joint first prize with Vladimir Ashkenazy. The filmmakers secured access to previously unseen footage of the competition, featuring Ogdon’s indomitable performance of the Tchaikovsky concerto. An Englishman winning the event was cause for national celebration, and newspaper cuttings show crowds waiting to greet the pianist on his return home. (‘I was a naïve girl from the North of England... It was a hullabaloo,’ recalls Brenda, in a decidedly southern English accent.)
Musicians agree that although Ogdon was a pianistic powerhouse, the beauty of his playing was in his pianissimos. Pianist Peter Donohoe neatly demonstrates Ogdon’s delicate touch at the keyboard via excerpts from the Busoni concerto. The music critic Bryce Morrison, pianist Stephen Hough and Richard Ogdon, John’s son, all
observe Ogdon’s fascination with complex repertoire: Busoni, Liszt, Alkan, Sorabji. ‘He was a composer’s gift,’ remarks Richard.
At the peak of his career, Ogdon played over 200 concerts a year. Hough, we learn, plays around 100 – which keeps his diary full. Travelling took its toll on the overworked Ogdon and contributed to his breakdown in the 1970s. Brenda is often portrayed as the villain in this arrangement, urging him to make hay while the sun shone to sustain their then lavish lifestyle. She is also incorrectly blamed for making the decision to give Ogdon electric shock treatment, which some say irrevocably changed his playing.
Brenda is given the lion’s share of interview time here. At one point she reveals that a colleague had said: ‘You can’t marry him, it’s two peacocks in one room’. In the same clip we hear Brenda’s assertion that ‘[At college] I was the girl star and he was the man star.’ Later, Brenda remembers a look Ogdon gave her which she interpreted as ‘I am a genius, look after me’. There is a sense of irritation, perhaps resentment. But in the context of her life with Ogdon – a man who endured extended periods of hospitalisation, financial ruin and debilitating mental illness – perhaps allowances should be made.
At times this is an illuminating portrait of one of Britain’s greatest musicians (violinist Rodney Friend gives a particularly moving tribute) – but it only scratches the surface. There is enough interesting archival material here for a three-part series, at least.
John Ogdon: Living with Genius is available to watch online via iPlayer here