Wednesday, 6 May 2020
Zooming the symphony, from Haydn to Adams
A colleague once said he used his blog as a kind of shop window for his work. Although it's absolutely not my aim here - there are no barriers, I write about what I want to and see it more as a kind of public diary - this is one of those shop-window posts. Certainly not born out of need to try and hook more punters to a course which already has so many signed up - the response from my regular list of students was very surprising, since it's usually easier to 'sell' opera than orchestral music - but out of a genuine sense of excitement about where the 11 classes might take us.
Mastering Zoom is easy - even my senior students, up to the age of 95, can manage it - but there was quite a bit of stress before I settled in the second of my Opera in Depth classes the Monday before last. First, not being able to find the camera on my computer, which took five hours of collaborative searching here at home - even my techno-wizz spouse was foxed - before it appeared after a re-start. Then the awful quality of the sound clips, which could have been solved if my two tech-savviest students had joined the test class. They showed me what to do et voilà - state-of-the-art sound for all, best using headphones.
So two out of the three (out of five) OiD classes on Strauss's Elektra so far have gone like a dream - beyond my wildest expectations in one sense, since Susan Bullock - a top Elektra all round the world, and now singing the other most challenging role, Klytemnestra - was there for most of the second class and the whole of the third, bringing extraordinary insights to every scene (for the above photo, I return to Frontline Club days, when she and Anne Evans - on the left - came to talk Isolde). The students thought our double act went very well. She'll be back, and for Madama Butterfly in the second batch of five classes. I've also just heard that Ermonela Jaho, the heartbreaker of the Royal Opera production who should have been reprising the role this summer (pictured below by Bill Cooper), will also be joining us.
Having established the special guests there, I thought I could also call upon conductors I know and respect. So delighted to say that Mark Wigglesworth, who's just conducted a Beethoven cycle in Adelaide, chose to make his appearance in the 'Eroica' class. Again I return to Frontline days and a visit which was photographed by professional (and, briefly, student) Frances Marshall.
Three other stars are expected, but not confirmed yet, so I won't pre-empt. STOP PRESS: Ian Page, who's recording a Sturm und Drang series with his Mozartists orchestra, will be with us tomorrow. ADDITIONAL STOP PRESS: so is Jonathan Bloxham, inspirational founder of the Northern Chords Festival and its superb young professional orchestra who conducted our last three Europe Day Concerts (read all about the 2019 one here).
Below are the plans for all 11 classes, just so that I have them in something I can link to rather than just on an attachment. Message me if you'd like to join for all or some: it's a bargain (I halved the usual fees because I don't have room hire expenses and Zoom is, after all, not live with great equipment to hand, so it's £10 a class, ie £5 an hour. We meet on Thursdays as from tomorrow, 3.30-5.50pm. and if anyone misses a class or has connection/sound issues their end, I can send on a recording of the whole thing. Send me a message with your email and I won't publish it, but I'll be sure to get back to you.
This list has now been updated in the light of how we progressed, and who came to visit.
1: Sonata form and instrumental novelty 7 May
Selected movements/snippets from Haydn symphonies - 22, 31, 45, 70, 83 and 101; Mozart 41, 'Jupiter' (1788) Special guests: Jonathan Bloxham and Ian Page.
2: A new and noble scale 14 May
Beethoven's Third Symphony, 'Eroica' (1803-4). Special guests: Mark Wigglesworth and Jonathan Bloxham.
3: Follow that! Scaling up and down after Beethoven 21 May
Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique (1829-30) and Schumann's Second (1845-6). Special guest: Nicholas Collon.
4: Songs for Clara 28 May UPDATED
Schumann's Second (continued) and Brahms's First Symphony (1875-6). Special guest: Catherine Larsen-Maguire.
5: New/old approaches to the finale 4 June UPDATED
Brahms's Fourth (1885) andTchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony, 'Pathétique' (1893). Special guest: Vladimir Jurowski.
6: The world in a symphony 11 June
Mahler's Third Symphony (1895-6). Special guest: Paavo Järvi.
7: Imagining cataclysms 18 June
Mahler's Ninth Symphony (1909-10) and Elgar's Second (1911). Special guest: Vasily Petrenko.
8: Mosaic tiles from heaven 25 June
Sibelius's Fifth Symphony in its original (1914-15) and final (1919) versions. Special guests: Kristiina Poska and Andres Kaljuste.
9: The finale question: 1920s, 1940s 2 July
Nielsen's Fifth Symphony (1921-2); Martinů's Third Symphony (1944-5), Vaughan Williams's Sixth (1944-7) and Prokofiev's Sixth (1947). Special guest: Sir Mark Elder.
10: Endgame 9 July
Shostakovich's Fifteenth Symphony (1971). Special guests: Elizabeth Wilson and Peter Manning.
11 Symphonies in all but name 16 July
John Adams's Harmonielehre (1985) and Naive and Sentimental Music (1999). Special guest: Catherine Larsen-Maguire.