Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Special Raymond Gubbay Champagne Classical Gala Concert on 21 October 2006, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

It is always tremendously enjoyable performing concertos for Raymond Gubbay, and thrilling too to be part of the fortieth birthday concert in symphony hall, Birmingham this Autumn with Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' under Christopher Warren-Green. 'Rhapsody in Blue' is always inspiring to tackle, and in fact there were three collaborations with Chris Warren-Green for Gubbay at the Albert Hall during the 'Millenium Proms' on 30 and 31 Dec 1999. Even further back, my Royal Festival Hall Debut (also Raymond Gubbay Debut) featured the same work in May 1989(this time with Bramwell Tovey conducting). Fantastic that after forty years, Raymond Gubbay continues to grow and develop from strength to strength:

Raymond Gubbay celebrates 40 glorious years bringing you
Classic. . .After Classic. . .After Classic
Venue Date Time
Symphony Hall, Birmingham Sat, 21 Oct 2006 7:30pm Book Online
Event Details
Champagne Classical Gala
Sat, 21 Oct 2006 - 7:30pm
Venue Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Box Office 0121 780 3333

Ticket Details
Ticket Price £31.50 £27.50 £24.50 £18.50 Choir £13.50 £9.50
£1.00 postage & admin charge for online booking

Deborah Norman (soprano)
John Hudson(Tenor)
Mark Stone (baritone)
Murray McLachlan (piano)
Christopher Warren-Green (conductor)
London Concert Orchestra Orchestra

Rossini William Tell Overture
Handel Music for the Royal Fireworks
Mascagni Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana
Puccini Che gelida manina, mi chiamano Mimi, O soave Fanciulla from La Boheme
Gershwin Rhapsody In Blue
Mendelssohn The Hebrides Overture
Strauss Blue Danube Waltz
Grieg Morning and In the Hall of the Mountain King
Bizet The Pearl Fishers Duet
Wood Fantasia on British Sea Songs
Arne Rule Britannia!
Ravel Bolero
Elgar Land of Hope and Glory


Ronald Stevenson Piano Concertos re-issued this week

Regis Records have re-issued the recording of Ronald Stevenson Piano Concertos 1 'Faust Triptych' and 2 'The Continents' on Forum FRC 9109 (available through www.regisrecords.co.uk). The disc was made in 1993 in BBC Manchester's Studio 7 with the Chetham's Symphony Orchestra under Julian Clayton and attracted positive reviews at the time. Concerto 1 was championed by John Ogdon in the 1960s, whilst no. 2 was a Prom Commission, premiered with the composer as soloist under Norman Del Mar. It uses a huge and exotic instrumentation! One of my earliest childhood memories is of watching a BBC TV documentary about this piece, during which Ronald Stevenson played his 'evocation of African Drumming' from the Passacaglia. For a young kid, it sounded unbelievably exciting (and for an adult, it still does too!).

Sunday, July 23, 2006



Murray McLachlan continues his centenary recital tour, with a further nine recitals, supported by the UK Shostakovich Society and celebrating the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (born 5 September 1906). The programme ‘Shostakovich and his comrades’, includes both of the Shostakovich Sonatas, British Premiere performances of Rodion Shchedin’s recently completed Concerto for solo piano ‘ naughty limmericks’, and works by Kabalevsky, Myaskovsky and Ronald Stevenson. In addition to a performance at Wigmore Hall at 7.30pm on September 10th, there are tour dates at venues including Wesley Chapel, Harrogate June 24), Crear Concert Series , Argyll (6 August), Chetham’s International Summer School and Festival, Manchester (19 August), North Shields Master Musicians Series (8 September), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, (10 & 31 October) Goldsmiths, London (26 October) and Liverpool University (December 6)Full concert listings are available at www.murraymclachlan.com
Sonata no. 3 in F major, op.46 Dmitri Kabalevsky
Song and Rhapsody, op. 58 Nikolai Myaskovsky (London Premiere)
Sonata no.1op.12 (1926) Dmitri Shostakovich
Recitative and Air (DSCH), ‘in memorium Dmitri Shostakovich’ Ronald Stevenson
Piano Sonata no. 2 in B minor, op. 61 (1943) Dimitri Shostakovich
‘Chastushki’: Concerto for solo piano (‘Naughty Limmericks’ ) Rodion Shchedrin (London Premiere)

Murray McLachlan has long received outstanding critical acclaim for authoritative performances in Russian Music.His prolific discography includes the complete sonatas of Prokofiev, Myaskovsky, Kabalevsky and Weinberg. He has also received widespread acclaim for his recordings of the complete Tcherepnin piano concertos, the24 Preludes and Fugues of Rodion Shchedrin and the Ronald Stevenson ‘Passacaglia on DSCH’ (‘key recording’, 2006 Penguin Guide to compact discs).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Autumn Duet recitals with Bernard Roberts

A series of three duet recitals are scheduled for early on in the 2006-07 season with the wonderful pianist Bernard Roberts. The concerts will feature popular repertoire by Mozart, Dvorak, Schubert (F minor Fantasy) and Debussy (Petite Suite):

Friday September 29th 2006, 7.30pm Gala recital in celebration of the 90th anniversary of the Alderley Edge Festival, (ALderley Edge Methodist CHurch,Cheshire: details 01625 590731)

Sunday 1st October 2006 7.30pm Recital at Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech (Box office: 01766 780667)

Tuesday October 3 2006, 7.15pm Opening Concert in the Chetham's International Piano Series, Whiteley Hall, Chetham's School of Music, Long Millgate Manchester (tickets: 0161 834 9644).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Current Projects

Sixth Chetham's International Festival and Summer School for Pianists: August 19-26 2006 (check out http://www.piano-festival.co.uk for full information on the UK's largest summer school devoted exclusively to the piano)

Shostakovich Centenary recital tour, including Sept 10 concert at Wigmore Hall: Programme includes both Shostakovich Sonatas, the British Premiere of Rodion Shchedrin's Concerto for solo Piano ('Naughty Limmericks'), and works by Ronald Stevenson (Recitative and Air on DSCH) Kabalevsky (Sonata no. 3 in F major), and Myaskovsky ('Song and Rhapsody, op. 58. The tour moves into phase two from June 06, following performances in Birmingham (Adrian Boult Hall, Feb), St. Andrews University (YOunger Hall, also Feb 06), RNCM 'Shostakovich and his comrades' chamber music festival in Manchester (January 06) and Doncaster (also Jan 06). These earlier recitals substituted Weinberg's rarely heard 2nd Sonata and Prokofiev's monumental sixth Sonata instead of the Shchedrin and the 2nd Shostakovich sonata.

'Masterclass' articles in 'International Piano' magazine: Murray McLachlan's 'column' on piano technique is well established, and already nearing its 30th instalment. Recent articles on memory, stamina, pedalling and 'key bedding' continue the momentum. Next essay on 'self listening' to follow in the Sept-October edition www.international-piano.com

'Unsung Heroes' column in 'Piano Magazine'. Equally successful is the series of articles in Rhinegold publishing's Piano quarterly, in which an enormous number of composers have been examined, including Clementi, Busoni, Stevenson, Camilleri, etc, etc. August issue out shortly wil feature an in depth study of Shostakovich's 1st Sonata and a re-examination of Myaskovsky, the 'father of the Soviet symphony' www.rhinegold.co.uk

Breaking News 'Music on the web'

New review just published by 'Music on the web' of the Bartok 2 Piano and Percussion Sonata, Stravinsky 'Rite of Spring' and Charles Camilleri 'Concerto for 2 Pianos and Percussion' disc (It can be found at www.musicwebinternational.com/

Herewith in its entirety:

Innovations: Music by Camilleri, Stravinsky and Bartok
Charles CAMILLERI (b. 1931) Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion (2005) [20.59]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) The Rite of Spring (1912-13 revised 1947) Reduction for piano duet by the composer. [34.18]
Bela BARTOK (1881-1945) Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937) [26.51]
Kathryn Page; Murray McLachlan (piano)
Heather Corbett; Stephen Burke (percussion)
rec. Whiteley Hall, Manchester, 1 Sept 2005, 28 Jan 2006. DDD Stereo
DUNELM RECORDS DRDO258. [2 CDs: 82.11]

From ever-enterprising Dunelm comes this interesting disc of works both new and old. The Stravinsky and Bartok pieces are classics, although the former’s The Rite of Spring is played here in the composer’s own arrangement for piano duet. The new work is Charles Camilleri’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion which was written in part as a response to Bartok’s Sonata for the same combination of instruments.
Camilleri was born in Malta but is a cosmopolitan figure who has lived in London and New York. His work is not particularly well known in this country but it was as a result of his visit to Chetham’s School of Music Summer School, 2004 that the new concerto was written. It was Murray McLachlan who suggested to the composer the possibility of writing a piece that used the same forces as Bartok’s work. The resulting work is a colourful addition to what is a small repertoire for this type of ensemble. The composer has written that he wanted to explore the possibility of treating tonality, modality and atonality as equal partners. In so doing he has avoided the trap of diffusion and eclecticism. How he does this is by means of a subtle blending of the compositional elements. Modal fragments figure much in the slow central movement but they appear almost as folk memories amid the shifting harmonies that surround them. The tonal elements are often quickly subverted by dissonance; the harmonies remain mobile in a way that sometimes suggests Boulez, particularly in parts of the first movement. The percussion instruments are used both rhythmically and colouristically. The last movement is propelled by tambourine and snare drum in a way that recalls Lambert’s Rio Grande. This is a resourceful and enjoyable new work.
Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is so familiar in its orchestral form that I was initially sceptical about its chances of success as a piano duet. The CD booklet describes the version as a reduction so it is not clear whether the composer intended it to be performed as a concert piece or whether he had in mind the rehearsal needs of the corps de ballet and their preparations with a pair of pianistic répétiteurs. Whatever the reason this new recording is very welcome and actually highlights different aspects of the work when compared to the orchestral version. Despite its percussive nature the piano can’t quite match the brutality of Stravinsky’s orchestration. In The Augurs of Spring the piano is no match for the savage string chords and barking horns. What this version reveals is a remarkable clarity of harmony, as if this most colourful of scores was being subjected to a Brahmsian ‘black and white’ test. Time and time again I found myself stopping the recording to replay sections whose harmony seemed strangely new despite my having known the work for nearly forty years. Often I was convinced of the influence of Debussy, a composer whom I had not hitherto considered in relation to this work. Despite the reduction from more than a hundred players to just two, the concluding Sacrificial Dance is still thrilling and this is largely due to the performance which is superb throughout. Page and McLachlan have done a great service in allowing us to hear Stravinsky’s music afresh and I would recommend this version to anyone interested in one of the monuments of 20th century music.
With Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion the performers tackle another masterpiece and they do so with aplomb. The work is also available in an expanded version for two pianos and orchestra but the original chamber version of 1938 is presented here. Eminent musicologist, Lendvai, has teased out some of Bartok’s structural devises used in works of this period such as symmetry, the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Section – good for him! The overarching impression of the Sonata is not in fact that of a clever design but of a profound and chilling musical statement that received its first performance only two months before the Nazi Anschluss of Austria, an event that filled the composer with dismay. It is perhaps wrong to attach the work too closely to political events but there is something very sinister about the strange, loping chords and bursts of percussion with which the first movement begins. The performance on this disc is a fine one; I particularly enjoyed the reading of the mysterious slow movement with its dark, swirling colours and scurrying insects. The rhythmic finale carries the listener along with its energy and good spirits. When I hear the opening xylophone theme I am always reminded of Shostakovich, the composer Bartok was to lampoon a few years later in the Concerto for Orchestra.
This disc is very well served by the recording engineer; the pianos sound warm but clear and the percussion is bright – listen to the crackle of the suspended cymbal near the start of the Camilleri and the wash of vibraphone later in that work. All three works presented are valuable and the Camilleri concerto should now find a place in programmes that feature Bartok’s sonata. A thought provoking and rewarding issue.
David Hackbridge Johnson

Murray McLachlan: Breaking News