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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Izzie Poems (Part II*)

This is : A Poem for Izzie II

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


29 April (5 May, links added to other Parts)


A Poem for Izzie II


These things, once known,
We do not un-know
But know again,
Here, where now
We sense ourselves



Our love, though new,
We know, know anew
Till we once find,
Here, e’en here,
Where we may be



Maybe, through words,
We knew what we know
But now see,
Here, unseen,
What now we see



© Belston Night Works 2015




End-notes

* These are the other Parts : Part I, Part III, Part IV, and Part V.




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Monday, 20 April 2015

An incomplete account, by Tweet, of Arcangelo's Monteverdi (Greenberg ?)

Responding, in Tweets, to Arcangelo's concert at Saffron Hall on 19 April

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


20 April

A little response, by Tweet, to the worlds within the programme that Arcangelo (@ArcangeloTeam) brought to Saffron Hall (@SaffronHallSW) on Sunday 19 April at 7.30 p.m.


On a technical, performance level, there is so much being said






Concerts as places where we can learn to listen – to living music






Why this music matters to us






More Twittering to come...




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Audience stats for the week

Audience stats for this week : 10 to 17 April 2015

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


17 April

Audience stats for this week : 10 to 17 April 2015

Defining the week, as Blogger® (@Blogger) does in this case, as the period from 2.00 a.m. on 10 April to 1.00 a.m. on 17 April 2015, and as a percentage of the top ten by page-view, these countries account for this share of the audience...

United States : 83.2 %

Russia : 8.9 %

France : 3.5 %

United Kingdom : 1.7 %

Ukraine : 1.3 %



Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part IVB)

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part IVB)

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


9 April

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part IVB)

Part IVA was a preview of Beethoven, with his familiar Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55, which is being brought to us (at 7.30 p.m. on Saturday 11 April 2015) at The Corn Exchange, Cambridge (@CambridgeCornEx), by celebrated conductor Christoph Koenig (coupled with Elgar’s less-performed concerto, for violin and orchestra, played by Pinchas Zukerman, a truly legendary soloist) this is a resting-place for a gratuitous Epilogue to that preview...


One will notice that the preview itself steered quite clear of the question of the (rescinded) dedication to Napoleon Buonaparte for several reasons. One is that [the nature / meaning of] commissions or dedications, such as that which gives us the name of The Razumovsky Quartets (for the three that his Opus 59 comprises) or, with Bach, BWV 988 and BWV 1046 to 1051 (respectively, the so-called Goldberg Variations and Brandenburg Concertos) are sometimes pretty questionable.


What appears to be the title-page of the autograph score


Another is that it is arguably more interesting to realize of the poet whom William Wordsworth became that, from 1792 (and not for a little while afterwards), he did far more to support The French Revolution and [notions of] La République française than Beethoven probably did in, say, flirting with offering his work in progress to Napoleon (what does this actually tell us about the 3rd ?)*.

The last, and most persuasive, conjoins these points, i.e. that the music as any music worth its name transcends such temporal considerations : the Op. 59 quartets may have been dedicated to Razumovsky (and have sought to please / flatter him), but what does that really tell us other than about the patronage that supported Beethoven as a composer (and what scholars choose to try to read into the works on the basis of having this knowledge) ?


I should like to suggest that we might get as much understanding of this ‘Eroica’ symphony (completed in early 1804) by turning to the heroism of Leonora in Fidelio (whose character gave us no fewer than three overtures [link to, and data from, All About Ludwig van Beethoven]: No. 1, Op. 138 (1805), No. 2, Op. 72a (1805), No. 3, Op. 72b (1814).

Or by asking what impulse in Beethoven (in 1807) gave us, with another heroic (but also tragic) figure, his overture Coriolan** (Ouvertüre zu Coriolan), Op. 62 ?


End-notes

* Or, maybe, that Byron wrote an 'Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte', which Schoenberg set as his Opus 41 (initially in 1942, in versions (with narrator and piano) for string quartet, and string orchestra, the latter of which was first performed in November 1944).

** Also mentioned here, earlier in the season.




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part IVA)

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part IVA)

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


8 April

What I am looking forward to in the Cambridge Classical Concert Series… (Part IVA)

Last year, for Part III at The Corn Exchange (@CambridgeCornEx), our guest soloist was Noriko Ogawa in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3

Now, after that evening with The Brussels Philharmonic, we are back, on Saturday 11 April at 7.30 p.m., to The Royal Philharmonic (@rpoonline, as orchestra in residence), and to Beethoven, with his equally familiar Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55, brought to us by celebrated conductor Christoph Koenig (coupled with Elgar’s less-performed concerto, for violin and orchestra, played by Pinchas Zukerman, a truly legendary soloist)


A note on terminology :
As there are five Beethoven concertos for piano and orchestra, and nine symphonies, it has been my habit to think of the third of the former as ‘Beethoven 3’, and of the latter as ‘Beethoven’s 3rd’*


1. Allegro con brio
2. Marcia funebre : Adagio assai
3. Scherzo : Allegro vivace
4. Finale : Allegro molto


Unless I have been confusing which Beethoven symphonies exactly I do confuse (in which case, this preamble would not appear, as irrelevant), I always have to check myself, when chancing upon his 3rd on Radio 3 (@BBCRadio3), in case (it does matter) it is actually the 7th (or vice versa), and I can then, instead, be mentally prepared for ‘the apotheosis of the dance’ though Wagner seemed to want to describe the whole symphony with this phrase or, contrariwise, the 3rd’s inextricably linked Scherzo and Finale.


From the days when pocket-money bought highly physical musical artefacts
(records [LPs], with highly legible sleeves)


For the sound is, unless very strangely played, unmistakably Beethoven (as, for me, much of his orchestral oeuvre is), and unmistakably one or other of these symphonies what probably leads to being confused (other than a history of listening please see image above) is the preceding movement in the Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55, which appears second, marked Marcia funebre :

The equivalent position in Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, though marked just Allegretto, is haunted by a motif with a definite pulse or beat. However, because it is passed around the orchestra, it is not technically an ostinato** (contrary to what Wikipedia®’s web-page suggests), yet its effect means that it might still be described as Alla marcia when at its most subdued (or even sombre) thus, one connection with the 3rd, if not exactly so, is there in the march-like solemnity (and one gathers that the Allegretto’s appeal gave it a life separately from the 7th).


The theme from the Allegretto


It is also quite Brahmsian, twenty years before Brahms the man ever was just, in connection with the richness of his symphonic writing, think of the orchestration, and mood, of the central section of the Allegretto of the 3rd… Before, however, the dramatic Beethovenian drop on the scale of A Minor [graphically depicted here, on YouTube (@YouTube), at around 4 : 14], the key in which this second movement is written.

Yet more is to come, for, shortly before the halfway point, and for a couple of minutes, urgent modulations, and tense fugal writing [starting at around 8 : 47 and 8 : 57, respectively, in an equivalent clip with graphics], bring in one of the most devastating pieces of writing that Beethoven was ever to conceive, with [at around 11 : 21 in that clip] a grinding, 'grungy' feeling of sawing in the lower strings, coupled with uneasy brass – a sensation that, even in the recurring brightness of the upper strings and woodwind, does not obviously subside for more than a couple of minutes, and maybe never does fully disappear before the movement's close.


Even if the Finale of the 3rd may be in sonata form***, unlike that of the 7th (in variation form), it has structural similarities, as well as quite definite swooping gestures (and accompanying whoops and whistles from the woodwind), and other jumps between octaves, that give an immense feeling of familiarity with the theme, no least when Beethoven reduces it almost an oboe.

For, thereafter, he almost teases us into paying attention to it, as he re-states it with different forces, and (reminding us of the Allegro con brio, with which the work opened****) differing the underlying rhythmic patterning turning it, by turns, into a genteel dance, a stately procession, maybe a funereal treatment that echoes the Marcia funebre… until, that is, he abruptly, and noisily, cuts through with what soon leads to a coda, complete with threats of including dummy final closes, and false endings.


* * * * *


Finally, one may notice that this preview has quite steered clear of the question of the (rescinded) dedication to Napoleon Buonaparte for several reasons, which, not to make this preview over-lengthy, are given elsewhere.


End-notes

* Thankfully, nothing to do with this film (from 2000), although almost unbelievably there were two more outings to come :



** A word to which our word ‘stubborn’ is closest, it seems, and from which, then, we derive ‘obstinate’.

*** Exactly categorizing ‘sonata form’, across the centuries, can anyway prove fiendishly difficult (let alone what one may mean by the word sonata).

**** With, heralded by subtle brass chordation (is that a word ? it is now) [at around 7 : 26 in the clip with graphics], its sudden plunge to a fragile moment of stasis [from around 7 : 54 to 8 : 02], followed, before and after some more very strikingly energetic string-writing, by wistful moods with oboe, and with very hushed strings.

As a whole, the movement also shows that Beethoven's scoring is more durable than to be lessened by the appropriation, in living memory, of the principal theme for automobile advertising…



Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Interview with Ruth Wall : Ockham's Razor, Kathryn Tickell and The Side, and other projects

More views of or before Cambridge Film Festival 2015 (3 to 13 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


1 April

Harpist Ruth Wall with compositions written for her by her husband (Graham Fitkin) provided part of the music for Ockham’s Razor’s (@AlexOckhams') aerial-theatre show Not Until We Are Lost at The Corn Exchange, Cambridge (@CambridgeCornEx).

Sadly, although Ruth had played other gigs live, only the locally formed choir was not a pre-recorded element on this occasion. However, it was still an amazing accompaniment to hear in the space that had been made (by taking out the seating of the flat stalls), both at the dress rehearsal, and at the first performance.

On the strength of it, The Agent, having talked to Ruth (@RuthWallharp) when (as a member of the quartet The Side (@TheSideBand)) she played the first gig with Kathryn Tickell (@kathryntickell) at Childerley Hall, near Cambridge, asked her for this interview…



Q1

Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Ruth !

These questions were devised after hearing your playing (sadly not in person, but recorded) at the dress rehearsal for, and the first local performance of, the show of aerial theatre Not Until We Are Lost by Ockham's Razor (@AlexOckhams) (at The Corn Exchange in Cambridge (@CambridgeCornEx) last December).

I understand that, even when the score is performed live, there is a taped element : what does it comprise, and to what extent, and how, did you work with the composer (your husband Graham Fitkin) to determine its content ?


The show uses two harps, wire-strung and lever harp, and more than half of the tracks for the show are just solo harp, no pre-record.


I play as much as humanly possible, but, as Graham sometimes wanted the sound of more than one harp at once, we recorded the secondary lines and put them on the computer for playback. So I had in-ears [personal monitors, often custom fitted, to cut out ambient noise], with this other harp playing, so that the whole performance would be in time. It was complex, working out this element, and we used a click-track occasionally, too.


I worked closely with Graham in devising how all this could succeed, adding more lines to be played live as time went on. Graham also attended the first week of rehearsals, as the Ockhams' creative process took place later than the composition / music rehearsal, and he needed to add and change odd things.


Generally, a good fun process, though occasionally Graham shut the door on me to let me work things out alone and also to avoid the expletives !



Q2

Please describe some of the techniques and effects employed in your part of the event, and also what challenges they can represent in live performance.


Complex counterpoint, very fast arpeggios, many harmonics, playing the red box [sound generator] with a bow and beater while also playing the harp with another hand, conducting the choir whilst playing (especially in rehearsal, and sometimes in performance), live control of the computer...

All this needed tons of practice on my own, with all the harps, red box and computer at exactly the correct height and position, as Fitkin music doesn't allow for any pauses. On top of that, the music is very tricky : rhythmically, I often play in two time-signatures at once, in different hands. It took SO much practice, and I did worry for months that I wouldn't manage it.


In performance, one last thing – I needed to watch the Ockhams', as I was synchronizing to their moves quite often.



Q3

Are there any favourite passages in the score, either because of what you are playing, or (as it has been said by the directors that it is too complicated for you to watch as you play) because of what you know that the performers are doing at the same time ?


Yes, when the Cat-flap (a massive construction of scaffold bars, which swings back and fore) is first released, the music is at its peak of complexity, and the performers are sliding down the scaffolding, or dodging the massive wall of iron bars. SCARY !


I really must NOT look then, but it is impossible not to see images flashing by, generally life-threatening images of little gymnasts flying through the air, trying to avoid this swinging wall.


Also, the first piece, for wire-strung harp, when Tina is in the Perspex tower, hidden. Amazing lighting and pacing in this, musically and visually... and, as the audience eventually discovers that there is a person hidden in the tower, there is a very special atmosphere in the room.



Q4

A few years back, you brought three types of harp that you like to play (with, of course, some of Graham's compositions for you) to a recital at Kettle'€™s Yard (@kettlesyard), in Cambridge. Congratulations on your CD, released at the end of last year, that now features three harps: what excites you most about the CD, and also the responses to it that you had ?



Thank you ! You are referring to The Three Harps of Christmas. It's an utter joy to play Graham's music I met the music before the man, and love the complex harmonies and rhythms, as well as the wit and sensitivity, that he has employed in making these old Christmas carols new.


Each has a unique character and the choice of harp for a specific carol is made carefully : hence, the wildly buzzing Bray harp for 'We Three Kings' or the delicate, bell-like sound of the Gaelic wire-strung harp for 'Away in a Manger'.


To go and perform them then in beautiful historic houses, all around the UK, has been very special : the settings of Fyvie Castle, Holkham Hall, Culzean Castle, Glendurgan, etc., etc. Incredible atmospheres, and such a special tour with Christmas decorations, candles and champers !



Q5

With this project with Ockham's Razor, you toured with the show for some time. With the group, or generally when on tour, what raises your spirits, or keeps you fresh ? (One imagines that it may be different things at different moments / in different moods ?)


I enjoy travelling on the whole, and love the chance to see new places, but I generally get excited as soon as I start playing.


The lights help, and the audience coming into the room as I play (in Ockhams' case), all get my adrenaline going. I also loved hanging out with the Ockhams' they are a great crowd.



Q6

How much time do you spend touring nowadays, and do you have any more dates planned, playing as a member of The Side, with Kathryn Tickell ? The collaboration's first gig [reviewed here] was local at The Long Barn at Cambridgeshire's hidden Childerley Hall and do you have any special memories of that evening ?


I loved that first gig at Childerley it was one of my favourites. Playing with Kathryn and The Side is amazing fun. I love the girls, and they are all such supreme musicians that being on stage with them is a wonderful experience. We will be touring more this year, and, having just finished a long, happy tour in February, I can't wait for the next outing!


At Childerley, Jocelyn and her friends looked after us so well, from the picnic in the garden, to dinner on the terrace, and then the most lovely wild party, with dancing it was a total joy. The Long Barn is a great venue, and to see Joss and her family dancing down the aisle when we played was an incredible buzz !



Q7

Finally, what message would you give to someone coming to Not Until We Are Lost at another venue, and are there any other similar collaborations under way that you can tell us about ?


I would recommend the Ockhams' show totally, and also recommend that the audience keep wandering during the performance, not to get stuck with one viewpoint... and be prepared for some audio and visual magic !


I am working on my next show at the moment, with Graham again, a new album that we will be releasing in late summer, called LOST. The initial inspiration came from the Ockhams' music that Graham wrote for me, but, in the last year, he has transformed it, and only a couple of the original tunes remain.


The new album is for me on harps, and Graham on moog [synthesizer], autoharp, and red box. There are visuals in the live show, and it will involve video, and lighting.


The music has a mesmeric quality to it, highly intricate rhythmically, and focuses on how 'lost' we can feel in this world, including loss of faculty, understanding, memory, etc.


Thank you so much, Ruth, and I am sure that we all look forward to LOST, album and show, later in 2015, as the sensation of feeling out of place in this world is one that many are sure to find themselves relating to through the experience !






Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)