Monthly Archives: April 2014

Olivier awards celebrate the best in opera

Sunday night (April 13th) saw the leading lights of the modern stage descend on the Royal Opera House for the Olivier Awards, where English Touring Opera was recognised for its challenging productions.

The group was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Opera award for its season at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, which was described as “brave and challenging”.

Among these productions was Michael Tippett’s 1962 opera King Priam, which tells the story of the last days of the Trojan War from the point of view of the city’s elderly king. It is also interesting for its challenging roles for female performers, who are double cast as both human characters, including Helen of Troy, and goddesses.

February’s run at the Linbury Studio Theatre also featured a rare outing of Paul Bunyan. Though this piece is one of Benjamin Britten’s least-performed operas, it is notable as a perhaps unlikely collaboration between the composer and the well-known poet W.H. Auden. Both productions are still touring.

The awards are organised by Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and widely regarded as the highest honours that can be bestowed in British theatre.

“It’s a great honour for English Touring Opera’s work to be recognised by SOLT nominators and judges, especially in such august company,” says James Conway, general director at English Touring Opera.

“Our wonderful regional audiences recognise our work now, and that is hugely gratifying; to be noticed in London’s exciting theatre world is almost more than one could have hoped for.”

One other opera award is also bestowed at the ceremony, that of Best New Opera Production. This year, it went to Les Vêpres Siciliennes, a fresh staging of the Verdi classic at the Royal Opera House.

It fought off competition from English National Opera’s production of Wozzeck, the first opera by Austrian Alban Berg, as well as The Firework Maker’s Daughter, based on the short children’s novel by Philip Pullman and another show performed at the Linbury Studio Theatre.

Sunday night (April 13th) saw the leading lights of the modern stage descend on the Royal Opera House for the Olivier Awards, where English Touring Opera was recognised for its challenging productions. The group was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in

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Tavener classic gets vinyl release

Since the invention of the cassette tape, followed by the CD and now the digital download, vinyl has often been overlooked as a way to experience music. But a number of very special vinyl releases are planned for Record Store Day this weekend (April 19th), and John Tavener’s The Protecting Veil is set to be among them.

Composed for cello and orchestra, Tavener’s 1998 work has become one of his most famous but was never released on vinyl. To redress this, independent label Bella Union is putting out a limited run of 900 copies that will also come with a free CD copy.

All eight sections of The Protecting Veil are included in the release, which are intended to represent eight feasts (or “icons”) in the life of the Virgin Mary. Beginning with her beauty and the veil that protects her, it covers her birth, the Annunciation, the birth of Jesus and his eventual crucifixion and resurrection.

It was originally composed for cellist Steven Isserlis, and came after Tavener had converted to the Russian Orthodox Church in the late 1970s, a move which surprised many of his contemporaries.

Record Store Day event is held annually to celebrate the UK’s remaining independent record stores, many of which carry the special recordings by some of music’s biggest names. This year, the list is broader than ever, with The Protecting Veil the only classical release among the likes of David Bowie and former Blur frontman Damon Albarn.

Jack White, former frontman of rock band The White Stripes, is also planning to record and then release a song in a single day, in a bid to set a record for the fastest single ever released.

A number of other songs have been mastered and cut by engineers at the famous Abbey Road Studios for their vinyl release, including Marianne Faithfull’s Sister Morphine and a boxed set of the Sex Pistol’s debut album. They sit alongside pieces by more modern artists such as Coldplay and Lily Allen.

Since the invention of the cassette tape, followed by the CD and now the digital download, vinyl has often been overlooked as a way to experience music. But a number of very special vinyl releases are planned for Record Store

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The Lark Ascending tops Hall of Fame

Mozart has been crowned the most popular composer, with the Lark Ascending being hailed as the nation’s favourite piece.

Some of the nation’s most cherished pieces of classical music, along with their composers, have been hailed in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame.

Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending has been recognised as the nation’s favourite piece of classical music, knocking Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2 into second place. The piece, which has been inducted into the Classic FM Hall of Fame 2014, replaced the Russian’s masterpiece from the top spot that it had held for the past three years.

Legendary composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ranked more times in the list than any other talent, with Beethoven keeping 20 appearances in the countdown. This year’s chart also saw a rise in the number of orchestral entries used in video games, with eight making the top 300.

The music for the Final Fantasy series, composed by Japanese artist Nobuo Uematsu, had the highest ranking at number seven, while The Elder Scrolls Series, composed by BAFTA award winner Jeremy Soule, finished in the top 20.

This could be a result of Classic FM’s move to start playing pieces from video games more regularly. By doing so, it has attracted a new host of younger listeners to its station, with around 27 per cent more 15 to 24 year olds tuning in.

Classic FM’s John Suchet said: “Exactly 100 years after Vaughan Williams composed The Lark Ascending, its poignancy and beauty are as powerful as ever.  And with video game music making its mark like never before, it’s clear that we’ve attracted a great many younger listeners as Classic FM continues to grow. I’m thrilled to welcome them to the nation’s classical station.”

A number of other favourites also made it into the list, with Handel’s classic Messiah piece and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons compilation. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture also made it into the top 20 taking its position at number 16, while Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man finished at 12. Making its way into the top five was Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations Allegri’s Miserere.

Mozart has been crowned the most popular composer, with the Lark Ascending being hailed as the nation’s favourite piece. Some of the nation’s most cherished pieces of classical music, along with their composers, have been hailed in Classic FM’s Hall

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BBC Music Magazine Awards 2014 announces winners

Some of the finest performers, singers and conductors in classical music have been recognised in the BBC Music Magazine Awards.

This year’s BBC Music Magazine Awards has seen artists, performers and conductors from around the world recognised for their achievements. The accolades, which are voted for by both the public and a panel of critics, saw a number of talents appreciated across the vast genre of music.

American cellist Alisa Weilerstein was awarded with the prestigious accolade of Recording of the Year for her debut concerto disc. The Elgar and Carter Cello Concertos, recorded with the Berlin Staatskappelle and Daniel Barenboim, has been critically acclaimed by experts and classical music lovers alike.

Ms Weilerstein’s record was selected from more than 1,500 reviewed by BBC Music Magazine during the year.

Speaking about her achievement, the 2014 BBC Music Magazine Awards jury said: “Weilerstein avoids nostalgia and produces an account full of passion, grief and nobility of feeling…it’s been years since a new recording of Elgar’s great concerto made this kind of visceral impact.

“Significantly, it is the first time that Barenboim has chosen to conduct a recording of Elgar’s famous Cello Concerto since his legendary performances with Jacqueline du Pré.”

Peter Grimes was also recognised with the Opera Award for his centenary production of Benjamin Britten’s work. However, this wasn’t the only award given for a performance of the 20th century conductor’s pieces. The War Requiem, recorded by Polish and English forces and directed by Paul McCreesh, took the Choral Award.

The Instrumental award was given to violinist Rachel Podger for her solo recital Guardian Angel, while the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann took the Vocal Award, thanks to his Wagner arias.

BBC’s Music Magazine Awards were announced today at a ceremony at London’s Kings Place. Hosted by editor Oliver Condy and Radio Three’s ‘In Tune’ presenter Sean Rafferty, the audience of artists, magazine readers and representatives from across the classical music industry were treated to a variety of performances.

Making it onto the bill were Welsh bass-baritone opera singer Bryn Terfel, English violinist Rachel Podger and the acclaimed pianist Igor Levit.

Some of the finest performers, singers and conductors in classical music have been recognised in the BBC Music Magazine Awards. This year’s BBC Music Magazine Awards has seen artists, performers and conductors from around the world recognised for their achievements.

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Sex isn’t what sells classical music

Former BBC young musician of the year, Nicola Benedetti has said that it isn’t sex appeal that sells classical music.

The rise of women in classical women over the last few years has been unprecedented, with people like Catherine Jenkins enjoying the heights of success with her classical music skills. However, this has nothing to do with their good looks.

It would be hard to argue that someone like Catherine Jenkins, and many other female classical music stars, are physically beautiful, but violinist Nicola Benedetti has argued that the success of women in the genre has nothing to do with sex appeal.

Speaking to the Radio Times, the former BBC young musician of the year, revealed her frustration with the notion that “sex sells”.

After being recognised by the BBC, Ms Benedetti has performed and enjoyed success across the world. However, the 26-year-old said she is tired of people telling her that it is the appearance of female classical musicians that powers their popularity.

The Scottish musician admits that her genre of music still “lags behind” when it comes to equality, with there being a low number of female conductors, but she said sexism is an issue across the globe – not just with classical musicians. However, there has been a recent surge in the number of female performers, saying that she could now name more top female violinists than male.

Ms Benedetti doesn’t feel that females are getting a rough deal though, saying that if they have long enough “to gain authority, experience and expertise, they’ll excel in any profession”.

“Sixty years ago the world’s top violinists were overwhelmingly male. Today, we have Julia Fischer, Janine Jansen, Lisa Batiashvili, Vilde Frang, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Alina Ibragimova… in fact I could possibly list more top female violinists than males.”

She added that classical music can be “prouder of its integrity than many industries”.

“People are basically chosen for their ability – though I concede that we still lag behind when it comes to conductors.”

Last year, Woman’s Hour presenter Dame Jenni Murray cited Ms Benedetti when she claimed that women who have made it in classical music have had to go along with certain ideas.

She said at the time: “The women who seem to be most welcome are the ones who are prepared to go along with the old idea that sex sells.”

Former BBC young musician of the year, Nicola Benedetti has said that it isn’t sex appeal that sells classical music. The rise of women in classical women over the last few years has been unprecedented, with people like Catherine Jenkins

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BBC makes “greatest commitment” to arts

BBC director general Tony Hall has made, what he calls, the “greatest commitment to arts in a generation”.

Classical music lovers will be pleased to see that the arts will be taking centre stage for the BBC in a number of new ways.

The British broadcaster hopes to engage audiences in various music and arts events across the UK, with a new digital offering, closer engagement with artists and institutions and much more high quality arts content.

Speaking about the decision, director general of the BBC Tony Hall, said: “This is the strongest commitment to the arts we’ve made in a generation.  We’re the biggest arts broadcaster anywhere in the world – but our ambition is to be even better.

“I want BBC Arts – and BBC Music – to sit proudly alongside BBC News. The arts are for everyone – and, from now on, BBC Arts will be at the very heart of what we do.  We’ll be joining up arts on the BBC like never before – across television, radio and digital. And, we’ll be working more closely with our country’s great artists, performers and cultural institutions.”

As part of this new initiative, the BBC promises to create new positions and consult with “leaders of the arts world” to allow them to share their knowledge and insight with the organisation.

There will also be the introduction of BBC Arts, giving audiences a “front row seat at Britain’s best arts and music events”. This will include various collaborations and partnerships with world-class institutions such as Shakespeare’s Globe, Glyndebourne and the Hay Festival, as well as Tate, National Portrait Gallery, National Galleries of Scotland, Sadler’s Wells and The British Library

According to Mr Hall, there will also be three big initiatives to help push the arts in a digital format. This will include more content being available on BBC iPlayer, BBC Arts Online and The Space.

There will also be a drive to engage more young people in the arts, with plans for an animated music film for TV by Michael Morpurgo; a new collaboration with the Northern Ballet on a production of the Three Little Pigs for CBeebies and a documentary following a working.

The BBC also aims to work closely with some of the finest writers, artists and performers to produce quality content. This will include the likes of Gemma Arterton, Sir Antonio Pappano, Darcey Bussell and Sir Simon Rattle.

BBC director general Tony Hall has made, what he calls, the “greatest commitment to arts in a generation”. Classical music lovers will be pleased to see that the arts will be taking centre stage for the BBC in a number

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Richard E Grant speaks about his love of Mozart

Famed actor Richard E Grant speaks about his love of Mozart in a recent interview with Classic FM.

Actor Richard E Grant has become a household name, thanks to his various roles in popular films such as Gosford Park. However, now the 56-year-old has spoken out about his love for classical music, in particular Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Speaking to Classic FM in an interview, Richard said that, for him, the composer stood out against all of his rivals. He added that, if there was just one musician he could listen to for the rest of his life, it would be Mozart.

Talking backstage at Classic FM’s A Night At The Movies with Sky Movies, the actor took time out of his busy schedule to talk about why he loved the composer so much.

He said that, as much as he admired other classical composers like Wagner and Beethoven, Mozart had qualities that set him apart. Richard said that it was “the speed of his mind, his invention and the breadth of his talent” that meant he was “unmatched” by his contemporaries and made him the best composer in the world.

More generally, the famed actor also spoke to the classical music radio station about his experience of music in film and the power it has to alter the mood.

He said: “I know first-hand how utterly transforming and helpful music is. And equally, if it’s wrong, you know that immediately as well… it adds a three-dimensional quality to a film that you can’t see, but you feel it.”

From the classical era, Mozart was famed for his command of music and the way he intuitively could feel it and put it into a composition. He showed great talent from the start, being highly competent on the keyboard and violin from the age of five. Even at this tender age, European royalty demanded to have him play for them and at 17-years-old he was made the court musician in Salzburg.

However, Mozart soon grew restless, maybe feeling unchallenged by his work and travelled to Vienna. He lost his position as court musician but chose to stay rather than go back, which gathered him fame but no financial security.

He stayed in Vienna for the rest of his life, where he composed some of his most beautiful pieces including various symphonies, concertos, and operas.

Famed actor Richard E Grant speaks about his love of Mozart in a recent interview with Classic FM. Actor Richard E Grant has become a household name, thanks to his various roles in popular films such as Gosford Park. However,

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How does your heart beat – Why fall in love with a classical music lover?

What makes people that love classical music unique?

Of course, everyone has their own set of characteristics and personality traits, but what is it about classical music lovers that makes them so unique? We explore the main advantages to falling in love with someone who is passionate about the genre.

Sensitivity

People who love and appreciate the delicacies of classical music are often sensitive themselves. This makes them the ideal person to fall in love with. Whether you enjoy Beethoven or Mozart, Bach or Chopin, it is likely that you enjoy their pieces because it moves you in a way that can’t be explained. This is an incredibly attractive quality for people that are looking for love, and one that can help you connect with other singles, if it is something you possess yourself.

Sensitivity is a trait that needs to be balanced as people that are too sensitive can be over-emotional, but if you can strike a healthy amount of sensitivity, it can lead to a very worthwhile and deep relationship. Having a sensitive partner means that they are likely to pick up on your emotions and respond in the right way. This means they can make the perfect partner for singles who feel they are never understood in relationships.

Creative

Regardless of who your favourite classical musician is, all of the greats were incredibly creative individuals. This makes many people that admire their pieces creative themselves, which is often a trait that brings music lovers together. If you have creative tendencies yourself, it is likely that you respect that in the people you surround yourself with and find those without a flair for creativity, unbearable.

Creative people make good partnerships as it means that you are likely to enjoy the same range of activities. Visiting art galleries, going to museums, frequenting the theatre and outdoor concerts are all things that creative people usually get pleasure from, and doing them with someone who shares the same loves makes it so much better.

Passionate

One thing that all the classical music greats have in common is that they demonstrated great passion for their art. Whether you love Tchaikovsky or absolutely despise him, it is likely that you are incredibly passionate about your reasons behind your feelings. This is often something that attracts people to each other and can be the basis of a deep connection in the long term.

Sharing a romance with a passionate person can have its downsides, but it can also lead to an incredibly rewarding and loving relationship if you are in a stable situation. Passion and romance go together for a reason, and it could be the exact thing you are looking for if you have been searching for that ideal new partner.

Intelligence

The old stereotype used to be that classical music was only reserved for the upper classes who had the money to have the highest education. A lot of effort has been put in by people like the BBC and Classic FM to make the genre far more accessible to individuals from all walks of life. However, classical music lovers often have a thirst for knowledge, which makes them incredibly interesting people.

Having a partner with a similar intellect, or who is interested in the same areas as you, will set a solid foundation for your new relationship. It means that you will be able to share a lot of your passions and have more in common.

Able to challenge

Mixing people that have creativity and passion, means that they usually have the confidence to challenge your opinions. Whether it’s to do with classical music, politics or the variety of other topics there are to talk about, music lovers will usually be happy to challenge your opinion. This can make for interesting first date conversation and, as long as this doesn’t worry you, can be something that can intrigue people.

What makes people that love classical music unique? Of course, everyone has their own set of characteristics and personality traits, but what is it about classical music lovers that makes them so unique? We explore the main advantages to falling

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St Paul’s Cathedral appoints first female organist

St Paul’s Cathedral has hit an exciting landmark, appointing its first female organist player.

St Paul’s has appointed its brand new organist, and it will be an important first in the Cathedral’s history.

Rachel Mahon will be the first woman to ever take up the position of William and Irene Miller Organ Scholar for the 2014/15 academic year. The 24-year-old is currently an organ scholar at Truro Cathedral and has a number of impressive achievements in her repertoire.

Born in Toronto, the Canadian national only began studying the organ in 2005. Just two years later she became organist at St James’ Cathedral and in 2011 became principal organist at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church.

Having graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor music degree, Rachel has won both the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ 2012 young organists’ competition and the 2013 Howard Fairclough Organ Competition. To top this, during the same year she came second place in the Canadian National Organ Playing Competition.

Rachel is also part of a duo named Organized Crime, which she started with fellow organist Sarah Svendsen. The pair play both traditional and non-traditional music.

Speaking about her new position, Rachel said: “I am thrilled to have been appointed organ scholar at St Paul’s Cathedral. It will be a privilege to work with such experienced musicians as Andrew, Simon and Timothy, in so magnificent and historical a setting. It is with great excitement that I look forward to joining them and the Cathedral choir in September.

As part of her new role at St Paul’s, the young musician will play beside organist Simon Johnson and sub-organist Timothy Wakerell, in the music department, which is led by director of music Andrew Carwood.

Andrew Carwood, said: “We are delighted to welcome Rachel to the team at St Paul’s, where she will join a long line of fine organists associated with the musical tradition at the Cathedral and its outstanding collection of pipe organs. Her organ playing at audition was superbly poised and elegant and her considerable experiences and talents as a musician will be richly valued throughout the Cathedral.”

St Paul’s Cathedral has hit an exciting landmark, appointing its first female organist player. St Paul’s has appointed its brand new organist, and it will be an important first in the Cathedral’s history. Rachel Mahon will be the first woman

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Why is classical music good for the soul?

Research has shown that listening to music is good for your mind, body and soul.

Many of us like listening to our favourite genre of music because it feels good. However, research has shown that there are actual scientific reasons behind that warm, fuzzy feeling we all get when we put our most loved records on.

Help with pain

Various studies have shown that music can help ease physical pain, especially when it comes to the very young or very old. While patients suffering with long-term and chronic illnesses like cancer or heart disease can benefit from a slowed heart rate.

Research has suggested that it can give people with chronic illnesses a sense of control back where they may feel they have lost it.

Boost your mood

People react to music differently, although one person may favour classical music another could prefer hard rock. Research has shown that, whatever your preferences, music can boost your mood and make you happier. Many people find sitting down and listening to their favourite artist extremely relaxing and there is evidence that backs this up.

The pleasure people feel when listening to Mozart or Bach is called “musical chills”. This triggers the release of chemicals called dopamine in your brain – improving your mood and chasing away bad thoughts.

Improve mental health

Music can help people suffering from mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, according to research. In fact, music therapy is often used with people, especially children, that find it hard to communicate or have become withdrawn from society.

Even if you don’t suffer from a mental illness, it has been proven that music can help de-stress, which is one of the main reasons many of us turn on our favourite sounds. Putting on your loved records can make your body relax and help soothe your mind after a busy and hectic day at work.

Motivates you

Another key time when people put on their favourite music, is when working out. Research has shown that listening to it while you work out could mean you push harder and travel faster. It is thought that upbeat music will make the most difference as your body will match the tempo of the song you are listening to.

Improve brain activity

Research has suggested that listening to music can help your brain focus on a task and allows you to learn more. Listening or playing music is thought to lower the body’s levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) allowing you to focus on the task ahead.

Boosts your immune system

It has been suggested that music can boost your levels of an antibody, which plays an important part in the immunity of the mucous system, known as immunoglobulin A, the cells that attack germs and bacteria invading the body.

Make you more creative

It is thought that background music can boost your levels of creativity. Listening to your favourite artist at a low level while you work could get your creative juices flowing because it doesn’t distract us the way that loud music does. It works by increasing processing difficulty, which promotes more abstract processing, leading to higher creativity.

Music could find your ideal partner

Research has suggested that by looking at someone’s favourite top ten artists, you can determine what sort of personality a person is. This suggests that by finding people who love the same genre of music that you do, it will be easier to find an ideal partner who will match your personality and traits.

A study conducted at Heriot-Watt University found that those who love classical music usually have high self-esteem, are creative, introvertive and at ease.

Research has shown that listening to music is good for your mind, body and soul. Many of us like listening to our favourite genre of music because it feels good. However, research has shown that there are actual scientific reasons

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