City of London Festival 2012
Rushton, Gruber & Walton
HK Gruber/Iain Farrington Expulsion from Paradise
City of London Festival Golden Jubilee, 2012
Rushton's Pandora, Organic Machine was the highlight of our second evening at this year's City of London Festival. It held in perfect balance a remarkably subtle text by his partner Dagny Gioulami [R with the composer], derived from the Pandora myth, relating it to our unthinking modern reliance on machines (computers).
The Rushton was shared with two other examples of melodrama. K Gruber’s The Expulsion from Paradise (1966) had an unduly complex scenario, with four characters shared by the evening's two narrators. One listened through attentively but the final effect was desultory and quickly forgotten.
Walton’s Façade (featured in the first City of London Festival, 1962), on the other hand, came up fresh as ever in an economical and effective reduction for the forces of Counterpoise by their pianist Iain Farrington, Aurora's Arranger-in-Residence with several orchestral reductions to his credit. It was notable for the contribution of Eleanor Bron who declaimed Edith Sitwell's nonsense poems with needle sharp precision, a real virtuoso performance.
Listen to a dozen Rushton opera clips on line !
Mansion House concert
The previous night at Mansion House our thoughts strayed to the breaking news of the latest banking scandal in the Square Mile... The first half (Mendelssohn, OAE/Gardner) had one of the worst accounts of his violin concerto I can recall (Alina Ibragimova); listening in the great ornate Egyptian Hall is anyhow badly afflicted by the loud noise of essential machinery which keeps even the temperature and humidity.
The Delphic Bee suite for wind ensemble by Tansy Davies [R] seemed to have the audience bemused; she never repeats herself and its four short movements left us needing to hear them again in contemporary company.
Recitals at City of London Festival
Counterpoise's important concert was preceded by a very special early evening song recital at St Bartholomew-the Great by Kathryn Rudge, who combined a natural rapport and a rich expressive mezzo, at home in French and German, with welcome choices of Britten Folk Songs (a possibly under-rated oeuvre?) and favourites with oldies like Roses of Picardy to finish.
On 2nd July Ben Johnson gave an unusual French song programme with James Baillieu, experienced "accompanist" who also partnered Kathryn Rudge [R]. A nice touch at the end was that on returning to acknowledge applause for a thirs time (after having given an encore), Ben bowed deeply to his partner, demonstrating how the attitudes to pianists has changed over the years since Gerald Moore's influential 1943 book The Unashamed Accompanist.
Johnson crowded 20 songs in his hour, many of those fast and wordy; some by Hahn and Berkeley (who lived in Paris for seven years as "the quintessential Boulanger pupil") relatively little known except to specialist connoisseurs. He gave them all with aplomb at St Giles Cripplegate, where we were provided with nine pages of texts and translations (the latter attributed to their translators, but no identification of the French poets !).
I wonder how the BBCR3 listeners will be served on the future broadcast, 19 July?
These are not songs for brief synopses to suffice - once upon the time, when it was harder to do, the BBC used to make libretti available for listeners; easy now to provide words as .pdfs for computer listeners at least?
Minjung Baek piano at St Andrew Holborn
On 3 July the lunchtime concert was introduced as usual by Festival Director Ian Ritchie, who greets the audience graciously at every concert!
City of London Festival audiences have the particular spin-off of opportunities to explore historic buildings, ecclesiastical and commercial (headquarters of many ancient Guilds).
Minjung Baek gave a piano recital at St Andrew Holborn, as part of the Festival's association with Guildhall SMD.
Claire de Lune was simple and beautiful but faster pieces in Suite Bergamasque, and Chopin's Op 44 Polonaise, needed rethinking for that environment (and similar venues) - a huge barrel domed church, good for organ recitals but perilous for pianists*.
Scriabin's Sonata No 2, played by memory [R], fared better and Usuk Chin's Scales Study was surprisingly successful. Probably Minjung had been doing them for her end-of-year exam in the School's Great Hall, which has perfect acoustics (I had listened to Dhayoung Yoon, another Guildhall examinee, there on Saturday).
*Do piano professors ever prepare their pupil for concerts by giving lessons in other venues where students are going to be playing? It's probably mostly a question of resonance, needing articulation and pedalling maybe very different from their usual? No scope for playing on "automatic pilot"; ears must be alert to the moment.
Walton Songs from the Lord Mayor's Table; Piano Quartet
Guildhall School of Music & Drama Musicians at St Olave, Hart Street, Friday 13 July
Walton's masterpiece A Song for the Lord Mayor’s Table was preceded by a good committed account of the early piano quartet (1918, revd.1975), one of his first compositions to have survived.
The still fresh and zestful song cycle was premiered by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Gerald Moore at the first City of London Festival in 1962. I love these songs in their varied moods of tribute to city life and London in particular.
Their revival at this CoLF Jubillee year was timely. Unfortunately one of the two singers scheduled to share the five songs was indisposed, but for me her subsitute Emily Kyte [centre] stole the show, singing with complete assurance and without needing the music.
Her impeccable diction made her texts in the middle three songs intelligible without our needing the words before us; qute a feat, because most sopranos have great difficulty in getting words across in high tessitura, as in the first song of the set.
Samuel Bordoli “Mirrored Horizons” at Tower Bridge
8 July 2012
We responded to an invitation to experience “Mirrored Horizons” at Tower Bridge as a part of CoLF.
30 musicians wearing earphones were stretched along the 42 metre length of the high-level West Walkway exhibition space.
An odd experience in such a crowded space - the views were marvellous but it was hard to try to evaluate the score.
It didn't seem that many there really came for the music, but the two small children in my photo looked as if they were enjoying it !
Peter Grahame Woolf