Tuesday, March 04, 2014

tutti talk edition 8, February 2014 - Standing up for the BBC

The Beeb, Aunty or just plain BBC has once more been at the heart of hot topics in press and other media.  In advance of charter renewal, due in 2016, Parliament has been conducting a review of how well the BBC is doing and has invited contributions from listeners, programme makers and competitors, alike.  

And  what a field day the competitors have been having!  The BBC, as public service broadcasters, (they cry), must be distinctive, take risks, present work commercial broadcasters could not afford to, be accountable, serve all the interests of the entire population across the age spectrum.  What they must not do, (they holler), is tread on the turf of the commercial broadcasters, mirror their repertoire or copy their style of presentation.

Particularly loud whining comes from classic fm's masters about BBC Radio 3, and why? Is it because Radio 3 presenters have become more personable?  Is it because there are drive-time strands which dare to play part of a work instead of the whole work?  Is it because they give broadcast time to composers of film music?  is it because they are encouraging greater interaction with their listeners? Classic fm would rush to claim all of those.  But the real reason is because Radio 3 programming, programme-making and artistic values are in a class way beyond any other classical music broadcaster on the face of the planet, classic fm included.

What other station would dare to broadcast the entire canon of Bach cantatas; would create Baroque Spring, devoting a month of music drama and comedy dedicated to shedding new light on the baroque era, will be broadcasting every Richard Strauss opera in full, this year, 2014?   And now with their latest 18th century music season, joined up programming sees broadcasts from Radio 3, BBC2 and BBC4.

As music lovers, we couldn't be more fortunate in the vision, creativity and originality of the team at BBC Radio3.

Here are a few insights into contemporary composition, provided by Radio 3 programme-makers, together with links from tutti to explore more of their music -

and finally, not an interview with a woman composer as there wasn't one to be found(!), but a performance at the BBC proms by the London Symphony Orchestra of part of  

Bravo BBC!

More tutti talk soon, so,
That's it for now . . .

Sarah Rodgers

tutti talk edition 7, January 2014 - remembering Benjamin Britten

Although we are now firmly in 2014 and have left the Britten centennial year behind, I didn't want to head in to the Richard Strauss 150 years, or indeed even the William Lloyd Webber 100 years celebrations without a final reflection on arguably the UK's greatest and certainly the most influential 20th century composer.

In late November last year, I had the good fortune to attend the annual St Cecilia's Day Service arranged by the Musicians Benevolent Fund (now called Help Musicians UK) as part of the Festival of St Cecilia.  It was held this year at Westminster Abbey (it rotates Three Choirs Festival style between the great traditions of the Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St Pauls Cathedral), and involved the choirs of all three churches.

A true celebration of great English music with particular emphasis on the 20th and 21st centuries, there were works by Britten, Ireland, Tippett, Howells, Vaughan Williams and two living composers, Robin Holloway and Robert Walker. It was exciting, inspiring and deeply touching to hear music of such breadth and diversity and yet linked in so many ways - sometimes pupil to teacher, certainly peer to peer and often by texts and by aspiration which for centuries have been the gifts to creative artists of liturgy and the cathedral tradition in the UK.

The Britten works included, for organ, Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Vittoria; as processional, A Hymn to the Virgin; the anthem, A Hymn to St Columba; and, gloriously for the occasion, his setting in C of Te Deum laudamus.  A small act of remembrance included the placing of flowers on the stone where his remains are interred, close by those of the great English composer, Henry Purcell.

Britten's output, of course, was not confined to ecclesiastical music and his is probably one of the broadest and most diverse repertoires of any composer of the 20th century.   

tutti has several interesting recordings which place Britten's music in the context of that of his peers, such as Tippett and Berkeley, all on -

A Century of English Song on the SOMM label, performed by Sarah Leonard, soprano and Malcolm Martineau, piano,

and again with Bridge and Ireland (Britten's teachers) alongside Stevenson, Berkeley and Colin Matthews, all on -

Britten: Resonances, performed by Anthony Goldstone on the Divine Art label 

or in the rather different company of Rodney Bennett and Lutyens, with a touch of the Catalan in Roberto Gerhard, all on -

Britten's influence is undiminished in the 21st century, so to conclude, a recommendation for the sheet music of a work for guitar composed in 2013 especially for the Britten celebrations and first performed and toured in the USA by the brilliant young Scottish guitarist, Ian Watt -

Fantasy from Themes of Britten's Gloriana by Scottish composer, John McLeod

And, finally, here's a little gem of a  video I found on YouTube of a performance in 1956, captured on Japanese TV of Peter Pears singing Purcell, accompanied by Ben Britten.

Simply beautiful!

That's it for now . . .

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A giant among composers

That's an epithet that can apply in so many ways to Sir John Tavener - a giant of stature, a giant of thought, a giant of spirituality, a giant of musical concept and, apart from his own self-confrontation where he could be brutally judgmental, he was always a gentle giant.

I say was, of course, because he died only a few days ago on 12th November.  "Peacefully at home" is recorded in the public obituaries, but he was still writing with full force and I somehow think that he will not necessarily have gone gentle into that good night.

The news of John's death was particularly poignant for me as I had encountered him briefly on the forecourt of BBC Broadcasting House in London where he and his family were awaiting a taxi after he had recorded an interview for BBC Radio 4's Start the Week.  We exchanged greetings and he seemed on reasonable form.

I have several striking memories of this gentle giant.  I remember seeing him for the first time at a service at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Ennismore Gardens, which he frequented during the time when his Greek Orthodox faith was of paramount importance.  He was, literally, head and shoulders above the assembled worshippers.  If you are familiar with Greek Orthodox tradition, you will know that the faithful participate standing.  This particular occasion was led by the Archbishop, Metropolitan Anthony - an even greater spiritual giant.

When John received his classical IVOR, he spoke, as so often on public occasions, in a direct and uncompromising manner and he pinned a room full of music industry hardheads to a memorable silence as he spoke of  the gift of music and the intellectual heart.

Commentators have liked to describe his music as sacred minimalism but for me that is too small a box and too shallow a source.  His work has a complex simplicity, born not of a lack of rigour, but rather springing from a life of searching, of questioning, of seeking.  There are layers but they are not dense;  there is movement but it is not abrupt;  there are climaxes but they are never forced or greedy.

There is no doubt that John's music has already touched millions - that in itself is a giant contribution  to society, to culture, to humanity and to life.

Peace be with him.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Apples and Pears

I was responding recently to a composer whose beef was that the Establishment (do we still use that term?!) continues to favour musical styles which are dissonant, complex and impenetrable and continues to disregard musical styles which are consonant, discernible and accessible.

The short answer is that more difficult music needs platforms if it is to be given a chance at being heard, approached and understood, while less difficult music tends naturally to be more widely received.  If we go beyond that simple statement, we quickly enter the realms of subjectivity and taste which of course is what all art comes down to in the end as it has no life without an audience.

It has always been a puzzle to me as to why difference or diversity should be an issue at any level.  Our created world is strewn with variety and it follows that creative work will mirror that.  Rather than address why dissonant should be favoured over consonant or white over black or rich over poor, I'd far rather celebrate multifariousness and that's where I get on to apples and pears.

Actually, aside from music, my current other passion is the orchard we are about to create with traditional Norfolk apple and pear varieties such as Striped Beefing, Emneth Early, Adam's Pearmain and, happily for a musician, Falstaff Red.

At tutti we have a complete apples and pears approach where the music we promote can be as sharp as a Beefing, as sweet as a Pearmain, as juicy as an Emneth or as dry as a Falstaff.

I'm not telling you which is which, but here are some composers for your tasting -
John McLeod   Julian Dawes  Jane Wells  Julia Usher

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

a beautiful autumn Norfolk morning

It's a beautiful autumn Norfolk morning with the mist rolling off the fields.  I'm in the mood to talk about music.  You might think that sounds strings and harps but today it means trombones!  Fields - hunting - horns - trombones - I got there somehow, so please read on.

tutti has nearly 300 pieces of sheet music for trombone or bass trombone.

Our catalogue includes some of the more unusual repertoire set for the UK instrumental examination boards, such as Scott Joplin's Magnetic Rag set for Trinity Guildhall advanced performer's certificate - this is an excellent recital piece and not just for the exam. room.

We also have some of the best tutors such as Eliezer Aharoni's New Method for the Modern Bass Trombone.

If you like your trombones in crowds, how about Gershwin's A portrait for 8 trombones or if that is simply too many instruments, there is a Corelli Sonata for 2 trombones and many other works for combinations in between.

If you find it hard to get hold of other players, then Eliezer Aharoni has put together arrangements of popular music with accompanying CDs.  You can easily get hold of his collection called The Non-Classic Bass Trombone.

And just to round off, here's a video of Aharoni and UK trombonist Jonathan Warburton giving a rendition of the Pink Panther, with a little help from the audience.

To have a browse through all music for trombone on tutti, simply go to the homepage and enter trombone in the search box, or for easy access, follow this link to trombone music on tutti.

More about music soon.

Friday, July 19, 2013

"The sound of a glass ceiling breaking."  This is how the BBC Proms website describes the innovation of a woman conductor being appointed to take charge of the iconic The Last Night.  Marin Alsop, Chief Conductor of São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, first made her name in the UK as Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.  I remember attending a performance by Alsop and the BSO of Mahler's 2nd Symphony when she drew an exhilarating performance from the players.

For The Last Night of the Proms she will steer the BBC Symphony Orchestra through a diet of Wagner, Bernstein, Vaughan Williams, Britten, more Bernstein, Massenet, Handel, Rossini - you get the picture! - plus the traditional items to get the last night prommers going.  No doubt they will have a lot of fun with her debut, too.

The Last Night opens with a world premiere commission from young English (woman) composer Anna Clyne.  To reciprocate the international exchange, Clyne is currently the Chicago Symphony's Mead Composer-in-Residence through the 2013-14 season.  She describes herself as, "a composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music, combining resonant soundscapes with propelling textures that weave, morph, and collide in dramatic explosions."

Follow this link for a flavour.  Anna Clyne's Night Ferry.

Few other women composers get a look-in at the 2013 Proms - just 6 from a list of 129 - how can that be?!  They are Diana Burrell, Tansy Davies, Sofia Gubaidulina, Imogen Holst (daughter of Gustav), Elizabeth Maconchy and Priaulx Rainier.  Well, at least we can claim that 50% of them are living which is more than can be said for the men!

Women composers are well-represented on tutti and the Lontano label on tutti in particular offers some very engaging recordings - Maconchy is the first name you will see.

The usual gender issues aside, this year's Proms Festival is truly eclectic and has something for everyone. It really is worth browsing the website - bbc.co.uk/proms - and if you can't be there in person, the evening concert is broadcast on BBC Radio 3 every day and there will be lots of other radio and television broadcasts of many of the events.

I'm really pleased Marin Alsop has been given The Last Night of the Proms and on Saturday 7th September, I will be cheering her on from the safety of my sofa!

More tutti talk soon, so,
That's it for now . . .

Summer is here and open-air opera is upon us - Glyndebourne, Garsington and W11 to name but a few, but let me cast back a little - nominations in the 'Best new opera production' category for the UK's Olivier Awards were announced just before Easter this year and it's interesting to observe that three of the four nominated works were ENO productions. One of the three, Caligula, was by a living composer - Boosey & Hawkes published, German composer, Detlev Glanert.  The fourth nomination, also by a living composer, was staged at The Barbican - Philip Glass's, Einstein on the Beach.

It's a little surprising that nothing was nominated from that other great London operatic institution, Covent Garden, particularly George Benjamin's highly acclaimed new work, Written on Skin.  The Royal Opera House is devoting ever more resources to contemporary work and that may be down to the outlook of the current Director of Opera, Kasper Holten, who is reported as saying, "New work is not and should not be at the periphery of our programme, but right at the core of what and who we are."  Bravo!

Casting back even earlier, at the beginning of this year ROH announced an impressive set of plans for 2013 to 2020 amounting to 15 new works in both the main house and the more experimental Linbury Studio.  Forth-coming productions will include in the near future, work by Australian, Ben Frost, and by British composers Julian Philips, Luke Bedford and Matthew Herbert.  Looking further ahead, there are new commissions for Mark-Anthony Turnage and Judith Weir (follow the link on Judith's name for a tantalising taster of the ENO production of Judith's Blond Eckbert). There is lots more on offer for composers from Denmark, Finland, Italy and Germany, too.

Not to be out-done, ENO also raised the curtain on its latest commission which was styled as an "enthralling multimedia 'occult mystery', combining live performance, music, 2D and 3D film."  A collaboration with the Barbican, all performances of Sunken Garden by composer, director and film-maker Michel van der Aa take place there and it opened on the 12th April. 

Opera has always been wonderfully eclectic, gloriously international and fiercely innovative.  Here's hoping that we can add 'boundlessly contemporary' to the accolades.  A living composer did win that Olivier Award so that is a step in the right direction.

If you type 'opera' into the tutti searchbox, I hope you will be intrigued at what turns up - never the predictable!

Aah, I've just caught the final moments of a fiery Norfolk sunset from my studio window - you can see more of the moments I've managed to capture posted on the Music at tutti timeline on facebook.

More tutti talk soon, so,
That's it for now . . .

In one of my early tutti talks, I mentioned the BBC Radio 3 blockbuster series Baroque Spring, which was presented throughout the month of March.  This was such a dynamic and comprehensive overview of a period of music which has underpinned and nurtured so much which followed that I felt it was deserving of an entire tutti talk to itself.

When I say Baroque music has fed into the repertoire that followed it, there are great examples in 20th and 21st century music of how inspiring the baroque composers have been. 

To take just a few random examples -
in jazz, the Jacques Loussier Trio and the Swingle Singers; in popular music, Procul Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale and more recently, a marvellous arrangement of Let it Be, written for Lesley Garrett and recorded on her CD The Singer.

Then there are some of the direct tributes such as Percy Grainger's Handel in the Strand or Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (on a theme by Purcell), here played by the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas.

For the more quirky - have a look at this mobile/cellphone video - a very enterprising way to spend their advertising budget!

If you type the word baroque into the tutti searchbox, I guarantee you will be surprised at what pops up!

It's a lovely summer's day here in Norfolk and I'm looking out into clear skies - England are dominating the battle for the Ashes and the weekend beckons - close to perfect!!

More tutti talk soon, so,
That's it for now . . .

tutti talk is our latest email strand and this is the first edition.

We know music is your passion - it's our passion, too which is why we want to share with you the thoughts, ideas, events and opportunities that we hope will interest you.

The first thing to let you know is that tutti has just launched a facebook page.  It's really easy to find but here's a link for your first visit - www.facebook.com/tutti.co.uk.

Just in this first week, we have gained nearly 500 followers and are connected through our friends to nearly 15,000 people.  We'd love you to visit the tutti facebook page and like us.

Looking back to 2012, we saw the loss of three immensely fine composer - Elliott Carter at 103, Jonathan Harvey, 73 and Richard Rodney Bennett at 76.  They all made unique contributions to 20th and 21st century music and I'm pleased to say we have examples of their work at tutti.

RRB was of course well known for his film music, including Far from the Madding Crowd, Nicholas and Alexandra and Murder on the Orient Express - three very different cinematic genres.  At tutti we have an interesting recording which couples Bennett's work with that of Ben Britten, Roberto Gerhard and Elisabeth Lutyens (a much under-rated English composer who deserves a tutti talk all her own!).  You can find the NMC CD here .

Jonathan Harvey's piano piece, typically tersely titled - ff - was commissioned as part of the first Spectrum collection for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.  This is another enterprising NMC recording.

More tutti talk soon, so,
That's it for now . . .

Sarah Rodgers

Friday, December 14, 2012

Beck's ground breaking move

I was fascinated recently to hear on BBC Radio 4 an item which was giving rise to much comment in the pop and rock world  because a 90's Indie- Rock Musician,  Beck, decided to make available some of his music only as sheet music with no sound recording. 

Jen Chaney in an article for Celebritology in the Washington Post,commented "That's right, Beck has written 20 new songs and if you want to listen to them at a party or while you exercise, you will have to get out a bunch of paper and read them. This is your punishment for all those free downloads. Music should not be so accessible and easy. It should be hard to get, and Beck's here to remind you of that, okay?"

For a classically trained musician this has been intriguing, particularly when in the radio interview, the rock expert being interviewed explained that rock composers rarely write down their music and many rock musicians cannot read music. 

For many years as a clarinettist, I specialised in performing new music and the joy of receiving scores that had never been performed before and of exploring new musical landscapes was only ever exceeded by the point at which I rehearsed it with other musicians when we were creating a performance together.

OK - so Jen Chaney is correct - it is not easy but it is hugely rewarding, not only individually but as a group of people creating music together!  I will be interested to see the development of the response in the pop world to Beck's ground breaking move.

We are going to continue to introduce new music and new composers to the tutti.co.uk catalogue in 2013 and I hope that all those people who enjoy performing from sheet music will continue to explore  this "brave new world" with us.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Women Composers in the Minority

An interesting statistic came to light recently which claimed that of the 75,000 music-writers – composers, songwriters and lyricists – that are members of the UK royalty collecting society, PRS for Music, only 14% are women.

I think that this could relate to other genres rather than contemporary classical where there is a lot of exciting new music being created. Part of it was even discussed in breakfast time on radio 4 and there, it was emphasised quite correctly I think, that it is not so much whether they are women composers but whether they are good composers.

I remember quite vividly being told by my professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London, that he felt it was more important for his male students to succeed as they had to support a family where as most of the women when they left would give up anyway, get married and have babies. Well not this person! Incidentally, I was also told that I would have a much better chance of succeeding as a classical clarinettist, if I did not speak with a Derbyshire accent and if I went to an Anglican Church rather than a Methodist Church - but hey that was a long time ago!

It did not deter me because in the end it was the playing of music that was important to me and let's face it to the listener as well. I suppose what can make it more difficult is that not enough women get in at the highest level in order to influence decisions.

I am still one to support good compositions and good performers whether they are male or female. However, what is important to us at tutti.co.uk and on the impulse music website is to support composers and performers so that they are at least seen and heard. Just to even the balance a bit here is a link to women composers of a great range of styles on the tutti website.

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