Back at Codarts

By on January 29, 2016 in Codarts Rotterdam

I returned to Rotterdam on Monday 25 January now in my new role of supporting the Classical Music Department and its new Head, Okke Westdorp. Monday evening was taken up with a very full Open Podium with some excellent perfromnaces from students, notable a delicious Ma Mère L’Oye from Ellyne Wieringa and Elise de Gast, a piano duo that is really coming into its own. Another interesting contribution came from Katharina Kauruff (oboe) and her guest from Berlin, Laura Schreyer (piccolo). They played the Rucke di Gluck of Giacinto Scelsi in an impressive performance in preparation for Laura’s final exam in Berlin. Friederike Bassek (oboe) also played Pasculli’s La Favorita in a first outing of this demanding work……

I am now working to plan the Codarts Woodwind Open Day for Saturday 5 March. All interested prospective woodwind students should apply to Sophie Hopman at Codarts. The information for this is on the Codarts website. With Juliette Hurel, Wim Steinmann, Julien Hervé, Pieter Nuytten, Nancy Braithwaite, Jan Jansen and myself there, we should have a good time!

Four days in Sion

By on January 29, 2016 in Association of European Conservatoires

Thanks to the kind inviation of Jan Dobrzelewski, Jane and I spent four very enjoyable days in Sion, Switzerland from 20 to 24 January. The invitation came to give a lecture on the instrumental and chamber works of Benjamin Britten in the regular series of the conservatoire HEMU. Leading up to this we rehearsed Britten’s Phantasy Quartet for two days with violinist Ruslan Apostolov and violist Elise Lehec – a most enjoyable time working with these fine players. We performed the quartet at the end of the lecture on Saturday 23 January.

Sion is a most beautiful place and we had brief chances to see the town and the area surrounding. The conservatoire has just 60 students but all very high level string players working with distinguished teachers. An ideal place to work intensively and away from the rush of city life!

Thanks to Jan Dobrzelewski for wonderful hospitality (the food was amazing!) in Sion.

A Project Week to remember

By on November 8, 2015 in Codarts Rotterdam, De Doelen

I have just come back from De Doelen where a concert conducted by Hans Leenders has completed the Codarts autumn Project Week with aplomb. As posted last year on 3 November, Codarts project weeks happen twice a year and suspend the curriculum in order to allow students to do something entirely different.

This year we have been working with De Doelen (led by Gabriel Oostvogel and Neil Wallace) on a long term project under the title Vonk. The idea has been to explore ways in which we can contribute to a revival of the fortunes of classical music in the light of declining and aging audiences. Actually audiences have been beginning to grow again here in Rotterdam but still the underlying ‘problem’ remains – orchetsras worldwide are closing at an alarming rate and audience figures in generla are in decline. Rotterdam hosted the Classical Next conference in the summer to debate exactly this topic and this will return again in the summer of 2016.

Back to this week. Two panels under the initial guidance of Chanella Hodge, one made up of young professionals from the City of Rotterdam and one of Codarts students, have been meeting  since last January to design a concert and preparatory project week that will attract new audiences and bring new ideas to programming. With many ups and downs the resulting concert took place today. The concert was opened by a single drum roll played by the conductor Hans Leenders on a bare stage. The echoing drum roll was further echoed by a spontaneous though encouraged lap-roll by the audience. Then the Overture La Gazza Ladra followed with all players walking on stage as they played. Two works by student composers Sam Wamper and Neus Kaori both made use of audience involvement (clicks, rustles, taps and hisses to capture the autumn theme of the evening) and these works were complemented by the storm from Beethoven 6, the Via Appia of Respighi and an outstanding performance of the second and third movements of the Sibelius Violin Concerto by 17-year-old Karen Su. The concert ended with music from ET and Armin van Buuren’s version of You’ll never walk alone.

But this was not all. During the week, our composers (under Peter Jan Wagemans, Paul van Brugge, René Uilenhuijt and Hans Koolmees) had been working on instant composition installations that were played on screens in the hall and works that were performed in secret locations within the labyrinth of De Doelen (under the title of ‘mining’!) , and our pianists performed Mendelssohn and Bach in a ‘chill room’ decked with Indian carpets, cushions, bubble chairs, nice lighting and other accoutrements including a pile of packing cases and the audience drank bockbier as part of the experience.

Still more: the Project Week also provided a celebration of the remarkable Dutch composer Arie J. Keijzer in a concert of his works with organ and the Piano Department welcomed Edwin Beunk and Riko Fukuda for a day of discovery of the Erard and other early pianos. Huib Ramaer also lectured on Mendelssohn and his times.

Finally the Project Week for the singing department comprised preparation and performance of Herbert Howells’ Hymnus Paradisi with our great choir director Wiecher Mandemaker’s  Laurenskantorei and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins. The final performance took place yesterday (7 November) to a packed Grote Zaal (2200) in De Doelen.

So it was a Project Week to remember!  Thanks to all those who worked so hard – Myrte Hoes and Alysia van Dijk especially but also Okke Westdorp, Bart van de Roer, Erik Zwiep and all those already mentioned too.

Haydn and Mozart Sinfonia Concertanti

By on November 8, 2015 in Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra, Uncategorized

The most recent Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra (DECO) concert on 24 October was a great chance to play the Haydn and Mozart Sinfonia Concertanti again. I had not played the Haydn for many years and really enjoyed this exuberant and espressive work again – for the oboist pure fun with much of the attention being taken by the solo violin (played with real panache by Alex Laing, and with Jane Salmon playing cello and Keith Rubach the bassoon). The Mozart is such a pleasure to play – every note a gem. Alex was joined on viola by Ruth Woolley for a fine and eloquent performance conducted by Philip Scriven. I sat out for Haydn 73, La Chasse and enjoyed hearing Deco play with Laura Ashton and Simon Dewhurst playing the oboe parts – lovely playing. It was nice to be back playing in Lichfield Cathedral with many old friends there – long may these chances continue!

Schubert Ensemble 29 November

By on November 7, 2015 in Schubert Ensemble

Having taken over the role of Chair of the Schubert Ensemble Trust this year, this is to help spread the word about the Ensemble’s Wigmore Hall concert on 29 November. This is the second of a two-concert series devoted to chamber works of Robert Schumann and Gabriel Fauré. On 15 July the Ensemble played the Schumann Piano Quintet and the first piano Quintet of Fauré – two great and highly popular works which were received very warmly by the large audience. For me, Schumann’s Piano Quartet is even more special with perhaps one of his greatest slow movements and a finale that somehow brings Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony to mind. The Fauré’s second quintet is also exceptional and the two works make up a superb programme with the Andante Op 25 for violin and piano as a perfect amuse bouche.

Incidentally the Schubert Ensemble’s annual concert for friends which took place on 9 October at Leighton House was a vintage evening with so many close followers present, good wine, the fabulous ambience of the house with Leighton’s paintings there to inspire. Movements of works from Lousie Farrenc, Schumann and Suk were complemented by a complete performance of Brahms’ G minor quartet, another Schubert ensemble ‘special’ with everyone on sizzling form. Keep an eye open for next year’s concert there…..and book early!

I hope to see as many of you as possible at the Wigmore on the 29 November……

Mr Corelli’s Fifty Fiddles Festival

By on November 5, 2015 in Codarts Rotterdam

The idea for the Fifty Fiddles Festival which took place on 26 and 27 September in De Doelen, Rotterdam came from the earlier collaboration that Codarts organised with jazz violinist Tim Kliphuis joining Gordan Nikolic and the Codarts String Orchestra in concerts that combined string  works of Mozart and Vivaldi with jazz improvisations. Some Codarts students (notably Pablo Gonzalez Rodriguez and Chris Kosidis) have gone on to study jazz violin and thus to feed the principle of interrelation between the five music departments of Codarts (classical, jazz, pop, musical theatre and world music).

In discussions with Tim Kliphuis over the past year or more, the Fifty Fiddles Festival sought to bridge the gaps between the various musical genres with a special focus on the violin. A two-day festival with folk fiddlers, jazz violinists, classical violinists and representatives from the many world music traditions would surely be quite a celebration.

In the end, Tim directed an inspiring weekend that had solo and ensemble concerts from Gjermund Larssen (Norwegian folk violin and hardanger fiddle), Frankie Gavin (Irish Folk Fiddle), the Tim Kliphuis Trio (Jazz Violin, Guitar and Bass), Lenneke van Staalen (Indian violin), Yannick Hiwat (electric violin), Hayato Ishibashi (classical violin), Kristie Su (classical violin), the DOT Quartet and with two fine concerts by the Holland Baroque Society (directed by Aisslinn Nosky) in which Codarts students participated in Concerti Grossi of Corelli. These events celebrated the voice and virtuosity of the instrument in amazing style and produced a chance to show the diversity that Codarts seeks to work with. The beautiful eloquence of the the playing of Gjermund Larsen, the energy and brilliance of Frankie Gavin, the reflective grace of Lenneke van Staalen, the originality of Yannick Hiwat, the amazing playing of HBS and Aisslinn Nosky especially in the Concerto Grosso of Veracini, the unaccompanied Bartók of Hayato Ishibashi, and of Paganini by Kristie Su and the freshness of the DOT quartet will not be forgotten easily by those who were there.

Thanks to Neil Wallace, Miriam Duiker, Madelène Roovers of De Doelen, Tamar Brüggemann and all at Holland Baroque Society, Myrte Hoes, Aart Muizer, Karlijn Verschoor, Hans Boerrigter and all at  Codarts  and of course to Tim Kliphuis himself  – what an amazing festival it was!  And Mr Corelli would have been proud if not a little astonished………



Gergiev Festival

By on October 14, 2015 in Codarts Rotterdam

This year’s Gergiev Festival on 10 to 12 September in Rotterdam was made all the more interesting by the inclusion of a performance of Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony played by students from Codarts Rotterdam and KC Den Haag and conducted by Valery Gergiev himself. This was another vintage collaboration between the two conservatoires which produced a most impressive reading of the symphony. There were some beautiful wind and brass solos but perhaps the stars of the show were the first violins who brought such intensity to the work. The festival was given over almost entirely to works of Rachmaninov with fine playing from the Rotterdam Philharmonic in the 3rd Symphony and Paganini Variations (soloist, Behzod Abduraimov) and from the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in the 1st Symphony and Symphonic Dances. The RPhO finished with amazing performances of the four piano concerti with Alexei Volodin (No 1), Dmitry Masleev (No 2), Alexander Gavrylyuk (No 3) and Sergei Babayan (No 4) – a true feast. Thanks go to Valery Gergiev for including the students in this amazing festival.


By on October 14, 2015 in Kammermusik

After a silence of some weeks in this blog, it is time to catch up with the many things that have been happening over the summer. When I last wrote we were off to the Kammermusik Summer Workshop in Santa Fe. This was a great week in beautiful New Mexico, playing Mozart Quartets and other works, teaching and coaching, conducting Brahms’ A major Serenade and exploring old and new chamber music works. Thanks to Will Buss and Janet Yaker Murray (Keith Bowen did not make this workshop but was very much instrumental in the planning of it), Kammermusik is an extremely well organised week characterised by high levels of commitment and mutual appreciation of the work going on. A good development this year was the daily concert in the late-afternoon in which everyone shared what they had been working on. The result was much focussing of minds, a high workload and excellent productivity.

Jane and I enjoyed working with colleague coaches Stephen Redfield, Crawford Best and Douglas Dunston and with the many fine players on the course. A post-Kammermusik highlight was  being guided up nearby Lake Peak by Crawford Best – a thrilling walk to over 12,000 feet with stunning views of New Mexico and beyond from the top. Two days in Taos completed our trip – unforgettable!



End of an era

By on July 1, 2015 in Codarts Rotterdam

After a hectic June with concerts to play (including a most enjoyable return to the Adrian Boult Hall on 13 June for chamber music with Naoko Senda, Robin Ireland, Jane Salmon and Guy Murgatroyd), exams and end-of-term activities at Codarts Rotterdam, we came to a close today with the Graduation Ceremony for Classical Music. It was a great year and some wonderful musicians have graduated including Ineke Hellingman who played a wonderful Rachmaninov First Piano Concerto this week, Kristie Su whose violin playing goes from strength to strength, violinist Hayato Ishibashi completing his masters and playing with great authority, Kathelijne Wagner who will go to her first opera appointment in Germany, outstanding composer Meriç Artaç, percussionists Renato Dias Peneda, Antonio Gutiérrez Rubio and Yves Popov, bass clarinetist Mayuko Takeda, choral conductor Maarten van der Bijl, organist Anna Karpenko, violinist Titia Bouwman and many more.

This moment brings me to the end of an era that began when I was asked to lead the Classical Music Academy in Codarts Rotterdam in January 2011. Always intended as an interim appointment, I am delighted to be handing over to Okke Westdorp on 1 September. Okke is a former principal horn of the Hague Philharmonic and brings much experience and energy to the job. I will work with Okke through the autumn to ensure a smooth handover and will continue to do some projects for Codarts. With a Rachmaninov 2nd Symphony being played in a collaborative performance with KC Den Hague with Valery Gergiev conducting on 11 September and with the Fifty Fiddles Festival co-promoted by Codarts and de Doelen under the direction of violinist, Tim Kliphuis on 26 and 27 September, there will be plenty to do in the autumn.

For now, Jane and I will be heading for Santa Fe at the end of July for the Kammermusik Workshops and another chance to play some great chamber music in a beautiful place.



Lucy Akehurst’s 70th

By on June 10, 2015 in Birmingham Conservatoire

Because our daughter Lizzie has been learning the violin with Lucy Akehurst since she was three, it was great to be able to take part in Lucy’s 70th Birthday Concert in the Adrian Boult Hall last Sunday. Lucy has been teaching young violinists in Birmingham for many years and has run the Young Strings Project at Birmingham Conservatoire for more than twenty years. Small wonder then that around 100 current and former pupils of Lucy made it this concert with supporting cellists, bassists and few wind players including one lone oboe. Stars included Alessandro Ruisi who played a beautiful Gershwin Prelude, Amy Galluzzo who played two Paganini Caprices with great panache, and Roberto Ruisi, Philip Edwards, Edward Pether, Caroline Pether, Sarah Thornett and Dewi Tudor Jones. But the real star was the massed young violinists (around 60 of them) who played the first movement of the Bach Double from memory. tring playing is alive and well in Birmingham and it was nice to hear Lucy resolving to continue teaching long into the future.

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