A series of orchestral teasers for Peter Gabriel’s ‘New Blood’ record. The New Blood Orchestra recorded versions of Peter’s songs for a forthcoming album at Air Studios in June. The arrangements are by John Metcalfe and Richard Chappell led the team magically capturing the audio with the lovely people at Air. For more information on the album release and live dates visit petergabriel.com.
A ‘satellite symphony’ delivered via an iPhone app, a portable organ that recycles sounds, and a work shaped by the movement of the stars are just three of the contenders for the UK’s most avant garde music award.
The biennial New Music Award, run by the PRS for Music Foundation, has announced its five-strong shortlist today. ‘It’s arguably the boldest and most exciting yet,’ says Sally Taylor, chair of the foundation, likening the competition to art’s infamous Turner Prize. The winner of the New Music Award will be given £50,000; this year the prize pot for the Turner was £25,000.
With a judging panel headed by The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins and also featuring pianist Joanna MacGregor and composer Michael Finnissy, the scrutiny is fierce. This year’s shortlisted works share a common desire to reframe or challenge listeners’ conception of music. Instrument-maker Terry Mann aims to create ‘automatic musical instruments’ to be played by members of the public, while Robert Jarvis hopes to use the movement of the stars around the celestial North Pole to create music.
The other shortlisted pieces are by Blue Hippo Media, collaborators Marc Yeats, Ralph Hoyte and Phill Phelps, and members of art group Liminal. David Ross’s work Eye Tones, which proposed turning the London Eye into a giant musical instrument, has had to be withdrawn after the judges felt that it would not be ‘deliverable’.
Previous winners include Jem Finer (formerly a member of Irish folk band The Pogues), whose Score of a Hole in the Ground was inspired by Japanese suikinkutsu water chimes. Tuned percussion instruments were suspended, creating music when struck by falling water.
Click here to read more.
We are having an early lunch. Antonio Pappano, music director of the Royal Opera House, has blocked off the afternoon for a recording session at EMI’s Abbey Road studios in north London, and needs to be there by 2.30pm. The restaurant where we are to meet is five minutes away, but the choice is not purely one of convenience. L’Aventure, I discover during lunch, is Pappano’s favourite London dining place. He held his 50th birthday party there last December.
The midday sun is out and so are the tourists. Abbey Road, in the leafy suburb of St John’s Wood, has long been a place of pilgrimage for fans of the Beatles, who made most of their recordings there. The tourists are busy snapping pictures on the pedestrian crossing immortalised on the cover of the group’s 1969 album Abbey Road. But the studios’ status owes just as much to the great composers and conductors who have worked there since the 1930s – a tradition Pappano will continue at his recording session after lunch.
Pappano holds one of the most powerful positions in classical music. At Covent Garden, where he became artistic supremo in 2002, he controls the choice of operas and singers. Since 2005 he has played a similar role in Rome, as music director of the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Italy’s premier concert ensemble. He is also one of a dwindling number of conductors to have a recording contract. His recent EMI versions of Verdi’s Requiem and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (which this week each won a Classical Brit award) have set a benchmark for modern interpretation of these works.
Read the full interview in The Financial Times here.
When Gabriel Prokofiev first heard virtuoso pianist GéNIA, he was so inspired by her incredible control of the piano and expressive touch that he put aside previous reservations and decided to write a book of piano pieces for her. Initially he tried to veer away from the more traditional piano writing influences that had informed his early musical life (Chopin, Bach, S Prokofiev, Bartok et al). However, as the compositions started to take shape, it became evident that this connection to the past was unavoidable; with GéNIA encouraging Gabriel not to suppress his instincts. Yet this Piano Book is by no means a work of nostalgia; lurking under the surface of what occasionally sound like traditional harmonies and textures are subtle discords, pedal effects, rhythmic distortions, and even techniques that would normally be found in electronic and urban music settings.
Piano Book No. 1 contains all the usual, or should we say ‘unusual’ traits of Gabriel Prokofiev’s compositional style. There is a strong descriptive character in many of the pieces with ‘Cold Wooden Window’ clearly alluding to the shared Russian ancestry of Gabriel and GéNIA. ‘Tough Moves’ combines a hip-hop feel with romantic tremolo effects and ‘Fky House’ employs low bass clusters to work in the manner of drum patterns in dance music. Then ‘Glass swing’ is a 21st century bastardisation of Bach-styled 2-part invention. Gabriel’s method is perhaps comparable to the poly-stylistic writing of Schnikte, and his intuitive approach reveals that modern classical music can be sensitive and unafraid of bridging the gap between seemingly disparate musical worlds.
GéNIA’s subtlety of expression combined with her faultless technique enable her to unite the contrasting elements of Gabriel’s music seamlessly, creating effortless . Both performer and composer are well known for their pioneering attitudes in the contemporary classical world, with GéNIA having previously commissioned over 20 pieces for piano and electronics and developed a multidimensional playing technique called Piano-Yoga®. GéNIA’s UK debut in 2001 was met with critical acclaim and Nonclassical are proud to release their 2nd album together.
Piano Book No. 1 connects more to the classical tradition than previous Nonclassical releases, showing that though they may present classical music in a non-classical way, Nonclassical are still interested in continuing the legacy of classical music and moving it forward. One of the aims of GéNIA and Gabriel’s collaboration was to create an intimate sounding piano album that connected to the classic recordings of the past. This led to 88.2k digital recording of a hand-picked Steinway D-Series piano which was then mastered through analogue tape and vintage valve equipment, without compression.
Read the full Social Media Release here
The intimations of both Ravel and Stravinsky in Colin Matthews’ opulent orchestrations of Debussy’s gusty Preludes “The Wind in the Plain” and “What the West Wind Saw” made for a quite incestuous feel to this the second of John Adams’ cunningly devised concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra. All five composers cross-fertilised in interesting ways.
Matthews’ take on the Debussy Preludes was governed by a desire to make them as orchestral in texture and as far removed from the piano as was conceivably possible. It’s what the best orchestral transcriptions always do and why Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition at times feels as though the plainer piano original came after and not before. Flickers of “Gnomus” and “Baba Yaga” breezed through the Matthews, the headiness of Ravelian rather than Debussian colours making for an exotic palette.
Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales then generated their own turbulence, the sort produced by sensuous swirling bodies. The problem was, though, that Adams, the conductor, slightly short-changed us on the swoon and salivation of these hedonistic morsels, failing to exploit through phrasing and rubato the full variety of pleasure that they offer. In short, they were rather stiffly, uniformly, despatched.
Read the full review in The Independent here and a review in The Telegraph here.
If Mendelssohn’s centenary has exposed his deficiencies as a choral composer and symphonist, it has also highlighted his wonderful and underrated gift as a song composer.