Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Concert highlights for 2014

My ticket stubs tell me that I went to 62 performances during 2014, of which 9 were in Berlin and most of the rest in London.  Strangely in 2013 I also went to 62 performances (7 in Berlin, 8 in Manchester and most of the rest in London).
Almost everything I went to pleased me greatly.  Those that really stick in my memory as special were:
  • Johánn Johánnsson playing his score “The Miners’ Hymns” to accompany Bill Morrison’s film about the lives of miners in County Durham during the twentieth century – the film is an extraordinary and ultimately rather depressing piece of social history, beautifully complemented by the music  (09.03 Barbican)
  • Harmonic Series, at which the cellist Olly Coates introduced me to Éliane Radigue’s “L’ile re-sonante”.    I had not come across Radigue before, and now I am addicted - iTunes tells me I have since listened to this piece 39 times.  It’s 55 minutes long, so that’s about 3 days worth of my life.  And that’s not to mention the 12 times I have listened to her 3 hour long "Trilogie de la Mort" this year (17.03 Southbank)
  • The London Sinfonietta as part of its “Blue Touch Paper” programme played a new sextet by Gavin Higgins – “Uncle Dima”.   An angry polemical piece raging against Russian suppression of gay rights.  I find it extraordinary that the pop music of our times is so politically passive, but take great comfort that our contemporary composers are not. (21.05 ICA)
  • Opera Erratica’s “Triptych”.  I loved it, a sort of mini opera created by a cooperative.   Highly modern, dense with meaning, and very pretty girls wearing not much.   It suggests one way forward for opera as something less expensive, elitist and hierarchical.  I’ve since seen further performances by the same company which I have also enjoyed greatly, including ""The Little Match Girl Passion" followed by a Christmas Carol Karaoke in Hackney Wick (03.06 Print Room, Notting Hill)
  • Mica Levi playing her score along with the film “Under the Skin”.  I have followed her work closely, seeing her play both pop concerts as Micachu, and as a collaborator with the London Sinfonietta.  She’s a refreshing and rare reminder that pop music does not have to be merely dull repetition (18.06 Southbank)
  • Alice Coote and Christian Blackshaw performing Schumann Lieder.   From the first note I was transported to another world; I already knew that Blackshaw is amongst my favourite pianists, and found Alice Coote’s voice an equal delight.  (22.06 Wigmore Hall)
  • Matthew Barney’s “River of Fundament” with music by Jonathan Bepler.  Visually beautiful, unforgettably intense.  Somewhere between a film, art, opera and surreal pornography.  And six hours long.  I’d really like to see it again. (26.06 Colliseum, London)
  • Norma Nahoun and Julien Quentin performing a concert of music by the English composer Charlotte Bray in this wonderful piano repair workshop come concert space. The concert included "Yellow Leaves" which I had commissioned (12.09 Piano Salon Christophori, Berlin)
  • Hauschka playing through his new album “Abandoned City” on prepared piano and electronics in this wonderful Berlin venue.  (19.09 Volksbühne, Berlin)
  • Britten Sinfonia playing live work by Thomas Adès live for dances by four choreographers (Wayne Macgregor, Karole Armitage, Alexander Whitley, and Crystal Pite). A perfect marriage of musicians, composer, and dance. The standout moment however was Adès playing the piano while Claire Booth sang so captivatingly that I was almost unaware of the dancers on the stage (01.11 Sadler’s Wells)
  • Cédric Tiberghien, playing Bartók  piano pieces to a chamber music size audience (about 20 of us).  Cédric talked through the whole development of Bartók’s composing in an insightful, informal, and informative manner.  And he plays beautifully.  (04.11 Queensgate Terrace)

As a footnote, the 2014 events included:
24  classical concerts (ie written before about 1960)
25 contemporary classical music concerts
11 contemporary dance performances
2  plays
The concerts were:
22 Chamber recitals
14 Ensemble performances
7 Orchestral concerts
6 Operas
The most visited London venues were:
16 at the Southbank (22 in 2013)
8 at the Wigmore Hall (11 in 2013)
6 at Sadler’s Wells (5 in 2013)
3 at the Barbican (1 in 2013)
2 at King’s Place (none in 2013)



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