Messiah preconcert talk at Barbican Centre, London

If you have 27’44” to spare, this is the podcast of a pre-concert talk I gave on Handel’s Messiah . It was recorded live at the Barbican Centre in London on 10th December 2014, before a performance by the Academy of Ancient Music.

ACE Cultural Tours – lecture course and trips in 2015

The ACE Cultural Tours 2015 brochure has just been released. I’m delighted to be leading four tours for ACE next year – to Aldeburgh Festival, West Cork Chamber Music Festival, the Sibelius Festival in Lahti, Finland, and to the Český Krumlov Baroque Music Festival. And following this year’s sold-out Medieval to Modern course, ACE are offering my Lives of the Great Composers course on three weekday November afternoons in London. Full details of all of these are here.

with Jojo Desmond and Mattias Eskilsson

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With Jojo Desmond and Mattias Eskilsson at the Wellesley Hotel. 

Adriana Lecouvreur

Believe it or not, Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur really is my favourite opera – and I’ll be talking about it at a Divas and Scholars evening on Weds 12th November in Chelsea. There will be a real live Adriana – and champagne. Just steer clear of the violets …

onstage with Blue Harlem at Ronnie Scott’s, 21/07/14

with Blue Harlem at Ronnie Scott's, London, 21/07/14

with Blue Harlem at Ronnie Scott’s, London, 21/07/14

B minor Mass – background reading

Ahead of our B minor Mass performance at the Bedford Park Festival this Sunday, here are three useful links: John Butt on the Breitkopf edition I’m using, Bernard Sherman on tempi, and a link to the autograph score (four documents).

Sofia Rei

I wrote this preview of Argentine singer Sofia Rei’s appearance at London’s excellent ReVoice festival curated by Georgia Mancio. She appears at Pizza Express, Dean Street on Thursday 17th October.

SB on BB

I’ve just been interviewed by the Good Morning Britten blog about Benjamin Britten. Doing the interview was a useful opportunity for me to crystallise my ideas about this complex man – here’s the complete text. And do come to hear what promises to be a fascinating session this Wednesday lunchtime . Sir Humphrey Maud was one of “Britten’s Children” in the late 1940s.  At the Burton Bradstock Festival he’ll be talking to me in a rare interview about his time with Britten.  Complete programme details of the 2013 Burton Bradstock Festival are here;  Britten:  The Man I Knew is at 1pm on the 14th August.

UPDATE – sadly Sir Humphrey had to withdraw from this event for health reasons.  There are plans to reschedule the interview at some point in the coming months – will post more details when I know more.

Classic Discovery at the Barbican


Classic Discovery at the Barbican

A great night out at the Barbican to hear the London Symphony Orchestra on blistering form with Nikolai Znaider. Meet my lovely Classic Discovery group – 24 people who don’t normally go to concerts.

Airbrushing Eric? Some thoughts on Delius

Just watched John Bridcut’s documentary on Delius: Composer, Lover, Enigma.  If all classical music documentaries were like this, I’d be happy.

Something that’s caused a lot of comment is Bridcut’s distinctive technique of filming leading musicians while they’re listening to pieces of music – analysing, reflecting, and often being profoundly moved by it. I don’t usually like the practise of talking over music, but for me in this case his approach does work.  Particularly when, as in the case of Sir Andrew Davis, an interviewee becomes so choked up with the music that he can hardly speak…

But where was Eric Fenby?  He gets just one mention in ninety minutes – no doubt a reaction against those documentaries a generation ago where Delius’s amanuensis got almost equal billing with the composer himself, but odd nonetheless.  By coincidence, I picked up a copy of Fenby’s Delius memoir in a second-hand shop last week. It’s a great read, with some interesting insights into this determined and difficult composer, who was living a life of glorious musical isolation well before the syphilis kicked in.  Striking points include:

  •  Fenby’s description of Delius as “hard, stern, proud, cynical, godless, completely self-absorbed;”
  • the fact that Delius never spoke to the villagers at Grez-sur-Loing in all his time there, despite prevailing on them not to use electricity while he was listening to his music being broadcast on the BBC, to improve the reception;
  • his view that it was fatal to have more than a nodding acquaintance with the music of other composers;
  • he wasn’t interested in literature, Nietzsche aside;
  • and some interesting pen-portraits of Delius’s friends, including the amazing Percy Grainger – never a man to use a front door when he could jump out of a first-floor window!

Delius as I Knew Him is reprinted by Dover, and the complete text is available on Google Books.