Category Archives: Video

Well done, Thomas!

Thomas Hampson appeared on the BBC TV programme ‘HARDtalk’ on 29th July. I wonder if he knew what he’d let himself into? The interviewer, Sarah Montague, is in the Jeremy Paxman mould, by which I mean she adopts an aggressive, confrontational attitude from the very outset, bandying about opinionated and emotive phrases about opera and its supposed elitism and so on. She also uses the old reliable technique of this type of interviewer by asking a question and then not allowing here interviewee a chance to answer it before she interrupts and talks over him.

But Thomas counters very effectively. Watch the video. See what you think.

Kristian Bezuidenhout

I keep on mentioning him and praising his recordings on fortepiano of concertos by Mendelssohn and Mozart, so it’s good to be able to feature a video of the man himself taking about his instrument and his love of Mozart. Kristian is one of the ten musicians on the final list for Gramophone Artist of the Year. I’ll be happy if he gets the award.

By the way, I’d really appreciate it if someone could tell me the correct pronunciation of Kristian’s name. He introduces himself on the video, but does so too quickly for me to catch it.

How it used to be

It’s been a very long time since I’ve added anything to our blog, but now at long last I’ve come across something which just has to be included here.

The wonderful film clip above includes a complete performance by Lauritz Melchior of the Prize Song from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and is a fascinating depiction of the process of recording a singer and orchestra in the days before the electrical process was invented. Just wait for the visual punchline at the end.

Video wonders!

RTÉ, and yes, even the once-great BBC, should be ashamed of themselves. Mediocre coverage of the Dublin Piano Competition every three years if we’re lucky here at home, and a few Proms on BBC4 (provided they’re not too challenging, of course), and that’s about the extent of serious music on TV from these two broadcasters.

And then just look to our Continental neighbours and see what’s on offer there! Ron regularly keeps us in touch with the content he has access to thanks to his satellite and the Arte channel, and it’s difficult not to feel just a little bit jealous of what he can watch while we’re stuck with the likes of Strictly Come Dancing. Well now, thanks to the dear old internet, we can rid ourselves of some at least of our jealous feelings thanks to Arte’s web presence at Arte Live Web.

The site is only available in French and German, but that’s a small price to pay for such wonderful material so readily available. Among current offerings are the following: Veronique Gens in a concert titled Romantic Heroines (a promo tie-in to her CD of the same name); the gala performance of Russlan and Ludmilla from the refurbished Bolshoi Theatre, L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in a programme of works by Rossini, Berlioz and Mendelssohn, and even a complete Ring cycle (a ‘pared-down’ version, with just 18 musicians rather than a full symphony orchestra).

I’ve only just stumbled on this myself, and haven’t had time to do any more than dip into a few of the offerings, but I thought it right to share with you guys. Well worth a look, and perhaps an address to add to your browser bookmarks.

An audio-visual experiment

I thought we had something like this here before, but I haven’t been able to find anything in the archives (perhaps I just sent a link in an email the time I’m thinking of). Anyway, I found out about this through Classical Archives (a site I’d recommend in general terms also — perhaps you’d like to have a look around it while you’re at it).

I could just as well give you a link to the Classical Archives (CA) page I found this on, but that would involve first bringing you here and then sending you away again, and I don’t want you all to get any dizzier than you already are. So, this is the intro CA provide to this video —

This latest noteworthy video features two experiments: first, a musical adaptation by the ZRI Ensemble of Johannes Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet in B minor, op. 115; and second, an imaginative visual representation of this performance in real time. ZRI is a London-based quintet dedicated to re-examining the gypsy roots of Brahms’s music by bringing them more explicitly into focus than otherwise heard in the original scores. ZRI stands for Zum Roten Igel (the Red Hedgehog Tavern), a Viennese pub where Brahms came to drink and socialize, and the ensemble consists of clarinet, violin, cello, accordion, and santouri (a type of hammered cymbalom). Their performance of the Andante from Brahms’s Quintet adapts not only the instrumentation but the actual music, as ZRI mixes his original work with improvisation and dances from the Carpathian mountains. Joining this musical performance is a visual “dance” realized by Stephen Malinowski (check out his Youtube channel or his website), where each instrument is rhythmically and melodically represented as it moves from one note to the next (based on a MIDI realization) which quickly becomes hypnotic.

See what you think guys. For the best experience, may I recommend that you view the video full-screen.

Marek Janowski on Regietheater (and his Wagner project)

Long ago, I pinned my colours to Marek Janowski’s mast, and I stick to my opinion that he is one of the greatest living conductors (if you can at all, listen to his recordings of the Brahms symphonies with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra). His latest recording project is tied in to the next big upcoming anniversary (the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth in 2013), and is an ambitious one — performing the ten major Wagner operas and recording the concert performances for Dutch label PentaTone, the first time this has been done with the same Orchestra, Choir and conductor. Maestro Janowski explains in this video interview his thinking about going for concert performances, and his main reason is his dissatisfaction with current opera productions in Germany.

The interview is longish (about 50 minutes), but some at least of you may find it worth persevering with.

Rodion Shchedrin: Humoreske

Rodion Shchedrin has written lots more than his wonderful Carmen Ballet, even though that’s what he’s best-known for. One very popular piece is his Humoreske, the last of his Three Funny Pieces. This exists in many versions (I have a recording for Piano Trio which is quite good). What all the versions share is humour. Shchedrin, I reckon, would have got on well with Rossini, and I’d say there’d be great crack at a dinner party if they were both at it.

These two videos from YouTube give some idea of the sense of humour he’s capable of. Video quality is very poor in Marc-André Hamelin’s solo piano offering, but it’s worth putting up with for the wonderful tongue-in-cheek delivery. The second, from what looks like a fun evening at the Verbier Festival, is equally good fun, especially notable for the star lineup.