tue 16/08/2022

Classical Music/Opera direct to home 10 - for free, or not for free? | reviews, news & interviews

Classical Music/Opera direct to home 10 - for free, or not for free?

Classical Music/Opera direct to home 10 - for free, or not for free?

So much great music online is there for the taking, so shouldn't we also pay a bit back?

In amongst the players last summer: Nicholas Collon and members of the Aurora Orchestra in Berlioz's 'Symphonie fantastique' from memoryMark Allan

Time to face the elephant in the room. Five of the six set-ups listed below are free to access; one is not.

While big organisations like the Met – despite not paying its artists or staff since lockdown – and the London Symphony Orchestra can use their generous archive releases to plead for funds, the fact remains that classical musicians are penniless right now, and find themselves staring at blank calendars which will in some cases extend way into 2021. Diminishing pleasures in from-home films don’t pay; middle-range groups and institutions already face at the very least a much-reduced 2021-2 season. I first heard of clear-cut consequences from Ian Page, inspiring conductor and founder of The Mozartists and Classical Opera, who have consistently given some of the best concerts in recent London seasons. His proposal, included below, seems to me a fair and admirable one. Please help as best you can; £10 or £20 here and there can make all the difference.


'Hope through music' on Europe Day EUYO team of 2014Every 9 May for the previous 11 years, there has been a Europe Day Concert of outstanding quality featuring the European Union Youth Orchestra (team of 2014 pictured above) and the equally brilliant group of young European professionals going under the name of the Northern Chords Festival Orchestra. This year the venue is dark, but on Saturday evening you can watch players of the EUYO, with a special appearance from their guiding light Vasily Petrenko and chamber performances by a string and a trombone quartet. Ending, of course, with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, the European anthem. A good way to celebrate post-VE Day without any UK jingoism, and to remember why the EU came into being.


An Estonian great remembered Sumera, Lilje, MattisenIf you don't know the symphonies of Lepo Sumera, you should correct that by trying Paavo Järvi's cycle on the label BIS with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (pictured above: Sumera on the left with conductor Peeter Lilje and Enno Mattisen). These are some of the most stunning and communicative statements since Shostakovich - and Sumera should have composed so much more, but he died at the age of 50. This is a celebration of what would have been his 70th birthday, as Estonia begins to open up and the spaces of Tallinn's great concert hall are used appropriately by musicians from the ERSO and pianist Kadri-Ann Sumera, followed by a memorable concert from last year from an iron foundry featuring Sumera's Cello Concerto. Watch live tonight.


Yuja Wang plays Gershwin with the London Symphony Orchestra

The LSO has been substituting every concert it would have given live on Thursdays and Sundays at the Barbican with films of previous spectaculars. Latest in a host of top choices is LSO online - Thursday concert will be online until late Friday night with Yuja Wang playing Gershwin's Piano Concerto and Michael Tilson Thomas (also a fabulous Gershwin pianist, incidentally) conducting a programme that also includes British composer Colin Matthews’ Hidden Variables and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, an appropriate work for our time given its mix of defiance and (in its poignant slow movement) lamentation. Broadcast last night, available for 48 hours.


Onegin and Pelléas from Berlin’s Komische Oper Scene from Komische Oper PelleasAustralian Barrie Kosky is decidedly flavour of the year among opera directors, despite a certain hit-and-miss in many productions since his sure-fire Handel Saul at Glyndebourne. OperaVision, absolutely the best site of its kind on the internet, has just added his Komische Oper production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which Alexandra Coghlan will be reviewing for us on Monday; there’s already another Kosky special, of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande (Jonathan McGovern' nd Nadja Mchantaf pictured above by Monika Ritterhaus), giving freer rein to directorial imagination.


Aurora Orchestra launches Aurora Play Berlioz from the Aurora OrchestraPerhaps the UK’s most innovative orchestra under the guidance of the enterprising Nicholas Collon, the live-wire Aurora revisits some of its finest concerts, starting on 10 May with its biggest feat to date of from-memory (ie off-score) performances, of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, filmed at last year’s BBC Proms (pictured above by Mark Allan; what to expect from “the biggest music festival in the world” this year? We’re still waiting to hear). Other highlights include a 2011 Kings Place concert featuring works by Nico Muhly and John Adams, and Beethoven symphonies, also from memory.


Ann Hallenberg and The Mozartists Ann HallenbergThis one, which will be up next Wednesday on the site Exit Live, doesn’t come free. The admirable aim of Ian Page, mastermind behind the most revelatory interpretations of 18th century repertoire both familiar and rare, is that proceeds will be shared equally between all the performers. When he spoke to the great mezzo Ann Hallenberg (pictured above) about putting up this concert, she agreed; she would take no more than a player who might be featured for only a very short length of time. Audiences who’d already bought tickets for cancelled events this season were generous; only one out of hundreds ask for a refund. But with The Mozartists facing a 50 per cent reduction in concerts next season, more help is needed.


Well, the obvious answer is "Yes" to start to pay for on-line material, which goes against the mindset that Sir George Martin once spoke of some years back, to the effect of (these probably aren't his exact words, but pretty close): "Technology, which was once our friend, has suddenly become our enemy. It's created a world where people think that all music should be free." And I don't completely exclude myself, since I've donated to a few groups which have offered on-line content so far, but by no means all. I need to remedy that. I've streamed almost nothing from UK groups so far, given all the material out there, something like one opera. On this side of the pond, I've seen several pronouncements on both the political right and left who have basically given the finger to Peter Gelb and saying that they'll never donate to the Met to help out. Granted, Gelb is no saint, and I've not been a fan of some of his past moves at Sony Classical. But if nothing else, Gelb's on the correct side politically (he obliquely expressed disappointment to a live Met audience one evening just after our scumbag leader got away with it in the Senate), and just to stick a finger in the one right-wing deplorable "I hate that liberal Gelb"'s eye, I should make a donation to the Met. I might be able to earmark it for the Met orchestra & chorus, perhaps.

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