Wagner Singing Competition at the Wigmore

Climatic scene from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde 1910 Rogelio de Egusquiz   1979 was my A-level year. Also the year I discovered Richard Wagner. We had one good stereo system in our sitting room which pumped out rock, pop, jazz and classical at all hours, to all corners of our Victorian house in Barnes. One Sunday afternoon,…

Baroque in our time

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-36) Christmas is nearly upon us and time for the Requiems, the Stabat Maters, to be performed in concert halls and churches up and down the country. Now, more so than ever, audiences, can’t seem to be able to get enough of these religious works. Their familiar musical settings are popular for…

Pietà Power at the Cadogan Hall

    Saturday night, late October, and there’s a chill in the air, and it’s not all down to weather! Brexit dramas, political deadlock, dire economic and climatic warnings have filled the day. I’m relieved to put those eerily dark streets off Sloane street behind me, and to step into the warmly lit Cadogan Hall….

Pietà Premieres in London: Interview with composer Richard Blackford

    In June 2019 Frances Wilson reviewed Pietà, a new choral work by Richard Blackford for The Cross-Eyed Pianist. Drawing on the theme of maternal grief and loss, Blackford took as his starting point the Stabat Mater. It is a hymn to Mary, and portrays her suffering as Jesus Christ’s mother at his crucifixion. In…

Benjamin Britten and the Challenge of Singing

  Portrait of Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten  by Kenneth Green 1943   The voice is an extraordinary thing. Air pumped from our lungs, passes over the fleshy folds in our throat, to emit a full spectrum of sounds. Some more pleasing than others. Last weekend I shouted and screamed so hard at a football…

Kollwitz’s War and Grief at the British Museum

‘Woman with Dead Child, 1903. Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945)   Käthe Kollwitz, née Schmidt, is not a name I had come across in the art world until the British Museum’s show.  Born in 1867, in Königsberg, East Prussia, Kollwitz established herself as a leading, influential graphic artist by the time the First World War came about….

Pietà by Richard Blackford – world premiere at Poole Lighthouse

Pietà by Richard Blackford Jennifer Johnston, mezzo-sopranno Stephen Gadd, baritone Amy Dickson, saxophone with Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Youth Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gavin Carr The Stabat Mater, a Medieval hymn which portrays Mary’s suffering as Christ’s mother during his Crucifixion, has been set to music by numerous composers, most notably Pergolesi,…

The Power of Music and Birdsong

Southwark Cathedral and London Bridge surrounded by fields around 1548   Man has always been enraptured by birdsong. The nightingale’s song is not only a thing of rare beauty but a complex affair. Naturalists have likened the nightingale’s musical talents to that of a jazz musician, who is able to improvise on several instruments at…

A sonic sculptural wrapping: Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet at Tate Modern

Everything about this experience was right. The venue, which broke with the austere standards of classical concerts venues, and allowed everyone to come, and go. The spontaneous audience: musicians, curious wanderers or simple art and music lovers. The performers: amateurs and professionals gathered around a communal sense of honesty and authenticity. And of course, the music.