Sunday, 13 December 2015

Guest Blog: Frances Wilson - Thoughts from a reviewer's desk...

Frances Wilson responds to Tom Hammond's recent article on music criticism for the Music Haven Blog:

I read with interest Tom Hammond's recent post in which he queries the usefulness of reviews and the role of music critics and reviewers. I often question the purpose of reviews myself and take the (perhaps rather naive) view that a review should offer an objective overview of the concert, while giving the reader a flavour of what is was like to "be there". I also believe that reviews should not seek to tell the public how to listen - nor instruct the musician in his or her art. As a reviewer (I refuse to call myself a "critic" as the word has negative connotations for me) and a blogger on classical music, I'd like to offer a response to Tom's article, based on my personal experience and the world of classical music reviewing as I see it at the moment.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Tom Hammond: What's the Point of Reviewing Concerts?

Conductor Tom Hammond ponders the efficacy of music criticism, and wonders why - with the growth of online reviewing platforms - there isn't more variety in the types of concerts being reviewed.

I recently conducted three concerts - all with non-professional orchestras and not in famous venues - which were attended by about two hundred people in each case.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Q&A: Lynette Williamson - Graphic Designer

Le tombeau de Rachmaninov - One of Lynette's Latest
Available from Amazon

Rob Edgar spoke to Music Haven’s graphic designer Lynette Williamson about her life and career thus far:

Rob Edgar: Lynette, as a graphic designer, what attracted you to the music industry?

Lynette Williamson: I actually attended the Conservatorium of Music High School in Sydney where I studied piano and viola. After completing my studies, I deferred my place at Sydney University and went to London, where I changed track, enrolled at art college, and left four years later with a degree in Graphic design.

Music runs in the family, and with a brother in London who was a viola player in the English Chamber Orchestra, I had ready-made connections in the music world. On leaving college, I began work as a freelance designer, with a specialism in music covers. Schott gave me the first cover commission - an album of Clarinet Pieces. Following this I did illustration work for International Music Publications (IMP) and soon began working on a regular basis for a number of music publishers, including Universal Edition, Boosey and Hawkes, Faber Music, Lengnick, Novello, and Trinity College London.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

David Matthews: Real Art

Ann Arnold - The Rainbow
Reproduced with the kind permission from the artist

Composer David Matthews ponders the parallels between the zeitgeist of art and music in our time.

On our way back from the Presteigne Festival, my wife Jenifer and I went to see the artists Graham and Ann Arnold, who have a cottage in a small village in deepest Shropshire. They have lived in the village for many years, having forsaken city life in the 1970s when they were members of the Brotherhood of Ruralists, whose aim was to recapture the spirit of Samuel Palmer and the Pre-Raphaelites, in deliberate rejection of the styles and attitudes of many of their contemporaries. The Brotherhood has ceased to exist, but Graham and Ann – Graham now in his early 80s, Ann a few years younger – have continued to uphold its beliefs in their work.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Tom Hammond on Sibelius and The Tempest

Conductor Tom Hammond writes about his performance with the Hertford Symphony Orchestra next May. They will perform Sibelius’s little-known music for Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Discovering Music: Aesthetic Foundations

Byrd Mass for Five Voices
Note the bass line

Rob Edgar ponders the aesthetics of music aimed at children, how they may have changed over the years, and what the effects of this change might be.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Guest Blog: Frances Wilson on The Power of the Programme

In a guest article for the Music Haven Blog, our friend Frances Wilson from the Cross Eyed Pianist Blog writes on how a sensitive concert programme can make or break the premiere of a contemporary piece of music.

Recently I attended two concerts, one in London at St John’s Smith Square and the other in Brighton as part of the Fringe Festival, which included world premieres of new works for piano. The new works were interspersed with more familiar repertoire which made interesting and witty connections between old and new, as well as offering a varied and contrasting listening experience. It struck me that this was an intelligent, accessible and enjoyable way of programming new music by giving audiences an opportunity to experience it without hitting them over the head with it, as is sometimes the effect if one attends a concert comprised entirely from brand new music. It was refreshing to come across these programmes in which familiar works were placed alongside the new and not-so-familiar, for such juxtapositions can shine a new light on the old and highlight previously undiscovered connections between works and composers.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Q&A With James Francis Brown on Amateur Music Making Part 2

In a two-part blog Robert Edgar, questions conductor Tom Hammond and composer James Francis Brown about the world of amateur music-making.

Part Two

James Francis Brown talks about amateur music making from the point of view of the composer. He has written numerous works, at varying levels of difficulty, for both professional and amateur ensembles.

Comments Fixed

Apologies to all our readers who may have been trying to post comments to the blog. There were a couple of gremlins which we have found and banished, hopefully for good.

Q&A: Tom Hammond on Amateur Music Making Part 1

In a two-part blog Rob Edgar, questions conductor Tom Hammond and composer James Francis Brown about the world of amateur music-making.

Part 1
Tom Hammond airs his views – informed by a wealth of experience conducting professional and amateur both nationally and across the globe.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

James Francis Brown - Clarinet Concerto Video

James Francis Brown is featured in a new video by the Redhill Sinfonia ahead of their performance of his Clarinet Concerto on the 4th July 2015.

More information here.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Our Musical Heritage in London

Alan Mills writes about the treasure trove that is the British Library, and the benefits it bestows on all of us; from the student, to the professor, to the man on the street.

Dr. Johnson's famous assertion that, when someone is 'tired of London', they are also 'tired of life' is just as debatable today as it probably was in the 18th century. Nevertheless, there's no doubt that being in London gives one access to a whole range of musical experiences that smaller centres can seldom match. Apart from the endlessly varied and continuous flow of concerts presenting all kinds of music, the good, the bad, and the ugly - plus shops retailing a striking range of sheet music and CDs (though maybe not quite so impressive as formerly) - there is also, thankfully, the British Library, sandwiched for fifteen years now between two mainline railway stations, and sitting back from the busy Euston Road to give it some sense of peace and quiet - though not so far back as to suggest a withdrawal from everyday life.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Historically Informed Composition

On the launch of Music Haven's new publication of a completion of Mozart's oboe concerto, K.293, William Drabkin considers the issues of originality in the process of reconstructing music from the past.

To some extent, I’m here on false pretences. My formal tuition in composition ceased nearly half a century ago and was replaced by training in musicology; at best, I can call composition one of my ‘private passions’. I have maintained a life-long interest in the compositional processes of the great Austrian composers of the late eighteenth and early 19th centuries, and have devoted much time to transcribing and interpreting the sketchbooks of Beethoven. Through my study of Classical-period music, I have come into contact with unfinished works the completion of which I have been unable to resist.

Friday, 29 May 2015

The Qualities of Chamber Music

Peter Fribbins writes about the virtues of chamber music from his perspective as a composer and as the Artistic Director of the London Chamber Music Society

The coming 2015/16 season will be my 14th year directing the London Chamber Music Society’s series of weekly Sunday evening concerts – six of those at Conway Hall before the series moved to Kings Place in 2008. Whilst I sometimes struggle to recall the intricate details of those nearly 400 concert programmes, ranging as they do from duos, piano trios, string quartets, quintets, wind ensembles and chamber orchestras, I am grateful for the unique opportunity this task has given me; to survey, comprehend and absorb the astonishing canon that is classical chamber music. As a composer, the experience has been of incalculable benefit.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Two-Part Blog: How to Teach Music (Part 2)

Following on from from his previous article, conductor Tom Hammond writes about the best methods of teaching music.

Hours of debate and forests of trees have been devoted to this topic. What is the right way to teach, and learn, about music?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Two-Part Blog: Music, Education and the Future (Part 1)

In the first of a two-part blog, conductor Tom Hammond ponders the future of music education in this country, and suggests a workable way we can all have a role in its future:

Cuts to music education that began in the 1980's seem to have no end, with state schools especially badly hit. Even in the private sector, the competing demands on children's time with extra-curricular activities plus league-table induced pressure for exam results, means that learning a musical instrument is seen by many as a non-essential luxury item.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Comment: A Shostakovich Casebook

In light of Lewis Owen’s new play Like Chemist from Canada, Rob Edgar writes about A Shostakovich Casebook, a collection of essays on the composer.

The story of Shostakovich, the man, calls to my mind the old thread sticking out of a jumper metaphor; when you pull on it to investigate, the whole thing unravels. There is much conflicting information about the composer, as would be expected for any historical figure, but the confusion is amplified by a dysfunctional state attitude that, in those days, bordered on the deranged, a state which, quite aside from its now well-documented crimes, was notoriously bad at keeping accurate records. If you follow one particular thread of his life too closely, everything else falls apart.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

A Day for the Record

James Francis Brown writes about the recording process from the composer's perspective:

Most of us support the motto ‘keep music live’. We all recognise the special, sometimes thrilling presence of a living, breathing human-being giving their utmost and reaching deeply into the recesses of their imagination.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Report: Le tombeau de Rachmaninov World Premiere

Peter Fribbins, Cecilia McDowall, James Francis Brown, Alan Mills, Peter Davison
Noriko Ogawa (at piano)

Rob Edgar writes about the recent world premiere of Le tombeau de Rachmaninov, a new work from Music Haven:

The composers are back from a trip up to Manchester for the world premiere of Music Haven's latest project for piano solo, Le tombeau de Rachmaninov which was performed by Noriko Ogawa at the Bridgewater Hall. The piece was commissioned by the hall for their Ravel & Rachmaninov series. It is designed as a companion to Ravel’s famous Le tombeau de Couperin and follows the same format, celebrating the life and works of the two composers featured in the series.

Welcome to The Music Haven Blog

Welcome to the Music Haven blog. Here you can find opinion pieces from our composers (and perhaps, in the future, guests); the occasional review or news piece on subjects we find interesting; and more in-depth information about forthcoming performances, scores, and other projects.