Budapest Festival Orchestra- my first classical concert- I’m still reeling

‘I lost my classical concert virginity last night at the Royal Festival Hall. It was Stephen Hough’s Liszt recital with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, conducted by Iván Fischer. I’m still reeling. As soon as Stephen started playing – it was the Piano Concerto No 1 in E flat – my jaw dropped (actually). I was transfixed, bewitched, spellbound. I’m told that Stephen took more risks with the piece than other performers and played it faster than usual. That figures. At some points, his hands were a pale whirring blur. As his fingers crashed down in elaborate positions all over the keys, my stunned wonder increased. Why on earth hadn’t I been to a classical music concert before?’ Read more of Lucy Jone’s account of this concert for The Telegraph


The Royal Festival Hall organ on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme

Southbank Centre was delighted to welcome Richard Ingrams and Dame Gillian Weir to the Hall last month. Richard Ingrams, who is a keen organist, was guest editing BBC Radio 4’s Today programme between Christmas and the New Year, and he was very interested in featuring the Royal Festival Hall organ and current campaign. He interviewed Dame Gillian Weir about the importance of the organ and they both played the third of the organ that’s in the Hall, which Richard said ‘was a great, great privilege’.

London Sinfonietta with Beat Furrer and Naomi Pinnock

On Tuesday 18 January 2011 at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London Sinfonietta presents the world premiere of Naomi Pinnock’s Words as part of the ensemble’s first concert of 2011, In Portrait: Beat Furrer. Furrer mentored Pinnock on the London Sinfonietta’s Blue Touch Paper scheme for emerging composers, and Words is the resulting piece – an enigmatic score for ensemble and baritone, with cimbalom and harp echoing each other amid a buzz of strings. Like Furrer’s Nuun (also performed at the concert), there is a shadowlike feel to the music. It’s a spare but intensely crafted piece, and Pinnock has clearly been inspired by the older composer’s striking use of voice and text, and is influenced by a similar range of non-musical artforms, from fine art to poetry. On a cold day in November 2010, Naomi met with the London Sinfonietta musicians to further develop a piece which had its roots in the idea of memory, poetry and language. With clear ideas about the sounds she wanted to create, this was not a rehearsal. Instead, Naomi worked with the players to experiment, toying with different playing techniques and stretching the instruments (and the musicians!) to create new sounds and effects. The ensemble filmed the workshop – a piece of music in the making – and the finished video is now available to view on the London Sinfonietta website.

Find out more about Naomi Pinnock’s inspirations, and the creative process behind Words

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Get to know… Juan Diego Flórez

Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez kindly took the time prior to his Rosenblatt Recital here at Southbank Centre on Thursday 20 January to reflect on his career and tell us about his interests outside of music and the people he admires most.

Juan Diego Flórez

Juan Diego Flórez

Has classical music always been your first choice as a career? If you weren’t an opera singer what would you be?
Yes, music was always my first choice.  However, I think that I would have always done something that had to do with music. When I entered the National Conservatory of Music in Peru, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be an opera singer, I just wanted to study music. I was also more into pop at the time.

What would you consider the highlight of your career so far?
Though there have been many important moments, my debuts in Pesaro and at La Scala in 1996 when I was 23 are moments that I will always treasure. The operas were Matilde di Shabran and Armide by Gluck respectively.

You have always maintained a close relationship with your native country, Peru. How important is it that you stay faithful to your cultural heritage?
It is really important. The love for your country is something spontaneous and has to be unforced. In my case I love my country and its music, its food and traditions. I was raised with Peruvian music which I still treasure in my heart. I would like to do many things for the children and youth in Peru. I have created a foundation there in order to create children and youth orchestras. The project is inspired in the “Sistema” of Venezuela and it has the power to transform society through music.

You have sung in the most prestigious opera houses all over the world. Do you have a favourite opera house? If so, what is it that makes it so special?
I have sung a lot at the Met in New York, Royal Opera House in London, Staatsoper in Vienna and at La Scala in Milan. All of these theatres are special and I feel at home every time I return. They are theatres with great tradition. I feel fortunate to be able to perform in these amazing opera houses.

Another successful bel canto tenor who appeared in the Rosenblatt Recitals series last year, Lawrence Brownlee, is often compared to you in terms of voice and rise to fame. Do you like this comparison?
We are good friends and we have worked together in some occasions. He is a great singer and artist.

Your biography reads that yours hobbies include football, tennis, cooking and composition. Could you tell us more about your interest in cooking? Do you have a favourite recipe that you would like to share with our readers?
I love cooking. As a matter of fact I cooked Christmas dinner recently! But my wife has surpassed me. She is a really excellent cook. I like to cook Peruvian food, but also Italian. I love to make risotto, with mushrooms especially.

We know that Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio played an important role in helping you shape your voice and become the successful bel canto tenor you are today. Is there anybody else you admire? Could you name another artist who made a major impact on who you are today?
When I entered the conservatory in Lima I got hold of some cassettes of Pavarotti and Kraus. These two tenors made a big impact on me. Pavarotti’s shine and beauty of tone, and Kraus’ elegance and phrasing continue to be an inspiration for me.

How long will you stay in London in January and what will you do there? You sang in London many times in your career: is there a place you like to visit or something you like to do every time you come here?
I will stay for four days. I will rehearse and also enjoy some nice restaurants. I love to go to Nobu. I also like visiting the National Gallery.

Juan Diego Flórez is singing at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall on 20 January 2011. Buy tickets here.

OAE’s Night Shift here next week- watch a trailer

The Night Shift returns next wednesday with conductor Vladimir Jurowski and a programme of Mahler and Liszt.

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