Listen to the International Piano Series podcast with Mitsuko Uchida

Mitsuko Uchida talks about the strangeness of Schumann, her piano collection and her interval snack of choice.

You can hear Mitsuko Uchida perform a recital of Schumann, Schoenberg and Bach on Tuesday 15 January 2013, 7.30pm at Royal Festival Hall.

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The BBC Concert Orchestra runs the gamut from torment to joy with Exstatica on Monday 19 November at Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The programme features the maxed-out minimalism of  composer Michael Torke‘s ‘Ecstatic Orange’ and Arnold Schoenberg‘s ‘Transfigured Night’, inspired by Richard Dehmel’s poem where star-crossed lovers experience a moment of incandescent bliss.

Soprano Marie Angel joins the BBC Concert Orchestra to perform Michael Nyman‘s lustful songs ‘I Sonetti Lussuriosi’, which are set to the pornographic poems of Pietro Aretino. Despite being in Italian, their sexually explicit lyrics ensured the CD release wore the ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker more associated with gangsta rap.

Physical and intellectual ecstasy are all wrapped up in a special version of the Pet Shop Boys’ classic dance hit ‘I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing’, where Neil Tennant expressed the immortal desire to ‘take all my clothes off and dance to the Rite of Spring.’

This event contains sexually explicit material and is suitable for audiences aged 18+

£6 tickets available using the offer code FRIENDS

Input the offer code on the event page below before purchasing tickets


Interview with Alda Dizdari, star of Movements & Expressions

In her forthcoming performance at Southbank Centre, Alda Dizdari will explore some of the most important works written for the violin at the beginning of the 20th century. We catch up with her in advance of her concert ‘Movements & Expressions’ on 3rd April.

What are you particularly looking forward to about your forthcoming performance at Southbank Centre?
There was a lot of thinking going into creating a balanced programme that explores some of the most important musical languages and movements in the beginning of the 20th Century. Being such a rich century in every possible way, from the historical background to the impact it had on arts and music, it was an interesting process. I look very much forward to moving from one powerful musical language or from one musical world, to another because in themselves all these works are so unique, well defined, complete universes and the contrast in expression is vast. I love the idea of having such incredible variety of expressions in a short period of time. All the works were written between 1910-1947, some of them only a year apart from each other, and yet they belong to different worlds and aesthetics. I think the title evokes what I am seeking in “exploring movements and expressions”. My inspiration came not only from music but also from what was happening in the European culture at that time. I find it one of the most interesting eras, from art, music to fashion and architecture, it was an era of great style, artistic inspiration and individuality.

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
They are all fantastic pieces requiring such a detailed work. I think they are all favourites of mine for very particular reasons. I love Debussy for the Sound colours he creates, a magical treat for the senses. I am fascinated by the world of Schoenberg, whom I find such a romantic, if one learns to hear his music with fresh ears and allows oneself to delve in that wonderful Viennese valse on which the fantasy stands, one sees so many mixed feelings of nostalgia, of rejection, of tenderness and a few regrets. A wonderful discovery for me has been the three short pieces by Sibelius. They stand in such contrast with the advanced musical languages of Debussy and Schoenberg, but they share that strong connection with the 19th century tradition. I adore the little harmonic tricks Sibelius is always using to make the simplest ideas into distinguishable jewels.

Bartok brings his unique emotional power which grips you from the very first note, which can be an open string, his musical language is so close to my heart, the music speaks to you, every rhythm is communicating a word, the folk element creates a very earthy feeling to his music, all the dances relate directly to our body language, it is the most natural music. I cannot get enough of Webern’s world, this condensed existence that says so much with so little. The four pieces a little like Sibelius’ create a complete universe. If in Sibelius’ case they evoked the 19th century tradition, in Webern’s case they evoke the future, predicting the world to come. Although written in 1910, the earliest written piece in the programme, Webern’s pieces are the most puzzling ones.
Ravel’s sonata is such a great piece to perform. It has everything in it, wonderful sound and feelings, you feel almost ancient one minute playing plain chant and the next minute you are in a blues bar in the deep south, playing jazz and blues. The transformation is incredible. It is great fun.

And is there a work that is for you, emotionally, especially important?
I think performers are like actors. We completely emerge in the music we perform and we find a deep emotional attachment to these pieces. I almost feel we live with the ghosts of the composers for a while, feeling their energy and their strength running through our veins. I am sure it is true to some extent, because their spirit is in their music. The reason why I became a violinist was because of Sibelius’ violin concerto which I heard for the first time when I was 5 years old. I have a deep emotional connection with that work, so strong that I was reluctant to performing the concerto until my late 20s because I didn’t trust my emotions and felt very vulnerable. I feel similar connection with Brahms and Bartok.

What other talent or skill would you like to possess?
I wish I could draw and paint. I think I would have been obsessed with nature and colours and I would have loved working with materials. I wish I could have more time to be an explorer of ancient civilisations, such as the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. I wish I had the talent to write short stories, especially in the style of Chekhov or Gogol.

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
My ideal conductor would be Jurowsky. I admire him so much, he has great energy, great technique. From the past I think I would definitely have Brahms on the piano giving me all the time in the world to breath and creating that warm sound filling me up with love. My dream musical companion on chamber music would be George Enescu. He would play everything from heart and would know every little detail on the score. Enescu, Cassals and Yssaye would be my dream partners.

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
At the moment silence is the most precious thing to me. There is just too much music around. I play music all the time so the counterpoint would be silence. I love the sound of a black bird that sings in my garden. It relaxes me more than anything else. I often think of Messian and I start listening to the Quartet for the End of Time. There was a time when I started my day with Schubert Lieders and other times for weeks I loved to start with Mendelssohn’s chamber music. I never get tired of Brahms, anything he wrote was golden, I love his music. And I can never get tired of Mozart’s piano concertos and Bach’s music for strings, I can listen to them endlessly and feel fresh. I even find myself doing a little court dance around the house and regret being born in this century.

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform?
I like to eat a banana and some chocolate before I perform. I also have to hear the voice of my parents wishing me good luck. I feel their energy and I know it will be a good evening.

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