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Snowy spring thoughts

Last year I suffered from stress-related anxiety problems. Since then I've been exploring ways to help myself with the aid of a few stress management/stress reduction courses. So far, so good. One thing I have tried is to go to a concert with no expectations of myself. Somehow, I think I'd fallen into the trap of thinking about what I would write from a concert experience, therefore missing out on being really in the moment. I've tried writing no notes, taking no photos, doing no prior research (sometimes avoiding programme notes), nor listening, leading to some reflections on the recent round of concerts that I've attended.  
Last week, 11th March, I attended a celebratory event 'A Life in Music: Celebrating Dame Fanny Waterman' at University of Leeds. The event comprised an extract from Dame Fanny's personal archives (recently donated to the University), a conversation and a concert. The archive documents looked really interesting and there were lots of cu…
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New year bonanza

I emerged from almost 2 months of cold after cold in time for the new year's concert beginnings. Firstly, the still-quite-dark January days were much brightened by Boxwood & Brass' visit to Skipton Music.
As a six-piece group, Boxwood and Brass perform on replica late 18th-century wind instruments (clarinet, horn, bassoon). They use these instruments in performing music of the era, showing how much the colour and texture variety of early instruments was used by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Weber. Each instrument was introduced to the audience  - the basics of how they worked compared to the modern instrument, how different keys suited different instruments, and more!
Of the programme, I particularly enjoyed the two arrangements (by bassoonist Robert Percival) of two Mozart pieces - the Serenade in C minor K388/406 and the Symphony No 39 in E flat K.543 - character, colour of sound and texture excellently demonstrated (though that's not to say that I didn'…

Piano delivery!

...For Leeds University School of Music. 
To celebrate the delivery of 27 Steinway pianos,  the School of Music performed a newly commissioned piece  - for 28 pianos! The performance is available to watch again at
Short but snappy - a mix of Reich-style randomness with a Bach style finale. Plus some funky lighting! 
Full press release here and photos on Twitter.

The Golden Thread - Music for Gamelan

Almost the end of November and another term of excellent concerts is almost concluded. The high quality continues  - this Friday, 24th November, featured music for gamelan. I have read with interest about gamelan, notably in the excellent The Other Classical Musics, but have never heard the ensemble live. Leeds music students who had spent this term learning gamelan music, performed a mixture of traditional and modern pieces under the name The Golden Thread. I was NOT disappointed!
I liked all of it! But particular mention to the traditional pieces Lancaran Singanebah and Lancaran Tropong-bang - excellent, immersive stuff - and the new pieces, firstly When East Meets West. This used gamelan timbres to sample Western popular music - I'm sure I heard 'Another One Bites The Dust'!! - complete with sunglasses wearing students. The second, It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, added a shadow puppet show to the performance, referencing the traditional artform of wayang…

Even more excellence: Gabriela Montero, Cafe Culture

Mid-month and my concert calendar is in full swing. When tickets for Gabriela Montero were released, I decided to treat myself to a day trip to Wigmore Hall on 13th November. Definitely worth the effort!
The recital programme was Schumann's Kinderszenen Op. 15 and Shostakovich's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B minor, Op. 61. First, the Kinderszenen. Deftly demonstrating the variety within this set of piece, the intensity of Gabriela's performance went up and up - at the point of Traumerei, any audience murmur hushed completely; after this most famous piece, I thought the performance got even better. 
The Shostakovich Piano Sonata was (is) a complete contrast. Written during wartime and in between his Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, the sonata, whilst a memorial to former piano teacher Leonid Nikolaev, also contains a commentary on the times. The three movements are dramatic, lyrical, tragic. For me - a lot of angst in the first movement, moving from an almost skip, through bells toll…

Skipton Music new season highlights

The first two concerts of Skipton Music's 2017/18 season maintained the high quality I have come to expect of the concert series.
First up in October was Doric String Quartet, with a programme of Mendelssohn, Thomas Adès and Haydn. The Adès, The Four Quarters (2011), was probably unknown to everyone except the quartet - but definitely worth investigating. The piece is in a classical string quartet model and follows the process of a day in time, comprising 4 movements: Nightfalls, Serenade: Morning Dew,Days and The Twenty-fifth Hour. I particularly liked Morning Dew - concurrently reminding me of early morning light hitting blades of grass, or morning commuters arriving in a big city imagined as colliding atoms. Days hat 'flap of the day' and 'mid-afternoon meander' aspects to it. The Mendelssohn (Quartet in E flat, Op, 12) and Haydn (String Quartet Op. 20 No. 5) were very enjoyable.
Fast forward a few weeks (feels like fast forward!!) to Trio Con Brio Copenhagen'…

Hope, distilled: Jill Crossland at University of Leeds

For a piano geek like me, today's lunchtime concert by Jill Crossland at University of Leeds was a must-see/hear. Jill performed a programme of 18th century keyboard music, comprising D Scarlatti, JS Bach, Rameau and WA Mozart. 
After a slightly stressful few weeks it was a really positive experience to sit and hear pure, hopeful music - a cascade of wellness. The very first piece, Scarlatti's Sonata in B minor K19, was like measured droplets of water - a dose of calm to set the pace, followed by the Sonata in G, K146.
Jill then delighted the audience with a selection of Rameau pieces and selection from Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier, Book 1 (17, 21 and 23 I think - though I am sure there was a bonus piece!). The final work was Mozart's Piano Sonata in C, K330. Joy and hope and resolution. I was floating! 
The sum total of the programme brought to mind the famous quote of Julian of Norwich: All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.  I …