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New season at Skipton Music: Ensemble 360 and Steven Osborne

Since starting to attend Skipton Music concerts the quality has been very high, but this season seems to have started off exceptionally well. The seasons' concerts are in Christ Church Skipton, as the Town Hall is being refurbished, and the ambience and acoustic are very good. 
Catching up from 23rd October, adaptable chamber group Ensemble 360 showcased a contemporary piece by Jörg Widmann alongside its inspiration, Schubert's Octet in F,  D803.
The Widmann, an Octet in five movements, was composed in 2004 and references Schubert rhythmically, and also with leanings towards the many hundred songs that Schubert wrote (third movement Lied ohne Worte). The first movement, Intrada, felt warmly off-kilter and Lied ohne Worte had a fantastic horn solo. However the piece was not that accessible to listen to. Whilst it certainly got the audience talking I'm not sure that may were big fans.
The Schubert Octet was more warmly received and I particularly enjoyed the second and third mo…
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Bathed in sound: thoughts on Nightports w/ Matthew Bourne

Another unusual direction with the lunchtime concerts series at University of Leeds, after austraLYSIS, however this time piano-based. 
Nightports is based on a simple but unbreakable rule of restriction: only sounds produced by the featured musician can be used. Nothing else. But these sounds can be transformed, distorted, translated, reworked, processed and reprocessed, stretched, cut, ordered and reordered without limitation. Nightports is about amplifying the characteristics of the featured musician and the sounds they make.
Today's concert was the live performance of this album. 
The four musicians performed on three (prepared) pianos and electronics. The whole effect was very much contemporary piano to ambient electronics, reminiscent of Hauschka, Nils Frahm, plus Ólafur Arnalds in the more introspective sections. There were breaks for applause but the event felt very much like one journey through different sounds and emotions.
The prepared piano aspect of the performance was re…

austraLYSIS and VRi - new music at Leeds

The first few concerts in the new season of events at University of Leeds School of Music have been incredibly varied.
The first concert I saw was from folk band VRi. The string trio performed a mixture of traditional Welsh songs and original compositions. Describing themselves as 'chamber folk', their songs varied from simple voice and accompaniment to foot-tapping energetic numbers (sadly no room for dancing in the Clothworkers' Concert Hall...) exploring Welsh folk but with an art music angle, as well as other folk traditions, with a lot of the music on their new album referencing the Welsh chapel tradition. Absolutely worth a further listen and their music is available on Bandcamp.
Fast forward a week to something altogether different. austraLYSIS: Torbjörn Hultmark & Roger Dean with soprano trombone, piano and live electronics. Riveting to watch their live electronics! I really enjoyed the piece about Metamorphosis for Time and Space - dots, lines, ?, volume - sound…

LIPC further thoughts - pop up concert

A chance to take an extended break and visit a different part of the University of Leeds campus. I'd not previously been in the Marks & Spencer Archive, and it looks like a really interesting place. Definitely worth a future lunchtime visit.
The seminar room in the Archive was pretty full for the pop-up concert. Second round competitors Florian Caroubi and Fuko Ishii performed and took questions from the audience. Florian started off with Liszt's Sposalizio, followed by selections from Schumann's Carnaval. Very fluid and warm playing. Fuko Ishii contrasted with the latter movements of Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy D760
Following on from the performances, there was a 20 minute question & answer session in which both pianists answered general questions about their musical background and what inspires them.
The event was very enjoyable indeed! There are photos on the M&S Archive Twitter feed.

Start to the season with Leeds International Piano Competition

Three years passes pretty quickly! After a busy summer, my cultural activities are starting up again and first in line was the Leeds International Piano Competition. Sadly not enough annual leave left to binge-attend, so I selected one of the second round events (Friday 7th at 7pm) and a semi-final (Sunday 9th at 7pm). 
Firstly, I had forgotten how long the rounds take! Each competitor was effectively playing a full on recital. Hard on the audience too, lots of concentration required (so I was very tired indeed on Friday after a full week and then 3 hours of music)!
The second round competitors I saw were Chao Wang, Anna Geniushene, Siqian Li and Samson Tsoy.  Chao Wang played a superb Moonlight Sonata  - such balance and softness! All the amateur pianists I know would love to play the first movement with the same sense of movement but stillness. However he didn't have the projection of the other 3 performers so maybe that was a factor in his elimination. Samson Tsoy pleased the au…

Sublime Song and Dance - Kathryn Stott at Skipton Music

She may be a jet-setting, world class musician but Kathryn Stott clearly likes to return to her 'home patch' area of Skipton. The audience like it too - Skipton Music's Tuesday 19th June concert (rescheduled from February) was I believe a sell-out. I have read articles about (and authored by) Kathryn in the pages of Pianist Magazine and similar publications so it was a treat to see and hear her in person.
The concert theme was Song and Dance - a celebration of an upcoming milestone. The programming was excellent - whilst Kathryn is clearly a pianist of considerable talent, she programmed pieces that are within range of keen amateurs, such as Grieg's Lyric Pieces Op. 52. Although I've not tried any of the Op. 52 set, I have learned some of the other Lyric Pieces and Tuesday's performance was an example of how the pieces really are songs without words.
The first half of the recital moved from the smooth Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring and Grieg through a very ener…

Ólafur Arnalds at the Royal Albert Hall

Continuing the music theme and fresh from GNUF, next stop the Royal Albert Hall! What a way to experience my first RAH event than with Ólafur Arnalds
Just going in to the building, there was an incredible atmosphere. Stopped off at the Berry Bros & Rudd bar en route to our seats. 
A short support set by composer/percussionist Manu Delago, who was very impressive. Initially I thought he was playing some variant of steel drums, but in fact it was an array of Hang, which are great! A really lush, warm sound.
Ólafur's mix of strings, piano with multimedia felt at home in the 'orchestral' setting of the Hall (nearly Proms season!), in particular given that the set was all instrumental pieces. It was interesting to see the sheer variety of people who all have being an Ólafur Arnalds fan in common.  I find that a lot of Ólafur's magic is in the silences and spaces in between notes, and a few times there were audience interruptions - but also, a lot of times when the whole …