Opera21’s Special Summer Issue! Is the Opera Industry Broken? With a special feature of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

opera21:

This publication features an article I wrote about opera in the cinema and how it stands as an effective business model, so give it a read!

Review: Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont - Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Op. 27 & 28

image

This is pianist Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont’s second album release, and if anything it marks another innovative milestone in his career. Dablemont is known for his bold statements online; criticising concert life, calling out the “death of CDs” and documenting his own career via his now-concluded blog. All of these frustrations have lead to a somewhat unique career shift, whereas he now refrains from live performance and his creative outlet has become more focused on producing recordings.

This digital only release explores Beethoven in as fresh a light as possible, and is accompanied by a series of online videos that explain Dablemont’s journey, entitled “If Beethoven Blogged”. This collection of 5-minute videos exemplifies Dablemont’s ideals and sophisticated knowledge of the scores while also displaying his technical proficiency while creating the album.

Upon listening, one quickly gets a sense of Dablemont’s style and the details he pays most attention to when refining his sound. Articulation was a big one I noticed. Left, right and centre Dablemont creates these vivid characters with his sense of touch which becomes an essential factor considering these three sonatas all display a huge development in piano music. Beethoven was pushing the boundaries of the piano when these pieces were written, and still they allow modern pianists to think about their instruments in different and creative ways. Dablemont definitely approaches these works with seemingly abundant creativity, often taking risks; some I agree with and some I don’t.

From the very first note of this album you can hear Dablemont’s articulate experimentations with Op.27 No.1’s left hand figures and the legato appoggiaturas that follow. These articulatory moments bring so much colour to the works, but on a rare occasion, can take away from some of Beethoven’s excellent craftmanship. During the Presto from Op.27 No.2, there is a rapid chromatic scale towards the end with various rhythmic figures that is shrouded almost completely by the sustain pedal and it’s very essence is lost. These moments are few and far between; this example being only two bars from the whole movement. His dynamic touch throughout this album brings to life the contrasts and themes within each sonata and even more between the inner sections of the movements adding more of Dablemont’s character and also drawing out most of Beethoven’s own; one I know and love.

As I already said, these works contain some explorations of the piano’s abilities that gained Beethoven his name. This includes textures reminiscent of string quartets, symphonies as well as the grandiose piano sound. The Allegretto of Op.27 No.2 just screams cello sonority with those bass chords in the trio, with the first movement of the Op.28 having plenty of symphonic voices dotting in and out all over the place. There are many textural pitfalls in these works, and others like them, where taking into consideration the dynamic and emotional subtext alone overshadows that of the texture but Dablemont does well to balance all of the voices buried inside Beethoven’s diverse part writing and chordal movements.

The only real let down for me that occurred a few times was relaxation in the tempo. Beethoven often incorporates pauses to expand on cadential points, but sometimes these breaths in the music are overdone by Dablemont’s addition of ad libitum to the decorative material beforehand. A crucial moment that is ruined by over exaggeration of the tempo is the completely unscripted pause between the andante and allegro of the album’s opening track. By distorting the flow it removes the sense of pace that this tempo change holds at its foundation. Similar moments occur in other movements like the Rondo of Op.28 where the tempo switches to Più Allegro; however the momentum is completely lost by an added molto rall. during the pauses leading up to it. Aside from this Dablemont does mange to use this same tool effectively in other movements; often to a degree I have greatly enjoyed. I must also note, I was over the moon that the first movement of Op.27 No.2 wasn’t depressingly slow 

The overall production of this album is well done. The piano’s range contains a lot of clarity and balance right from the very lows to sparkling highs. There is one aspect of the mixing I both enjoy and can’t get my head around. The final mixdown of tracks 2 & 3 overlap, which I think is great. It really keeps the pace going and makes it feel even more like a performance of the entire work. But for whatever reason, this doesn’t work quite how I expected it to when playing it back. I always seem to notice the skip.

Aside from any minor instances I felt I couldn’t overlook, this album as a whole is definitely one for the collection, giving a new insight on familiar works to anyone with an interest in Beethoven. I’m looking forward to Dablemont’s next installment of Beethoven sonatas. 

You can download this release here.

Yesterday evening was my last gig with Rabo De Foguete before I move away. The gig itself went great, and in my opinion we were all on top form. It’s sad to think that that was the last time I will be frantically running around in between songs swapping between piano, bass or tambourim. I’ve really enjoyed being in the band, learning all about Brazilian music, and better still learning a lot about practical musicianship.

Tate Modern

Grey by Gerhard Richter

Tate Modern

Grey by Gerhard Richter

TEAM TAM

TEAM TAM

Last night I played tambourin with Rabo De Foguete at Revolution De Cuba in Norwich. I’m really not a fan of clubs as I never know what to do with myself, but the actual playing went fine. We did 3 sets, all accompanied by Brazilian style dancers from London.

Last Tuesday I went to an organ recital in King’s Lynn during which David Boarder performed works by Salomé, J.S. Bach, Sweelinck, Bourgeois (best name ever), Yon, Dubois and Lefébure-Wely. It was nice to see such a varied mixture of periods, right from renaissance to the modern day; although it must be noted it was all ‘tame’ in comparison to Messiaen. I’d never been to an organ recital, and it was really nice to just concentrate on the different timbres that the organ has to offer. This was aided by the fact there was a video stream from the organ box so you could see every time the performer changed manual and stops. 

I bought an 160gb iPod from a friend (for a real good price too) and I’ve never felt freer to listen to whatever music I want on the go. I’m currently listening to some minimal tech house preceded by a load of post-punk.

I bought an 160gb iPod from a friend (for a real good price too) and I’ve never felt freer to listen to whatever music I want on the go. I’m currently listening to some minimal tech house preceded by a load of post-punk.

This morning I finished off David Byrne’s “How Music Works”. I’ve never really listened to Talking Heads, or indeed any of Byrne’s projects, so I didn’t really no what to expect from his book. Someone close to me gave me their copy, and for ages I put off reading it because I was worried it was going to be too casual or ill informed for my taste. I was a little bit guilty of ‘judging the book by it’s cover’.
After the last book I read (a dense piece of french political theory that coincided with western music history and it’s socio-economics) I felt like something a bit easier to get into. Byrne’s book was just that and I actually enjoyed reading it quite a lot. He analysed aspects of popular music in terms of performance, technology, business etc. with well informed experience that churned out references to global theatre movements, art scenes, and other cultural music movements. The chapter on business and finance was one I particularly enjoyed for it’s illustrative pie charts showing how album sales are divided, label advances spent and revenue collected. This was accompanied by multiple economic models other than the ones Byrne knew first hand, and even anticipated developments to come. Byrne’s bias towards popular music, defending it against the classical elitism, was thought-provokingly articulated in the last chapter. Even though his arguments were well presented, some of his notions of just ‘not getting’ what the fuss was all about made it lose some sense of authenticity.
Although the writing style was easy to plough through and didn’t have me constantly sifting through a dictionary like some other books, the writing style was a little too laid back. As I already mentioned, I kind of anticipated it, but there were moments when I was just put off by his choice of language.

This morning I finished off David Byrne’s “How Music Works”. I’ve never really listened to Talking Heads, or indeed any of Byrne’s projects, so I didn’t really no what to expect from his book. Someone close to me gave me their copy, and for ages I put off reading it because I was worried it was going to be too casual or ill informed for my taste. I was a little bit guilty of ‘judging the book by it’s cover’.

After the last book I read (a dense piece of french political theory that coincided with western music history and it’s socio-economics) I felt like something a bit easier to get into. Byrne’s book was just that and I actually enjoyed reading it quite a lot. He analysed aspects of popular music in terms of performance, technology, business etc. with well informed experience that churned out references to global theatre movements, art scenes, and other cultural music movements. The chapter on business and finance was one I particularly enjoyed for it’s illustrative pie charts showing how album sales are divided, label advances spent and revenue collected. This was accompanied by multiple economic models other than the ones Byrne knew first hand, and even anticipated developments to come. Byrne’s bias towards popular music, defending it against the classical elitism, was thought-provokingly articulated in the last chapter. Even though his arguments were well presented, some of his notions of just ‘not getting’ what the fuss was all about made it lose some sense of authenticity.

Although the writing style was easy to plough through and didn’t have me constantly sifting through a dictionary like some other books, the writing style was a little too laid back. As I already mentioned, I kind of anticipated it, but there were moments when I was just put off by his choice of language.

I bought one of those Noligraph pens that I’ve seen all over Tumblr to use during my degree. I always use plain paper notebooks so this will come in handy with annotating scores and making notes! Also tams are the best.

During this year, although I wasn’t attending school, I retook a couple modules from A2 music as an independent student. This was so I could bump my grade up to an A, in which I was successful! It was fun teaching myself the exam to be honest, and this also means that next year I shall be attending Goldsmiths University of London. 

My new tam arrived! It’s the Meinl silent tambourim which has a nylon skin and is used purely to practice. Tams can be really loud and practising in any domestic environment is difficult to do without disturbing people around you. The nylon skin makes, in comparison, a pretty unnoticeable sound and also keeps the feel of a real tam when being struck. After using it all day, I can confirm it does fulfil it’s purpose!

My new tam arrived! It’s the Meinl silent tambourim which has a nylon skin and is used purely to practice. Tams can be really loud and practising in any domestic environment is difficult to do without disturbing people around you. The nylon skin makes, in comparison, a pretty unnoticeable sound and also keeps the feel of a real tam when being struck. After using it all day, I can confirm it does fulfil it’s purpose!

Yesterday was my recital; my first official solo recital at the piano! For a first recital I think it went really well. Nerves-wise I managed to contain myself (I did play a little faster than usual I think) but there were some issues with performing I still need to iron out. Playing an entire Mozart sonata from memory (K333) and Satie’s Gnossiene no.5 went down a treat and I hope I did them some justice. I have a recording to go through yet so hopefully that’ll give me something to build on.

I found this GEM earlier while binge shopping. I was actually looking for plainchant manuscripts, but I’m always wanted this Prelude on vinyl.

I found this GEM earlier while binge shopping. I was actually looking for plainchant manuscripts, but I’m always wanted this Prelude on vinyl.

I had a solo acoustic gig Sunday where I played some old songs, some newer ones, and a cover of Cabeleira Do Zezé. A friend of mine held up the lyrics for me (because I wasn’t actually expecting to play it) and at the bottom of the screen was one of those ‘hey single ladies over here ;)’ with some pictured below in her underwear and I just laughed out loud hysterically mid-song.