Listened to Sir Mick Jagger being interviewed about his upcoming Glastonbury appearance by John Humphrys on the Today programme this morning. John asked Mick what had changed about rock music since he started his career. Mick’s reply ranged over things like lyrics, social comment, attitude, clothes, rebellion, ‘bad boy’-ism, and the relative tameness of some of today’s offerings. When he got to the end of his reply I realised that he hadn’t mentioned the music itself.
It should feel as if Sir Mick and I are in the same profession: music. But sometimes it doesn’t.
A young friend of ours, a classical player, has been booked to appear in a backing band at Glastonbury this weekend. She reported with astonishment that she was chauffeur-driven from London to the city where they rehearsed, and wined and dined very nicely. Now she’s to be driven to Glastonbury in order to play in one or two songs, for which she will be paid a sum of money it would take her months to earn through classical concerts. She made the same comment: it’s like a different profession.
PBS NewsHour in the US did an interesting feature on what it’s like for classical musicians trying to get a job: here’s the link.
Noriko Ogawa, who translated my book ‘Out of Silence’ into Japanese, has been giving concerts in Japan, from where she sent me this photo of our lovely Japanese editor from the publishing firm Shunjusha. Fumiko-san, our editor, had brought some copies of the Japanese edition to sell after one of Noriko’s concerts in Tokyo, and as Noriko mysteriously reported, ‘She brought thirty books and sold thirty-one!’
Perhaps this is a Japanese idiom, meaning that success was even greater than one had hoped, or perhaps Fumiko discovered that she had in fact brought along one more book than she had thought. In any case, I am going to adopt the phrase, ‘She brought thirty and sold thirty-one!’ as a useful saying in times of unexpected triumph.
I’m really looking forward to Sunday’s concert at Wigmore Hall with Erich Höbarth. It’s the second in our pair of concerts this season featuring duo sonatas by Mozart for piano and violin. What a treat it has been to be so closely involved with this music – and this musician – for a couple of years now during our Mozart project. I feel it’s done my playing and my ears a lot of good. I have often thought of musicologist Hans Keller’s remark that Mozart’s was ‘the only truly omniscient ear of which we know’.
This Sunday evening, however, there seem to be an awful lot of clashing events. My publicity attempts have been answered by sheaves of correspondence from people apologising that they will be at Glyndebourne or Grange Park operas, or at this or that festival, Midsummer event, barbecue, graduation dinner, pre-Wimbledon Tennis Championships festivities or May Ball. Clearly the end of June is a highlight of everyone’s social diary.
We would love to see you in Wigmore Hall on Sunday evening – booking details here.
I have had a lovely day playing chamber music with two fine musicians I met last year at Prussia Cove during the IMS ‘open chamber music seminar’ – Bogdan Bozovic and Anita Leuzinger. They flew in specially from Switzerland. Together with Erich Höbarth we’re doing a couple of fundraising concerts for Prussia Cove this week (sold out, I’m glad to say).
Our rehearsal breaks today were more luxurious than usual because of Anita’s delicious home-made cookies and Bogdan’s box of Swiss chocolates. We took them out into the garden, where it was just warm enough to sit out for a few minutes. It’s hard to believe that Midsummer Day falls later this week. Anita says that in Basel the weather has gone suddenly from winter to summer with scarcely a hint of spring in between. I am not sure what season we are in here – not summer, anyway.
It’s always interesting playing pieces you know well with people who know them well too, but from playing them with other people. You immediately realise you’ve formed habits you were hardly aware of – you find yourself looking round, waiting for someone to do this or that, which they don’t do because they were never part of a previous discussion where this or that was agreed upon. It is rather pleasant to catch oneself in the act of repeating an old ‘stage instruction’ and then realising that it doesn’t apply here and that one could do something different. It’s also quite fun to see someone else expecting you to do something which you don’t do. Sometimes I can guess from their body language what they were expecting, sometimes not. ‘The old order changeth, yielding place to new’, etc.
I’m almost at the end of a longish period of learning the notes of a batch of works I’ll be playing over the summer in different concerts and festivals. The large pile of music on the side of my piano has loomed fearsomely over me for a while, but is now starting to look bounteous rather than oppressive. I like to ‘book in’ repertoire for practice in advance, so that I don’t get nasty surprises when things are really busy. Over the last weeks I have learned things like the Zemlinsky Trio for clarinet, cello and piano; the sextet for piano and wind by Ludwig Thuille; a Mendelssohn Konzertstueck for clarinets and piano; and I have re-acquainted myself with a range of old favourites from the Brahms horn trio to Debussy’s Images for piano, from piano rags to Mahler’s piano quartet, and lots and lots of sonatas by Mozart. My head feels as if it’s bursting with music, though in a good way.
Next week brings the first of my summer performances, with several concerts for invited audiences and a Wigmore Hall date with Erich Höbarth on Sunday 23 June. Please come!
It’s always an interesting feeling, learning or practising a lot of pieces at the same time. You feel a bit like a sponge soaking up more and more music, getting heavier and heavier as it does so. If you time it right, you reach saturation point just before you have to start performing those works, and then you turn into a sponge being gently wrung out in front of the audience. Shall I proceed with this imagery? Probably not.