Classic Michael White News: Up Close and Musical; Royal Academy of Music; John Cage Day; Proms in St. Jude


The Darius Brubeck Quartet will play Proms at St Jude’s on June 26. Photo: Rob Blackham

It’s not often in the classic world that someone comes up with a really good new idea and takes it up. I am therefore always happy to celebrate the small but brilliant Fidelio Orchestra Café in Clerkenwell Road, which had the excellent idea a few years ago of creating a space to eat, drink and perform in complete privacy. He manages to be serious yet relaxed at the same time. And intimacy is the word for a mini-festival taking place there next week, June 24-25, called Up Close and Musical. With afternoon and evening entertainment, it’s a suite of concerts with optional meals; and the USP is that all performers are women – from pianist Claire Hammond and violinist Fenella Humphreys to the Eusebius Quartet – playing music largely by female composers. For my part, I have mixed feelings about this kind of gesture, but I understand; and there’s fascinating repertoire on the program by the likes of Doreen Carwithen – a mid-20th-century English composer whose time, if it hasn’t already come, is about to come. Listen to me carefully! Details:

On a larger scale, the Royal Academy of Music celebrates its bicentenary next week with a performance by its student symphony orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. The music is Mahler’s epic Symphony No3. And to conduct it is the famous Semyon Bychkov, who has a lot of Mahler on his program at the moment – ​​with a Mahler 7 at the Edinburgh Festival, and a full symphonic cycle in progress on CD. See what he has to pass on to these young RAM players on June 23. Tickets:

• The first time I went to America was to visit John Cage, guru of the avant-garde; and I remember sitting in his loft on a hot day with the windows open and the deafening noise of New York traffic making conversation nearly impossible. “How do you live with so much noise?” I asked naively. He of course replied, “You call it noise, I call it music” – as he would, given that his life’s work has been to blur the distinction between the two. Cage made music from untuned radios, electric mixers, TV news, plants…and did it with a joy you’ll feel on Saturday June 18 when contemporary music group Apartment House host a day John Cage at Wigmore Hall. Have fun, but consciously.

The annual Proms at St Jude’s begin June 25, and it’s the 30th season of the now-famous festival in Hampstead Garden Suburb. This year’s program opens with a Mendelssohn Violin Concerto performed by Benjamin Nabarro with Orchestra Nova. And the following day, June 26, brings something truly special with the Darius Brubeck Quartet playing music by Darius’ father, the late and legendary Dave. To listen absolutely. Other events in the early days include the haunting combination of saxophonist Christian Forshaw and soprano Grace Davidson on June 28. And star young pianist Martin James Bartlett plays Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Concerto on June 29. More details here next week.


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