• Blog Inspirations and Influences behind Tim Benjamin’s new opera, Madame X

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  • News Tim Murray takes to the stage today to perform Porgy and Bess at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona

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  • Blog “An Interesting Weekend in France…” Nimrod Borenstein on the Marie Cantagrill International Violin Competition

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Tim Benjamin’s newest opera, Madame X, is a highly entertaining and theatrical opera. Whilst the face value of Madame X as a dark and shocking work is clear to see, the influences that have informed Benjamin’s opera come from all over the art world.

Screenshot 2014-07-22 15.20.17In terms of visual art alone, ‘Madame X’ is already infamous. When John Singer Sargent hung Madame X in his studio in Paris it caused a scandal despite the fact that many more obviously shocking paintings had already been exhibited. Singer’s Madame X still inspires works of arts today, such as Gioia Diliberto’s novel I Am Madame X. In Tim Benjamin’s Madame X, however, ‘Madame X’ is more difficult to identitfy, and, as Benjamin stated on Resonance FM’s Opera Hour, the question as to “who is Madame X?” is left very open. The opera Madame X instead makes a wider reference to art as an innocent force, fighting against a representation of corruption that is embodied by corrupt art dealers. Money is the devil in this opera, rather than one single figure, and Madame X is primarily concerned with the purity of art more generally. Madame X’s link with Jacobean revenge dramas also adds to the uncanny nature of the work; it is complete with ghostly encounters and other tragedies. Benjamin was also inspired by Mozart’s Don Giovanni, in which a villain meets his comeuppance, although the villains in Madame X again refer to the evil of money overall.

Musically speaking, Handel’s influence is perhaps the most obvious. Benjamin was obsessed with the Handel’s Water Music and the Music For the Royal Fireworks as a youngster, and Madame X is proof that paying homage to Handel’s Italianate operas is anything but outdated. A dependence on beautiful melodies can be seen in places, but so can complex music within the bass. This is particularly prominent in Masetto’s lament bass at the end of Act 2, one of the opera’s most engaging but melancholy moments in which Benjamin creates great empathy with Masetto’s character.  Madame X often makes Handellian and Purcellian references, and the baroque flute and harpsichord can be heard, but Madame X is clearly far more than a pastiche of any one composer or artist. Musically and visually rich, this is also an opera with strong religious undertones, as Masetto’s exclamations of despair often refer to a Christian God, “No! The End of God!” and there is something particularly other-wordly about Madame X from beginning to end.  There is clearly much to take from Madame X, a brilliantly dramatic opera that draws from some of the world’s greatest works of art across time.

The world premiere of Madame X will be performed in Todmorden in West Yorkshire on 21 August, before moving on to Halifax, London and Manchester. Tickets can be purchased from the Madame X website.

Madame X

(Written on July 22, 2014 )

British Conductor Tim Murray is to conduct performances of “Porgy Bess” in Barcelona. The first performance is this evening at Barcelona’s opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, with a series of shows which conclude on Saturday 19th July. Tim is performing in collaboration with the talented Cape Town Opera company which received critical acclaim for “Porgy and Bess” from the UK press back in June.

Tim has been vocal in his appreciation of George Gershwin’s music and particularly “Porgy and Bess”.When quizzed by members of the public on a Classic FM web chat about his experience of conducting the opera, Tim described “Porgy and Bess” as  being “a bit different from most [operas]” as “One moment the orchestra has to play jazz-and know how to SWING!- and the next moment they are playing some early twentieth-century modern music”. Tim also argues that “Porgy and Bess” shows an abundance of variety in an interview with the International Arts Manager, where he speaks about the elements of the opera such as its “down-and-dirty-jazz”, its Modernism and Speech Rhythm.

For more information about “Porgy and Bess” and tickets for the performances in Barcelona, click here

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Tim Murray

(Written on July 11, 2014 )

Last weekend I was in France engaged as a member of the jury for the second edition of the Marie Cantagrill International Violin Competition. As with most violin competitions, all candidates had to perform a Paganini Caprice of their choice, some solo Bach as well as a concerto of their choice. However there was a piece they all had to play: my Souvenirs opus 49 for violin and piano.

Souvenirs is a lyrical five minute composition which was written and premiered in 2008 and has since become popular with many violinists worldwide. I have heard it performed many times since its premiere, but having the chance to hear it played eleven times by as many violinists in a single day was something new and exciting!

There were three main prizes as well as a special prize for the best interpretation of the contemporary piece. We were a panel of seven judges from several countries but I was told that for the Contemporary prize, as it was my own composition, I would have the final say of who was to win. No pressure…

It was a real pleasure to hear all these young violinists play my music with the utmost concentration and intensity and I must admit that it was hard to decide on a winner when so many played so well. Maybe not surprisingly I found that the best performance of my piece was to be found in one of the three winners of the competition. Cyprien Brod (who won the first prize of the competition and is a 19 years old from Paris) was impressive in everything he played, from Bach, to Paganini, to Sibelius concerto and my Souvenirs. The second prize of the Competition was given to Aoife Ni Bhriain, a 23 year old Irish girl from Leipzig who played with great musicality and involvement but less overall perfection than Cyprien on that day. Sara Valencia, a 14 year old from Spain took the third prize of the competition. She still needs to clean some aspects of her technique but was pure fire and will go very far.

As a composer I am always touched by all the musicians who play my music with dedication and soul and so found that decision difficult to make. The majority of the other judges thought that Cyprien deserved my Prize because they thought that he was the person who brought the right atmosphere to the piece. In order to make a final decision I decided to look at the notes I made immediately after I heard the candidates perform my piece.

Of Cyprien Brod’s performance of Souvenirs I had written: “the tempo is a bit fast but he plays my music exactly as I would do it”. What more could be said… He won the prize.

This competition was a great experience for me. I befriended really interesting musicians on the jury panel and discovered some fantastic young players. Next year one of my solo cello pieces will be in the first round of a major International Cello competition and around 70 cellists will perform it. After my experience of the Marie Cantagrill Competition I cannot wait!

 

If you are interested in listening to my piece Souvenirs, please click on the recording below:

Nimrod Borenstein: Souvenirs opus 49 for violin and piano

Irmina Trynkos violin

Tomasz Lis piano

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Listen to an interview with Marie Cantagrill here

 

 

Nimrod Borenstein (Photo by Synced Films)

Nimrod Borenstein

Photograph: Synced Films

(Written on July 8, 2014 )

WildKat client and Accordionist Paul Chamberlain has started his UK Tour this summer to promote his new album Accordion Sensations. Paul has performed in a wide range of venues so far, including the Apple Store in Regent Street, London, St Martin in the Bull Ring Church in Birmingham, Holy Trinity Church in Oxford and Emmanuel Church in Cambridge. The various venues have hosted enthusiastic audiences and accordion fans and Paul notably received a standing ovation in St Giles in the Fields Church in London. Still to come are concerts in Newcastle, Bristol and Cardiff before the tour concludes in Edinburgh with performances on the 5th and 9th of August. A video can be found below as a small taster of the works Paul has recorded on his album, as performed on 2nd July.

Keep track of Paul’s performances here

 

(Written on July 7, 2014 )

Tokaido Road, the superb new chamber opera by Nicola LeFanu with a libretto by Nancy Gaffield, is to be premiered this Sunday 6th July at the Cheltenham Music Festival.

Tokaido Road has been commissioned by Okeanos, the UK’s unique Western-Japanese musical ensemble. The production is based on the famous set of woodblock paintings The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido by Japanese artist Hiroshige. We follow Hiro’s journey along the road between Tokyo and Kyoto, the story told by a composite of music, mime, poetry, visuals and dance. This ancient journey is brought to life as the audience experiences the dangers of earthquakes and floods which he contended with, and meets the interesting characters who appear along the way. The work also delves deeper into the story – showing that in this seemingly beautiful world, all is not what it seems – with a different story behind every welcoming inn and tea house.

Directed by Caroline Clegg, the production will star Baritone Jeremy Huw Williams, mezzo-soprano Caryl Hughes, award-winning young soprano Rapheala Papadakis and the Okeanos ensemble conducted by Dominic Wheeler.

For tickets or more information, visit www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/music or call 0844 880 8094.

Numazu

(Written on July 4, 2014 )

The Bamberg Symphony has launched their new corporate design including a new logo, season brochure, website and mission statement ‘extraordinary city. extraordinary orchestra.’ Having redesigned and extended the orchestra’s concert hall in 2008, the Hamburg agency peter schmidt, belliero & zandée were tasked with the development of a new logo for the orchestra.

International orchestras and ensembles are finding new ways to present and re-invent themselves in the fast-changing music industry. The Bamberg Symphony is a prime example for a strong international music brand with a long history and a modern outlook. Working with Peter Schmidt reinforces the orchestra’s profile and brand. The new logo is based on the shape of musical instruments and represents the uniqueness of the extraordinary orchestra that is the Bamberg Symphony.

The Drum magazine selected the logo design to compete in their Creative Showcase. The winner of the competition will be featured in the next issue of the magazine. All contenders will be presented as part of a gallery display at The Drum Live event on Wednesday 9 July 2014 in London, UK.

Logo_matt

(Written on July 4, 2014 )

Accordionist Paul Chamberlain will be releasing his second album tomorrow. Accordion Sensations will be launched on 1st July 2014 at the 1901 Arts Club in Waterloo and includes fantastic repertoire by Scarlatti, Weber and Zolotariev. Paul has also collaborated with the Maxwell Quartet and duets with violinist Feargus Hetherington. The album release coincides with Paul’s UK tour* which takes place from 1st July until 9th August, and will include performances in London, Newcastle and Edinburgh.

Passionate about exploring the reach of the classical accordion, Paul has previously toured in California and has also performed in Russia, Finland, Greece and Bahrain. As a consequence of his international success and critically acclaimed debut album The Classical Accordion, Paul is recognised as a leading talent on the Accordion. Having studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and won the acclaimed Governor’s Prize for Keyboard he has gone on to win many national competitions and is a passionate advocate of this unusual instrument.

Visit Paul’s website here

1st July – London – 1901 Arts Club (Album Launch event)*

2nd July – London – Apple Store, Regent Street

3rd July – London – St Giles in the Fields

4th July – Birmingham – St Martin in the Bullring

5th July – Oxford – Holy Trinity Headington

6th July – Cambridge – Emmanuel Church

10th July – Scotland, Dunkeld – Birnam Arts Centre

11th July – Scotland, Dundee – Dundee Cathedral

13th July – Scotland, Aberdeen – Cowdray Hall

18th July – Newcastle – Lit & Phil

19th July – Portsmouth, Fareham – Ashcroft Arts Centre

20th July – Kent – Faversham Parish Church

1st August – Bristol – St George’s Bristol

2nd August – Wales, Cardiff – Norwegian Church Arts Centre

3rd August – Wales, Pembrokeshire – St Tudwalls Church

5th August – Scotland, Edinburgh – Royal Overseas League

9th August – Scotland, Edinburgh – Royal Overseas League

 

Paul Chamberlain

Photograph: www.theaccordionist.com

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(Written on June 30, 2014 )

Jorge Grundman’s album A Mortuis Resurgere: A Resurrection of Christ is being released in the US today.

The work, which features the Brodsky Quartet and soprano Susana Cordón, has been composed as a “follow on” from Haydn’s Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross and was premiered during Easter week 2013. Its religious nature means that the work has been composed with church performance in mind. In the composer’s words; “The characteristic of a church as an acoustic space is its very long reverberation time, making listening difficult in some passages, often rendering the voice unintelligible. I thus conceived the work for an average reverberation time of four to five seconds.” This concern with directness of expression and focus on acoustic effect is based on Jorge’s avid interest in acoustic science which has influenced many of his compositions.

A Mortuis Resurgere was described on UK website Arts Wrap as having “a wonderful range of emotions that have perfectly been interpreted by both Cordon and the Brodsky Quartet”. Also reviewed on SA-CD.net, it has been complimented as being accessible to both the religious and non-religious; “To a non-believer, this human drama is beautifully portrayed and lavished with rich expressiveness by the relatively small, and thus intimate, musical forces, ending with energetic jubilation as it does. To a believer, this fine performance might well fulfil Grundman’s hope that listening could induce a religious experience in them.” It has subsequently received criticial acclaim in the US prior to its release, winning the Boston Metro Opera Concert Award for Four Sad Seasons Over Madrid and the Boston Metro Opera Director’s Choice Award for God’s Sketches.

More information on the album can be found here.

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Jorge Grundman

Photograph: Official site of Jorge Grundman

(Written on June 23, 2014 )

WildKat PR spoke to Spanish composer Toni Castells about his opera Life from Light, which will be performed on the 7th and 8th August at Kings Place London as part of this year’s Tête à Tête Festival.  The production uses contemporary opera, electronic music and stunning video art to explore the complex relationship between mankind and planet earth, including human obsessions from spirituality to plastic surgery.

Have a look at the video to find out more about this unique and compelling project.

For more information, or to buy tickets, visit the Kings Place website here or call the box office on 020 7520 1490.

(Written on June 19, 2014 )

One of our most recent clients, internationally acclaimed pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell, will be performing in Austria this week. Having recently returned from Russia, and previously Bangkok, Vanessa is currently enjoying a varied and busy schedule. Her commitments in Thailand and Russia included being a Jury member at the Steinway Piano Competition and hosting a Piano Masterclass at the Rostov Conservatory respectively.

Bringing her slightly closer to her home country of Italy, Vanessa’s first performance this month is tonight in Deutschlandsberg, as part of the Deutschlandberger Klavierfruhling where her programme will include Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies no. 10 and 6, Cappricio all Turca, and Spanish Rhapsody. Also featured in this colourful programme are Chopin’s Ballade no. 4 and Stravinsky’s Petruska.

Following that performance, on the 21st of June, Vanessa will be performing as a debutant at the Liszt Festival, Raiding, a festival well known for accommodating passionate Liszt fans. Here, Vanessa will be performing a cross section of the piano works of Liszt alongside fellow pianists Eri Mantani and Susanna Kadzhoyen.

Vanessa Benelli Mosell at rehearsals in Deutschlandsberg

Vanessa Benelli Mosell at rehearsals in Deutschlandsberg

 

(Written on June 19, 2014 )