Sunday June 25, 2017

get your gig on

music concerts explored through creative writing and reviews

We love introducing young people to new music. So much so, that we’ve partnered with StubHub! to create ‘Get Your Gig On’, a programme for young people aged 16-20 with an interest in music, concerts and review writing. We took a group of students to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and got them to review the evening. Below are a few of our favourites. You can read the reviews from all of the gigs the students attended last summer on the Get Your Gig On blog.

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BBC PROMS: PROMS 45 WITH ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND CHARLES DUTOIT – A WARM WELCOME

By: Suzannah Gabriel

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I would like to share with you my first experience attending a classical music concert. Set in one of London’s grand halls, the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington the Proms 45 welcomed the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor Charles Dutoit and Georgian born pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja. This prestigious venue is picturesque on the inside and out with majestic seating, celebrating its Victorian elements. The Proms started in 1895 but moved to the Royal Albert Hall in 1941. The venue has been refurbished with acoustic treatments, which project the wonderful sound into the audience’s ears.

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Classical music conventionally appeals to the aristocratic population; however, the dress sense was not as formal as would be expected. It surprised me when I saw some people dressed in casual clothing with beach shorts on. The formality was also broken by the loud and quiet coughing during the transitions of movements of the pieces.

But on the whole the venue remained tranquil during each performance. After Mozart’s piece, the highly respected pianist, Leonskaja, whom had not performed in the UK for nearly 30 years, was welcomed back with ovations, cheers and applauses which filled the room. O hail Leonskaja!

I was fortunate to be seated with a very experienced concert-goer, one who has attended every single Prom series this summer. Not surprisingly, she disliked Shostakovich’s piece because of less melodic elements and widely varying dynamic range. However, she did enjoy listening to the more traditional works by both Debussy. She also explained the old-fashioned roars made by the members of the audience when a Grand Piano is wheeled onto the stage. My confusion was immediately clarified.

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The music lifted me up with its beautiful sounds. The presto and forte elements of Mozart’s piece kept me awake as I was nearly put to sleep by the largo and piano sections, which carried on for a long period of time. I loved the call and response between the first and second violins and the pianist at the crescendo.

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I was fortunate enough to be seated in the box seats, right in the middle of the hall, which provided me with an enchanting view of the Proms. I certainly did have a phenomenal first experience to a classical concert, indeed!

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If you ever get a chance, do go along to the one of the Proms as you can get a day ticket for the price of £5!

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DREAMY DEBUSSY, MUSINGS OF MOZART AND THE ECCENTRICITIES OF SHOSTAKOVICH

By: Sebastian Tuma

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The 45th night of the annual BBC Proms featured Elisabeth Leonskaja’s return to the Royal Albert Hall after nearly 30 years. The grand walls of the hall housed the conductor, Charles Dutoit’s, interpretation of works from Debussy, Mozart and Shostakovich. With an audience more diverse than a typical classical concert, this event year after year, contributes to the history of the Royal Albert Hall. From shorts and sandals to black ties and suits, the doors are open and anyone is invited to stand in the centre circle, provided you are willing to queue for a while before hand. The event emanated history and tradition, with promenaders shouting “BRAVO!” from the standing circle, stomping their feet and declaring the amount that was raised for charity on that night (£51,000).

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Dutoit began with his rendition of the scores of Debussy, the more dreamy and romantic composer of the three and certainly the most influenced by the impressionist movement of the 1860s. Debussy’s first movement from his Petite Suite appropriately titled ‘En Bateau’ translating to ‘On a boat,’ had the audience drifting gracefully to the music, moving with the wave of the strings playing in unison. The piece was melodic and an engaging opener to the evening.

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We then moved on to a piano concerto by one of the founding fathers of the classical era, Mozart. This transition was a noticeable juxtaposition from the more vague Debussy, which left plenty of room for interpretation and a subjective feeling as opposed to a clear-cut structure. Leonskaja, the solo pianist, was enchanted by something; whether it was her love for music or the spirit of Mozart himself, she hunched over the piano and let her fingers dance across the keys. As we marvelled over her unbelievable dexterity, the orchestra went from being the centre stage to an accompanying element to the grand piano. The music was like a conversation between the Philharmonic Orchestra and Elisabeth. The piece received high praise, resulting in an unplanned encore from Leonskaja of Chopin’s Nocturne in a D flat major. It was moving to see the conductor and Elisabeth thanking each other afterwards; their gratitude for each other’s talent and dedication was noticeable and only increased my appreciation for the music.

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Shostakovich’s pieces began after the interval and it was clear why the evening was structured the way it was. This modern piece was more unusual and outgoing than the others. It also gave a more obvious role to instruments like the xylophone or vibraphone, which usually would not be as prominent in more classical symphonies. At times when the entire orchestra would perform, the power was enough to give you goose bumps. However the build-up was very slow and seemed to drag on for more than it needed to, resulting in an anticlimactic ending. An extravagant finale was promised but instead we received a slow fade into nothingness.

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Despite this, the evening was very enjoyable overall even for those less disposed towards orchestral music. I most certainly recommend it.

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PROM 45: ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA AND CHARLES DUTOIT – A SUBTLE BUT STRIKING RETURN FROM ELISABETH LEONSKAJA

By: Simon Diaz

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The Royal Albert Hall has been the illustrious bosom of the proms since 1941, gathering at its centre international orchestras, eminent conductors and notable soloists like Elisabeth Leonskaja. After nearly 30 years, Leonskaja steps back into the hall’s limelight with her spectacular piano playing, accompanying Charles Dutoit’s orchestra with an unexpectedly ravishing solo piece.

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The prom commenced with Debussy’s Petite Suite; a tender, enchanting, although at times repetitive, start to a musical journey through various composers. The orchestra retained an exceptional part of the composer’s playful and dreamy essence; repeating melodies to fit both grace and chaos between emotions. It was a grand start to further musical complexities with its short, delightful segments.

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The moment the Grand Piano rolled in, however, was the moment when the Royal Albert Hall lit up with excitement; it was the piano to be played by the much-expected Elisabeth Leonskaja. The performance had a gradual start from the beautifully compiled string section, dancing between violas and violins, to then let loose Leonskaja’s polished talents, expressing a more profound and complex sentiment – compared to that of Debussy’s and Shostakovich’s interpretations – through a layer of distinguished pianissimos. The strings didn’t cease whilst the loud andante followed Leonskaja’s presto piano playing, which at one point seemed to transcend conductor and orchestra in harmonious competition.

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The interpretation of Mozart’s Concert was an affirmation of Leonskaja genius and ability to play flawlessly – almost too flawlessly – but with a burning passion in her fingertips, striking character into the piano strings with a subtle elegance that astonished the semi-circular audience of the Royal Albert Hall. The response was a standing ovation that lasted more than two minutes, obliging the pianist to return and mesmerize the audience once again.

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The Proms are known to be phenomenal events where talent collides and memorable moments are conformed, where something is learned and celebrated and, most of all, where master-class classical musicians from all around the globe come to create something breathtaking. This Promenade was no exception. It was fast and slow and most definitely fascinating. It had a tone and vision to fit all moods, sparking a place for all tastes – promenaders or non promenaders – a similar Prom could be a place for you.

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BBC PROMS 45: LEONSKAJA’S TRIUMPHANT RETURN

By: Ella Banks

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Surrounded by predominantly middle aged, middle class, white people, it’s no wonder BBC Proms are often erroneously regarded as elitist; this attitude has to be challenged. The Proms are available to all, as we are reminded of their origins as a promenade series of concerts with the aim to “train the public in easy stages”. The Proms, now in their 121stseason, hosted an extravagant event, with Elisabeth Leonskaja returning to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time in almost 30 years, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Dutoit.

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Also returning to the Proms was Debussy’s Petite Suite, having been performed once before at the Proms in 1928. Beginning with this, the RPO eased the audience in for two and a half hours of classical music at its finest. The reluctant influence that impressionism had on Debussy, was obvious from the off, despite his hatred for the art form. In naming the first movement En Bateau or ‘On a Boat,’ the picturesque quality that this first movement possess synaesthesia could arguably be evoked in the average audience member. The gentle romantic daydream of the first movement evolved into that of a sprightly spring morning as the second movement Cortege began. As the movements went on, so did the atmosphere, changing from the earlier gentle feelings of the sea to the more up-tempo feelings of something not too dissimilar to the waltz.

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Leonskaja joined the RPO on stage to perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto no 22 in E flat major, K482, much to the crowd’s obvious delight. The speed of Leonskaja’s fingers was mesmerising as her fingers gracefully danced flawlessly across the keys. At the softer points of the movement, you could hear a pin drop as all were beguiled by the pure beauty of the piece.

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Leonskaja returned to the stage for an unscheduled encore of Chopin’s Nocturne Db Major Op. 27 No. 2. This solo proved that you don’t need a full symphony orchestra to create a beautiful and timeless piece of music. Throughout this encore, silence reigned supreme as all remained quiet in fear of disturbing Leonskaja, as she enchanted the audience with her piano and one of Chopin’s most beautiful and romantic pieces.

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The full orchestra returned for Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op. 141. The first stirrings of the music signified that this was going to be very different from the last two compositions. Whilst Shostakovich’s final symphony is much more intimate and introspective than some of his earlier works it showcases the composers’ contradictory nature. It is most definitely a ‘marmite’ piece. Personally at times I found that the piece had excessive crescendo but then didn’t go anywhere; it kept building and falling without any real substance.

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The ending of the concert was disappointing, copious amounts of bowing and exiting and returning to and from the stage by the orchestra and conductor left the audience unsure if the concert was completed, until the orchestra awkwardly shuffled finally off the stage. However, I would thoroughly recommend anyone who has a spare evening to attend the BBC Proms, as they really are an experience for all, with tickets available from just £5.

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BBC PROM 45- WHOLE HOST OF EXTRAVAGANZA AT THE PROMS

By: Suprateeka Talukder

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The beauty of orchestral music never ceases to amaze me, and the musical pieces collectively entitled BBC Prom 45 proved to be a phenomenal epitome of an almighty, as well as stunning performance of the classical music world. The Proms 45 seemed to combine all sorts of intriguing and magical aspects and was indeed a special evening both for the musicians and the audience.

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It has been almost 30 years since the renowned and not to mention celebrated Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja last performed at the Proms. Her return is in esteemed company, too, as Swiss conductor Charles Dutoit leads the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and takes the stage. The Albert Hall was unsurprisingly inundated with people, 95% of whom were White British and 80% were middle aged, although it is relatively disappointing to witness a lack of diversity within the great halls of this historic and prominent building; it is, however very encouraging to have seen a majority not wearing the typical smart and posh attire. It seems as if we have broken the barrier of discrimination of those who do not dress as if they are signifying wealth.

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The evening began with strikingly, lovely woodwind textures that filled the atmosphere with a hint of romance and heavenly delight. Percussion instruments such as the cymbals, tambourine and triangle added the fairy-tale noise to Debussy’s Petite suite (orch. Henri Büsser), a very charming and exquisite rondo sneakily broke through at moments within the music. It was appropriate that this orchestral music called for violins, drums and the flute as the piece sustained a high pitch flow throughout its entirety, enhancing the piece’s dreamlike essence.

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Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major, K482 was a concentrated work, a piano concerto composed by Wolfgang Mozart in December 1785. Leonskaja’s comeback was indeed charming to say the least with every finger movement revealing vast experience. The piece brought together all orchestral instruments together as the flutes responded to the piano, the viola responding to the violin, each taking turns to display their perfections.

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The evening ended with the dramatic piece, Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op 141 composed by Shostakovich, where forte and fortissimo sequences were added to the piece. Excitement and dark colours filled the atmosphere, with the percussion noises of the snare and bass drums creating a sinister melody. The piece consisted of a final dark movement – a fearful end.

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BBC PROM 45: A TRAVEL IN CLASSICAL TIME, HIGHLIGHTED BY THE STANDING OVATION FOR THE RUSSIAN PIANIST PLAYING MOZART

By: Daniella Rice

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Claude Debussy’s complex vignette piece Petite Suite (composed in 1886-9)opened the concert with an effortlessly beautiful performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The opening movement’s adagio tempo allowed the audience to get drawn in by the beautiful atmosphere. The Petite Suite by the French composer lifted the audience by its beauty, becoming all encompassing. If you close your eyes, the music can take you on a journey; you may feel like a bird flying through clouds. Although it had a limited dynamic range, the beginning and finishing movements contrasted in power, creating a much more memorable interpretation. The last movement created a strong impact, due to thecrescendo that built up throughout the piece, which brought the composer to life.

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The piece was followed by Wolfgang Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major; K482 (1785)and was a much stronger piece, changing the mood in the venue. The build-up to the fortissimo was perfectly executed, and was beautiful to watch. The beginning of the piece seemed to be what the general public perceive classical music to be, demonstrating Mozart’s brilliance in being a definer of the genre. The pianist accompanying the orchestra, Elisabeth Leonskaja, made the room absolutely silent with her stunning performance. The keyboard sounds were like raindrops, making the audience want more of her playing. The piano solos played were really enhanced with the contrast between themoderato orchestra and delicate diminuendo sounds amongst the total silence in the venue. The piano solo composed by Mozart tells a story of its own, giving at times the imagery of an army of angels all in tune with the song. The dramatic music produced by the piano, accompanied by the string section, can make you drift, as if being taken away by the sea of the string sections’ bows. A truly amazing performance by the female Russian pianist, deserving the longest round of applause of the night.

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After a much entertaining interval from the ‘promenade’ crowds followed by the mind-blowing encore, came a much more modern stacatto piece by Shostakovich, written in 1906. The great musical contrast came from the different sounds produced, for example, from overpowering string sounds to wood. All the movements were very much intense, which enhanced the beautiful sight of the instruments being played. Although there was a strong percussion lead, all the different sections had much more of an individual showcase than the previous pieces. At one point, it felt like being in Italy, and then being transported to Russia… how great is the ability of a composer to do that! These effects were skilfully produced by the swift changes in the melody of each movement. However, what created the biggest was the sudden unexpected crescendos, revealing Shostakovich’s more modern and abstract style. What was particularly amusing was the soloists in each of the different orchestral sections; it was as if they were communicating to each other through their instruments. A great tribute to the composer was the flawless execution of the pizzocato part from Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15 in A major, Op 141. Overall, a brilliant performance, and a true sense of journey could be felt. This piece had a very cinematic feel, with lots of imagery (maybe the cartoon Tom & Jerry could cross your mind!).

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What a brilliant rendition from all of the musicians and the conductor, demonstrating the grandiose power of music. There is nothing that can prepare you for an event like this… even if you have heard these pieces countless times. Live demonstrations of these magnificent composers’ leads us to find the true meaning of classical music, allowing us to understand the communication between instruments. In each work of art, there needs to be a connection, so you need to find what’s personal for you in each piece played.

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