Monday, 3 September 2012

The Stars of Classical Music

In terms of Classical music, it is interesting to think about who recieves (and who should recieve) the praise for a performance, CD, arrangement and so on and so on. As a composer, my view is biased - as I believe the composer should be the one to gain the majority of the credit for a piece, even being performed by somebody else. My logic behind this is that there are only a handful of Mozarts, Beethovens, Korngolds and Stravinskys - however, there are millions of very talented professional musicians all over the planet. Despite this, there is extraordinary musical talent out there at the moment - and, I thought it was only fair to make a post about the performers rather than the composers this week.

Representing the pianists of the world is Chinese concert pianist: Lang Lang. Lang Lang - meaning: 'brilliance of the sky' - first came across western music whilst watching an episode of Tom & Jerry which features a rhapsody by Franz Liszt. From then on, he took up piano lessons and quickly made his way through some of the most prestigious music establishments in the world. The first time I saw Lang Lang perform was at The Albert Hall. Performing Beethoven, he had an incredible attention to detail and phrasing, and gave a truly dramatic performance that kept the entire hall silent (until the rupture of applause of course). However, Lang Lang is not only a brilliant pianist. He has received numerous awards for his work with charities and foundations in China, as well as being listed by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influencial People in the World.
I recommend: Piano Concerto No. 1 - Frederic Chopin

For the singers, I chose my favorite male voice: Ian Bostridge. Bostridge is well-known for his performances as both an opera singer and song recitalist. A lot of Bostridge's repertoire is focused on English vocal music. My favorite of all his albums is 'The English Songbook' - a collection of some of the most lovely English vocal pieces such as 'Linden Lea', 'Silent Noon' and 'Cradle Song'. Having alreay mentioned one of his recordings in an earlier post, I refer you to 'Ivor Gurney - Sleep'. Surprisingly, Bostridge originally intended to go into theoretical physics. However, after a few years of experience in the field, he decided to turn to the modern history (which he studied at Oxford and Cambridge). Eventually, Bostridge became a professional singer, and went on to become one of the most famous contemporary male voices.
I recommend: Silent Noon - Ralph Vaughan Williams

To represent the women, I chose Nicola Benedetti - a Scottish Classical violinist. Benedetti was first properly discovered by the public when she won the Young Musician of the Year Award in 2004 at the age of 16. From this, she was offered a recording contract worth £1million, and went on to perform at various prestigious engagements around the world. Now with six albums altogether, Benedetti has just brought out her most recent: 'The Silver Violin', which features many classics from the violin repertoire such as John Williams' 'Schindler's List' and Erich Korngold's violin solo from his opera 'Die Tote Stadt'. Some criticise the album to be a rather unimaginative line-up of music. However, I disagree as I believe her to have already proved her capabilities of playing some of the hardest music in the violin repertoire in her previous albums.
I recommend: Die Tote Stadt : Tanzlied des Pierrot - Erich Korngold

Finally, I chose Gareth Malone to represent the young generation of choirmasters and broadcasters. Malone describes himself as a "presenter and populariser of choral singing". Malone first started to attract attention with his first programme: 'The Choir' which encouraged those who had had no previous musical training to sing together in a choir. However, Malone is most famous for his other tv programme: 'The Choir: Military Wives' in which he brought together a group of military wives to create a song for them to sing about their husbands. The song itself was written by established composer Paul Mealor, however the praise was given to Malone, along with the brave wives who with no musical experience, created a heart-warming performance that was difficult not to like.
I recommend: Wherever You Are - Paul Mealor

Many criticise those who have gone through the Classical music industry and come out famous and successful businessmen and women, as they believe them to have sold themselves out for the commercial spotlight. To me, this is absolutely ridiculous, as making Classical music commercial is a key factor in trying to make Classical music more appealing and more accessible to the rest of the public. Just because they've had a few classy photo-shoots and interviews to promote their work, it doesn't mean we should diminish the fact that these are hard-working musicians who wish to share their talents with the world.

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