A meditative approach to practising music

There is so much that is involved in practising a piece of music for a performance. At some stage, I will write about the nuts and bolts of practising music, what needs to be involved to build the security needed to be able to let go in performance. But this is about the challenges of […]

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Performing from the score versus memorizing

I heard somewhere that seven eighths of the world’s music is not written down. I suspect then that most of the remaining eighth is filled up with the scores of classical music. What a relief that we have all of that music written down – the world would be a bleaker place if we didn’t […]

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Niu Niu and the child prodigy

The child prodigy is not a new phenomenon. We have had them throughout history. Take Mozart and Mendelssohn for example, both of whom wrote music and performed at an exceptionally high level from a very young age. Musical child prodigies are fascinating. How is it that they can master a skill to a level that […]

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Teaching musicians: criticism or praise?

“Call yourself a musician? Your playing is not up to it! Go away and practise!” I have come across an incredible number of musicians who have experienced the full-on, critical approach of so-called ‘good’ teachers. These kinds of comments when dished out by famous musicians can be devastating for the recipient. They can at worst […]

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The drive for perfection: can musicians change this to the drive for ‘excellence?’ And what’s the difference?

I agree wholeheartedly with playing music to the highest of standards. What is important to me is how those standards are reached. Criticism and bullying in their various guises have always been an accepted form of achieving high standards and these can be so damaging to a musician and their playing. I’ve come to realize […]

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The plight of good musicians

I was shocked to hear through a friend of mine when I was in Amsterdam about the way in which the orchestras are being ruthlessly tampered with. The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and the Netherlands Philharmonic are being merged, meaning that musicians are losing their jobs and therefore their livelihood. From all accounts, morale is sliding […]

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Hearing the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam

It’s always refreshing to go to hear another country’s resident orchestra on home ground, and hearing the Concertgebouw orchestra in Amsterdam was no exception. It was a full length Sunday afternoon concert of Kodaly, Dvorak and Brahms stunningly played by an orchestra full of top quality players from the Netherlands, Europe and further afield. Their […]

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Lang Lang: when a classical musician hits world celebrity status

The BBC made a documentary on the Chinese pianist Lang Lang a few months ago, and it was fascinating watching. Lang Lang has become something of a legend. He is only just 30 years old and he has fame that is reserved more for pop stars than for classical musicians. In China he is mobbed […]

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The exhileration of good chamber music

I have just come back from the most extraordinary concert and series of concerts at the Oxford Chamber Music Festival. Tonight was Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, Beethoven piano and violin sonata Op 10 in G major and Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht amongst others, each performance totally stunning – wonderful listening, phenomenal technical ability from all […]

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The West-Eastern divan orchestra and Beethoven’s Pastoral

Last night, I found myself gripped by a really vibrant, moving performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony at the BBC Proms. It was on the television (sadly I couldn’t go in person) and I was captivated. It continues to move me however many times I have heard it and however familiar it is – Beethoven deserves […]

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