Wednesday 25 November 2020

From meditating on solitude with Bach to Stravinsky and food, a conductor's travels during lockdown

During lockdown earlier this year singers and instrumentalists galore created content on-line, from Igor Levit's daily recitals to a world-wide audience from his studio to singers filming themselves on iPhone singing to their neighbours. Music continued, in some strange form.

But that does a conductor do in such a situation? With no-one to conduct, it is difficult to make music. Some simply took time to learn new scores and revel in the freedom to spend time with the family, others returned to their instrument (usually piano) and were found on some of the above videos accompanying a partner. Others explored other avenues of creativity.

One such is conductor Jonathan Berman. Whilst his cycle of Franz Schmidt symphonies, recorded just before lockdown with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, is due out on Accentus in 2021, and he has a mini-Beethoven project in Bucharest (travel restrictions willing), Berman has been creative during lockdown in a variety of ways.

His website Stand Together Music was designed to highlight and celebrate the orchestras (UK and overseas) who had cancelled concerts and to try to raise some funds for those musicians in need.  'Imagine if everyone in the world streaming Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits decided to buy music from artists that have had a tour cancelled due to coronavirus.'

He has also been busying himself with helping to create on-line specific events. The first of these was The Goldberg Variations: Meditations on Solitude, the imaginative presentation of Bach's Goldberg Variations performed by The Ysaye Trio with poetry read by Simon Russell Beale and photographs by Kristina Feldhammer.

A collaboration with Emily Ingram at Greengage has resulted in Berman directing and presenting Postcards from Vienna, four recitals filmed at the Austrian Cultural Forum with mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean and pianist George Fu each preceded by an introduction and mini-documentary from Berman, Stravinsky Septet, (28/11/2020) a food and music event with a two-hour cooking class, then you watch Stravinsky's Septet whilst eating your meal (!) and the film tries to take us inside the artistic inspirations for Stravinsky's 1952/3 work, with programmes built around unaccompanied violin music, the music of Ravel and the music of Stravinsky to come, each with additional multi-layered content to create a striking on-line event rather than a filmed concert.

Browse the Greengage website for more.

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