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Michael White’s classical & jazz news: Beethoven anniversary; PARADE; St Pancras concerts

10 July, 2020 — By Michael White

Tom Millar

COVID-19 has been such a devastating distraction from scheduled life that it’s been easy to forget things like the great Beethoven anniversary we were meant to be celebrating this year in concerts and commemorative events around the world. Nearly all of them cancelled.

For the record, it’s 250 years since the composer was born in Bonn – in a house that miraculously survived the bombs of the Second World War and has a substantial website (www.beethoven.de) if you want to explore its contents from the comfort of your armchair.

Ludwig’s writing-desk, his correspondence and his ear-trumpets – they’re all there.

But the music is what ultimately counts, and at the heart of Beethoven’s output are his nine symphonies, which in normal circumstances would be dominating the diaries of every orchestra on earth right now – including John Eliot Gardiner’s period band, the fancily titled but fiercely impressive Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique which had planned to be on the road this summer, touring a complete cycle of the symphonies.

Needless to say, that isn’t happening. But you can get a sense of the project online, where Gardiner has a series of videos of himself talking about the symphonies while the ORR plays musical extracts.

The talks are brilliant, accessible, insightful, delivered with the easy authority of a born storyteller.

The music will leave you wanting more.

And the whole thing is available free (but with donation invited) on YouTube.

SOMETHING else on YouTube that’s caught my attention is a National Dance Company Wales production of PARADE, the legendary surrealist ballet that premiered in Paris during the First World War with a scenario by Cocteau, music by Satie, choreography by Massine and designs by Picasso. As collaborative teams go, you couldn’t ask for more. And though this modern Welsh staging takes a different approach, it’s as good to watch as Satie’s music is to hear.

AND finally some jazz – which has been missing from this column during lockdown for the simple reason that I’ve not been aware of the jazz community being active in promoting performances online: if I’m missing must-sees, write and let me know!

The jazz here comes as part of the City Music Foundation’s ongoing series of concerts streamed live at 6pm every Wednesday from the clocktower at St Pancras station. CMF exists to support emerging talent.

And on Wednesday July 15 it’s jazz pianist Tom Millar with saxophonist Alex Hitchcock playing original compositions alongside Bill Evans, Mike Walker, and American Songbook standards. Both performers have auspicious CVs (Millar studied music at Kings, Cambridge) and wouldn’t be on the CMF scheme if they weren’t young players of distinction.

So join them, 6pm, at www.citymusicfoundation.org – where you can also find videos of past concerts in the series. Most are excellent. And music aside, they catalogue the ingenuity of lockdown haircuts. For archival reference.

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