Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Leap Into The World Of Nijinsky

This month sees the anniversary of Vaslav Nijinsky’s death. In celebration, The Classical Shop has compiled a selection of albums related to this controversial and boundary-pushing Russian ballet dancer and choreographer.
Here’s a little background to this extraordinary figure in ballet’s history.
Sergei Diaghilev formed The Ballet Russes in 1909.  He brought Nijinsky in from the Mariinsky Theatre, who joined a tour of the West with Anna Pavlova.  Here, Nijinsky performed in works showcasing his talent such as Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty; Arensky’s Cleopatra and Tcherepnin’s Le Pavillon d’Armide.  After these performances he returned to the Mariinsky Theatre, but was dismissed from the theatre after a scandal.  Many suspect that this may have been orchestrated to leave him free to perform in the West, as he then went on to perform one of his most famous roles as Petrushka (by Igor Stravinsky).
L’apres-midi d’un faune and Jeux, both works based on music by Claude Debussy were amongst the first to be choreographed by Nijinsky.  They were both controversial but it was the performance of Stravinsky’sThe Rite of Spring in 1913 that really prompted a scandal at its premiere in Paris (it was not just the final scene of the production but the new ultra modern score that shocked audiences).
During World War I Nijinsky was released from Hungary to perform in a tour of North America where he performed the lead role as well as choreographing the production of Till Eulenspiegel (based on music by Claude Debussy). However, it was now that he showed signs of mental strain and in 1919 he suffered a mental breakdown. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and his wife took him to Switzerland, he was treated albeit unsuccessfully there, but this really was the end of his career.
The rest of Nijinsky’s life was spent in and out of asylums and psychiatric hospitals and he died in a clinic in London.  A grizzly fact from his death - when he died, a doctor cut open his feet hoping to be able to explain his ability to perform his amazing leaps by showing different bone or formation to that of an average man but was disappointed to discover there were no differences!

Monday, 19 April 2010

As part of our April new releases we are delighted to include Jon Lord's latest album, To Notice Such Things, through Avie Records.

We are delighted that Jon Lord has allowed us to share his interview, previously only available on his website

Titled after the main work – a six movement suite for solo flute, piano and string orchestra – the album was inspired by, and is dedicated to the memory of Jon’s dear friend Sir John Mortimer, the English barrister, dramatist, screenwriter, author and creator of Rumpole of The Bailey, who died in January of 2009.

- He was a great friend and a great inspiration to me and I hope my love and respect for him comes out in the music, says Jon.

- A few weeks after he passed away, I was offered a commission to write a piece for solo flute and strings – a flute concerto in essence. At first I turned it down because I thought there wasn’t enough time, but after a couple of days of thought, I realized that I had these three little pieces for flute and piano that I had written for the theater shows that I used to do with Sir John, and I thought that they might provide the basis for this ‘flute concerto’ and that I could write in his memory.

- John and I became friends about 12 years ago. A couple of years later he asked if I would be interested in playing the piano and writing a bit of music for him, for his theater shows – Mortimer’s Miscellany – during which he sat on the stage and, accompanied by two actresses, a pianist and a flute player, he read poetry and prose, told stories and jokes and related hilarious legal anecdotes, giving his wonderfully wise and witty take on life, love and the law.

The music written for those shows has now evolved into Jon’s new album, To Notice Such Things.

- There was a total of about six minutes of music which has now grown into a 27 minute suite for solo flute, piano and string orchestra. I wrote it during March, April and May, and it was an emotional yet fascinating experience to work on it when John’s presence was still so very strong. In fact it still is, but back then he had only just passed away.

- I think he’s pretty much in every note of the piece and I’m really pleased with it, because I think he would be happy with what my thoughts about him are.

The suite ends with a movement called Afterwards, named after the Thomas Hardy poem that John Mortimer used to read at the end of his show.

Both the Suite itself and the album are called To Notice Such Things because the last line of the Hardy poem is ‘He was a man who used to notice such things’.

The all-instrumental album was recorded at the end of last September with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Clark Rundell with Cormac Henry on flute, and also features three additional pieces.

1. To Notice Such Things

a. As I Walked Out One Evening
b. At Court
c. Turville Heath
d. The Stick Dance
e. The Winter of a Doormouse
f. Afterwards

2. Evening Song
3. For Example
4. Air on the Blue String
5. Afterwards (poem read by Jeremy Irons)

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Easter breaks and holiday longing...

Did you have a great Easter break? To be honest all the plans I had (mostly garden related jobs) went out of the window. The culprit …. Our glorious  English weather. So, I decided as an antidote to the dreary rain  to get the holiday brochures out and book the summer holiday. (Well, that would make everything better!!)

However, where to go?   

I remembered seeing a great CD cover on our website and thinking at the time just how bright and cheerful it looked. So I had a browse on our site and came across a great Flamenco recording  so distinctive a sound and I instantly thought of warm summer evenings with the sound of the crickets outside and watching the dancers and listening to the musicians ‘til the ‘wee small hours’ sipping sangria …. Wonderful! (Tracks 9 and 11 are my particular favourites)

My dear OH however quite fancied France this year and was taken with the idea of visiting Paris (one day we will see the whole of what the Louvre has to offer). Perhaps this time I could be persuaded to take a trip to the top of the Eiffel tower (I have no head for heights I’m afraid) Here the Saydisc album, French Accordian Music just made me dream of the fabulous cafes and bistro’s and many happy hours visiting the flea-market. Perhaps Paris then?

Still undecided and flicking through the brochure – Ah Greece caught my eye and so did Zorba's Dance  from Gift of Music's 'Greek Taverna'.  Now this track just has to be the quintessential Greek track recognisable by everyone and I defy anyone to not get caught up in this track and  not feel like dancing to this…. Yes,I think I’ve decided, a nice Greek holiday.  I like to idea of the hot sun, cool sea and at night all the wonderful tavernas  to explore (yes there is a theme developing here – you are quite right food and drink is rather an obsession of mine!!)  I think I’ll download these tracks onto my MP3 and whenever the rain and gloom threatens then I’ll be transported away to sunnier climes!

So have you decided where you are going on your summer holiday this year? Where will you be headed? Morocco, Italy or perhaps somewhere further afield such as China or Africa?