RPS Young Musicians Recital 2013

A special recital hosted by Sir Vernon and Lady Ellis offered the opportunity to hear and meet some of the outstanding young performers supported by the Royal Philharmonic Society. The beautiful drawing room of 49 Queen’s Gate Terrace provided an intimate setting for performances by the Wu Quartet, cellist Ariana Kashefi and pianist Richard Uttley, all current beneficiaries of the RPS Young Musicians Programme.

Wu QuartetAs RPS Executive Director Rosemary Johnson explained, there is no simple or clear path for a musician who is graduating from college and establishing their professional career. Acknowledging this, the RPS Young Musicians Programme provides comprehensive and tailored support to exceptional artists throughout and beyond their training. In conversation with Rosemary following a spirited performance of Mendelssohn and Janacek, members of the Wu Quartet explained how their RPS Albert and Eugenie Frost Prize is helping them to expand their development and performance opportunities. The prize enables them to travel to and from Germany, where the quartet is being mentored by Hatto Beyerle, former member of the Alban Berg Quartet and founder of the European Chamber Music Academy.

Ariana KashefiGermany is clearly the destination of the moment. 2013 RPS Julius Isserlis Scholar Ariana Kashefi will be using her grant to fund a two year Masters course at the Hanns Eisler Music Academy in Berlin. If the experiences of fellow Julius Isserlis Scholarship winner Emily Hoile are anything to go by (read her blog post here!), or indeed the career of the scholarship’s first-ever recipient Stephen Hough; studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity to broaden one’s horizons. Ariana’s distinguished performance of Schumann’s Drei Fantasiestücke certainly suggested a promising future. With pianist Alison Rhind, she sensitively negotiated the dramatic mood changes so characteristic of Schumann’s music.

Richard Uttley (credit Benjamin Harte)Richard Uttley was joined by Rolf Hind, his mentor on the Philip Langridge Mentoring Scheme, to perform the piano duet Ma Mere L’Oye. Composed by Ravel in 1910, it is more familiar to many listeners as the orchestrated version which he completed the following year before expanding the work into a ballet. The rapport between Richard and Rolf, in addition to their outstanding technique and musicianship, bodes well for PULSE, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s new music and film commission for the PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music Biennial in 2014. The pair will be joined by two percussionists and two gamelan players to perform Dobrinka Tabakova’s score. With this and so many projects in the pipeline for all of these young musicians, the concert was a taste of great things to come.

Helen Pearce

Dobrinka Tabakova on the inspiration for PULSE

GamelanIn mid-July I went to a concert as part of the Southbank Festival of Neighbourhood – it celebrated 25 years of the gamelan at the Southbank. The concert was absolutely fantastic – the dancing, shadow puppets, singing, playing. It is no wonder that Jaap Kunst said ‘Gamelan is comparable to only two things, moonlight and flowing water… mysterious like moonlight and always changing like flowing water…”. Reflecting on the event and the festival, I thought back to the initial conversations Tom Hutchinson from the RPS and I had about this project, and how we discussed possible themes and ideas, which would fit with the wide-reaching aims of the New Music Biennial alongside the Commonwealth games in Glasgow in 2014.

LONDONThe idea we kept coming back to was that of living in a city. More than half the world’s population lives in cities. Musically, for me this immediately suggested fast paced, energetic, almost punchy music. I could almost hear the colours which I wanted, and percussion and piano were strong, prevalent sounds. A few years ago, I worked with the Southbank gamelan players and was really keen to work with them again. The subtle friction between the different tuning of the gamelan together with Western tuning appealed to me. I felt there was a parallel there with how the two tunings blend and how different people fit to form the large living organisms – cities, which so many of us inhabit. The working title became ‘My Pulse, My Place’.

At the heart of this project is a collaboration between film and music. I had met filmmaker Ruth Paxton last November in Nottingham, at the screening of her film ‘Rockhaven’ to Brian Fernehough’s Prometheus score which was part of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Encore scheme. Her film had strong images, flowing shots and there was something poetic and musical about the pace, even if the main characters were heavily tattooed boxers. I was excited to see how our two worlds would fit and the process of working with a filmmaker.

Before our first meeting in May, I had a general sound of what the music would be, having chosen and agreed on the instruments: piano, percussion and gamelan. I thought a great deal about Time. Both Ruth and I deal with structures in time, how is a story paced, what is the rhythm of a single shot; what is the shape of the composition. Linking in with the sport element, time is often a measure of achievement. Our hearts beat close to the rhythm of the second hand of the clock, etc.

We often hear people describing different cities – they have a certain pulse, life has a certain pace… I wanted the music to have this sense of a unifying pulse all the way through, so I brought a metronome along to our meeting.

CHAINI loved how both Ruth and I had this starting idea of the city and how in the first meeting, we brought our visions and ideas of what we associate with the concept. What struck me were some of the stories Ruth mentioned – our etiquette on public transport, the spark and embarrassment of catching someone’s glance, holding on to a rail and accidentally brushing your hand against someone else’s. How such small moments can bring people together and can be so powerful. The story which Ruth told and really stayed with me was of how a boy was saved from drowning in the sea in Australia by people from the beach making a human chain and pulling him out to safety. Ruth mentioned that she wanted to make a film with a positive message about humanity. I felt inspired to celebrate in the power of what people can do when we do things together.

In the first meeting, Tom, Ruth and I agreed that it was important to choose the title, or at least agree on some words, which we felt were important. After a long brain-storming session, covering all that we had been thinking about in the months between submitting the application and having our first working session, we came up with really strong words, but there was one word we kept coming back to: PULSE. We had our title.

Dobrinka Tabakova