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Spinal Chords in rehearsal

Fri 3 Feb 2012

Giving a world premiere of a new work is, understandably, a rareity for the OAE. It’s not totally unknown however, and we have performed new pieces by Mark Anthony Turnage, Jonathan Dove and Heiner Goebbels in the past. Indeed the Goebbels has become something of a signature piece for us and the London Sinfonietta, with us notching up several performances now, across Europe and the USA.

This Sunday sees us give our latest premiere, this time by Sally Beamish. It is part of Music 20×12, 20 new works commissioned by the PRS for Music Foundation for the Olympic Year. Scored for strings only, it is set to text by The Times columnist Melanie Reid, and we are very pleased to have secured actress Juliet Stevenson to narrate it.

Sally Describes the piece in her programme note:

“I have known Melanie Reid, and enjoyed her writing, ever since I moved to the Stirlingshire village where we both live, in 1996. When she had her devastating riding accident in 2010, and began writing ‘Spinal Column’ in The Times, I followed it every week.

The idea of working with her came to me when the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment asked me for suggestions for a PRS for Music Foundation New Music 20×12 Cultural Olympiad commission. To my delight, she agreed, and I received the text for Spinal Chords (her title) in May 2011.

It was hard to know how I could best serve the words, which I found deeply moving; but Melanie’s title gave me a good starting point: the idea of the chord as the backbone of the music. ‘Cords’ (without an ‘h’) also suggest strings, threads, linking and joining. I realised the role of the music should be as a backdrop for a very slow drama – that of Melanie’s ‘spinal journey’.

The decision to use an actor, rather than a singer, was to preserve the directness of the text, and of Melanie’s own voice.

I started with twelve chords, which are stated, very slowly, three times; each time in a different key. The chords themselves are closely linked to each other : each builds on the one before. The string orchestra is treated as a large chamber group, with 13 solo lines, and the chords are stated at first by broken-up groups of players, gradually consolidating into larger groups, and then with the addition of ornamentation, and later, scales. The music reflects the agonising slowness of recovery, and the gradual re-connecting as the body finds ways to heal.

The piece uses the distinctive techniques of Baroque string playing: expressive bowstrokes, with a minimum of vibrato. I also draw on the similarities between Scottish traditional ornamentation, and that of Baroque music.”

Today saw the first rehearsal of the piece, with composer Sally Beamish in attendance, and here are a few pictures of the rehearsal.

Sally will appear alongside violinist Matthew Truscott, who is directing the concert, on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune today from 5.45pm. If you miss it you can listen to it again here.

You can read more about the collaboration between Sally and Melanie in The Times here (subscribers only)

The World Premiere of Spinal Chords is at Southampton’s Turner Sims on Sunday 5 February, with the London Premiere at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 10 […]

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Bryn, croissants and ladykillers: Launching the new season

Tue 24 Jan 2012

Yesterday morning much of the classical music press, together with famous musical names and a legion of Orchestra CEO’s and other behind-the-scenes staff gathered in the glamorously named ‘Level 5 Function Room’ at the Royal Festival Hall for the launch of the 2012-2013 concert season. As our regular attenders will know, the Southbank Centre is host to four Resident Orchestras: us (of course), the London Philharmonic, the Philharmonia and the London Sinfonietta. For several years now we’ve worked together to coordinate the launch of our various seasons – together with the Southbank’s own series: Shell Classic International, the International Chamber Music Series and the International Piano Series. Coordinating it like this makes things a lot simpler for audiences, the press, and indeed all of us!

Getting everything ready on time is no mean feat – and there are some horrifying / amazing spreadsheets that timetable everything down to the last day – when we get our concert details over to the Southbank Centre, when we confirm ticket prices, copy and pictures for each concert (for Southbank Centre’s website and Classical Guide), what seats we need for sponsors, and so on. At Southbank’s end it means that 200 or so events have to be set up on their box office system and website – which is no mean feat. Especially when people like me make a mistake with the pricing structure I originally sent over…

Anyway – doing it all together like this also means we can have a big press launch and hopefully get the classical music press enthused as to what we’re up to in the next 12-18 months. So we all gathered yesterday morning for coffee and croissants and heard from various people about what’s in store. Jude Kelly, the Artistic Director of Southbank Centre kicked off proceedings and was closely followed by the Southbank Centre’s new Head of Classical Music Gillian Moore. Next up was Vladimir Jurowski who talked about the LPO’s new season (my personal highlight: two concerts with Marin Alsop with some very esoteric repertoire, and Vladimir himself combining the LPO and Russian National Orchestra) before rushing off to rehearse the LPO in the Festival Hall right next door. Next it was the turn of the Philharmonia and Principal Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, who talked touchingly and amusingly about the composer Lutoslawski. His music is a feature of their new season – as is a performance marking the 100th anniversary of the Rite of Spring. I’m excited that they are also bringing back their excellent Re-Rite installation to London to coincide with this.

The London Sinfonietta, our office buddies here at Kings Place, were next (personal highlight – a new piece by Steve Reich based on songs by Radiohead) and then it was us in the spotlight! Vice-Chairman and viola player Martin Kelly did an excellent job in the three whole minutes that had been allotted to him, and our series title of Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers even got a laugh.

Lastly we had a special guest – Bryn Terfel, who is not just appearing in several concerts but is also putting on a whole Welsh festival at Southbank Centre. Including a food market. Yum.

So, what do we have in store? Well I’m going to be mean and leave that for a post tomorrow…sorry!

William […]

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A Theorbo goes undercover to Warsaw

Mon 19 Sep 2011

Soho Factory outside

We’re all up early and ready for the fun and games that is check in at Heathrow. 3 staff narrow their eyes at the theorbo at once: “Have you ever travelled with it before?”  ummm…   I refrain from saying “only the last 20 years” and smile as they figure out the procedure about extra seats.  These days (and I hope no one from BAA is reading this) you can’t buy seats for “lute” or “theorbo” so I have to go under cover as “cello”.  And hope it fits. Which on the way back, it doesn’t.  Fortunately the stewardesses on the plane itself are very chilled, and we rig up an arrangement involving more than my fair share of seat in a prime place next to the loo…

This is the first outing of Heiner Goebbels Songs of Wars I have seen since we were in Modena in May.  One of the pleasures of this piece, aside from getting to catch up with the London Sinfonietta in glorious form, is checking out the audience reaction to the mixture of Gertrude Stein and old and new instruments.  When we did it in New York in March several friends and friends of friends said the weirdest thing was hearing us read the Stein with our apparently “cut glass” British accents (not sure my Mum would recognise the cut glass bit…). Reminded me that the texts already have a music of their own, before Heiner adds his definitive  mix of swing, last-post trumpet and ammunition effects and the odd bit of Matthew Locke, to Stein’s words.

The coach goes through gleaming sunshine and grand looking central town buildings. And then on some. And then on some more to a random-looking shed on an industrial estate. And stops.  Er…

It’s a dilapidated but very trendy-looking old factory, which has an unexpectedly resonant acoustic.  Good news, you might think, but not really for the combination of intricate rhythms and words, which are in danger of all melding together.  “It sounds terrible but you’re doing you’re best” smiles Goebbels, not altogether reassuringly.  But Ian the sound genius has it all under control, and gradually we can hear things we haven’t heard before in conventional halls. Picking your way in the dark to the other bit of concrete that is backstage is interesting: fog lights are set up which cast film noir kinds of shadows on the huge bare walls.  For this performance we have some “newbies” to this piece in OAE, who pick it all up amazingly quickly and with seeming ease and mix their own personalities into the brew, making us wonder why it took so long for us oldies to get the hang of it…

7.05pm and it’s more or less just us and the weeds outside the factory, and then taxis start to multiply and before long a crowd of the mixed new-old music scene turn the building into a happening place, we’re lucky to be here.

And it’s the only concert hall I’ve been to which has a row of hammocks outside to catch a lie down in.  Rachel Brown found them, and swung away happily for a while until the chill set in. It may be sunny but it is still September.

Elizabeth Kenny, Principal Theorbo

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Netty's tour diary. Part 2 (singing-bowls, lost keys and officious ladies)

Fri 25 Mar 2011

Viola player Annette Isserliss concludes her US tour diary:

Thurs 17th

Awoke wondering how on earth the OAE homeward travellers (the players who weren’t staying on for the Heiner Goebbel’s concert) had managed to rouse themselves to leave at 6.00 am! Took the subway (with viola in tow) to meet cousin Judy in Chelsea, and after a guided tour of some of the finer architectural sights, we climbed up onto the High Walk: converted from an old railway on an overpass to a garden walk with views of Chelsea Harbour with Hoboken,New Jersey beyond, on one side, and interesting city glimpses on the other. Although botanically at this time of year it was confined to almost-budding saplings and crocuses (crocii??) it was exceedingly pleasant in the mellow sunshine. As we approached a bench with a be-hatted native simultaneously basking and scribbling, it looked up, and turned out to be fello viola Nick Logie! He was staying in NY a bit longer, not only for the sponsors’ reception that evening, but because his eldest son Sascha is currently working in NY for the UN.

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US reviews: CPE Bach and Heiner Goebbels

Tue 22 Mar 2011

We’ll be posting the second part of Netty’s tour diary tomorrow, but in the meantime here are a selection of reviews from our trip across the pond.

Newspapers

New York Times on the period instrument movement

Boston Globe

New York Times (on CPE Bach)

New York Times (on Goebbels)

 

Blogs

The Boston Musical Intelligencer

SuperConductor

The Arty Semite

 

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Launching the new season

Mon 31 Jan 2011

If you had dropped a bomb on the Royal Festival Hall last Friday, at around 11am, then you would have wiped out a very large section of London’s classical music life. Why? Well last Friday was the press launch of the 2011-2012 classical season at Southbank Centre. I’m sure to the assembled ranks of journalists that this all seemed very normal and routine, but the fact is a huge amount of work goes into not just the organisation of an event like this, but in getting the seasons of four Resident Orchestras ready in time, so they can all be launched at exactly the same time, and go on sale all together three days later. For the OAE launching this early in the year is something of a novelty, as until recently we’d do it in a much more leisurely fashion. Maybe in April…May…just whenever we got it all together really.

But obviously we make a lot more impact if we launch our new season together with the other Residents: LPO, Philharmonia and London Sinfonietta and also together with the various series that the Southbank Centre puts on too.

Pictured below (thanks to Sam Dub for the pics) are the various speakers for the event – including Marshall Marcus, who not very long ago was the OAE’s Chief Executive. We, as you know, don’t have a Principal Conductor, so we asserted our difference and had a player representing us – a huge thank you to OAE Leader Matthew Truscott for volunteering – he did a great job, though he did remark he was far more nervous than he ever gets when playing his violin!

Obviously we were excited about our own season, but its also fun to hear whatevery one else is putting on – and we were especially excited to see that Eduardo Portal, our Melgaard Young Conductor last season, is featuring in the LPO’s season – congratulations to him! There will definitely be an OAE crowd there cheering him on on 25 November.

Some boring small print: Friends of the OAE have priority booking till 21 Feb – we’ll be posting full details of everything then. If you want to sign up to the Friends give us a buzz! 020 7239 9382. There’s also a cheaper Priority Bookers option for £15.

Already there has been some coverage:

Guardian

Gramophone

Evening Standard

William Norris, Communications Director

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OAE plays….Stravinsky?!

Fri 15 Oct 2010

Tomorrow night’s concert at Kings Place is a pretty unusual affair. Not only is it a joint concert with the London Sinfonietta, but the second half in particular sees four very unusual things occur. First, we merge with the London Sinfonietta, to create a new ensemble made up of players from both orchestras. Second, together, we play a brand new comission by Richard Causton, Dark Processional (in the spirit of the REMIX festival, it is based on music by Pergolesi). Third, in the second half of the concert, OAE players will use (fairly) modern instruments and play at modern picth. Last, but not least, we’re going to be playing Stravinsky (only the second time we have ever done so). The piece is Pulcinella, and it is the climax of the REMIX festival here. As you may know, it’s based on pieces by Pergolesi and other composers of his time – and we play these antecedents in the first half of the concert. So, all in all a pretty special event – and one thats not very likely to be repeated for a while!

Yesterday we caught up with OAE players who were at Kings Place for that evening’s concert and asked them about the experience of working with the London Sinfonietta and playing the music of Stravinsky:

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Name your dream team and win…

Wed 13 Oct 2010

Wolfgang Amadeus Madonna anyone?

This week we’re collaborating with the London Sinfonietta on REMIX, a 3-day festival celebrating remixing, reinventing and recyling music. Over three concerts we’re going to be looking at how composers have copied, stolen and taken inspiration from each other.

For example, on Thursday the OAE plays Bach’s version of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, while on Friday the London Sinfonietta play music by Purcell rearranged by John Woolrich, George Benjamin and Oliver Knussen…

So, with this in mind we’re asking you to name what your musical dream team would be. Perhaps you would bring Haydn and Beethoven together, Purcell and Vivaldi, Madonna and Mozart…

Let us know here what two (or more!) composers or musicians you would like to see work together and we’ll be awarding a pair of free tickets to Saturday’s concert, Music as Theft, to whoever comes up with our favourite idea. Oh, and if you’re really bored then you could also submit a pictorial mash-up like ours – there will be extra prizes for that! You can post them on our Facebook Page. Deadline is 5pm this Friday, so get thinking…

William Norris

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REMIX comes together

Wed 13 Oct 2010

Yesterday morning was the culmination of what seems like months if not years of work for our concert on Saturday night. A little more complicated than usual, this concert is a mixture of OAE and London Sinfonietta players (our very distant relations who we share an office with). As part of having our headquarters at Kings Place, we put on several concerts here throughout the year and this week is our REMIX festival, mixing all sorts of old and new including mixing up the two orchestras. This all started many moons ago when we decided to have an orchestra made up of players from both orchestras. After working out how to split the booking between the two orchestras, we then had to find OAE players who were happy to dust off their modern instruments to play some 20th century music – Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and a new commission by Richard Causton. Fixing a project with just one orchestra involved presents enough challenges, but dealing with two orchestras whose playing spheres never overlap presented quite a few more! Eventually we managed a final orchestra list, a final seating plan, the right music (we were helpfully sent the whole of the Pulcinella ballet parts instead of just the suite to start with!) and a rehearsal plan.

Sitting and listening to the rehearsal yesterday, it was really interesting to see a rare sight, OAE and LS players sitting side by side, and even stranger to see OAE players playing modern instruments. The rarest thing, however, was when the conductor, Nick Collon, announced that Richard Causton would be coming to the afternoon rehearsal – it’s not very often that the composer of the music OAE is playing turns up to a rehearsal!

Megan Russell, Projects Manager

Find out more about REMIX by downloding the brochure here.



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(Re)Mixing it up…

Tue 14 Sep 2010

In exactly 1 months time, we’ll be kicking off our three day festival Remix, a collaboration with London Sinfonietta.

The festival explores the ideas of remixing, reinventing and recycling into a series of concerts, talks, film screenings and aftershows to be held at Kings Place, London from 14th October- 16th October.

As both orchestras wanted an edgy, fresh approach to our joint campaign for these concerts, we decided to work with Islington-based designers, Research Studios.

Here’s what they came up with (bright eh?):

You can find out more about the Remix festival here.

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Top OAE moments of 2009

Wed 27 Jan 2010

With the end of another year just passed, we took the chance to ask members of the office team about their top OAE moments of 2009:

Stephen Carpenter, Chief Executive
“In August and September 2009, as part of the OAE’s year-long homage to Haydn in his bi-centenary year, we visited the composer’s two P(a)laces of Employment: Esterhaza in Hungary and Eisenstadt in Austria.  On a swelteringly hot day in Esterhaza we performed an all-Haydn programme in the same room in which most of Haydn’s symphonies were premiered.  We had a guided tour of the Esterhazy Palace and saw the room where the Empress Maria-Theresa stayed, and performed “her” symphony (No 48 in C) later the same evening.  In the front row of the audience sat Prince Paul Esterhazy, a direct descendant of Haydn’s Patron, Prince Nicholas Esterhazy.  A real connection with a golden period in music history.  It doesn’t get much better than that!”

Clare Norburn, Development Manager
The Haydn programme with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and especially the ambience in The Night Shift that night – it was electric!

On a personal note: the moment when I opened the envelope to find we had raised £100,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for the development of The Night Shift over 3 years

Natasha Stehr, Marketing and Press Officer
My 2009 highlights: becoming part of our office’s Running Club and actually sticking with it- OAE marathon next year?!  We had so many great concerts this year, it’s hard to pick one as my favourite, but if I had to choose it would have to be Marin Alsop and the OAE playing Charles Ives’ Unanswered Question as part of our Deconstructing Mozart event on the 5 Dec…a once in a lifetime moment!

Ceri Jones, Projects Manager
An office one
“the first outing for the Kings Place running club back in April.  Little did I know it would be met with so much enthusiasm, and that 8 months later a small clique would still be up and running (not sure what I can say about those that have given up, but at least they showed some initial enthusiasm and perhaps they will be tempted again in the New Year…)

A tour-related but not musical one
Having fun experiencing American mid-west culture and the most extreme cold in my life with the OAE & London Sinfonietta in Minneapolis back in January.

An actual musical one
The Creation before Christmas.  Managed to blag a seat in the auditorium rather than marching around backstage, and was blown away by the sheer volume of the orchestra and choir in that ‘let there be light’ bit!  It will stay with me for a while…

& Not so top moments
Getting up at 4am to get home from Berlin on Good Friday – way less than 24hrs after leaving London the previous day.  Ouch.

The snow day in Feb last year.  Sitting at my desk helplessly trying to get an orchestra and choir to the canary islands whilst others in the world were skiving off work ‘unable to get to work and playing in the snow 

Megan Russell, Projects Manager
I’m not sure if it my absolute ‘top moment’ artistically speaking, but a very memorable moment was when the […]

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Violins and Running

Wed 1 Apr 2009

Here’s a few pics that I took of some recent activity in the office (I seem to be the resident photographer! – plus I have only recently caught up with everyone else in the world and got a camera with a phone…). A big brown box arrived in the office the other day, this was much more exciting than the mounds of marketing print that we normally get (!) so we were all very pleased to see that it was filled with lots of very tiny violins for our Kings Cross string project. We have a weekly string club in Kings

Cross that is led by OAE players, teaching local children to play a stringed instrument. Currently there are about 20 kids that come (including a double bassist!), but with our new violins we look forward to welcoming some more. Our Marketing Director, Will, showed off his violin skills on one of the quarter size violins (see picture).

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Twin cities: Reviews

Thu 22 Jan 2009

We’ve had the first few reviews from our two joint concerts with the London Sinfonietta over in St Paul:

New York Times (has a nice pic of the Orchestra and conductor Anu Tali)
Pioneer Press

There was a somewhat less charitable one from a St Paul based blogger but maybe we’ll leave you to find that one for yourselves…

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St Paul in pictures

Tue 20 Jan 2009

A few pics from our time in St Paul, Minnesota, courtesy of Ceri Jones. The players who were in the Heiner Goebbels concerts have now been joined by the rest of the Orchestra and Rachel Podger, and they’ll be performing 2 concerts there as well as 3 joint concerts with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra. We hope to post more news soon.

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The twin cities, day 2

Fri 16 Jan 2009

We had our first Goebbels rehearsal yesterday evening.  Here is the orchestra rehearsing on the vast stage at the Ordway Center. It seems

Americans do everything on a much vaster scale than us Brits. Not only breakfast (which today included muffins, bagels, waffles, fruit, omelette, French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, yoghurt, cereal, coffee, fruit juice…..) but weather, and now concert halls too!

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Journey to the twin cities

Thu 15 Jan 2009

Yesterday was a day of firsts for me.  First long haul plane journey, first time experiencing jet lag, first trip out of Europe, first trip to the USA, first Visa, first time visiting a place where it’s normal for the temperature to be less than 0 degrees! So as you can imagine I was quite anxious about the trip…!

We’ll we’ve been here 24 hours now, and as the first rehearsal is this evening my first blog entry will focus on the non-musical elements of being on this tour.

The journey itself went actually very smoothly.  North West Airlines were great.  They were very happy to take the double bass in the hold – with no arguments! There was a great array of films to watch on the 8 hour journey (I managed 3 and a half, 2 of which were well worth watching) and as the plane was not very busy there was plenty of room to stretch out.  I can’t say that the food we were served was anything to write home about so I won’t!

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Germany and Paris in pictures

Thu 15 Jan 2009

A rather belated round of pictures from the last couple of dates of our tour with Sir Simon Rattle back in December.
The end of the tour was in Paris and it was obvious to the audience the great bond between Orchestra and conductor that had been strengthened during the tour – I’ve never seen an Orchestra present a conductor with presents on stage! After the concert the Theatre de Champs Elysees very kindly laid on a champagne reception to mark the end of the tour – apologies for the rather dark picture.

Members of the OAE are currently in Minnesota and St Paul, USA. The OAE is one of a number of chamber Orchestras invited there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the St Paul Chamber Orchestra. Initially we have travelled out with our office-mates the London Sinfonietta and we’ll be giving two joint performances of Heiner Goebbel’s Songs of Wars I have Seen. Then, next week, more members of the OAE travel out to give performances of a Baroque programme with Rachel Podger. Look out for updates here very soon!

Will, Marketing Director

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