Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Sally Beamish and Melanie Reid talk about ‘Spinal Chords’

Thu 9 Feb 2012

Tomorrow night we bring Sally Beamish’s new piece, Spinal Chords, to London for its premiere in the Capital (above: in rehearsal). Its world premiere in Southampton on Sunday got a great reaction from the audience and the press, with The Times giving it 4 stars and commenting:

“Spinal Chords does not so much express as impress: the “’chords”’, played only on the “’cordes’” –  the stringed instruments of the OAE —- sear into the nerves as they are deconstructed, painfully built up, fall back again into stasis, then start to reconnect and grow into fragments of melody, motif and new motivation, shared among the band’s 13 soloists. And, finally, three gently vibrant, questioning chords. The audience becomes gradually and wonderfully aware that the musical process is an almost direct transcription of the physical one. In a work that is totally devoid of drama or self-pity, it is left to the listener to supply the emotional subtext.” Read the full review (Times Subscribers only)

The piece is set to text by Melanie Reid, and documents her journey from an accident which paralysed her through to now, as she strives to regain movement.

Members of OAE staff snuck into the rehearsal last Saturday and can confirm the piece’s emotional power – personally I found a tear in my eye within moments of it starting. At that rehearsal BBC Radio 4’s The World this Weekend were in attendance, and you can hear the report here, 23 minutes into the programme, with the report featuring footage from the rehearsal itself, giving you a sneak preview of the music.

Plus, here’s a video featuring both Sally and Melanie Reid, chatting about how the piece came about. Tickets are still availble for the concert tomorrow (10 February) at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Spinal Chords has been commissioned as part of New Music 20×12

William Norris, Communications Director

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Robert Levin, Mozart, and er, Duke Ellington?

Fri 30 Sep 2011

Pianist and scholar Robert Levin appeared with us last night in two concerts (a 7pm and a Night Shift) and today has been on a bit of a media blitz, appearing on Radio 4’s Today programme and the World Service too. There’s also something in the Evening Standard.


The reason? Well Robert has been talking about two things. Last night he performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23 with us, and Robert’s research strongly points to it being written for a pupil of his, Barbara Ployer, something previously unknown. One of the reasons he suspects this is that he found a coda written for the piece, which was intended for Barbara, and this coda hasn’t been performed for at least 200 years. But alongside this, Robert has been talking about how we perform Mozart these days. Modern performance very much sticks to what is written on the page, with no deviation. But Robert argues that in Mozart’s day there would have been a lot of free rein given to the soloist, to embellish the basic musical line, improvise around it etc. In fact, Robert, argues that his hero, Duke Ellington, is really like a modern-day Mozart.


Robert is performing the Concerto with us again on 4 October, as part of our very first The Works event. In the event he’ll be joined by presenter Suzy Klein, and the first half of the concert will be given over to a ‘guided tour’ of the concerto. More on the event in this previous blog post.


Here’s Robert talking about the concerto, plus links to today’s coverage.



Robert on the Today Programme


Evening Standard Coverage

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The World Tonight (Shift)

Mon 7 Mar 2011

Our late-night series, The Night Shift, was featured on Radio 4’s 10pm news programme, The World Tonight, on Friday. You can listen to the piece here, it’s 37 minutes into the programme.

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Night Shift on Today

Thu 28 Jan 2010

This morning Radio 4’s Today programme ran a feature on The Night Shift and informal concerts – interviewing conductor Vladimir Jurowski and OAE Leaders Maggie Faultless and Matthew Truscott. You can listen to it here. Is it just us or is the question about pay completely random and unconnected?!

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