Making an Effort

To listen is an effort, and just to hear is no merit. A duck hears also. – Igor Stravinsky

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26th July 2016 – Prom 15 – Ray Chen and Sir Andrew Davis

Violin: Ray Chen

Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis

Choir: BBC Symphony Chorus

Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra

Tchaikovsky: Symphonic Fantasy ‘The Tempest’

Anthony Payne: Of Land, Sea and Sky (BBC commission:world premiere)

Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor

Vaughn Williams Toward the Unknown Region

A yearly outing to the Proms is something I am usually aiming for in my summer holiday plans. This year, after looking at the Proms that I would be in the country for, I soon decided on an opportunity to see Ray Chen perform again. Funnily enough, it was the Bruch concerto that I saw him perform in Hong Kong several years ago. Since then he has become quite the social media sensation (well, as far as classical musicians are concerned) in terms of getting fellow musicians to participate in funny/silly videos, answering questions and giving tips live online and raising money for music programmes for young people called ‘Musical heroes‘. I then found out that Ray will be performing with pianist Julio Elizalde in the Hong Kong Arts Festival in March 2017 and he’ll also be the soloist at next year’s White Nights concert in Liverpool next summer with Liverpool Philharmonic and Petrenko.

Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Tempest’ was enjoyable with the melodies depicting different aspects of Shakespeare’s play. The second piece, a BBC commission by Payne was for orchestra and chorus. This was a new composition that was twenty minutes long. So, I was hoping for something more enjoyable than what I have previously heard as ‘new compositions’. Unfortunately for me, like many of these BBC commissions, I have yet to find the ability to appreciate this type of music. To me, these pieces lack melody and are too intellectual for me to appreciate. I can appreciate that it take skill to write this music but that is about all I take away from it. Anthony Payne was present and came down to the stage to take his bow and was welcomed by enthusiastic cheers from the audience.

After the interval, Ray Chen came on stage to perform the Bruch Violin concerto. This was an energetic performance with both soloist and Sir Andrew Davis obviously enjoying their roles and moving to the music. At the end of the concerto, there was rapturous applause which was definitely well deserved. Ray went off stage and then came back on thanking the audience for the positive reception at his Proms debut. He followed up with an encore of Paganini Caprice No.21.

The concert ended with Vaughn Williams ‘Toward the Unknown Region’ which was a return to the chorus and orchestra. This was a welcome change compared to the piece by Payne with easier melodies to follow.

The theme for the programming for this concert was a little hard to comprehend. I’m guessing ‘seascape’ could be the theme and with two pieces including a chorus, it was convenient. I’m am guessing that the concerto was in the second half to prevent people wanting to leave at the interval (I did see a few leave just after the concerto). I found the second half of the concert much more enjoyable than the first and am glad I went for those pieces in particular.

Ray Chen gig 1 of 3 done!


Ray Chen taking a bow at his debut BBCProm



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10th July,2016 – Tine Thing Helseth & Kathryn Stott

Trumpet: Tine Thing Helseth

Piano: Kathryn Stott

Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Arthur Honegger: Intrada

Béla Bartók: 6 Romanian Folk Dances BB68(transcribed for trumpet)

Bohuslav Martinu: Sonatina for Trumpet and Piano

Rolf Wallin: Elegie

Karl Pilss: Sonata for Trumpet and Piano

Edvard Grieg: Haugtussa Op.67 ‘The Mountain Maid’ (transcribed for trumpet)

Ástor Piazzolla: Histoire du Tango – Café 1930, Nightclub 1960

Encore: Piazzolla: Libertango

Every time I have seen Tine Thing Helseth perform, I have absolutely loved it. The first time I saw her perform was with the other nine ladies of her brass ensemble ‘Tenthing’. I have also seen her perform as a soloist with HK Sinfonietta, with her jazz quintet ‘TTHQ’ and two years ago with Ian Tracey, the organist, at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral for a trumpet and organ recital. It was high time I saw Tine perform in recital with her pianist and recording partner, Kathy Stott. I have also seen Kathy perform in Hong Kong at the International Chamber Music Festival, organised by PPHK. Kathy has a career that has spanned decades and she is very well known for her partnership with Yo Yo Ma. Having looked at her rather extensive collection of recordings, I noticed that she has recorded an album with Truls Mørk, another Norwegian that I only just saw at my previous concert last week!

Tine and Kathy arrived on stage with Tine barefoot in a blue lace dress with matching nail polish and Kathy is a gold top and black trousers – both looking elegant and comfortable!

They started with ‘Intrada’ after which, Tine picked up the microphone to give introductions to pieces which gives the audience some insight into the pieces. I know that in a CD review (I think it was for ‘Storyteller’), the critic did not look favourably on her music selection. However, in such a setting as this, it feels like Tine is sharing something of herself; Tine’s selection of pieces have a special meaning for her and she obviously enjoys playing them.

I enjoyed all the pieces with Tine and Kathy performing brilliantly with beautiful tone and expression. I particularly enjoyed the Bartók Romanian dances as I had heard the mandolin version earlier this season performed by Avi Avital in HK. It is full of folk melodies and it was lovely to hear them on the trumpet.

Being Norwegian, Tine included Norwegian composers in the programme. Wallin’s Elegie was a beautiful piece tinged with sadness as it was written for Wallin’s sister’s funeral. He performed it himself at the funeral in Norway. The piece by Grieg is based on a story about a maid courted by a shepherd and the music reflects the ups and downs of the courtship but he finally gets rejected. Tine quipped that the course of true love didn’t run smooth for the characters, just like in real life.

Occasionally, Tine would ask Kathy if there was anything else to add to the music introductions but it was easy to see that Kathy knew Tine had it covered! It was lovely to see warm hugs between the two musicians at both the interval and at the end of the concert that reflects the beautiful partnership and friendship that these two talented ladies share.

Piazzolla at the end of the concert was a wonderful way to conclude, with foot tapping music, including the encore of  Libertango where Tine was swaying and stamping her feet to the music. I definitely left on a musical high after this wonderful performance!

I had the pleasure of going up to the green room after the concert. Thankfully, for me, there wasn’t too much of a queue. I received the usual lovely hug from Tine and had a quick chat and she obligingly signed a CD for my friend’s nephew in Adelaide. (I had wanted to get a signed CD from Tine to give to him as he is a beginner trumpet player and a very lovely boy, so really want to encourage him!) I was then able to see Kathy, who recognised me (due to my incessant tweeting!). She knew I had been sitting on the front row so she had given me some smiles at the interval and end of the concert. So we had a chat and I didn’t know that she had been invited to this year’s HKICMS again, but hadn’t been able to make it. I was able to have my programme signed and a photo with both of the lovely ladies before I left. I am sure I’ll be seeing them perform (together or separately) at some point in the future.

From L-R: Kathy Stott, myself and Tine Thing Helseth in Wigmore Hall’s Green Room.