Michael White’s classical news: Up Close and Musical; Royal Academy of Music; John Cage Day; Proms at St Jude’s

Thursday, 16th June — By Michael White

Darius Brubeck Quartet_Credit Rob Blackham

The Darius Brubeck Quartet play Proms at St Jude’s on June 26. Photo: Rob Blackham

IT isn’t often in the classical world that someone comes up with a really good new idea and runs with it. So I’m always happy to celebrate the small but brilliant Fidelio Orchestra Café in Clerkenwell Road, which a couple of years ago came up with the excellent idea of creating a space for eating, drinking and distinctly intimate performance. It manages at the same time to be serious but relaxed. And intimacy is the word for a mini-festival running there next week, June 24-25, that calls itself Up Close and Musical. With events in the afternoon and evening, it’s a sequence of concerts with optional meals; and the USP is that all the performers are female – from pianist Claire Hammond and violinist Fenella Humphreys to the single-gender Eusebius Quartet – playing music largely by female composers. For myself I have mixed feelings about that sort of gesture, but I get the point; and there’s fascinating repertoire on the programme by people like Doreen Carwithen – a mid-20th century English composer whose time, if it hasn’t come already, is about to. Mark my words! Details: upcloseandmusical.com

On a grander scale, the Royal Academy of Music celebrates its bicentenary next week with a performance by its student symphony orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. The music is Mahler’s epic Symphony No3. And to conduct it is the celebrated Semyon Bychkov, who has a lot of Mahler on his schedule right now – with a Mahler 7 at the Edinburgh Festival, and a complete symphonic cycle under way on CD. See what he has to impart to these young RAM players on 23 June. Tickets: ram.ac.uk

• The first time I ever went to America it was to visit John Cage, guru of the avant-garde; and I remember sitting in his loft apartment on a hot day with the windows open and the deafening noise of New York traffic making conversation virtually impossible. “How do you live with so much noise?” I asked naively. He of course replied: “You call it noise, I call it music” – as he would, given that his life’s work involved blurring the distinction between the two. Cage made music out of untuned radios, electric mixers, TV newsclips, plants… and did it with a joy you’ll feel on Saturday June 18 when the contemporary music group Apartment House organise a John Cage Day at Wigmore Hall. Have fun, but in a mindful way. wigmore-hall.org.uk

The annual Proms at St Jude’s start June 25, and it’s the 30th season of the now-famous festival in Hampstead Garden Suburb. This year’s schedule opens with a Mendelssohn Violin Concerto played by Benjamin Nabarro with Orchestra Nova. And the following day, June 26, brings something truly special with the Darius Brubeck Quartet playing music by Darius’s father, the late, legendary Dave. A must-hear. Other events in the first few days include the haunting combination of saxophonist Christian Forshaw and soprano Grace Davidson, June 28. And young star pianist Martin James Bartlett plays Rachmaninov’s 2nd Concerto, June 29. Further details here next week. promsatstjudes.org.uk

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