Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Public events at RAM
Kreutzer Quartet with Michael Finnissy
Chris Redgate (introducing the Redgate-Howarth oboe)
Massed violas master class (Garth Knox)

Marylebone Road, London October/November 2011

[Note: the links are integral to this report]

The Royal Academy of Music welcomes the public to teaching events and musical performances every week. These are hugely rewarding, though some of us may find ourselves fascinated if "stretched" at the more "cutting-edge" events.

A recent research event with Peter Sheppard-Skaerved and the Kreutzer Quartet, connected with their pending release of a CD of Michael Finnissy's String Quartets, attracted a "full house" to the Piano Gallery, but left me confused and bewildered by the very language of the dialogue between composer and musicians.

I have had difficulty with Finnissy's music ever since greatly enjoying the premiere of his String Trio (based on Mahler) long ago at Tunbridge Wells in the 1980s, if memory serves me well?

[I have only just discovered the existence of a deleted CD with it (1987), which I have not heard.]


On 2 November oboist-extraordinaire Chris Redgate launched his newly developed Redgate-Howarth oboe, designed specifically for the performance of contemporary repertoire.

He demonstrated how his team has codified some 2,500 possible multiphonics, and performed to a packed concert hall audience of oboists and others a new work by Edwin Roxburgh The Well Tempered Oboe [L. with Redgate, Stephen Robbings, piano and David Gorton, composer/musicologist]. This made enjoyable listening, especially because the microphonics were integral and pervasive throughout, rather than being occasional "nasty noises" with which some composers spiced new music for oboe in earlier days.

Two rarified sections of a major work in progress by Michael Finnissy - with 27 mins more to be completed, so he told us - were harder to relate to, despite the added novelty of another new instrument, the Lupophone, "with a range from F at the bottom of the bass clef through to B above the treble clef - a fabulous solo instrument".

Redgate rounded off the evening with Multiphonia, one of his own exciting pieces for the new instrument, which would surely wow a Proms audience if given as an encore after an oboe concerto?

CDs of this project will appear in due course, and it is all being filmed by Colin Still, whose three videocameras were a prominent presence at this launch event...

The following evening Garth Knox (contemporary music specialist, formerly of the Arditti Quartet) gave an unique Master Class, teaching 28 RAM violists in groups of four in the packed Concert Hall !

He began by reminding us that music was about enjoyment and that he was determined we'd all have a good time.

Superbly organised (doubtless he'd done this exercise elsewhere) quartets of violists took the stage in turns to be taught the subtleties of (normal) extended techniques by work on his Viola Spaces (Variations on Marin Marais) for viola quartet [Schott ED 20520; CD mode 207].

In the first half of a three hour session he taught his groups how to improve their comand of ponticello, harmonics, pizzicato (with more than one finger), glissando & tremolo, finishing by playing one of his own pieces (several are on YouTube - do click onto it; magic !).

There are things for music lovers with spare time to learn most days at RAM.

Peter Grahame Woolf