Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From Britten to Tavener

This afternoon I gave a short speech at the opening of Britten Week - a few days of concerts, talks, masterclasses, an exhibition and a couple of films, organized by Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music and the Britten-Pears Foundation, with a little help from us. It was a small, low-key ceremony attended by faculty and students but good to know that Britten is known and respected here.
There was a nice story in one of the other speeches, by Professor Zhou. As a student, he and a friend had studied in the UK in 1988, both supported by British Council grants. His friend had since gone into business and made his millions, but remembering the help he got he's set up his own award scheme to help other students.    
Later this evening I heard that fellow British composer John Tavener has just died, aged 69. The two were very different, but Britten did help Tavener in his early career (persuading the Royal Opera House to commission an opera, Therese, for example). There were lots of interesting things about him: his Russian Orthodox faith, the fact that his first works were released on The Beatles' Apple label, the length of some of his pieces. But one of the more obscure facts is that one of my favourite experimental musicians, Janek Schaefer (who I invited to perform in Tokyo 10 years ago), happens to be his nephew.  

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