Category Archives: Blog

New York Philharmonic, Joyce DiDonato, Alan Gilbert NCH, Dublin 16/4/15

To start I shall apologise for the gap in my recent posts! I’m somewhat forgetful about doing blog posts in the recent past.  This post won’t necessarily be a review more observations that I made during the concert! The concert of the year for me in the National Concert Hall‘s International Concert Season 14/15 was undoubtedly the New York Philharmonic with Joyce DiDonato mezzo-soprano. 

The NY Phil played music suited to an orchestra of its size and brilliance, starting with contemporary music by conductor/composer Esa-Pekka Salonen that is called Nyx. Written in 2010 this music was new to me. From the very first notes from the horns and eventually the strings, I knew this was going to be superb music with the magnificent resonant sound from this orchestra was like nothing I’d heard before.  Presumably named after the Greek goddess of the night, the music was abrasive from the percussion and brass one minute, nocturnal and lyrical from the woodwind the next. Sometimes during concerts my mind wanders, but not this time I barely noticed the 20 minutes go by with this music from the Finnish composer. Now that I think of it some parts of it reminded me of his fellow Finn Magnus Lindberg, but that could have been my mind playing tricks on me! Make up your own mind with this link here.

After the dramatic first 20 minutes, Joyce DiDonato came on to the stage, things were a little calmer with music of Maurice Ravel’s Schéhérazade In reading other people’s  reviews of this concert they thought she had difficulty with first 2 songs “Asie” and ”La flûte enchantée”, (i didn’t notice) but I would agree with the last of 3  ”L’indifférent” it was beautifully sung and the best of of the cycle. Robert Langevin principal flautist had a lovely solo in ”L’indifférent”. Indeed I welled up a little at the end of the last song, and of course she and the orchestra got an enormous applause.  At this point Joyce spoke to us with a couple words of Irish! If I had done my research properly I would have known her maiden name is Flaherty, she told us this much to the surprise of myself and the audience!

For her encore Alan Gilbert introduced and told us that they’ve had a long relationship with Joyce and asked her to sing Richard Strauss‘s song “Morgen!” for this tour, much to the delight of us all. It was stunning and yes for the first time in my concert going years, I had a little emotional moment. Watch the rehearsal of it here.

During the interval I made an interesting observation about the ladies in the first violins!

After the interval there was more music of Ravel this time Valses Nobles et Sentimentales waltzes which are a homage to Franz Schubert I must admit some parts were a little dreamy and not very waltz like but overall quite enjoyable.

But it was the last in the programme which was the most magnificent part of this concert , Strauss‘s Der Rosenkavalier Suite not made by Strauss himself and probably compiled by Artur Rodziński. The opera was inspired by Mozart with a nod to the waltzes of his namesake. This is where the NY Phil excelled, from the blaring French horns at the beginning the Philharmonic had such precision and much feeling with the music jumping off the pages, my favourite part the ‘Trio’ was sublime, and fine attention was made to the dynamics throughout the suite.

After about 5 curtain calls where the audience rather confusingly stayed sitting, my new friend to my left a seasoned visitor to the NCH said “They’d (the audience) jump up for less!” What followed was a lovely rendition and danceable version of the waltz from the first act of Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake. After that I said to my new friend “Well if nobody is going to stand up I will!” I did and the rest of the hall followed me! Finally we were jazzed out of the hall with a brass quintet (horn, two trumpets, trombone and tuba) in a 1920s-sounding number that was unexpected and entraining!

As I said earlier, in all my years going to the National Concert Hall this stands at the very top of the great orchestras that I’ve the the absolute pleasure of seeing there.

Lets hope it won’t take this truly staggering orchestra another 19 years to come back!

Classical Sounds Sunday 16th November 2014


On this weeks Classical Sounds which I present every Sunday on Claremorris Community Radio @ 3pm! I have music from little known but very tuneful English composer Christopher Ball. Also accidentally keeping an English theme I also play great music by Peter Maxwell Davis and Malcolm Arnold. Old favorite Mozart is in the mix too plus music Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach who Mozart said of “Bach is the father we are his children”. I  have also found a composer recently who was strangely known as the “Swedish Mozart” Joseph Martin Kraus His instrument of choice was the viola and i have chosen the second of the three he wrote for that instrument. Born the same year as Mozart and dying the year after him but his life was much different to the great man himself!

Hope you like the show and like this website. Thanks

Listen to latest programme below.

Classical Sounds Sunday 16 November 2014 by Claremorrisfm on Mixcloud



Spotify Playlist of music played on the Show

Classical Sounds Podcast Sunday 2nd November 2014


On this weeks Classical Sounds with Andrew Newman there’s music by Grieg, Giordani, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and even Nina Simone! Tune in every Sunday at 3 for the live show but if you miss that you can always get it here!

You can listen to just the music that I played on the embedded Spotify link or the entire show on the embedded Mixcloud link below.

Classical Sounds Sunday 2/11/2014 by Claremorrisfm on Mixcloud

Spotify Playlist of music played on the Show

Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment, Sir Simon Rattle NCH Dublin 4/5/14


The Creation – Joseph Haydn

Before I begin a little explanation about the musical terminology I may use here occasionally . Every time you see a word in red, you can click on it to get and explanation of what it means hopefully this will be helpful to you while reading this review.

If you have been following my blog you may have noticed I haven’t been to any concerts lately, I missed 2 in the last month alone! But last Sunday night I finally got a chance to see Sir Simon Rattle conducting a period instrument orchestra,  The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment  and their 34 strong choir. They were doing a very mini tour indeed, just Dublin and on Tuesday 6th London with the wonderful music Joseph Haydn and his oratorio  The Creation.

While in London in the early 1790′s Haydn heard a few of Handel’s oratorio’s so he decided to write one of his own. Written between 1796-98 Haydn takes his words from Book of Genesis and Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. It’s certainly one of his greatest masterpieces of his late period. I  must admit I never listened to this music until a week before the concert, and hearing it live was a totally different experience than listening to a recording.

This is my third time seeing Mr. Rattle and second time the OAE, my last time with him also 2 years ago with Haydn and also Mozart. This time I wondered would I lose concentration during the work, but the way Rattle conducted the music the audience me included,were tranfixed from beginning to end!

It was a very packed stage with 3 soloists; soprano, tenor and bass. The 34 voice choir just about squeezed into the back, the orchestra was pretty large for the standards of the time with trombones, french horns and a very large countrabassoon!

As I said above there were three soloists : Sally Matthews soprano, who was a late substitute for another soprano who fell ill. She looked nervous, constantly reading the music when not singing but when she did she sang very well, with a clear tone her enunciation was not as clear as the others but her singing made up for it. John Mark Ainsley, a lyric tenor had a expressive voice which never strained too much. The star of the night for me was the bass Peter Rose , particularly good at enunciation. Soft and gentle one moment, loud and forceful in others but best moments were when he was describing the worm with a very low D! Also his love duet with Sally Matthews in the third section somewhat similar to Mozart. I know I have mentioned enunciation a few times here I had no problem in understanding what they were singing compared to some recordings I’ve heard.

We here in Ireland never have the pleasure of hearing a period instrument orchestra of the size playing such great skill and speed when needed and soft subtlety  also. The choir were the best choir I’ve heard there in a long time defying the size of only 34 singers. And of course it was all sown together by the brilliant conducting of Mr. Rattle!

All in all a great night, two observations that I made though, firstly during the first soprano solo audience members were coughing at a very quiet moment a bit too loudly, the maestro turned around to the audience and gave a fleeting glance of disapproval, and after that there was hardly a sound! At the end when everybody was giving a standing ovation the people next to me refused to get up and join in because there perceived notion that the woodwind made a blaring mistake in the first half? I encouraged them to get up to which they did!

Final thought, this concert stands up at the very top tier that I’ve been to over the years, Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic,  Riccardo Chailly + Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Below is a very short video of the well deserved applause at the end.


In Memory of Claudio Abbado 1933-2014

Abbado per bio sito

Today the world of classical music lost one of its greatest conductors Claudio Abbado. Even though he had many health problems in recent years, it came as a little shock to me when I saw the news flash up on my computer screen! I have a bucket list of great conductors I’ve always wanted to see. They are: Simon Rattle who I’ve seen twice, and will again in May. Valery Gergiev who I’ve seen twice, Riccardo Chailly,  twice, Daniel Barenboim who I saw once with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. But it was Abbado I really wanted to see the most. I almost had the opportunity  a few years ago when I tried to get to see him at the BBC Proms with his Lucerne Festival Orchestra but alas I couldn’t get a ticket…

This post was never meant to be an obituary to Claudio Abbado but you can read a very detailed one from the Guardian newspaper here.

Here is a youtube clip of the end of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.2 one of my favourite video recordings of Claudio Abbado conducting his Lucerne Festival Orchestra showing his unique gentle style.

Also I’ve made a Spotify playlist of my favourite Abbado recordings in no particular order.

Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Leif Ove Andsnes NCH, Dublin 24/11/13

Ludwig van Beethoven:
Piano Concerto no. 2 in B flat major op. 19
Piano Concerto no. 4 in G major op. 58
Igor Stravinsky:
Concerto in E flat – Dumbarton Oaks
Septet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello and piano

Before I start, this will be a relatively short review for various reasons. Mostly because I unfortunately didn’t have time to write a long one. Here it goes:

I travelled for yet another concert this past Sunday: the last scheduled one of this year. As you can see from the above, the concert programme had music from Stravinsky and Beethoven. One of which I am not so familiar with, the other I am.

The music of Stravinsky started the concert with music I admit I’ve known about for years but never really wanted to listen to. The Concerto in E flat ‘Dumbarton Oaks’ is named after a house where the first performance was held in 1938. You can read about the music and also follow the link to an article to the house here.

When asked about the concerto by his publisher he said “A little concerto in the style of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos“. Stravinsky was expert in eluding to other composers music but still sounding as his own. Try his earlier ballet Pulcinella.

In the first movement violas have a Bach reference, but throughout the movement each of the players have their own solos which showcased the wonderful sound this orchestra can make. Short motifs develop into complicated counterpoint. There are also frequent rhythmic changes as well as constant syncopation. The rest of the work was along these lines with references to music of Boccherini, Haydn and Mozart as well of Bach of course. I noticed that the string players didn’t use any vibrato which is common now-a-days in period instrument performances but not for the music of Stravinsky. I think Bach would have approved!

You can listen to it here in a recording from the 1970′s:

Leif Ove Andsnes made his first concerto appearance at the NCH. He is in the process of recording all the Beethoven piano concertos with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. He made his recording debut with Sony Classical, with the concertos no. 1 and 3 last year, and I presume is recording the two that were played that evening soon. He played, as well as conducted the orchestra, the piano facing them, so from my angle I couldn’t see much of what he was playing. I said he conducted the orchestra – he waved his hands a little when not playing but I think the orchestra were on autopilot most of the time. Normally with a conductor-less orchestra the first violin moves around (in this case) her chair a lot directing each player but not that night. He played both concertos with great clarity and poise, I’ll certainly find the recordings of these when they’re released.  The orchestra had a fabulous sound particularly the woodwind and brass. Top class!

Have a listen to the concertos 1 &3 below:

The other Stravinsky music was his septet which I found quite boring and mathematical. Written in 1953, it’s from his third compositional phase. Thankfully it was short. As the composer, writing to his wife Vera, said of its first performance: ‘Septet, received indifferently well by a young audience’. It was the same in the NCH…

Have a listen to it below:

All in all an entertaining and interesting concert. I heard music I knew quite well (Beethoven), music I avoided before and appreciated it now (Stravinsky Dumbarton) and others I didn’t (Septet) but a good night out all the same!

West Side Story, Bord Gais Theatre Dublin, 8/11/13




Before I begin it’s come to my attention that  a number of people have not realised that the words in RED are click-able and send you to a link on Youtube or Wikipedia. This might happen a lot on my blog posts so note that for again. It my help explain some musical terminology or the music that I am writing about. So here’s the post:

Friday of last week, I travelled to Dublin yet again for another musical night out in the city this time going to the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. It was my first time there and as you can probably guess I saw a production of Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story‘.  Coincidentally this is the second time I’ve heard this music recently, but this time with the dancing and the singing. This  UK touring  company which have been touring around the world for 10 years or more.

I had seen this musical before over 10 years ago in London, so I always wanted to see it again so this time I brought my folks along with me. The Bernstein and Robbins estates are very strict on every production of the musical around the world so, every production is virtually exactly the same everywhere..

Inside the theatre itself it’s all very red and cosy, we were up in the balcony with a great view but alas I forgot to take a photo while there.   :-?

It all started with wonderful irish timing at 7:45 rather then 7:30 with the late comers. My main worry was that there wouldn’t be an orchestra and it would be piped music with live singing. But to my pleasant surprise there was an 18 piece band. I don’t know much about choreography or staging or lighting so I’m going to concentrate on the music. Firstly it seemed to me that everything was miked for the musicians to the singers which was okay for the singers, but for the musicians everything seemed very loud. Granted the acoustics in the theatre might have been superb and the players might have been playing naturally but to my ears it sounded amplified.

A list of the characters and how they’re related to each other is here

For anyone unfamiliar with the plot of Jerome Robbin’s updated version of Shakespeare, West Side Story is set in 1950′s New York City where newly arrived Puerto Rican immigrant Maria falls in love with American Tony, whose gang The Jets are rivals to The Sharks, led by Maria’s brother Bernardo.

As the pair fall in love with each other, the gang feud worsens ending in violence and death.

The cast have all appeared in the West End shows in London and touring groups over the last number of years. I’m going to concentrate on the leading 3 roles, Maria, Tony, and Anita,

Maria was played by Katie Hall who was finalist in the BBC programme to find a representative for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009. She  had a fine voice almost operatic which the role of Maria needs. 

Tony was played by Louis Maskell was a bit problematic he has a fine voice most of the time, but from his very first song Something’s Coming I noticed that he had a problem with the volume produced in his voice, going out of tune in that and Maria and the Quintet. But he sang a wonderful high C which Bernstein, requires at the end of Maria.

Djlenga Scott, who acted,sang and danced as Anita, was the best of leading roles on stage that night. It was worth the tickets alone just to see her do all three mentioned above in the song ‘America‘!

The conductor for the evening was a young Australian called Ben van Tienen, sometimes conducting his 18 musicians a little too vigorously. Some scenes conducted to fast than a expected, ‘ A Boy Like That‘, others a little slow ‘Gee, Officer Krupke

The show was directed by Joey McKennly who has been directing this musical around the world for the past 10 years. He studied with Jerome Robbins so is handing down the knowledge and upholding the tradition of original version of West Side Story to a new generation.

Great show but a few small irritations (tempo changes) in the performance, a good night out all in all.

São Paulo SO; Marin Alsop, NCH Dublin 26/10/13

Last Saturday I traveled to Dublin for my first concert of my live music year, which runs from September to June.

I booked a hotel close by, the O’ Callaghan Hotel. Alas, the taxi I hopped into at the train station brought me to the wrong one! Apparently there are three O’Callaghan hotels in the city centre. So, following a second taxi journey, it cost me an extra €15 from hotel A to hotel B.

When I got to the NCH* I noticed there seemed to be a younger crowd than normal. The usual concert-going people are of an older generation; don’t get me wrong there were still quite a few, but less. Even more to my surprise, I didn’t spot anyone falling asleep during the concert – which happens a lot!

Anyway here is my review of the concert.


Clarice AssadTerra Brasilis Fantasia sobre o Hino Nacional Brasileiro
Leonard BernsteinSymphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story’
Gustav MahlerSymphony No. 1 in D major

The American and now Irish** conductor Marin Alsop was, somewhat unusually, the second woman to take charge of a symphony orchestra at the NCH this weekend. Galway native Sinead Hayes made her debut with the NSO with a programme of Mozart on Friday evening.

Continue reading

Hello and welcome to my new classical music blog: IrishPianoMan!

My name is Andrew Newman and you’re welcome to my classical music blog.


Why classical music?
I’ve been listening to classical music for as long as I can remember. In the early 80′s my father had a tape of a guy called
Richard Clayderman. He wasn’t a classical pianist  per se, but I obviously listened to it with my father. We had an upright piano in the sitting room which was kinda always out of tune, but okay. Apparently one morning , when I was five, I started to play a tune of his called Ballade for Adeline (I had up to that point never played the piano before!).

I started piano lessons soon after that and that’s when my interest in classical music started. I can still remember the first recordings that were given to me as presents: Mozart piano concertos numbers 20, 21 and 23 with Maurizio Pollini and the famous recordings of  Beethoven’s symphonies numbers 5 and 7 with the great  Austrian conductor Carlos Kleiber.

I really didn’t like any music other than classical music from an early age which was, I suppose, a little odd. I never really strayed from the German/Austrian composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. The most radical music that I just about could tolerate was Mars from the Planet Suite by the English composer Gustav Holst! All these were found on a Christmas present that I got: ’The Essential Karajan’. I used to listen to that tape for hours until eventually it broke :(

The teenage years…
In around 1993 I got a CD player and started buying the, now defunct, magazine Classic CD. Each month it had an attached CD with 10 recordings of the month. This really opened my eyes to other composers music. I found Gustav Mahler and Igor Stravinsky whose music I would otherwise never have bothered listening to. I eventually realised that not all contemporary classical music sounded like the, in my opinion, awful music of the 20th century composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

In 2002 I was introduced to the wonderful music of Magnus Lindberg, with his wonderful clarinet concerto. That opened my eyes to other contemporary composers who didn’t mind writing tunes e.g. Thomas Adès and Eric Whitacre.

What will be in my blog?
I have been presenting a classical music radio show on Claremorris Community Radio in Mayo every Sunday (at 3pm) called “Classical Sounds”. Each week I’ll be posting a podcast and the playlist and maybe a Spotify playlist here of my programme.

I also attend concerts fairly regularly at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Next week I will have the unusual pleasure of a lady conducting an orchestra. Marin Alsop is bringing her São Paulo Symphony Orchestra who are on a 15 country tour with a great programme of music. I hope to review this concert and other’s that I’ll be attending in the future.

That’s all I hope you didn’t find this too rambling until next time. Cheerio!