When Virtual Reality meets the orchestra

Welcome to the digital society of the 21st century. A society where any time, any where, at your fingertips, is increasingly and faster than ever, becoming the standard across industries, products, geographies and people.

It is no longer about millennials only – it is about our contemporary society and our everyday life across the globe. It is about mobility and convenience, as well as the consolidation of the smartphone era.

This new normal challenges the status quo as a whole – and the orchestras are no exception. Standing still is no option at all, and the way to the very survival involves a fair deal of innovation, strategy, technology and customer-centric attitude. It involves reimagining the possibilities and embracing new ways to conveying a message, to engaging with the audiences, to providing relevant and fulfilling experiences with music.

Starting mid 2000’s, a fair number of orchestras around the word have already debuted with live concerts, and have been increasingly broadcasting a selection of concerts via internet. Podcasts, media-rich websites, a great variety of mobile apps – all part of this effort to offer differentiated customer experiences. London Symphony Orchestra (2005), Berliner Philharmoniker (2009), Sao Paulo Orchestra (2011) are among the orchestras already broadcasting some of their gigs online.

Virtual Reality is apparently the next natural step for them. 2016 have seen a number of experiments with VR by orchestras around the globe. The Berliner Philharmoniker started with Mahler’s Third Symphony, conducted by Iván Fischer, recorded back in Jan 2016.

The Philharmonia Orchestra showcased their digital offer with a brilliant takeover of the Royal Festival Hall back in Sep 2016. It was the first major VR production from a UK symphony orchestra – a great achievement indeed!

The Brazilian OSESP (Sao Paulo Orchestra) offered its first VR concert last month (Feb 2017), broadcasting from its home room in São Paulo, Brazil. They had the conductor Isaac Karabtchevsky leading the Symphony Nr2, by the Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos.

The VR offer is, no doubt, still to be shaped to meet a great deal of expectations around customer experience – its current format is still not enough to surpass the experience of a live concert. But it is already very exciting to learn about the feedbacks and new engaging possibilities being explored. And very reassuring from an accessibility perspective too! More to come.

 

 

 

Music calling for action

In the words of the Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, ‘with an instrument you own the world’. He is one of the many believers in music’s power to unite and inspire people regardless of any possible barrier they may face.

Music can help us tell compelling stories, engage armies, share complex ideas and feelings, motivate action, promote meaningful conversation. Music can reach and touch people far beyond the limits of spoken words – in fact, music is this universal language by which human links are made without the need to share any common language.

The use of music to help convey messages is not new, but it is always delightful to find out about new uses. I was especially touched by the campaign “Two Thirds of Spring”, where the The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played a version of the widely known Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto arranged by the London-based composer Chris Roe, intentionally taking 1/3 of the notes out. Why 1/3? Because this percentage represents the amount of funds Cancer Research UK  received from wills in the UK last year. So instead of thinking figures and amounts, potential donors are actually invited to ‘feel’ what a difference 1/3 makes.

No more talking: I share hereunder the ‘behind the scenes and full performance’ video. Kindly check Cancer Research UK’s page on The importance of Gifts in Wills for more details.

The Long Journey Of Women To The Podium

Listening to one of my favourite radio programmes the other day – BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters – I was delighted to learn more about a fascinating history of Mrs. Sylvia Caduff, the world’s first maestra. So many achievements, so many milestones… it is a shame her name is not spoken and revered everywhere when we comes to great conductors!

Who would say she had to hide behind a window of a room where Mr. Herbert von Karajan was giving a masterclass to young conductors at Lucern Festival one day, only to approach him by the end of it and… secure a test! Her very first time conducting, no formal specific study at all prior to that occasion – apart from conducting via… the radio at home.

Later on, Mrs. Caduff had some specific study, and was Leonard Bernstein’s assistant at the New York Philharmonic. She became one of the first women to conduct the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. And that was back in the 1960s, when it was unlikely for a woman to conduct a top orchestra.

Last week I’ve been to Barbican Centre in London for a concert with the London Symphony Orchestra, which was originally set to count on the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev and the Dutch violin soloist Janine Jansen.

Unexpectedly, both called in sick and were then respectively replaced by the Finish conductor and cellist Susanna Mälkki and the German Christian Tetzlaff.

I can’t deny I was particularly enchanted by the brilliant performance of Mrs. Mälkii – it was no doubt one of the best interpretations of (Strauss’) Also sprach Zarathustra I have heard live. And that was at such short notice. Very well done!

I believe the journey of professional women was never easy regardless of the area and position, but I believe it might have always been particularly harder for maestras. It all started with Mrs. Caduff back in the day, and as the American Marin Alsop says ‘without her (Mrs. Caduff) what I do today would not be possible’. Bravo!

Tchaikovsky: The ultimate essence of the symphony is Life

My first time live with Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony was back in 2010, when the French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier beautifully conducted the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra at Sala Sao Paulo, in Brazil. It was not when I first heard this masterpiece, but it was certainly that one time when I seriously connected to it in a very deep way. I was lucky enough that a CD recording was made at that very session, enabling me to revive that magical event every now and then.

Tchaikovsky considered naming his 6th Symphony “Program Symphony”, but eventually gave up this idea since he was not willing to share his motivations, what the program was all about. To me, it is enough food for thought to keep on considering its program annotation that reads “the ultimate essence of the symphony is Life”.

Oh life… all about passion, confidence and willingness to go up and beyond. Love and disappointments along the way. And then, eventually, death. In his very words, Tchaikovsky’s soul can be met at the heart of this masterpiece. And it is a soul plenty of passion, fury, melancolia and, at times, serenity.

Always provocative, its execution is coming up this week in London at SouthBank Centre, with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by the Russian Tugan Sokhiev. Not to be missed!

And here I share a beautiful execution of this Symphony, with maestro Zubin Mehta conducting the Münchner Philharmoniker. Bravo!