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.




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!

Understanding some basics: Concerto and Concerto grosso

Concertos are musical works usually written for orchestras and feature a both musically and technically talented soloist or sometimes even a group of soloists. In its more than 300-year history, the designation concerto has been used to describe a large variety of musical pieces.

Here goes three of my favourites that you can explore to appreciate the different work pieces named concertos:

1) Vivaldi’s Four Violin Concerti ‘The Four Seasons‘, Opus 8 (1723-25) – here beautifully executed by the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin:

2) Liszt’s Piano Concerto Nr 1 in E-flat major, S.124 (1849) – with one of the finest pianists ever, Mrs. Martha Argerich:

3) Elliot Carter’s Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano with two Chamber Orchestras (1961)

On a separate note, Concerto grosso is more often used to refer to baroque compositions (1600-1750s) where a group of solo instruments establishes a conversation and are accompanied by an orchestra.

If you feel like appreciating how it sounds, here goes another suggestion: one of the oldest works in this arena, Händel’s Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, Nr 4, in A minor, HWV 322, written between 1739-40 – and considered one of his finest:

More to come on other music work formats. See ya!

Discovering Sound at Belgais

Claudio Abbado, our forever conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, referred to the importance of listening and of silence in music. Daniel Barenboim, one of the finest pianists and conductors of our time, also celebrates silence in music:

There are many types of silence. There is a silence before the note, there is a silence at the end and there is a silence in the middle.
— Daniel Barenboim

The celebrated tireless Portuguese pianist, Maria João Pires, once more shares thoughts and feelings about sound and silence. And goes beyond: teaches and shares her personal discoveries of a lifetime, after having dedicated her entire life to the piano. We have already published about her personal thoughts on technique (The Universe of Maria João Pires), and are delighted to now share her Discovering Sound documentary.

A small token of our worship for this incredible artist and human being, a couple of days in advance of her appearance in London (at Cardogan Hall), to bring us a delightful gift: Beethoven’s ultimate Piano Sonata, Op. 111, in C minor. Bravo!

Estórias da Música: Beethoven vs. Steibelt

Tendo chegado a Viena no inverno de 1792 para estudar com Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), apesar de sua já ampla produção musical e fama como exímio pianista, Beethoven, como vários outros talentos das artes, precisava fazer certas exibições para se manter relevante na agenda e patronagem da sociedade vienense da época.

Viena, maio de 1800. Costume da época, a alta sociedade se encontrava na casa de um nobre e entre os convidados estavam artistas e principalmente músicos talentosos, tipicamente pianistas. O encontro desta vez foi na casa do Conde Von Fries, e entre os convidados estavam Beethoven e um outro pianista alemão de nascimento e radicado em Paris que, em tour pela capital austríaca, havia proposto que se realizasse naquela data um “desafio técnico” entre ambos pianistas reconhecidos como virtuosos.

O desafiante era Daniel Steibelt (1765-1823), profícuo compositor e aclamado entre os virtuosos pianistas na França – embora igualmente conhecido por sua arrogância, extravagância e desonestidade. Contam os relatos da época, que o desafio foi um fiasco memorável para a história de Steibelt, uma verdadeira humilhação pública, e que este se viu forçado a interromper imediatamente o tour e bater em retirada para Paris. Conta-se ainda que Beethoven, como era próprio de seu estilo, foi brilhante no improviso ao piano, feito com um tema para violoncelo extraído de uma partitura que estava descansando sobre o piano, composta por… Steibelt!

Reino Unido, junho de 2005. Para nosso deleite de apaixonados por música erudita, a BBC produz um documentário dramatizado sobre a vida de Beethoven, dirigido por Simon Cellan Jones e narrado pelo compositor britânico Charles Hazlewood, que na minha modesta opinião, faz um trabalho brilhante. Ponto para ele, que além de compositor e regente, ainda é famoso pela advocacia em favor da difusão democrática da música erudita, para todos os públicos.

O documentário se utiliza de algumas “licenças poéticas”, como se diz, e uma delas acontece na cena do desafio entre os compositores e pianistas na casa do Conde Von Fries: o improviso é feito sobre uma ária dA Flauta Mágica de Mozart – Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen wünscht Papageno sich (algo como Papageno deseja uma moça ou mulher), canção do personagem Papageno.

Bem, mas agora chega de conversa: uma vez contextualizados, vamos à cena! Divirtam-se 🙂

#RedNoseDay 2015

red-nose-dayComing soon on this Friday March 13th, the Red Nose Day. For those who may never heard about the initiative, this is an UK based campaign to raise money at home, school and even at work, by means of… fun! Every two years, people come together to make something funny and collect money for humanitarian causes. BBC offers TV entertainment and comedy shows to help inspire citizens and help them get involved and contribute. This year, the campaign will also launched in the USA.

For more information about the project and how to get involved, please visit the campaign website at http://www.rednoseday.com.

And speaking of #RedNoseDay I will finish this post sharing some of the most funny music-related jokes that people voluntarily sent to BBC Radio 3 today. Have fun! 😀

  • How do you stop a violin being stolen? A: Put it in a viola case!
  • How many solo singers does it take to change a lightbulb? A: One. She/he holds the lightbulb while the world revolves around him/her.
  • How do you know when there’s a drummer at your front door? A: The knocking speeds up!
  • How long does it take to tune a banjo? A: Nobody knows!
  • Why are viola jokes so short? A: So that violinists can remember them… 🙂
  • How do you get a viola player to do vibrato? A: Write ‘solo ‘ on the part…
  • How many trumpet players does it take to pave a driveway? A: Eight… but only if you lay them out in a nice symmetrical pattern.
  • How many folk singers does it take to change a lightbulb? A: Five. One to change the bulb, and four to sing a song about how good the old lightbulb used to be.
  • A B flat, a G flat, and an E flat walk into a bar, and the bartender says, “Sorry, we can’t serve minors”



I have been thinking of moving out of Sao Paulo, but then there comes the Piano Recital Series coordinated by the Brazilian Sculpture Museum (“Museu Brasileiro da Escultura”) and surprises me once more. Beautiful initiative, always coming up with an interesting musician and a great repertoire to be tasted. This time a very well known composer – of those we sometimes think that we have already appreciated every piece. And there comes Robert Schumann and his Märchenbilder, Opus 113 (March, 1851).

There are four movements, each of them written after an unique fairy tale. What a lovely dialogue between the piano and the viola! The slow last movement “with melancholy” is specially suggestive of peace and reconciliation, two words that work great with the awaken of the sleeping beauty. Beautiful gift by the hands of Mrs. Liliane Kans (piano) and Mr. Abrahão Saraiva (viola). Perfect sunday afternoon!

Now, better than talking about music is listening, so I offer you here then a youtube version of Schumann’s Märchenbuilder, by the skilful hands of Mr. Sviatoslav Richter (piano) and Mr. Yuri Bashmet (viola). Seat back and enjoy!


Music to the… eyes?!

The intention was to share a bit of my experience shooting the NYE fireworks in London. But then, I could not help but think of the incredible ballet of images as if they we part of a great Sonata… So, how about you imagine the sound of the fireworks, mixed with sounds of happiness all around, and bells from a distant church? Now, here you have a couple of pictures to help setting the scene… 🙂

1. Prelude – Allegro appassionato

NYE 2014 @ London Eye
NYE 2014 @ London Eye – 1









2. Andante un poco adagio – Allegretto grazioso

NYE @ London Eye - 2
NYE @ London Eye – 2









3. Finale – Allegro vivace!









Happy 2015! 🙂

Chopin 205!

Nesta data 22 de fevereiro, no ano de 1810 – embora na incerteza da época há quem defenda que foi em 01 de março do mesmo ano – nascia nos arredores de Warsaw, na Polônia, o pianista e compositor Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, que o mundo conhece por seu nome francês, Frédéric François Chopin. Um dos símbolos máximos do período da música conhecido por Romantismo, talentoso e extremamente reservado, em 18 anos de sua carreira na França, deu cerca de 30 concertos apenas em grandes salas – tímido, preferia o acolhedor ambiente do ambiente de câmara dos salões privados. Permanece um ídolo em sua pátria natal, de onde se mudou aos 21 anos por apoiar o ideal revolucionário contra a política da época, e dá nome ao aeroporto mais importante da Polônia até hoje.

E para celebrar o gênio em seu 205o. aniversário, deixo aqui um recorte do filme “À Noite Sonhamos” – do original em inglês “A Song to Remember“, de 1945 no olhar do diretor húngaro Károly Vidor, com 6 indicações ao Oscar e 1 estatueta ganha por Melhor Filme Estrangeiro. Neste recorte, Chopin chega com seu professor ao escritório do Sr. Pleyel, em Paris, 11 anos após uma correspondência trocada entre eles, onde o professor pedia espaço para apresentar seu aluno talentoso. O Sr. Pleyel logo mostra que não tem mais interesse em Chopin, até que na sala ao lado, ninguém menos do que Franz Liszt, em visita ao mesmo escritório e tendo encontrado uma partitura que considerou interessante aberta sobre o piano, começa a tocá-la a elogiá-la. Endosso feito, nasce uma amizade e a oportunidade de Chopin em Paris. Vale conferir!