I want to raise two issues today that have been niggling away in recent times.
I don't want to make a big deal of them, but they should be observed, because they both concern matters of concert planning, and that is extremely important to the hordes of music lovers (including me) much of whose lives, and most of whose spare time, is devoted to finding and seizing opportunities to hear live music. And we need to be directed to these opportunities via lucid planning by concert organisers.
The organisations at the heart of these two issues are Glasgow Life, whose artistic director is Svend Brown (pictured), and the Scottish Ensemble. The truth is, I don't want to criticise these organisations or their executives, because they both do fantastic work. The spectacularly successful Marathon Classics Day on July 26, with its series of back-to-back concerts running for eight-and-a-half hours in the Royal Concert Hall, was the concept and construct of Brown. Simply, without him, it would not have happened; not on that scale and not in that bold, adventurous form.
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And as far as the Scottish Ensemble is concerned, under the combined management of Thorben Dittes, who will be departing next month to take over at The Sage in Gateshead, and the artistic driving force of violinist and director Jonathan Morton, the Ensemble has ploughed new furrows in almost every aspect of its activities, from its repertoire and how it presents it, to its innovative city residencies (though there is a potential concern there that I will address another day, soon).
So what are the niggling issues? Fraser Anderson, who takes over as interim general manager at the Scottish Ensemble, will know exactly what's coming next, because I've been doing his head in about it since the group launched its new season in June. When the Ensemble unveiled the new season, they wouldn't tell us where the opening event would be staged, other than it would be in a "secret Glasgow city centre location". That was months ago. If they've told us yet, sorry, I must have missed it. I don't know and I don't really care. Life's too short and far too busy, to be teased about a venue. I don't care if it's going to be staged in a fleet of Tesco trolleys travelling the wrong way down Bath Street, but if I'm going to have a review to offer the boss next month, I have to have a venue in my diary. Facetiousness aside, keeping a concert location secret seems illogical: it's anti-marketing. If there's a single benefit to the exercise, it eludes me.
The other issue concerns Glasgow Life and is more fundamental. In early to mid-November, Svend Brown will stage his fourth annual festival entitled The Piano. It's an incredible period, stuffed, not just with piano music from artists of the calibre of the great Elisabeth Leonskaja, Denis Kozhukhin and Nicolas Hodges, but also with chamber music featuring the Emerson String Quartet and others. But there are other events on too, especially in the back half of one week. And there are some clashes of the worst kind. On Friday 14, I should be reviewing Leonskaja playing both of Brahms's Piano Concertos with the SCO in the City Hall. Unmissable. But at exactly the same time I should be in the Strathclyde Suite reviewing the Gould Piano Trio giving the first performance of James MacMillan's Second Piano Trio, a Glasgow Music commission. So why don't I just nip over to Edinburgh on Thursday and hear Leonskaja and the double Brahms in the Usher Hall? I can't: that would then mean missing Donald Runnicles's Birthday Concert with the SSO and Edinburgh Festival Chorus doing Beethoven Nine.
The week is infinitely more complex than that, because at 8pm on Saturday 15 in the Strathclyde Suite, Nicolas Hodges will be playing two of Stockhausen's huge and sensational piano pieces while, at the same time, downstairs, Nicola Benedetti and the RSNO will be playing Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto. What happened to anti-clash planning?