Maurizio Pollini’s six decades of exceptional pianism at Southbank Centre

pollini-01‘That boy can play better than any of us’ Arthur Rubinstein

Maurizio Pollini is one of the great piano legends, with a career spanning nearly 60 years. With his unaffected manner and an elegant clarity to his playing, Pollini has brought his individual voice to all musical styles from the 1700s to the present day. Ahead of his two recitals in spring, we’ve looked into our Southbank Centre archive to explore six decades of Pollini’s performances.

Pollini is now considered by many to be one of the world’s most outstanding pianists. Yet he was only 18 when he obtained international recognition, by winning first prize at the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1960.

It was three years later that the maestro made his debut in London in a concert in 1963 at Royal Festival Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra. Conducted by Pierre Monteux, the repertoire chosen for Pollini’s first solo performance was:

TCHAIKOVSKY Fantasy Overture, Romeo and Juliet

BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No.3 in C minor, Op.37

SCHUBERT Symphony No.9 in C (Great)

In the early 70s, Pollini began to establish an international career of the greatest importance. In 1971, he signed with Deutsche Grammophon and released his first recordings on the German label; these included Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka and Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata.

With regular appearances in music centres around the world, Pollini began the career of piano superstar.

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Fact: Pollini’s strong political convictions formed an important part of his musical life, improving his technique by playing in factories for causes such as peace in Vietnam with Italian conductor Claudio Abbado and Italian composer Luigi Nono. He also performed concerts in the neighbourhoods around Reggio Emilia and recitals for students at La Scala, animated by their ideals of justice and peace.

The collaboration between Abbado and Pollini continued after those years, with several concerts held at Royal Festival Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra.


Pollini began the 80s at Southbank Centre, with a televised opening season concert playing Mozart’s D Minor Concerto with Sir Georg Solti and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He continued to give several recitals in Royal Festival Hall throughout the decade as well as a  performance in 1983 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Masse by Giacomo Manzoni written as a homage to Varese, the first explorer of Manzoni’s favourite musical sounds was part of that evening’s repertoire.


Fact: New York, 1987: Under the direction of Claudio Abbado, the maestro played the complete piano concertos of Ludwig van Beethoven with the Vienna Philharmonic. On this occasion he received the orchestra’s Honorary Ring.


In 1996, Pollini brought back his superb pianism to Royal Festival Hall with the Beethoven Sonata Cycle

The audience was taken on an intense journey through eight recitals, that followed the chronological order in which Beethoven wrote his works, with the exception of Opus 49.

Pollini demonstrated how great playing can be achieved through quiet, undemonstrative means.’ Annette Morreau, 16 December 1996 – The Independent

Pollini’s career in London in the new millennium was full of highlights. These included a performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in honour of their 75th birthday in 2007; and the Pollini Project in 2011, where he embarked on a five-recital pilgrimage, with the concerts spanning 250 years of piano repertoire from Bach to Boulez.

‘I like their way of listening and their deep interest in music, and so I thought it was possible to do something larger and different. I have played these works many times and they are all extraordinarily important works for the piano. Put together, they form something of a line, something of a story of piano music. But it is not a rigorous or strict line. They are closely connected to me and my overall musical interests, so it is also my personal line and, in a way, my personal story.’ Pollini on London audience


Fact: The opening of the Pollini Project in London was signposted by the arrival of a brand new favourite piano: a Steinway concert grand refined by the Italian piano technician Angelo Fabbrini.


‘I have played a recital in London more or less every year throughout my career and have a very strong relationship with the London public (…)’ Maurizio Pollini

With his two upcoming recitals, Maurizio Pollini’s cumulative appearances at Southbank Centre add up to 133 performances.

His recitals have made a major contribution to the International Piano Series as one of the most prestigious piano recital series in London, where fans  can see him playing alongside the emerging talents aspiring to Pollini’s greatness.

Mr. Pollini is represented by HarrisonParrot and records exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon.

New Music for a New Catwalk

What could make a catwalk for everyone even more original? How about live music from a vibrant youth orchestra?

On Saturday, 3 September, audiences and catwalkers alike were treated to live music by the Chineke! Juniors orchestra to accompany the People’s Catwalk in Africa Utopia 2016.

For Dual Magazine, a fashion publication produced by the students of the Fashion Journalism Course in Africa Utopia 2016, course journalist Wilfred Clarke spoke to the young musicians of Chineke! Juniors about their fashion on and off the concert stage.

Young Players Orchestrating their Chineke Moments

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The Chineke Juniors walking the catwalk after their performance.

The Fashion Undressed event at Southbank Centre was a sight to behold due to its boundary breaking effects.

On Saturday 3 September, there were two categories of fashion shows, the People’s Catwalk which allowed non models to strut their personal stuff on the runway, and the #AfricanSquad show, which comprises professional models and voguers.

As with each and every traditional catwalk, it comes with music. But the multimillion festival question then becomes what type of music was played and who provided it?

During the People’s Catwalk, the music was provided by an ensemble of 35 young adults making up the Chineke Junior Orchestra.

They all did exceptionally well, so interviewing Ayesha, the only lady who was playing the double base, was cool. “I like to defy the odds by playing an instrument that a woman wouldn’t play. This is why I got a full scholarship to Wells Catholic School by beating over one hundred and fifty students.”

18 year old Braimah who could not hide his inspirations added, “I think the main thing that inspires me is playing with other young players from the diaspora.” This is especially inspiring in context of the wider Africa Utopia Festival.

Sheku plays the Cello and when asked where he got his discipline from, playing in front of such an audience at the festival, he said: “It kind of great feeling sharing the music I love with other people.” We couldn’t agree more.

Read more about the fashion of Africa Utopia 2016 and find out more about the Africa Utopia Fashion Journalism course in Issue One of Dual Magazine.

Dual: Issue One of The Africa Utopia Fashion Magazine

If you missed any of the varied fashion activity in this year’s Africa Utopia Festival, never fear, Dual is here! Dual, the first ever Fashion Magazine produced as part of the Africa Utopia Festival, was created by a team of talented creatives who took part in the Africa Utopia Fashion Journalism course.

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Download your copy of DUAL issue one

For four weeks leading up to the festival, the Dual journalists met together to develop their writing and reporting skills in practical workshops, one-to-one tutoring sessions, and lectures from leading fashion journalists, and on the weekend of Africa Utopia, they hit the streets to report on all the fashion activity taking place in the festival. On the Saturday of the festival, the journalists ran all over the Southbank Centre site interviewing, reporting, and gathering content for the magazine and bringing it back to the makeshift headquarters to write it all up and submit it for editing.

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Dual HQ on Saturday 3 September

In features, news pieces, trend reports, and more, they explored their personal heritage and festival programme to bring you the varied pieces you’ll read, from the streets to the catwalk and everywhere in between.

We hope that you enjoy this first issue of Dual, our first ever fashion magazine created and produced at Southbank Centre. Download your copy of DUAL issue one.

Barbershop Banter Exclusive

Just for this blog, we bring you some exclusive extended content. To complement our ‘Barbershop Banter’ piece on page 25 of Dual, we let the ladies say their piece, as well, with a few ‘Tales from the Salon’ by Adelina Adjei.

What really goes down in the salon? 
Other than braids, perms and close fades, we ask people what they think (and talk) about when in the salon

Lindsey Hughes salon, Hertfordshire 
What I think about:  
Aimee: “I sit and think: I don’t want to look like a wet dog, I hope they don’t blow out my curls!”

Lightheaded, Hammersmith 
What I think about: 
Natalie: “What do I think about when in the salon? Why do I need to do a full shift with the hairdresser? Eight hours for a wash, cut, blowdry and trim. Really? Really. What would the world look like if it was two hours for a whole treatment and trim. Should I be writing a novel? Why is there no free wifi? Is now the time for colour?”

The Dual Magazine Team

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The Team of Dual Magazine, from left to right, Marie, Kieran, Helen, Wilfred, Sharon, Kruti, Adelina, Natalie, Carinya, Hannah.

 

Adelina Adjei (@adsdiaspora) is an evolving blogger, merging her interests in topics pertinent to the African diaspora, including fashion, beauty, culture and the legacy of black people in the diaspora.

Sharon Banga (@STBanga) is freelance fashion designer, whose designs have been featured in Pride and FAB magazine. She has taken the opportunity to explore fashion journalism through the Africa Utopia festival.

Wilfred Clarke is a radio presenter, a Master of Ceremonies and a freelance journalist who writes for many Ghanaian news outlets and radio stations. He is also very conscious about fashion, hence the Africa Utopia initiative.

Kruti Patel is a journalism student who is passionate about writing and aspires to be a fashion journalist. She took the opportunity to write and help create this magazine for Africa Utopia 2016.

Natalie Vincent (@embracestyle) is a passionate and creative fashion blogger and freelance writer with a penchant for all things African. Whether that be food, travel, art, music or fashion.

Kieran Yates | Editor (@kieran_yates)

Helen Neville | Designer
Marie Ortinau | Course Manager (@marieonmac)
Hannah Azieb Pool | Course Creative Coordinator (@hannahpool)
Carinya Sharples | Sub-editor (@carinyasharples)

Unlimited festival: An interview with Liz Carr

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Actress, stand-up comedian, broadcaster and international disability rights activist Liz Carr talks to us about disability and the arts ahead of the premier of her new show, Assisted Suicide: The Musical.

Why do you think it’s important to laugh about a traditionally dark, taboo subject like disability?

To me, as a disabled woman, disability isn’t taboo or dark; it’s my life and my experience of living in a disabling world. My creative work is really just me talking about what I know best: my life. I think it’s important to laugh at all the messy and difficult aspects of being human, including disability.

As new government cuts to disabled people meet continued cuts to the arts, does this increasingly make being a disabled artist an impossible task?

Obstacles to work are becoming increasingly tough to overcome – cuts to the fund that provides employment for disabled people, and increased rationing of social care budgets means many don’t have assistance to get in and out of the house. Cuts to the arts mean fewer grants and venues less willing to take risks, preferring instead big names that are guaranteed seat fillers. There’s less appetite in many ways for new work and work by unknown or emerging artists – and this impacts on many of us, including disabled people.

Liz Carr explores the complex and controversial subject of assisted suicide in her new musical Assisted Suicide: The Musical. Book your tickets for the performance here.

 

 

 

 

Southbank Centre’s Roof Garden Cafe now open again

The sun has shone and the rain has fallen, and our award-winning roof garden is in full bloom.

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Fall in love with the city, nature and Southbank Centre in the tranquil surrounds of the wildest roof garden in town – and what better time than during the opening of our  Festival of Love.

Come along and take part in the exciting workshops that are part of the festival. Wake up with the sunrise on Saturday with a morning yoga course , followed by clay-making with our renowned potters Freya and Yolande Bramble-Carter.

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Bring your smartphone or SLR and learn the tricks and secrets to portrait and landscape nature photography in an up-close garden experience with photographer Ollie Smallwood.

There’s so much to see and and enjoy in our garden, thanks to all the love the Grounded Ecotherapy volunteer gardeners put into the garden every week to make it a hub of nature and wild flowers. Come along, admire the views and relax in our hidden-away roof garden.

CGI? They Just Do It With Computers, Don’t They?

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Artist Alan Warburton, whose latest work Soft Crash is a computer generated exploration of the mechanics of financial corruption, discusses the use of CGI in films and art.

In 2014, the boss of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, surprised many when – as one of the most revered traditional animators in the world – he failed to condemn the CGI-heavy films of recent years. His assertion that “there’s nothing inherently wrong or right about a method, whether it be pencil drawings or 3-D CG” must have disappointed many purists who see Miyazaki as a stalwart of traditional craft film-making. Similarly, crafty British ceramicist Grayson Perry in his BBC Reith Lecture championed the use of digital tools – CGI especially – and the possibilities it affords a new generation of artists.

Why is this so surprising? Well, for a long time, CGI has symbolised all that’s wrong with the digital, an industrial light and magic show beloved by advertising and commercial film but despised by traditional artists who think it soulless, film technicians who resent it’s perceived lack of craft, and film audiences who grow tired of the endless destruction porn in CGI blockbusters. As consumers we resent the onslaught of addictively perfect images in a world where our cars, houses and food – even our bodies – can’t quite live up to the eerily glossy shots on buses, billboards or Instagram.

Maybe it’s the pervasiveness of the CGI image that irks us. Or maybe it’s because the digital has displaced so many analogue practices. In his 2013 book Software Takes Command, artist and digital theorist Lev Manovich argued that software has absorbed and reconfigured techniques from cinema, animation, photography, sculpture and painting, synthesising them into a powerful new software “metamedium”. If that’s true, no wonder so many traditional craftspeople resent CGI.

Or perhaps it’s that CGI images are inherently slippery: they masquerade as photographic, yet underneath their glossy, seamless surface are wireframe shells, hollow and insubstantial. CGI doesn’t age and acquire the patina of a Rembrandt and it has none of the traces of economical brushwork. You can’t see the ingenious joinery as you might with a beautiful piece of furniture. There’s no evidence of labour. It’s all illusion, all spectacle, a little like table magic: if you can’t see the labour – the joins – you assume it’s a pretty cheap trick. Well, it’s not.That’s the thread that I like to pull on as an artist working with software. I want to expose the trick, not simply to demonstrate that The Wizard of Oz is just a frail old man with a loudspeaker, but because CGI is the most complex and ideologically persuasive medium that has ever existed. It’s exactly because we can’t see the joins between a photograph and the digital mirage that it has such power. When something is both powerful and invisible, it’s up to artists to expose the apparatus.

Unlike the code that software is made of, the effects of software are not binary – it doesn’t just work or not work, and that’s why many contemporary artists have moved past simplistic notion of “glitch” to an infinitely more interesting and sophisticated mode of investigation. Software is a spidery, ambiguous apparatus that reaches through society and culture at all levels to shape our behaviours, practices and beliefs. CGI itself is complex, expensive, time-consuming and difficult to master. The impenetrable CG image masks a complex reality of representational bias, human-computer collaboration, software politics, soft power tax incentives, 24/7 render farms, international trade deals, mineral extraction, gender imbalances, bankruptcy and wage fixing. It’s far more than nerds clicking buttons, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry whose influence continues to proliferate.

Contemporary digital artists tend to look past the tech-liberation hyperbole of software “enabling creativity” and try to understand how certain functions and features are prioritised and optimised over others. It’s easier to blow up a CGI building with presets, for example, than it is to create a realistic tree. Or, as I discovered on a recent project working with digitally-generated crowds, CGI hordes are really good at marching in legions toward a grisly death, and not so good at representing anything that doesn’t involve mass conflict. It was during the research phase of this crowd simulation project (an ENCAC residency at French theatre humainTrophumain) I came across an online library of motion capture data with categories like “Women’s Movements” and “Gay”. That’s right, just “Gay”. In 2016. You don’t have to look very hard to discover that software is political. The scary thing is that software is as much a creative tool as it is a machine for reproducing ideology. Investigating the overlaps is where it gets interesting.

So to hear respected craft-based artists championing CGI is refreshing and unusual, especially in the midst of a Western obsession with nostalgia for simpler, more authentic times. For a long time, CGI has been a symbol of industrial depersonalisation, a heavyweight tool reserved for specialists: engineers, researchers, film studios and geeks. But as independent artists embrace technology and CGI starts to expand into more avant-garde and difficult-to-classify practices, we might start to see the naïve idea of software as an apolitical creative tool start to disappear. The risk is that if artists can’t keep up with the 21st centuries greatest magic trick, we’ll quickly lose something valuable in our relationship to images and truth.

So, CGI. They just do it with computers, don’t they? Actually, it’s not that simple.

Soft Crash is at Southbank Centre from Sat 25 Jun – Sun 3 Jul as part of Power of Power festival.

The impact of Laal’s inspiring music

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‘You have got to get Laal over here. Meet up with them and work it out.’ That was the recurring request from John Pandit, founding member of Asian Dub Foundation, each time I went off on one of my work trips to Pakistan.

Last April we had just completed a very successful co-production of the play Dara at the National Theatre with Lahore’s Ajoka theatre company, and upon my next trip to Pakistan plans were immediately set afoot to ‘get Laal over here’, culminating in the concert with Laal and Asian Dub Foundation at Royal Festival Hall as part of Alchemy on Friday 27 May.

Laal’s music is quite extraordinary in its range, incorporating rock, electronica, dance and folk. What gives their songs added depth is that many are based on the work of the great Urdu poets Habib Jalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz from the 1930s South Asian progressive writers’ movement, as well as songs that not only challenge but charge headlong and attack the sectarian hate politics that have cursed Pakistan for at least the last two generations.

Their songs include ‘Fareeda’, a celebration of Sufi poetry, song and dance in response to the numerous Taliban attacks on precious historic shrines in Pakistan. Laal know what is going on here – an attempt, sponsored by hate fuelled fascist movements often bankrolled by Gulf oil money, to wipe out an indigenous culture, tradition and heritage. Their championing and reimagining of classic Sufi poetry, music and dance is perhaps one of the most compelling examples you will see of artists today bearing witness and producing work of the most important kind.

In ‘Dehshatgardi Murdabad’ (‘Death to Terrorism’) they rage at not only the idiocy of the media apologists for the terrorists in Pakistan, but also the pernicious Faustian pacts and Dr Strangelove foreign policy that led the USA, Saudi Arabia and the Pakistani establishment to invest in the Taliban to defeat Russia in Afghanistan and supposedly end the Cold War – a military strategy that ranks with the follies of some World War I generals.

‘Utho Meri Duniya’ (‘Arise My People’), based on the poetry of Allama Iqbal, and ‘Mainay Uss Say Yeh Kaha’ (‘So I Said This To Him’), based on the epic work by Habib Jalib, represent the depth of Laal’s work best to me. Imagine a British band reworking ‘Kim’ or ‘Jerusalem’ to contemporary beats for a British comparison.

As someone British who has spent a lot of time in Pakistan, I can’t avoid the comparisons with Britain – they come thick and fast. Listening to Laal’s versions of ‘Mainay Uss Say Yeh Kaha’ and ‘Dehshatgardi Murdabad’, I hear similarities with other bands that had a huge influence on me, such as Massive Attack and the Manic Street Preachers. Laal are from a similar genre of musicians who can not only put out a brilliant composition, but bring something else that captures a moment, history, a time, a struggle or an injustice.

It is fitting that this concert is a collaboration with Asian Dub Foundation, who for years have carried a torch for music that is blistering in both beats and beauty, carrying a political message about who and what we are as a country. Given the recent deplorable campaign tactics of Zac Goldsmith, this is as important now as it ever was.

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The political context in Pakistan is of course different, more urgent and more extreme. Laal’s courage in being at the forefront of Pakistan’s human rights activism, leading campaigns on minority rights, gender equality and child labour, standing against sectarian violence and political corruption should earn them the respect of all of us in the UK.

Lead singer Mahvash Waqar is a role model not just for women in Pakistan but for everyone, given Pakistan’s industrial-scale gender inequality, where men, including the leaders of various sectarian parties, often talk about women in a language and tone that is reminiscent of how slave traders used to justify the violence of slavery.

Mahvash’s reworking of Eddy Grant’s ‘Give me Hope Jo’anna’ as a tribute to Malala Yousafzai is one of Laal’s most loved recent works, and gives short shrift to the pernicious libel that what happened to Malala was in any way the fault of young girl demanding her right to education and free will, a view sadly widely disseminated by right-wing media in Pakistan.

One of the more tiresome arguments in Britain in recent years has been a succession of privileged, usually white cultural commentators, bleating about the need for the arts to be free of politics. Like Picasso responding to Guernica, and James Baldwin novels and plays set in the USA, Laal take the opposite stance. Now more than ever, we need artists, be they musicians, writers, painters, sculptors or singers, to bear witness.

Laal’s music and their voices are powerful and clear. It sends a shiver through the room. The clarity is not just in the tone but in the message: confrontational, challenging, and at times dark, but also filled with an optimism that, from what I have learnt from my time in Pakistan is genuine and necessary if you want to work in the arts in Pakistan. Supported by rhythmic bass and percussion, the power of Laal’s music drives on, complemented by melodic guitar sounds. The sound is not shrill, it is eloquent. It conveys a sense of anger but also of hope.

Perhaps we have a duty and a responsibility to support those artists from countries such as Pakistan, that have suffered so much because of the Cold War power games often at the behest of Western powers,  that inflicted such misery and suffering on a country and region that many of us from Britain have cultural and ancestral links to. We got Laal over here. We met up with them and we worked it out.

Anwar Akhtar is Director of The Samosa, a culture and politics site with a focus on Britain and South Asia. He also co leads RSA Pakistan Calling.

Laal and Asian Dub Foundation perform live and in collaboration at Royal Festival Hall on Friday 27 May. To book tickets click here.

To find out more about what’s happening at Alchemy click here.