My first concert review

The editor of kindly has permitted me to contribute to the wonderful blog he started last December on ‘new’ music. I wasn’t quite sure what I would be able to contribute and envisaged it might be my usual education related musings. Thomas mentioned reviewing – of which I have done a few books already for magazines in the UK – but never a concert of a CD. It was rather exciting attending the Boulez concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Saturday night, where the London Sinfonietta performed … explosante  fixe… and Clio Gould performed Anthemes 2. It was my first live performance of Boulez’s works and I was surprised by how much I connected with his writing. The real pleasure came from hearing him speak about his work in conversation with Pierre Laurent-Aimard – the pianist who came up with the idea of a weekend devoted to the work of Pierre Boulez. After the embarrassment of not quite knowing where to collect my press ticket from – and the joy of receiving a rather good seat and a complimentary programme – I tried to blend in with the other members of the press who were scribbling notes on their programmes. I found so much interest in all what Boulez was saying that I ran out of space to write, and writing in a dimly lit auditorium meant my notes were illegible.

It was Mark – also known as @Accidentalnotes on Twitter – that gave me wonderful advice about what might go into my first concert review; “Don’t over think it. Good, honest first reactions usually read better. It depends who you’re writing for too.” I imagined the average reader of ‘I care if you listen’ would be a contemporary music enthusiast that might be well versed in the rhetoric of musicology and composition, and as such might require a review that was rather technical. Thomas does write on the about page of the blog that it aims to be in ‘lay terms’. Perhaps knowing the works better prior to the concert would have armed me with the ability to at least compare the live performance with a recording I might have experienced before but I was keen to reflect on the event as something isolated from any prior experience of my own. I wrote something that attempted to give an impression on the quality of playing – which was of course exemplary – while reflecting on the effectiveness of the concert in terms of its programming and (briefly) its technical aspects.

Thomas Deneuville is a very astute editor by the quality of his feedback for my first attempt – and his feedback was invaluable in helping me shape my first concert review. It will appear shortly on and I look forward to my next one.

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