THREE MEN IN A BOAT
‘Excellent one-man show’ The Observer
‘… Life enhancing’ Financial Times
‘Nicholas enlivens and extends the Jerome/Wodehouse tradition’ Harpers and Queen
FUNNY YOU SHOULD SING THAT
‘A capital way to spend an evening’ Daily Mail
‘ Jeremy Nicholas’s wonderfully sharp songs’ The Independent
‘Jeremy Nicholas’s truly wonderful songs’ Classical Music
‘An extraordinary talent’ Birmingham Post
‘The noted writer, commentator and Leopold Godowsky biographer Jeremy Nicholas [has] penned Musical Chairs, a classical music “A-list” invitation litany replete with wicked asides, plus three other charmers included here. (Classics Today)
‘Jeremy Nicholas’s “Usherette’s Blues” [is] a clever lament from a theatre usher who never gets to see the final reel, and “Musical Chairs” (Nicholas again), a catty cataloguing of the “glitterati” on classical music’s celebrity list that is guaranteed to have any ARG enthusiast giggling from start to finish.’ (American Record Guide)
CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS
‘Jeremy Nicholas’s amusing and wittily delivered verses make a refreshing change from the better-known Ogden Nash poems…’ BBC Music Magazine
‘My children were as charmed as I by Jeremy Nicholas’s cunningly clever new verses for Carnival of the Animals…’ Gramophone
Nicholas nudges Nash aside for a delightfully witty talk with the animals
Carnival of The Animals
It’s unlikely that Jeremy Nicholas’s eruditely witty and elegant new verses for The Carnival of the Animals will supplant the playful little poems Ogden Nash wrote in the 1950s and which have since become inseparable from Saint?Saëns’s score. And that’s a pity because, to my ears, Nicholas’s light-hearted urbanity is stylistically closer to the music itself. True, many of the jokes will shoot right over the heads of younger listeners, but then again, the same could be said of, say, “Tortoises”, and its wicked transformation of Offenbach’s Can-Can. On the other hand, Nicholas provides a welcome narrative context – a parade of Saint-Saëns’s menagerie through the streets of Paris – whose memorable visual images will likely enthral savvier children. The performance here by Nettle and Markham (who commissioned Nicholas’s text back in 1985) and a crackerjack instrumental ensemble is top-notch, too. “Aquarium” is simply gorgeous, with its sparkling suggestion of sunlight streaming through water; and the duo’s comic timing in “Pianists” had me laughing out loud, although I already knew the joke, of course. Nicholas delivers his lines with zest, using various dialects and accents to differentiate characters.
He’s a riveting storyteller in Poulenc’s Babar, as well, though I prefer the magical intimacy of the solo piano original to the busier textures of Nettle and Markham’s two-piano arrangement. The playing is strongly characterised, however – particularly the tender moments – and I’m grateful that the engineers kept the narration at a natural volume rather than allowing it to dominate the music. Ibert’s five descriptive miniatures make a charming interlude between the two larger works. In a word: enchanting.
Andrew Farach-Colton (Gramophone)
…The Carnival performance is complemented by a superb narration by Jeremy Nicholas the music critic. It is a refreshing text to go along with the verses and I find that I like this text better than the texts of [Ogden] Nash and [Jack] Prelutsky. Most of the texts have presented poems about the individual animals, tied to their respective movements. However, Nicholas’s text presents a procession through the streets of Paris with the animals presenting themselves in the order of the music. It is perhaps fitting that this text should be a procession, because Saint-Saens originally wrote this piece to tie in with the Carnival (i.e. Mardi Gras) period of that year. I love how Nicholas alludes to the music with puns, especially when he introduces the Tortoises by punning on the names of Offenbach and J.S. Bach to remind us that Saint-Saens lampoons the Can-Can by playing it SLOWLY. It is delectable to hear him cueing the cuckoo by alluding to his “independent air” before the music. I only wish that the CD producers had been more intelligent in grouping the Long-Eared Personages and Cuckoos together so that the music better flows with less disruptions.
Nicholas also narrates Poulenc’s Baber, accompanied by the Nettle & Markham piano duet transcription. The sound is perhaps better than the sound achieved for the Carnival. The piano duet transcription works so well and everyone savours the moods of the story. Nettle and Markham go to great lengths to extract all the possible colours from the piano. There is a nice French elegance and wit about the proceedings and the sudden, sharp turning-points are handled very well. I love the energetic narration in this piece. It sounds so spontaneous and fresh and engages with the inner child.
In the two substantial pieces, I notice that the narrator is backwardly balanced compared to the music. It is not like the poor balance in Ronald Corp’s Hyperion account of Peter and the Wolf. However I can audibly hear every word.
The rest of the disc is filled out by Nettle & Markham playing duet transcriptions of Ibert’s Histoires, including two pieces that overlap with some of the animals in the Carnival. The duet transcription works well and the two parts blend well that it sounds convincingly like one player.
This is an excellent CD with a superb, delectable pairing of Carnival and Babar. The performances are strong and engaging and the musicianship is top-notch. Don’t hesitate, buy a copy today if you want an enjoyable Carnival. (Amazon)
GODOWSKY, THE PIANISTS’ PIANIST
‘I didn’t know this book existed! It’s a treasure chest for those interested in the Golden Age of piano playing! Don’t miss it!’ (Amazon reader review, 2016)
‘An informative and vividly written biography resulting from 10 years meticulous research…’ (Jed Distler, Gramophone, 2014)
‘…a narrative aptly overstuffed with captivating quotes and Pickwickian asides..’ (Benjamin Ivry, International Piano, 2014)
‘…this book transcends the normal parameters of a biographical format: it opened up the door to a whole new truly inspiring musical world which remains with me to this day.’ (Amazon review, 2001)
CHOPIN – HIS LIFE AND MUSIC
REVIEW on musicweb.com
Books about Chopin are not exactly rare on the ground – as the selected bibliography in the end of the book tells us – but it also seems that latterly not many have been published. Given the short turn-over time for books few may be available in the stores.
This well-written overview certainly fills a need and – as far as I know – it is unique in that it is not just a book; it is part of a multimedia concept. It includes two well-filled CDs and access to a website. The content of the CDs is culled from Naxos’s complete Chopin cycle, played by Idil Biret. Even though there may be individual recordings by other great Chopin interpreters that are even better Biret’s remain consistent and illuminating readings. I collected several of the discs when they were new and have found much to admire, the snag being a somewhat clangy sound, robbing the music of some of its poetry. As so often happens, though, one gets used to it and adjusts.
The choice of music is excellent. It is presented chronologically with references in the text and also annotations for each of the musical numbers at the end of the book. By acquiring this book the Chopin newcomer will gain a fine cross-section of his best compositions. These are to be savoured a few at a time or will provide continuous listening for years to come.
The book is divided into fourteen chapters. We follow Chopin’s life and career from the cradle to the grave. In an Epilogue Jeremy Nicholas brings together all the loose ends: what happened to those who were close to him and survived him? It turns out that some of their lives occupy the rest of the century, his early love Maria Wodzińska died in 1896 and George Sand’s daughter Solange in 1899.
Under Jeremy Nicholas’s skilled guidance we get to know everything that was important in Chopin’s life and about the steady stream of people that walked in and out of his salons. So many of the greats of the first half of the 19th century were there, not only musicians but also painters, authors, all kinds of cultural personalities. It was a good idea to have a section entitled Personalities with thumbnail biographies.
I can sometimes become fed up with too much information of “whom he met”, “where he travelled then” etc when reading biographies, but I must say that this presentation really held me. The reason is at least two-fold: firstly Nicholas’s style of writing has the right light touch, addressing the reader personally, He also finds some humorous twists. Secondly he lets us look straight into the heart and soul of the main characters, especially Chopin himself, by frequently quoting from letters and diaries. Not that this format is novel but is done skilfully and the effect is heightened through italicizing the quotations.
The target-group for this book is more the general music-lover than the specialist, but I believe even the latter category will find several grains of gold.
The actual life story of Chopin occupies only the first 194 pages. The rest is a very useful appendix, comprising a Music Chronology with all his published compositions and with comments on all but a few minor works. This is very valuable as a reference. There are also lists, with comments, of “Chopin on Film”, “Chopin in the Theatre” and “Chopin Plagiarised” to mention some. Sooner or later, they’re going to steal those melodies”, Chopin’s teacher Elsner is quoted as saying in the film A Song to Remember, and the list of stolen tunes includes among other things Minute Waltz “every note of [it] sung by Barbara Streisand”. Since a couple of Gigli recordings are also mentioned I would like to add, since I reviewed it recently, his version of the Etude, Op. 10 No 3, while to the list of arrangements of Chopin’s music Julius Jacobsen’s hilarious version of the Minute Waltz for trombone (!) and piano, played on a BIS disc by Christian Lindberg and Roland Pöntinen, should also be added.
A glossary with simple explanations of central terminology adds to the value of the book, especially for the newly converted. Finally there is a very detailed index.
At an asking price of £16.99 this book+CDs would be a valuable addition to any music lover’s music library.
PIANO QUIZ – HUSUM PIANO FESTIVAL OF RARITIES 2016
You can also have fun in Husum on a very high level. Who could recognize the Godowsky cadenza to the piano concerto by Mozart? Or the Romance in E flat by Rubinstein, sung by the tenor Richard Tauber? With only the top G major chord with the third in the upper voice made everyone laugh and guess what it was. That was all they needed to hear it was the opening of the Beethoven 4th concerto. You learned a lot from hearing only recognizable chord, anonymous on its own, but knowing what will come after it is obvious where it belongs. The Rarities festival gave such “lovely” and “roaring” time with this quiz. (translated from German newspaper review)
SAFFRON WALDEN LITERARY FESTIVAL
‘…Once again, thank you so very much for a real treat this afternoon. I knew I was going to enjoy meeting you and listening to you speak but I didn’t know I was going to enjoy it THAT much. I do rather think you’ll be back by popular demand so I shall very much look forward to the next occasion…’
FUND-RAISER FOR ST MARY’S, EWELME
‘The fascinating evening you gave us continues to be a village talking point.’
BRAINTREE LADIES PROBUS CLUB
‘…I watch their faces, as well as waiting to hear their comments afterwards from the ladies, and I can assure you they thoroughly enjoyed your talk. For me personally it was a pleasure to have your company again. Your natural courtesy and thoughtfulness was very much appreciated.’
FRIENDS OF THE NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM
‘Thank you so much for giving us your time. With the help of yourself and the other kind celebrities who joined us, we were able to clear a significant contribution into our coffers for onward donation to the Museum…Your contributions were so well received and had us all in stitches! I do hope you enjoyed being with us…’
THEATRE ROYAL, BURY ST EDMUNDS
Thank you for helping with our event at the Cathedral yesterday. It raised over £10,000…I really cannot thank you enough…’
BOTANY BAY CRICKET CLUB
‘Overwhelming feedback was of total enjoyment of your spot….The rhymes and songs have been a continuing source of amusement…’ ‘It was a terrific tour-de-force and brought the house down. I must warn you, however, that it is more than likely we will be cajoling you into further guest appearances. There is no escape!’
THE ENGLISH SPEAKING UNION
‘I had not heard so much laughter at one of these events but you gave us much more than entertainment – in fact, you gave us exactly what we wanted…’
LEITH HILL MUSICAL FESTIVAL
‘Thank you so much for being our guest and doing the job of presenting banners and trophies with such expertise and good humour and for your excellent “few words” – it rounded off the three days very well and was much appreciated.’
MARI MARKUS GOMORI CONCERTS FOR CHILDREN
‘…you were perfect, warm and funny and just the right tone of voice, without talking down to the kids or boring the parents.’
MOBIL OIL COMPANY
‘Thank you so much for entertaining us so wonderfully last night…it really went down extremely well, as I hope you gathered from all the appreciative comments our Directors and their wives made at the end of the evening.’
THE WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF MUSICIANS
‘Thank you for your contribution to our event at Lloyd’s on Wednesday… Your assured presentation linking all these elements together gave a unity to the evening which helped Melvyn [Tan] and the two young Company award winners give performances of the highest calibre.’
ROTARY CLUB OF CHIPPING NORTON
‘I want you to know how extremely grateful I am for your generosity in giving your time and talent free. It enabled is to raise over £800 for charities…Everyone I have spoken to agrees that the show was superb entertainment which they would not have missed for the world. I thoroughly agree and can only marvel at the way you kept us laughing from beginning to end. Thanks a lot for brightening our lives.’
‘I wanted to thank you for your contribution to the lunch on Friday. It must have been obvious to you how much the members enjoyed themselves. It was a wonderful occasion and on behalf of all those present I express my appreciation for all that you did.’