vanessa-mae's music pt-2

VA N E S S A - M A E ' S - M U S I C S

- Part. II -

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sample songs from The Classical Album 1 (album)

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This whole series is devoted to classical music, which I call my heritage. When I released my first 'pop' album* of techno-acoustic fusion music (call it alternative violin music, if you like), it was after I had already been known as a classical violinist with three classical recordings and several classical concert tours under my belt. At the time, I remember having to assure sceptics thar it did not signify a permanent departure from classical, Now; after the success of 'The Violin Player', I find myself making another assurance that the lanch of this classical series is no 're-thinking' of my music-making, as some simpleton wrote (as if he would ever re-think his writing style if he could sell a blockbuster 2 million copies of a book!. No, I am proud and grateful that following my own instincts about music and the violin was right - the violin in the right hands is not an 'out-of-date' instrument only for performing museum music. The violin is versatile, if the violinist is versatile, and I therefore stand also by my conviction that both my classical and contemporary careers will and should go side by side.

I am also often asked if my audience will be confused. Why should the be, if I am not? Music is music. You either like it or you don't, whether it is classical or it is pop. Sure, to a certain extent, a good pop piece may be more immediate, but you would expect it to be because it is created now, as music of this time in which we live. It should feel familiar, it should reflect on things, emotions, issues, atmospheres, sounds that are present and around us. It is 'pop' - it is representative of the populance.

The converse of this is, of course, true about classical music. However, because it is less immediate, classical music is often misrepresented as being difficult and elilist. That is simply not true - it is only less familiar because it was made for a time, at a time, when different kinds of musical sounds, instryments and playing styles were common and still developing organically to what it is today; so it follows that much of this music sounds less natural to us now who are living in these vastly different times. This music from the past will sound that much more or less comfortable to those of us who, through habit or opportunity, have heard more or less of it. But is is only familiarity that is necessary to help appreciation, not study or knowledge of highfalutin' technical terms in foreign languages. It annoys me when people use their specialised knowledge to alienate and keep out others who may not have times. The opportunity, the interest or the need to acquire the same knowledge. Knowledge is good for those who want it, and those who need it. I am an example of the latter because I need to play the music and make a living from it. It is certainly not a pre-requisite to liking and enjoying classical music. Believe me, it is not important to know when Beethoven was born in order to enjoy the Romance in F.

To illustrate this with an even more extreme example, I would like to share this joke told by some friends who play in a certain famous orchestra. When criticising a conductor who though known as an academic, could not conduct properly or musically, they always joked that 'it didn't help that X knows how many people attended Beethoven's funeral and Mozart's wedding etc'. Apparently the conductor had an irritating habit of trying to impress the musicians by spouting interesting historic facts and details at rehearsals instead of conducting ably and making music with them.

Of course some of us want to find out more about Beethoven because we happen to like his music and that can make us curious about him. It is the same with pop stars: - there is often an avid fascination to know more about one's musical idol - what makes them tick, what kind of childhood they had etc; but unless you are a devoted fan, you can just as well sit back and simply enjoy the music for what it is and just do that only.

Enjoying classical music can take a bit of 'time' and a certain 'attitude'. If you approach the music, accepting that it will take a bit of familiarisation because it was not written by people like you and me; it was not written for people like you and me; it was not written in or for this day and age; then you can be prepared that it does take a little acclimatisation.

You listen to it, trying to imagine a world without cars, without radios, without this, that and the other, and it takes a bit of adjustment for anyone's ears to settle down with music of that kind, played in that sort of way. Of course, there are some all-time favourites which you hear day in day out, in hotel lobbies, dental surgeries, beauty parlours e.g. Vivaldi's Four Seasons - and there are many other examples. It is precisely because of there familiarity that they have become the classical music that most people know and are most comfortable with and enjoy listening to. Aside from these all-time favourites, there are many more pieces of great music from the past that I think deserve appreciation. they just need to be performed and of couse, they need to be given a chance - and by that, I mean listeners have to approach this music, allowing for 'attitude' in order to appreciate this music's differences from the 'pop' music which is 'happening' today; and also allowing for 'time' to let it become familiar.

The classical music on this album is by no means easy-listening. I have not chosen any of all-time favourites that you hear around you. They are not everyday 'advertising jingle' classical soundbites, but I think they deserve to be heard. All these piece have something special about each of them and they trace an important part of the history of the violin as it was used in days gone by. Nothing in the background or content about any of these piece suggests anything other than what the composer wrote with a view to creating music for people to enjoy listening to. There are no deep moralising statements behind any of these pieces. They were written in their respective periods for the sheer enjoyment of performers and listeners alike. I certainly enjoy both performing and listening to these works and I hope that everyone will be able to share, as I do, the pleasure which people of generations past found in these piece of violin music.

So when you start off with solo Bach, do not be surprised of put out its leanness and apparent solemnity. This was music written for one violin after all, not for a full and rich orchestra - or for the complex multi-tracks used in modern pop music. That is why it may sound a little less 'in-your-face'; but the music itself - it is a collection of dances, light-hearted and fun. Each of the movements can be enjoyed on its own and I still remember having to hop and skip to the Gavotte from my early toddler ballet classes! The size and scale of violin music on this album then builds from the unaccompanied violin in Bach's Partita through the Brahms Scherzo, which introduces a piano. I then move on to play with an orchestra in Beethoven's Romance, until finally in Bruch's Scottish Fantasy what accompanies me is a much bigger orchestra, capable of many more textures and colours to help me present a soundscape that is impressively full and vibrant, even without modern technology.

I have enjoyed working on this album and I continued to enjoy playing these pieces and listening to them. I hope you, too, will enjoy this little journey back in time with me and the violin!

Vanessa-Mae : September 1996

< taken from "The Classical Album 1" CD's booklet >


The Classical Album 1 : Contains

  J.S. Bach (1685-1750) : Partita No.3 in E for solo violin BWV 1006
1. I Preludio (3.55 mb)
2. II Loure
3. III Gavotte En Rondeau (2.81 mb)
4. IV Menuet l
5. V Menuet ll
6. VI Bourree
7. VII Gigue
  Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
8. Scherzo in C minor for violin and piano
  Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827)
9. Romance No.2 in F for violinand orchestra Op.50
  Max Bruch (1838-1920) Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra Op.46 (Fantasia, making free use of scottish folk melodies)
10. 1st movement Introduction - Grave
11. Adagio Cantabile (on 'thro' the wood, laddie'/ 'Auld Rob Morris')
12. 2nd movement Allegro (on 'hey the dusty miller')
13. 3rd movement Adagio
14. Andante Sostenuto (on 'I'm A-Doun for lack O'Johnnie')
15. 4th movement Finale - Allegro Guerriero (on 'scots wha hey')
16. I'm a-doun for lack o'Johnnie (a little Scottish Fantasy) (4.10 mb)

Total Timing : 58:50


Vanessa-Mae was born in Singapore on 27th October, Paganini's birthday and moved to London at the age of four, when she started her early music education on the piano and violin. After training as the youngest student with Professor Lin Yao Ji of the Central Conservatoire of China in Beijing and with Professor Felix Andrievsky of the Royal College of Music in London, Vanessa-Mae made her concerto debut in London with orchestra at the age of 10.

By the time she was 12, she had toured internationally as concerto soloist and recitalist, released two classical recordings and embarked on her third, which was to set a world record establishing her as the youngest ever to record the Tchaikovsky and Beethoven Violin Concertos.

Critical acclaim for her work in a wide classical repertoire range from 'supernatural' to comparisons with Mozart and Mendelssohn for being a 'true child prodigy'. Gramophone magazine pronounced her 'phenomenally talented' and BBC1 called her 'the most exciting young violinist in the world'.

At 14, Vanessa-Mae joined EMI and in an unprecedented deal contracted to record both 'pop' and 'classical' in a unique arrangement for a unique artiste. In February 1995, Vanessa-Mae made her debut as a 'pop' artiste, releasing 'The Violin Player', her first album of techno-acoustic violin music, 'The Violin Player' is a world-wide success and by 1996 this multi-million-selling album had gone gold and multi-platinum in over 20 countries as diverse as the UK, Gernany, Australia, Poland, Singapore, Brazil and Malaysia.

As a 'live' concert artiste, Vanessa-Mae also stands unique, straddling both classical and 'rock & pop' arenas with equal authority. She is in command of a formidable classical technique, musicianship and repertoire for her classical concerts, as well as a dazzling vertuosity and power of projection which she employs to full effect in performing her own music. Last year, she became the only artiste ever to headline a classical concert at the Royal Festival Hall performing a violin concerto with a symphony orchestra in the same week as selling out her own 'Red Hot' techno-acoustic fusion concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Both performences were filmed for television, the latter now released as a commercial video fot retail.

In a grueling schedule over the past year, Vanessa-Mae visited 33 countries, many of them several times in reponse to demand, performing on TV and in 'live' concerts at rock festivals (such as San Remo in Italy, Midtfyns in Denmark and Out in the Green in Switzerland), and to packed prestigious concert halls, such as the Berlin philharmonie, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Vienna Konzerthaus, the Salzburg Festival Hall, the Royal Albert Hall etc, earning standing ovations everywhere.

At Zurich's 'Out of the Green', performing between sets by Status Quo and Rod Stewart, she excited the 50,000 strong audience into a 20-minute ovation. There was uproar when she left and it took a compere 10 minutes to calm the crowd before Rod Stewart could start his show.

Vanessa-Mae futher reinforced her reputation as an explosive 'live' artiste at the long-running Sopot Festival, sharing the bill with Annie Lennox in a 'live' broadcast concert. Due to crownd demand, Vanessa-Mae's performance was extended by several encores, causing transmission of the national TV prime-time news to be delayed in difference to this overwhelming response. The public sent the album rocketing to multiple platinum status, an historic achievement in Poland for a foreigh recotding artiste.

In her own world-wide series of 'pop' concerts, Vanessa-Mae has made a point of introducing to her new audiences the many cultural influences and artistic interests in her life, often including both local ethnic music from the country she is visiting, and traditional classical violin music, which she calls her 'heritage'.

Following a hugely successful 34-date UK Summer '95 Tour, Vanessa-Mae is currently taking her Red Hot Tour around the world. In the first few months of this year, she has already toured Singapore, Malaysia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Belgium, Luxembourg, The Natherlands, France, Australia and New Zealand. The excitement generated by her concerts is illustrated by the filling in of all available gaps in her original touring schedule in the UK as well as in Europe. Due to unprecedented demand, she was asked to add two extra dates at the Vienna Konzerthaus, following a brilliant Viennese debut, and even had to put in an extra matinee at the Munich Philharmonie.

Vanessa-Mae and her music have crossed all cultural, geographical and generational barriers and in response to world-wide demand, she will tour the rest of the world and return to many of the territories for a second tour in the same year.

Vanessa-Mae's status as an internationally acclaimed artiste is also evident in the range of honours bestowed on her. She was awarded the 1998 BAMBI International Classical Artiste of the Year Award in Germany and in January of this year was nominateed for Best Female Solo Pop Artiste in the BRIT Awards. More recently, she became the youngest and the only artiste ever to win two ECHO awards for Best-seller of the year, and for Classical Without Frontiers.

In 1995, she also had the unusual honour of being invited to address the 172-year-old Oxford Union in the famous Debating Chamber, making history at 16 as the youngest ever to do so. The event made further history when the members gave her a standing ovation.

Vanessa-Mae continues to receive nominations and awards from all over the world, not only for the musical breeding and technical accomplishment which are mandatory accompaniments for a virtuoso violin career of this class, but also for the inventiveness and creativity which makes Vanessa-Mae and the violin capable of association with new pop culture and comtemporary musical influence.

On a lighter note, Vanessa-Mae became the first foreign artiste to be invited to perform the National Anthem at World Series Play-offs at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park in the USA, where she also enjoyed the honour of appearing as Jay Leno's guest on the high-rating Tonight Show's most important show of the year, the Thanksgiving Day Special. Earlier this summer, she performed a most successful televised concert at the G7 Summit in France, where she performed to a wildly enthusiastic audience of over 150,000.

With this album, Vanessa-Mae returns to her classical heritage by launching a new series of classical recordings. The first album features music by four German composers. Vanessa-Mae explained her choice of repertoure for this first album in the series, in her speech on tour* (adapted and translated from the original text of her various speeches on concert tour in German and Austria © Summer 1996) which will be available with the enhanced version of this CD in a limited edition to be released in 1997.

*In Germany and in Austria, (as in over 20 other countries), her 'techno-acoustic fusion' version of Bach's 'Toccata and Fugue (the first single from the 'pop' album), and the album itself stormed the charts, both with the pop public as well as the classical audiences who give her standing ovations at the Berlin Philharmonie, the Cologne Philharmonie, the Vienna Konzerthaus (where demand created repeat concerts), the Salzburg Festival Hall and other prestigious venues. Vanessa-Mae has often remarked on the open-mindedness of music lovers from the country which produced 'Bach and his original Toccata and Fugue for keyboard'. Following a brilliant debut tour with the 'Red Hot' concert, Vanessa-Mae has just returned for an equally successful second tour this year of Austria and Germany, this perfoeming only classical repertoire with symphony orchestra.

< September 1996 >


The Future

Future project in this classical series include albums of Russian music, Italian music and 20th-century and contemporary concertos and virtuoso transcriptions for violin and orchestra.

Vanessa-Mae is currently also working on her next 'pop' album. Vanessa-Mae's fourth 'pop' single 'I'm a-Doun for Lack o'Johnnie' (A Little Scottish Fantasy)* is a modern arrangement of an old Scottish folksong. She drew on the song's evocative and sad lyrics to build an instrumental version which is powerful, epic and at the same time, poignant and heroic. Vanessa-Mae discoverd the original song and lyrics while researching and preparing for this recording of Bruch's Scottish Fantasy. Bruch made his own arrangement of this same song in the third movement of the concerto (track 14). Vanessa-Mae spoke about her new single: "....for the first time in my life, I'm actually setting music to words and vice versa, which is something that's very special, so you can get the true emotion of what that person was feeling as they were writing that poem; but at the same time, as an artiste, I have my own artistic licence to fulfil my own imagination in the piece, and in my own arrangement which is very very different [from Bruch's 1879 version], I go a step further".

Vanessa-Mae is signed to PolyGram for publishing and her own compositions and original arrangements range from cadenzas for classical violin concertos to 'pop' hits such as Red Hot, which has also been arranged for full syphony orchestra as Red Hot Symphonic.

The fourth single is used on a CD-ROM with visuals and other interactive info-materials and will be included as an enhanced element in a limited edition of this recording to be released shortly.

< refer to : "The Classical Album 1" CD's booklet >
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