London Mozart Players with Bob Taub (piano)
Saturday March 9, Minster Church of St Andrew at 7pm
This might seem just another event-notice, of the kind that regularly appears here – something to put in the diary, and perhaps hopefully attend.
But in fact this particular entry and event means so much more than that. Allow me to explain:
Good amateur performances
Over the years in Plymouth, we’ve always had our local stalwarts in the amateur field, like Plymouth Symphony Orchestra and Plymouth Philharmonic Choir, who have mounted up to three performances each year, thereby ensuring that the city’s classical-music-lovers have at least always enjoyed regular exposure to good, solid performances, both instrumental and vocal, without the need to leave the city boundaries, with occasional ones scarcely falling short of what any top ensemble might be expected to achieve.
This has regularly been augmented by twice-yearly visits from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra which, if nowhere near as frequent as their Exeter performances, does still represent an improvement on the barren times when the orchestra kept well away from us.
Plymouth had arguably one of the best professional chamber-music series in the country, with Plymouth Chamber Music Trust, and their superb concerts in the Sherwell Centre virtually each month over some sixteen seasons.
Then there was the Ten Tors Orchestra, many of whose players were originally members of leading UK ensembles like the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and had relocated to the South West for a less strenuous time in retirement, and to teach at former Dartington College of Arts. With that kind of pedigree, and Malcolm Latchem as leader, they made up for the seeming infrequency of BSO’s visits, with performances, many of which were certainly up there with some of the best.
Concert-goers will, of course, fondly remember Ten Tors Conductor Simon Ible, who was its musical director from its founding, and then through a subsequent, and more-extended period, when it was absorbed into the fabric of Plymouth University, and, under whose auspices as the
Eventually, though, Ten Tors Orchestra was dismantled, and replaced by the more ominously-sounding Peninsula Arts Sinfonietta – ominous in that the diminutive ending in the description ‘Sinfonietta’, clearly hinted that, while it would still remain an orchestra in essence, it was inevitably going to be trimmed back in size.
Not long after this, I always remember Simon taken me aside at one concert, to say he was shortly resigning from Peninsula Arts for health reasons. I knew what a hole this would create in the musical life of the city, given that, metaphorically-speaking, the ground was already probably as unstable as some I was later to encounter on a more recent holiday in New Zealand.
Changing classical landscape
Simon duly departed and, of course, his position at Peninsula Arts wasn’t going to be filled overnight. The interim period when Peninsula Arts wasn’t able to fire on all four cylinders, also just happened to coincide with a change at Plymouth Herald, where I had been its Classical Music Writer for some twenty years – something, in
On a Facebook feed I later recalled seeing that Peninsula Arts had now appointed Dr Robert (Bob) Taub as Simon’s successor as Director of Music, but given it’s virtually impossible to come up with a concert-series overnight, because of artists’ bookings and commitments, not a lot could be expected to happen in the gestation period.
Period of transition
In what seemed a period of transition all round, Peninsula Arts soon reinvented itself as The Arts Institute, even if effectively, and according to its website, this was more a change of name than real direction – rather like ‘Plymouth University’s’ seeming love affair with the ‘University of Plymouth’ title, even though there were more deep-seated reasons for this latter change, and all the necessary rebranding that went with it.
But as far as Peninsula Arts transitioning The Arts Institute, it appeared that it would still be business as usual, but under a new banner, and newly-appointed Director of Music – or at least, that’s what I thought.
If, like me, you still continue to receive the quarterly Peninsula Arts (now, Arts Institute) booklet in the post, you will probably have felt that the emphasis had very much shifted to art, film, exhibition and talks, rather than mention of many live musical events as in the past.
The fantastic London Mozart Players
The Jan-Apr 2019 edition appeared shortly before Christmas, and I gave it the usual swift perusal, and really had to do a double-take when I read about details on a concert in March, featuring The London Mozart Players here in the Minster Church of St Andrew. They are a fantastic outfit to hear live, as I well remember from reviewing them some years back at Dartington.
So, almost before the Christmas / New Year shutdown, I reconnected with the-now Arts Institute, and received, by return, a lovely, friendly and welcoming note back from Bob Taub, whom, up until that point, I had never met.
Music in the city
We made a firm commitment to meet in the New
As a new-comer to the city – his wife is English – Bob was fascinated to hear about all that had gone on over many years on the local
Invigorated and buoyed
Following that meeting, I felt really invigorated and somewhat buoyed up once more about music in the city, and so felt that, rather than just flagging up details of the London Mozart Players’ concert early in March, I would attempt to fill in the gaps for readers who might have wondered just what happened to Peninsula Arts, and what, if anything, was going on instead.
Googling Bob, as you do, you will no doubt arrive at this page, where you can read in great detail about Bob’s background as a pianist, academic and educator, and what his long-term plans are for the Institute, and hence for music in the city and its environs.
Fabulous things to come
I can tell you that he has outlined some fabulous things to come, which will be shared with the public, just as soon as the final details are confirmed. Indeed, if it wasn’t for press confidentiality, I’d want to enthuse about them right now and share them with all, but you’ll just have to wait a while.
Meanwhile, Bob will himself be joining the London Mozart Players (LMP) on Saturday March 9 in the Minster Church of St Andrew as soloist in Mozart’s exciting D minor Piano Concerto, K 456, which will feature alongside other works by the Austrian composer – the Serenata Notturna, and ever-imposing Jupiter Symphony.
The programme starts at
Additionally there is a post-performance reception, which gives audience members the opportunity to ask a few questions in an informal setting about some aspect of the music they’ve just heard, perhaps.
Too good to miss…!
But when you also see that this is all available for £12/£10/£5, with students/18s and under free, via YAP, it’s too good an offer to miss. With this opening concert proper, Bob wants to make the point that there should be nothing intrinsically different about the LMP coming here to Plymouth, than, say, to Bristol, Birmingham or London. Plymouth audiences have, perhaps, a certain notability about them in the trade, but Bob is hoping that if you provide a first-class product, then people should flock to see it. They do for the visiting opera composers, and musicals, though the latter is a somewhat more specific genre, I accept.
Hopefully, though, the church will be filled to capacity in March, and this will signal the start of a new era. If St Andrew’s motto – ‘Resurgam’ – is anything to go by, then it’s the perfectly-named venue to host such a welcome resurgence.
And just to whet your appetite further, Bob will be joining the internationally-acclaimed Dante String Quartet later in May, when he plays the Shostakovich Piano Quintet alongside String Quartets by Debussy, and Szymanowski at the University of Plymouth Sherwell Centre on Friday May 17 – more details to follow.
And of course, the year 2020 involves the next bout of Mayflower fever, and, without divulging anything specific, American-born and educated Bob will surely be playing a special role in the celebrations, so continue to watch this space.
Stay up to date
Meanwhile make sure you are on any mailing lists from The Arts Institute, so that you continue to receive regular updates on new events. I no longer have the luxury of a whole page dedicated to Classical Music in Plymouth Herald, but if you bookmark the ArtsCulture site, then you will be kept up to speed, but digitally, rather than on paper.
And there’s also Roger Viles’s invaluable Plymouth Classical Music Concert Diary online, and in hard-copy, to help you plan your concert-going activities over the next few months.
As we enter 2019, it looks like being an exciting time once more for Classical Music in Plymouth. But it’s still always going to come down to the same basic equation, though: use it or lose it.
Philip R Buttall
top image: London Mozart Players with Bob Taub (inset)