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A digital future for Indian classical music

In conversation with Sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan

“I can’t remember a particular day that I was initiated into the world of music,” Amjad Ali Khan says. “It was a part of me from as early as I can remember.”

Amjad Ali Khan gave his first recital of the Sarod – the lute-like instrument for which he is famous – when he was six years old and he’s been a highly significant figure on the Indian classical music scene ever since. He is the sixth generation in a Bangash lineage of musical maestros, but this doesn’t lie heavy on him: “I came to inherit from [my father, Haafiz Ali Khan] the legacy of five generations of musicians as naturally as a bird taking to the air. Music is the greatest wealth that I inherited from my forefathers – one that I am constantly sharing with my disciples.”

Bristol audiences will get the chance to see this interplay of generational knowledge and musicianship for themselves on the 4th of February at St George’s. Amjad Ali Khan will be playing with his two sons, Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan, in a special UK mini tour produced by Bristol based Asian Arts Agency.

The performance will be a unique opportunity to gain an insight into a maestro’s approach to and belief in the power of his music, and in the growing transformative power of Indian classical music as it leaps into the modern digital era.

“Like cosmic divinity, music knows few barriers or boundaries,” he says. “However, often in the race for cultural superiority we pit one order against the other. The antithesis of this conflict phenomenon is fusion music, a rage among the current generation of music-lovers, which sees the world as a global village.”

He himself, he says, has always admired European classical musicians like Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, while Indian Classical music may be compared to jazz in the sense of freedom and improvisation it brings to both its performers and listeners.

In recent years, though, Indian Classical music has led to explorations within digital and electronic genres, a fusion that Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan have been involved with over the years. Amjad says, “Besides playing classical music, Amaan and Ayaan have made albums of experimental music, too. I have really enjoyed their collaboration with guitarist Derek Trucks, percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and cellist Matthew Barley.”

“The message of Indian Classical music is freedom within the discipline,” Amjad says. “My Sarod concerto for example has been aimed to preserve the essence of both Indian and Western traditions so that they can flow into each other without artistic compromise.”

The show in February will be a very special night indeed. “As I often say,” Amjad finishes, “every raga has a soul, and every musical note is the sound of God.”



Amjad Ali Khan

Wednesday 4 February, 8pm



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He has become something of a familiar face at St George’s of late and this Friday (30 Jan) violinist Thomas Gould returns to the stage, this time without Aurora Orchestra following his lead.  ’Late Night Classical Cafe’ finds Thomas performing with Latvian accordion virtuoso Ksenija Sidorova, together creating an hour (or so) or colourful and infectious classics.  He returns in February and again in May with Aurora for two unmissable (and typically eclectic) programmes.  We caught up with him ahead of Friday’s concert and a special rooftop performance (weather permitting) to launch our ‘Building A Sound Future’ Capital Development Appeal…

Thomas, you’re becoming a bit of a regular here at St George’s. Are you enjoying your visits to Bristol?

I love playing at St George’s! The acoustics of the hall are of course legendary, but it’s the warmth and attentiveness of the audience that makes playing here so special.

What do you remember about the first time you played here?

It was a lunchtime recital in February 2007 and there was travel chaos caused by snow. We arrived just in time to throw on some smart clothes and walk onto the stage!

Audiences here will be most familiar with you as part of Aurora Orchestra, but you’re with us this month in a slightly different setting. How did your partnership with Ksenija Sidorova come about?

We were actually put together by a record producer because Ksenija needed a solo violinist to record Piazzolla’s Oblivion with her and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for the bonus track on her CD ‘Fairy Tales’. We got on so well that we decided to play more together.

What can the audience expect from your concert with Ksenija on 30 January?

It will be quite informal and we intend to have a lot of fun. There’s a lot of variety in our programme, loosely connected by a theme of folk music from different parts of the woirld.

Your debut solo album is out soon; what sets yours apart from other violin albums do you think?

My debut solo album “Bach to Parker” is a real mixed bag; a journey from Bach’s epic Chaconne to Charlie Parker’s famous bebop classic “Donna Lee”, taking in a bunch of contemporary pieces by some of my favourite living composers. It’s an unusual disc, but there’s never a dull moment.

You also have an album out with your swing troupe ‘Man Overboard’ and have played the likes of Ronnie Scotts; is it good to move away from classical music once in a while?

I’ve always loved listening to and playing jazz, and I find it’s a very good way of relaxing and letting off steam. The classical music world can get a bit claustrophobic if you never do anything else…

The group is visiting us with Aurora in May; it looks to be a brilliant night…

I’m really pleased we’re bringing the ‘Jitterbug’ Aurora / Man Overboard collaboration to St George’s. It’s definitely one of the most exhilarating programmes I’ve ever done. From Paganini to Duke Ellington, this concert has it all!

You started out in a school orchestra… Do you think enough is being done to encourage young people to experience music, or play an instrument?

Playing a musical instrument is a life-enriching gift. Of course not enough is done in this country to give every child the opportunity to take lessons. I’m only here because I was fortunate enough to be born into a musical family that could afford to pay for lessons.

Tell us about your route into playing professionally? What advice would you have for aspiring violinists? Does coming from a musical family have its advantages?

My sister Clio is leader of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Of course coming from a musical family is a huge advantage but it also creates added pressure to succeed when you have a superstar older sibling.

Does your violin have an interesting past? When was it made?

It’s an Italian violin made in 1782 by G. B. Guadagnini. I only know that before it came to me it belonged to a retired violinist in Germany.

What is the most unusual place you’ve been asked to play the violin?

The roof of St George’s Bristol! And St Pancras rail station, in arctic conditions.


Late Night Classical Cafe

Friday 30 January, 8.30pm






Interview by Michael Beek


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 “Is this the most powerful man in classical music?  In an all but invisible way, Gerhartz is probably the single most important figure in the entire piano world, at least to pianists and to concert halls.”

Our Lifting the Lid event on Tuesday 24 February is a ‘must see’ event for anyone with an interest in music.  Ulrich Gerhartz has enjoyed a close involvement with St George’s for many years, primarily as the person charged with keeping our two concert grand pianos in peak condition.  Last year I met with him on rather different ground: the Steinway factory in Hamburg to be more precise, where I’d travelled with pianist Paul Lewis to find a new concert grand piano for St George’s.  I took many photographs during the visit and these were shown at an event last year, with Ulrich providing the accompanying descriptions and talking at greater length about the genesis of our new piano.  During the Q&A session it became apparent that Ulrich is a fascinating artist in his own right, someone who has accumulated a wealth of fascinating facts and anecdotes during his career and who was cut off all too prematurely when I called the event to a close after an hour.  I resolved to invite him back at the earliest opportunity and that just happens to be in a few weeks’ time, on 24 February.

We chose the date not only on the basis of our hall’s availability but on account of its proximity to Paul Lewis’s eagerly awaited solo Beethoven piano recital later that week.  Paul was able to experience for the first time in situ the piano that he had helped choose in Hamburg when he arrived with friends in December but this will be altogether different as he will be playing the last three Beethoven Piano Sonatas.  And this brings me to the real reason for writing to encourage you to join us on the 24th.  We tend to think of a high profile piano recital as beginning with the arrival of the artist at the venue, the rehearsal and their stepping onto a hushed stage at 7.30pm.  But this omits a vital step in the process: the preparation of the instrument itself, refined through the conversation that occurs between artist and piano technician.  This is a relationship of trust, mutual respect and deep understanding, often nurtured over years, decades even.  It is the nature of these conversations and the transformational ‘alchemy’ on which Ulrich will ‘lift the lid’ – and in doing so, he will offer insights that will quite possibly transform how you listen to Paul Lewis’s concert later in the week, and to future recitals too.  I urge you to book your seat now.

Suzanne Rolt, Director

Ulrich Gerhartz: Lifting The Lid

Tuesday 24 February, 6.30pm
Tickets £8 (*plus fees)

*£1 administration fee charged per transaction plus £1 card transaction fee & 70p postage where applicable



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As a little extra Christmas present…St George’s Bristol is DELIGHTED to announce the launch of two fantastic prizes for local young musicians…

TBE Logo copy

The Tom Eveson Bursary exists to support the development of young musicians within the City & County of Bristol, whose opportunities are limited due to financial hardship.

The inaugural Tom Eveson Memorial Concert will take place on Sunday 1st February 2015. A special Gala Concert featuring some of the best of Bristol’s musical youth, in memory of a young musician whose story touched everyone who knew him. The performance will be an annual celebration of Tom’s life, raising funds to help other young people to further their musical studies.

Recipients of the Tom Eveson Bursary will be listed on the St George’s website, with information about the impact of the award on their music making, details of their musical achievements to date and their plans for the future.

Applications will be considered from young musicians aged up to (and including) 25 on the annual closing date, June 30th.

All applicants must have a Bristol address at the time of application (for those studying away from home, a parent or guardians address would be acceptable).


The St George’s Prize for Music is a sister award to the Tom Eveson Bursary. The prize is intended to recognise and celebrate groups or individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to music making within their local community.

Nominations will be considered for any individuals or groups working within the City and County of Bristol who inspire a love of music making amongst people of all ages and backgrounds, for example;

School Ensembles 

Community Ensembles, Bands and Choirs

Music Students

Music Teachers/Music Leaders

Music Centres

The St George’s Prize for Music will be awarded annually at the Tom Eveson Memorial Concert and the award will take the form of support in kind from St George’s Bristol, for example;

  • An opportunity to perform at the Tom Eveson Memorial Concert
  • Donated use of the venue for rehearsal purposes
  • An allocation of free tickets for certain St George’s promotions (subject to availability)
  • Opportunities to attend rehearsals and to meet with some of our visiting artists

For details on how to apply, please email St George’s Education Manager Laura Tanner at 

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Support TBC

Heather Peace has announced that she will set off on The Little Bird Tour in spring 2015. A special acoustic tour taking in some beautiful venues around the UK, Heather will perform fan favourites and some exciting new arrangements from her albums, Fairytales and The Thin Line, alongside brand new material on a grand piano.

Both Heather’s albums debuted in the Top 10 of the UK Official Independent Album Charts.

“Heather pours her heart out on the stage, the songs, be them happy or sad, are brimming with honest emotion, like pages of a personal diary.” –


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Cellists of Bristol!

If you are looking to inspire yourself (or your students) to live up to those practice related new years resolutions, what better way to kick start 2015 than with a late night concert by Cellophony, the UKs leading Cello Octet.

Cellophony-01Friday 9 January 8.30pm

St George’s Bristol

Wagner Prelude to Tristan & Isolde
Schubert Three Songs from ‘Schwanengesang’
Edward Nesbit To Dance on Sands (UK Premiere)
Mendelssohn Ave Maria
Liszt Three World Folk Songs (arr. James Barralet)

No interval, just 60 minutes of pure, unadulterated Cello based deliciousness!


For more information about the ensemble, check out their website here.



Students can get special £5 tickets, but hurry, as numbers are strictly limited. Quote CELLO5 online or at the box office to snap up this deal!

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Paul Lewis piano

Piano Sonata No 30 in E Op 109
Piano Sonata No 31 in A flat Op 110
Piano Sonata No 32 in C minor Op 111

Paul Lewis is an artist of exceptional talent who has won a formidable reputation for his understated but profoundly thoughtful playing. It is always a pleasure to welcome him back to St George’s and on this occasion he takes up the thread of our piano series ‘The Last Word’, bringing the final trilogy of ground breaking piano sonatas by a composer with whom he has become deeply connected. These three sonatas share a special quality of spiritual expression and exalted mood that has been widely interpreted as Beethoven’s intimate exploration of man’s predicament and the human struggle fought in mind and body. In the final movement of the Op 111 Sonata there is a strong sense that he succeeded in resolving this conflict in a representation of transcendence and the world to come.

The series continues on Wednesday 15 April with Peter Donohoe.


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Overnight stars (after 20 years) thanks to the use of their song ‘Far From Any Road’ as the title music for mega-hit TV series ‘True Detective’, The Handsome Family are absolutely unique, and absolutely great. A husband and wife duo from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Brett and Rennie Sparks create a kind of twisted Americana by taking in impeccably researched historical and geographical detail then turning it through 360 degrees of weirdness. Brett Sparks writes the music, while Rennie Sparks writes the wonderfully poetic words. Both sing and play (guitar, banjo, ukulele). The dean of American rock critics, Greil Marcus, says it best: “Words that in their everyday surrealism have no parallel in contemporary writing…music that mines the deep veins of fatalism in the Appalachian voice.”

‘Haunting, primal and strangely heroic’ THE TIMES



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Liv-Marie Kodurand violin
Jan Rautio piano

Beethoven Sonata for Violin and Piano No 3 in E flat Op 12
Catoire Sonata No 2 ‘Poeme’ Op 20
Suk Four Pieces for Violin and Piano

Acclaimed violinist Liv-Marie Kodurand and duo-partner Jan Rautio make a welcome return to our lunchtime series, teaming an early Beethoven sonata with two works written right at the turn of the 20th century – Suk’s ‘Four Pieces’, with its finale of instrumental pyrotechnics, and a virtuosic one-movement sonata by the rarely heard Russian composer Georgy Catoire.


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This is going to be awesome: Courtney Pine strips everything back for the most intimate set of shows in his long and illustrious career, playing a repertoire of ballads and nothing but in a sensitive duo with featured pianist Zoe Rahman. “I have always wanted to record a collection of my favourite ballads and there is nothing like playing in a duet format for bringing out the intimacy of great songs”, says Courtney. A star in her own right, Zoe Rahman is well known to St George’s audiences through her previous appearances here, both as a pianist in Courtney’s band, and solo.