#MiddayMusic presents Alena Walentin (flute) and Connor Fogel (piano)

This week our Young Artists Alena Walentin (flute) and Connor Fogel (piano) performed for #MiddayMusic. You can watch their videos below. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to catch Ryan Drucker (piano) and Toby White (cello) perform next Monday and Lotte Betts-Dean (Mezzo soprano) perform next Wednesday, both at midday.  Details of their repertoire can be found in the details section on YouTube.  All of our #MiddayMusic videos can be watched on our exclusive playlist.

Connor Fogel: Forever exploring his passions

“People often ask why I switched from classical piano to theatre, says musical director, Connor Fogel, “to which I always reply that I haven’t. Music is music, art is art, and few great actors or musicians limit their repertoire to one period or style.” As performance venues closed during lockdown, Connor, who also teaches at the Royal Academy of Music and Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, had more chance to explore his passions in piano, writing and painting. Connor is an armature artist whose portraits of musicians, including one of Franz Liszt, can be seen at saatchiart.com.

“Liszt’s music is full of everything I love in music – drama, theatricality, melody, and unprecedentedly modern harmonies. While making my West End debut as musical director in 2019 of the musical Queen of the Mist at the Charing Cross Theatre, I would frantically practice Liszt during tea breaks. I gave my first Liszt recitals that year, one at St Lawrence Jewry (my London debut as a concert pianist), and one at Hampton Court a few weeks later. Both were made possible by the Musicians’ Company. I was also awarded Second Prize at the Liszt Society International Piano Competition in 2019.

Last year I became musical director for the RSC, and embarked on a UK and international tour, which was sadly cut short after six months due to the pandemic. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of being on the audition panel for the undergrad musical theatre course at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama – the first time I’ve participated in entirely digital/online auditions for a drama school. As lockdown’s eased, I’ve also been in the recording studio creating a radio show with my musical comedy duo The Titzkrieg Orchestra, for release later this year.

For my #middaymusic series, I have chosen Liszt: Les Jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este. Liszt wrote this piece towards the end of his life during his self-imposed isolation in Rome. He wrote this piece while gazing at the fountains from his small living quarters. However, the piece is not sad, but full of beauty, optimism, hope for the future.”

You can read more about Connor on the Company profile page.


Alena Walentin: The power of music

“Music has continued to be a huge part of my life during the pandemic, even with all the performance cancellations”, says award-winning flautist, Alena, who has been sitting out the pandemic in her husband’s homeland, Denmark. Alena has also been using the uplifting powers of music to enrich other people’s lives. “Over the last few months, I’ve given quite a few online performances and masterclasses, including two Musicians’ Company performances aimed at helping people living with dementia feel connected to their past. It’s been extremely rewarding getting involved in these sessions, especially at a time that must be particularly hard for the elderly living alone or in care homes.

The feedback has been very moving. Some carers and family members described how the person living with dementia woke up and sang along when they heard the music, or tapped their feet and even tried to dance. Some also spoke for the first time in many months during those online concerts to express how much they enjoyed it! Once, after a therapy session that I did in a hospital with my colleagues, I was told: “wow, that was better than a thousand paracetamol tablets”. After that, I really began to see the effect music can have on a person’s health.

I am blessed to have been able to carry on with my teaching for the Conservatoires that I work for during the pandemic, and get involved in auditions and final exams for the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, where I am excited to be teaching from September. Other events I’ve been involved in include a performance and masterclass at the eFlute Festival and Sheena Gordon Flute Summer School, interviews for the Japanese Flute Society and Dutch Flute Society, a chamber music course with Atéa Quintet and a livestream concert with my husband, Niklas Walentin, and pianist, Berit Johansen Tange, which was a collaboration between Verbier Festival (Switzerland), Quarantine Concerts (Sweden) and Møn Sessions (Denmark). I’ve also adjudicated for the New Talent British International Youth Music Competition, helped organise the Møn Sommerkoncert festival in Denmark and continued my role as Vice-Chair for the British Flute Society.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Alena has also been planning her next recordings. “A debut CD is a big step in a musician’s career, so I was delighted when my album was noticed and played by the National Radio of Iceland and chosen as ‘Album of the Week’ by the Danish National Radio. My next recording will be three albums of music by flute genius Joachim Andersen for DaCapo Records, which I’m really looking forward to.”

For the #MiddayMusic series Alena performs Eugene Bozza’s Image and Paul-Bonneau’s Caprice en Forme de Valse, some of her most loved pieces to play for solo flute. Alena says: “Both of the composers’ works are full of charm. Paul Bonneau’s Caprice is able to help anyone cheer up and Bozza’s Image is very much like a flight of fantasy, taking one away from the difficult reality into their dreams, which are hopefully full of happiness!”

You can find out more about Alena on the Company profile page and at alenawalentin.com.