'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Soup, Strings and Peter Wiltschinsky

This morning Peter Wiltschinsky came over for a rehearsal as the duo have a concert in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, tomorrow. As I mentioned the other day, I enjoy it when he is here as they play through the whole concert. Unfortunately I was out all morning and only got back in time to hear the last few pieces, from the wrong side of the music room door. That sounded great though and I'm sure the residents of Tenby will have a wonderful evening!
They also ran through a few Christmas carols that they arranged some time ago to decide on a couple to play at a forthcoming event at Rufford Old Hall. Now Robin knows which ones to practice whilst on his next foreign trip which is looming on the horizon.
Peter stayed for lunch which was nice and gave me the chance to issue him with various details for their trip in the morning.
Robin then had to head off to Manchester to get 10 sets of strings to see him through the next few weeks...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Music in Quiet Places

Whilst continuing my Scottish quest I was reminded of a series of concerts that Hill/Wiltschinsky were involved with some years ago. It was a scheme called 'Music in Quiet Places', which usually meant very old churches in rural areas, some of which were not regularly used, and all of which were very cold!
They were always well attended and it was great to see people enjoying the fabulous buildings. The locals had inside information and would arrive beautifully dressed, including winter coats, which they took off to go outside for drinks in the interval, so they could catch the pleasant summer evening.
After a few of these occasions the duo got wise to the fact that old churches have old heating systems, if any, and t-shirts and long johns became standard wear under dress suits. Cold hands ranks pretty high on the list of 'problems to overcome' for the guitarist, particularly when combined with pre-concert adrenaline. I'm pleased to say Robin has much more control over his adrenaline these days and it's many years since I ran around backstage looking for bowls of warm water.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Highlands and Islands

I'm currently working on a tour of the Highlands and Islands next year. Hill/Wiltschinsky have played many times throughout Scotland and I thought it was time to return.
The guitar, whether solo or duo, is ideal for this type of trip as they really don't need much other than a room to play in and a couple of chairs, (without arms otherwise you get an awful crunching sound as guitar bangs against chair, or the duo perch precariously on the edge of their seats which makes everyone nervous). They can therefore take live music to some of the small venues on distant Islands. The last time they were there Robin returned and composed a piece called 'Return to Islay' which is on the solo CD 'Virtuoso', so maybe that would be a good starting point!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ritual Fire Dance

It's great to have the sound of music back in the house even if it is only temporary.
As I write Manuel De Falla's Ritual Fire Dance is drifting from the next room, well half of it is. This is a duo arrangement that has always amazed and delighted me, and many audiences, over the years. How two guitars can achieve the excitement of the whole orchestra is incredible and quite an achievement.
I am only hearing half of it as Robin is running through the duo programme for a concert on Friday. I've found over the years that my mind has compensated for the second guitar by playing through Peter Wiltschinsky's part in my head. I think that now I know his part almost as well as I know Robins!
They tend to meet up once for a joint rehearsal before each concert and alternate between each others houses, (they live at least 80 miles apart).
So it's always a treat when Peter comes here and I get to hear the whole piece and give my poor mind a rest.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Home Again

Robin has now arrived home and is currently sleeping off jet lag and the effects of being up all night.
I hope he manages to rest, despite noisy children and dogs dropping huge hints that they would like a walk please, as he has a busy week ahead.
More on that as we go along..

Saturday, November 25, 2006

It's a Small World

Robin found himself deep in conversation with another bass player called Murray, and found they had a mutual friend. This chap had played in Benny Goodman's band and therefore knew Chris Griffin, an excellent trumpet player that played with Goodman for some time.
Robin knew Chris, as he was the father of one of his old friends Paul Griffin, who had played some incredible trumpet on a Force 10 album of Robin's. Incidentally, Paul also played the last post at John F Kennedy's funeral. Are you keeping up with me?
Suffice to say that these two were so engrossed in their reminiscing that they very nearly missed the transport taking them to the airport. Luckily, Robin spotted the fact that they were the only ones left standing in the hall, and they made a mad dash arriving just in time.
He's now waiting in Miami Airport for his flight home.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Orchestras and Composers

I was reading a blog by Ilkka Talvi, Of Music and Men, in which she was talking about the lack of modern day composers, for orchestral pieces, which have the basic requirements of memorable melodies, engaging rhythm and pleasant harmony.
In a lot of ways this is true, too often contemporary pieces are heard that don't fulfil these elements, and leave the audience somewhat bemused.
It isn't as simple as that though. I feel orchestras have to take some responsibility as there is music out there that just isn't being heard.
I understand their problem, they need to perform pieces that will guarantee an audiences. However, some risks should be taken to move the whole process on. They could always schedule a well known piece alongside a new composer in the hopes that they will attract their usual audience.
As I've said before on this blog Robin has composed many pieces for guitar and orchestra, one of which has been performed with excellent reviews, (by the newspapers, audience and orchestra themselves), and yet it's difficult to get another performance. Crazy.
I'm sure he's not the only one that has this problem.
Having published this blog mid-afternoon I happened to be listening to BBC Radio 4 at tea time only to find they were discussing this very topic. That's excellent news and hopefully we will see the tide change....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

2nd Concert and Nail Issues

The second concert on board Crystal Serenity went well despite some traumas for Robin. Half way through the third piece one of his nails broke. This is a major problem for guitarists.
He had to apologise, leave the stage, do a quick glue repair, and try and get on with the show.
That's not easy though, as once a nail has broken it really requires major reconstruction, which can take up to an hour to do. Obviously he couldn't do that with a packed theatre waiting. So a hasty repair was done and the remainder of the concert carried out in fear of the whole thing flying off. It didn't, and I'm sure the audience wouldn't be aware of the added pressure that this sort of situation puts a performer under. After all, it's their job to look calm and as if they are having a great time!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Jazz Friends

When relaxing in the evening Robin has been watching a jazz trio and really enjoying it. They had been to his first concert and were equally admiring.
Since then they have met up a few times for meals and to chat. Robin is particularly keen on the way the bass player plays. It transpires that he is called Thomas Hebb and is the nephew of Bobby Hebb who wrote 'Sunny', (you know the one, 'yesterday my life was full of rain....')
He's based in Boston and I think that Robin has his eye on him for the Claude Bolling concerto for Classic Guitar and Jazz Piano Trio. So if we ever get to arrange a tour of America with this piece then I know who Robin will be calling.
So faust, if you're reading, I'm still working on it!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sea and Sunshine

Whilst we are coping with typical November weather in the UK, cold, wet and windy, Robin is basking in sunshine, dining al fresco, and using up the suntan lotion I packed for him.
However, he has another concert tomorrow, so will be in high practice mode today. Apart from the occasional promenade around the deck he will shut away in his cabin practicing.
Crystal Serenity docks in Bermuda in the morning but I know from years of travelling with him that he won't venture ashore until after his concert. That requires a lot of will power as I'm sure it's a beautiful place.
The thoughts of a packed theatre will help focus his mind on his performance and as it's docked there for two days he'll have plenty of time to go ashore and buy gifts for his family!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle is a rather strange stretch of ocean, also known as Devil's Triangle, that covers an area of 1/2 million square miles between Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Miami. It forms the shape of, well, a triangle.
Over many years there have been events that have made the area famous, from disappearing ships and planes, claims of paranormal activity, to the general laws of physics not operating, (navigational equipment etc.)
So it was with some concern that I checked my e mails this morning only to find one from Robin that was mainly gibberish with enough detail to inform me that he had entered the 'zone'.
I comforted myself with the knowledge that this was probably just Robin's warped sense of humour. However, I did reply and told him to keep a very low profile, especially if he comes across any strange, grey, swirling mists....

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Concert on Serenity

Yesterday Robin did the first of two concerts on board Crystal Serenity. It went very well and the audience all enjoyed themselves, especially as the sea had calmed down and they all felt a bit better.
He only had to play for 30 minutes but what an eventful half hour that was.
I've often wondered how many notes he plays during a performance but it would be quite an undertaking to sit and count them all. I think I'll give it a miss.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Download Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo

My fairy Godfather has been at it again. Now you can also download Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo by clicking here,, or in the links section.
There are currently four tracks available at the moment, but more will follow. So sit back and enjoy the music!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Children, Classical Music and Shiny Shoes

I was reminded the other day that when my eldest son was in infant school they used to play classical music whilst the class got on with their work. The theory is that it helps them concentrate and I'm sure there is a lot of evidence to back that up.
I asked him if he felt it had helped, and he said that for him it was very good, it made him more relaxed as it was like being at home!
Apart from helping them concentrate, it will also expose children to types of music they may not be hearing anywhere else, and get those neurones twitching in the brain.
We shouldn't underestimate the ability children have to enjoy all styles of music.
Robin has frequently played in schools and although he chooses his programme carefully, mainly playing shorter pieces, the general content is exactly what he would do for an ordinary concert. The children always love it and are a very enthusiastic audience. Although the questions they ask are a little obscure, like, 'Why are your shoes shinier than his?' at a Hill/Wiltschinsky concert!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Life at Sea

I have had a couple of e mails from Robin who is feeling a little delicate at the moment. Having left Lisbon in driving rain, they then encountered some rather rough weather. As I've said before, he has been on many wild oceans and always felt fine, so I can only imagine it is rather unpleasant.
There's time for the situation to improve before his first concert on Saturday, I'm currently waiting for an update.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Crystal Serenity

Robin is now on board Crystal Serenity, a fabulous 5* cruise liner. The day started early, however I had the luxury of waving off the taxi, and then crawling back into bed!
I've had calls from Heathrow, (don't know why he wasn't flown direct), than again from Lisbon.
The last time we spoke he had set sail in driving rain heading towards rough sea. Still, I don't feel too sorry for him, as he's sailing for Bermuda where I'm sure the weather will be a little less hostile.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Download Tracks

Everyone should have a fairy Godfather and mine arrived today with a surprise for us.
We are now all set up for you to download tracks by simply clicking here, or on the links section.
At the moment we have four tracks available, but more will follow soon.
My fairy Godfather saved me a huge headache as I am still somewhat of a technophobe, but I'm working on it!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Modern Technology

Now we have the new computer we have to learn how to use it. Robin spent a very informative evening with a friend that assures us that within a short space of time Robin will be able to 'phone me from mid Atlantic, or wherever he is, and even do video conferences! (so I'll have to remember to brush my hair after all when he's away.)
It won't be set up in time for this trip but should be for the following one which is very soon after.
That will make life so much easier for us all as we will be able to keep in touch. The only thing is that it's one more thing we have to remember to pack...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Film and TV

It's always annoying when watching a film or t.v. programme and in the background are some actors pretending to play various instruments. However, it's not always the case. Occasionally directors and producers go to the trouble of getting the real thing in - musicians.
Sometimes even they are only expected to mime, but at least they can do it realistically with their fingers in vaguely the right places. Other times a 'band' is hastily assembled and play for real in the background of some scene or other. Good job musicians are a flexible lot, that have generally cut their musical teeth by playing various styles and venues in the early stages of their careers, so generally get along very well.
Robin has done many of these over the years, the most recent being an episode of 'A Touch of Frost', where he played 'Lady is a Tramp' on electric guitar in a quartet. Frustratingly I've never actually seen it.
One memorable occasion some years ago was when he was booked to play in a feature film set in the 1950's. I came home from work calling out, 'So how did it go?', only to be met by silence. I eventually tracked Robin down, he was hiding under a duvet. The director had insisted that his fairly long hair be cut in a 1950's short back and sides style and he was dreading my return.
Actually, it looked good and he has kept his hair short ever since. It was all for nothing though as the whole scene was never used, but that's the fickle nature of film and t.v....

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Busy, busy

Robin has had a few pupils today and when we looked at the diary to make their next lessons we found that he wasn't available until 22nd December!
He has two foreign trips coming up, and then some duo concerts, so before we know it it will be Christmas...
That is a rather frightening thought. So it looks like recording the new CD won't happen until early next year when things calm down a little.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Package from the US

A parcel arrived today from a very nice couple that Robin met on one of his recent QM2 trips. They had included a lovely photo of them standing with a very smiley Robin, (post gig relief I think), and a moving letter about how much they had enjoyed his music and chatting to him afterwards.
Whilst they live in New York they also have a home in Mexico City and included some brochures highlighting the events that are on there. It certainly seems to be a very exciting place and as they described it,'a vibrant mega city'. As this is one of the few places that Robin hasn't been to, I think I had better get onto it.
They also gave us some dates of future trips they are going on in the hopes that Robin will be on board - we'll have to wait and see on that one.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Classical Music blogs debate...

I'm joining in the debate started by Norman Lebrecht in the Evening Standard and on La Scena Musicale. He is discussing the growth in classical music blogs over recent months. He feels that bloggers are made up of 'pros', generally newspaper critics, 'ams', buffs, fans and wannabes, and the general mood is rather critical. Jessica Duchen does get a good and well deserved mention and you can read the whole account by visiting her site. However others don't fare so well.
My point is related to the 3rd group Lebrecht mentions, bloggers that are musicians and insiders, '..the last thing they do before bedtime, instead of a diary.'
I feel the tone is rather disparaging. Yes, for those in the industry there is a certain amount of blogging for self promotion and publicity but that is not the whole story. No matter how famous you are, and in what field that is in, you have to constantly remind the public of your presence to continue working in your chosen field. It is essential to use all available tools to allow the public access to information and material so they can choose how to spend their ever decreasing relaxation time. We are now competing with numerous t.v. channels, radio shows etc. which wasn't a problem that Mozart had.
The use of blogs also opens up a whole new world to groups of people that may not have found 'classical' music previously.
We recently posted a video on You Tube which has had comments like, 'awesome', and 'thank you so much for posting this.' These two men happen to be in the US and the chances are they wouldn't have had the opportunity to see this video without us using the technology. Maybe we can help generate a new generation of concert goers in the process.
So I shall continue my work, and in the case of this blog, it is not done by a musician himself, more by proxy..

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Orchestral pieces

I've been listening to a few of the orchestral pieces that Robin has composed and it has renewed my energy to get them performed.
Concerto Primavera has already been premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Ian Tracey. It is a concerto for guitar and marimba, an unusual combination but one that really worked on this occasion. Simone Rebello took the marimba part, and did an excellent job, especially as Robin is not known for making life easy for the soloists!
One of the reviews said, 'I don't think I have ever heard a first performance where all the participants were so obviously enjoying themselves.'
When Robin worked with the Liverpool Philharmonic again some time later, performing Rodrigo's 'Concierto de Aranjuez', many of the players remembered his piece which was a great compliment.
So I had better get on with contacting a few orchestras and see if we can get Primavera or one of the many other pieces performed and hopefully recorded.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Modern Technology...

Having done a great deal of research and chatting to friends (thank you Andre!) to gather information, Robin finally went off to Manchester today and came home with a new computer. It's not just that though, as he has the Logic Pro 7 package. I'm assured this is essential for the new recording studio set up. I must say I am very impressed so far, especially when he told me that a lot of the bulky equipment we currently have will become redundant.
This is all connected to the new microphone, as you may have gathered Robin is preparing to record another CD.
I left him installing parts of the package and familiarising himself with the extensive manuals. Within an hour there were screams of laughter from both Robin and our eldest son. I had to investigate.
They had discovered that the inbuilt camera takes excellent pictures but then hours of fun can be had distorting the images!
I guess you may all have to wait a little longer than anticipated for the new CD after all...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday, must be Leeds

Today Robin has been over in Leeds at the university. He sees each student individually, and they are impressed that each time he goes he alternates the side of the room that he sits on, in order to view them from a different angle. When playing the guitar it's all about economy of movement and by changing position he feels he can focus on different areas.
Whilst trying to explain this to one of his students he said, 'It's minimum effort, for maximum effect, you're a student so that should be easy enough!'
They were very amused, and got the point.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Night Off..

Robin took the evening off from practice to conduct a firework display in our garden. All the family enjoyed the event, even Great Granny who had joined us for the day.
Don't worry though, Robin wore thick gloves to protect those hands for the whole proceedings!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

It's not just about the Guitar

Robin is always stressing to his pupils the importance of going to as many concerts as possible. Not just guitar, but anything. Much can be gained from hearing other performers whether they are good, bad or mediocre. It's always interesting to see how other artists organise their programme and how they present themselves.
In the early days Hill/Wiltschinsky used to wear white tuxedos and bow ties as that is what classical musicians did. However, they wanted to get away from the 'stuffy classical' look, and now feel comfortable in shirts and jackets. Robin has always felt that it is important to look smart as people are paying to come and see you and don't want to spend 2 hours watching someone that looks like they have just been out cleaning the car. Also, it's professional to make an effort. How many of you would trust your doctors advice if they wore jeans and a t-shirt in the consultation. Image is important.
When Robin has been to a concert that he has enjoyed he comes away uplifted and motivated. If he hasn't enjoyed it then usually he composes a new piece within a few days. I'm not quite sure why that is but it seems to work for him.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Soler, Scarlatti, Rossini, Faure and More..

Today I sent off a package to Israel. It's always very nice to be contacted by someone that has enjoyed a CD so much that they want to extend their library further. This gentleman had come across a Hill/Wiltschinsky CD whilst in America and ordered 5 more.
'Soler Sonatas' is a fantastic CD of, well, Soler Sonatas. Graham Wade, the eminent author of many books about Segovia has always been a big fan of this one.
'Classic Beatles 2' has 16 tracks of well known Lennon & McCartney songs which are beautifully arranged with a few surprises.
'Barber of Seville' contains pieces by Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn, Scarlatti, Rossini, Faure, Manuel de Falla and many more, so there really is something for everyone.
'Best 1' is a compilation of many of Hill/Wiltschinsky favourites.
'Virtuoso' is Robin's first solo CD and I'm sure more will follow before too long...
I hope my man in Israel is pleased with his purchases and has many happy hours of listening ahead.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Testing, Testing..

The new microphone has arrived. Obviously the 'phone calls made at Southampton airport were slightly more than 'research'.
Robin promptly disappeared into the studio where he remained for most of the day.
Mid-evening I was summonsed for a game of 'spot the microphone'. As I had just returned from giving drinks and biscuits to 48 excited cub scouts my ear drums were not at their best. However, I played along. This is how it goes. Robin had recorded the same piece through three different microphones and I have to identify the new one and express an opinion as to whether it captures the sound.
I did rather well as I managed to pick out the new one. But as yet we are not convinced. I think tomorrow will be a case of trying out various combinations and positions to get the best possible sound.
At least we have it on approval, so we have time to think about it. The guitar is a notoriously difficult instrument to record so we'll persevere until we get it right.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Music to the Masses

I've been thinking about the concerts that Robin has recently been doing on board ship. Cruise liners these days are very big business. There are huge numbers of people all wanting to be entertained. This occurs at many levels, from background music while you eat and drink, to lectures from Oxford professors.
For Robin, this is an opportunity for large numbers of guests to hear him play. Last week the first concert was attended by a 900 strong audience, as was the second one. Even my maths can work out that 1800 people watched his concerts in just one week. I realise that many of them would have been to both performances, hence two separate programmes, but that can only mean they enjoyed the first one.
This brings me to the point. Many of those people are probably not regular classical music concert goers. So it must be a good thing to give them the opportunity to see and hear quality music and hopefully give them the courage to venture out to see other concerts when they are at home.
There's plenty of debate at the moment on classical music being in decline, but judging from these figures there's a lot that can be done to encourage people out. We just have to look at it from another perspective sometimes.