Welcome to the Dr Marc Blog. 

The idea, here, is to bring together musicians and music lovers in a wide-ranging debate about every aspect of music both live and recorded.  It’s centred around the activities of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and events at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, but it goes much wider than that.

As do I!

After almost a quarter of a century of living in Malaysia, the last 15 years in and around KL, I moved to Singapore with my family from where I continue to write the concert notes and work closely for the MPO, but also do a similar job with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and for The Esplanade.

And it doesn’t stop there. 

I also write all the notes for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and occasionally for other orchestras and concert halls, predominantly in Asia, but in the US and UK too. 

And as if that wasn’t enough, I have been a music critic for 30 years, much of that time reviewing discs for Gramophone magazine and, more recently, for the International Record Review too.

So when it comes to knowing about listening to professional music-making and about the history of music, I do know a thing or two.

But there’s an educational aspect to all this as well.  My move to Singapore coincided with my taking on the role of South East Asia Coordinator for Trinity College London’s music and drama examinations, and in this capacity I find myself travelling around the region visiting schools, teachers, private music studios and listening to young musicians as they start out on their path ot musical greatness – or obscurity!  This carries on from a job I’ve been doing (and loving) since 1982; music examining.  I spent almost 20 years as an ABRSM examiner, but then we fell out over issues of (their) credibility and fairness and I was pulled in by Trinity.  I love their very personal approach, with the emphasis on finding the best out of each individual student rather than presenting teachers with an examination template into which all shapes and sizes of candidates must be fitted, and in the past years with Trinity I have listened to thousands of candidates singing, playing and performing on every conceivable instrument and at every level.  In the last 12 months alone I’ve examined in The Maldives Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, China, New Zealand and the UK and even as I write this I’m three weeks into a New Zealand trip which finds me today in Nelson, home of the oldest established music school in New Zealand and the very competent Nelson Symphony Orchestra.

All this biography serves a purpose.  It gives you a bit of background into my scope and range of musical activities which I sum up as being a “Professional Listener”.  I do play – I was once a French Horn player but in recent years have worked as a professional organist – but a growing sense of disillusionment with the organ world coupled to long-standing problems getting anyone involved with the MPO management to take the organ seriously and , finally, a deeply disturbing encounter with an unbelievably crass trombone player with the SSO shortly before a concert, has rather put me off and I’m taking a few months off professional performing to re-group my psyche. 

So this blog is going to look at music from a listener’s point-of-view.  I hope others who listen – especially concert-goers – will put in their tuppen’orth (as we used to say) and I hope those who perform (especially orchestral players) will throw their towels into the ring.  Teachers and students, voice your concerns about the exam system as freely as you like.  This is an INDEPENDENT blog which, as an interface between audience and performer, teacher and examiner, amateur and professional, this should be the place to visit.

It will take a little while to get it all up and running, so if you stumble across this by accident, please take the trouble to add a comment, and if you have been directed here by our publicity or by another site, welcome and I hope you will stay and participate.

In my usual inimitable style I will be throwing up outrageous and controversial thoughts which should get some people going, but in the meantime, let’s just have your thoughts on anything in the above which tickles your fancy.  Can there be such a thing as a Professional Listener? Are concert programme notes of any value?  Who pays any attention to critics?  What’s the state of music exams in the world?  Who do you prefer  – ABRSM or Trinity – and why?  If the Doctor can help, he will; but most of the time he just offers an ear to your thoughts.

Let’s be hearing from you.

Dr Marc

4 Responses to “Welcome”

  1. January 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Hi Marc! Great to see your new blog!

    No need to get upset by crass trombone players (SSO or otherwise)! Otherwise the bad guys win! I hope you get many chances to perform on the Esplanade organ, or the VCH organ for that matter. Both are seriously under-performed. Why have a pricey Klais, when it almost never gets heard?

    Take care, and enjoy Singapore for its range and variety!

  2. 2 vincent4wang
    February 23, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Welcome to Singapore. Greeting from a non-local Singapore resident: )
    Upset by trombone player? Dun let the bad guy wins: )
    Organ is the King of instruments, which is the only one that can play a symphony solo. Am I right? At least, it’s hardly possible a task for trombone(while, it has its own shining point).
    Enjoy Singapore, and hope to hear you more performing on Esplanade/VCH organ too.

  3. 3 MPM
    February 25, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Dr Marc

    I have enjoyed reading your blog entries as well as the many program notes you’ve authored that I’ve come across online.

    I have a specific query about notes you wrote for Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (Yundi Li recital/HKPO). The work is one of my favorites and I did not know that the “hospital authorities” had sorted through Musorgsky’s manuscripts and come across it, though I was aware that it and other important works remained unpublished at the time of the composer’s death. I had not read elsewhere that Mussorgsky’s autographs were a heap of odd scraps of paper. Could you share where you found that information?

    Thank you.

    • 4 drmarcrochester
      March 6, 2010 at 11:24 am

      There’s a fantastic book by Alfred J Swan (published in London in 1973) who had unique access to the Russian composers at the turn of the last century and contains pages of matchless anecdotes especially about Mussorgsky and the “Mighty Handful”. He’s a very reliable source, indeed. Gerald Abraham was another Englishman who had access to Russian music at the time, and his recollections, published in his Studies in Russian Music (New York in 1935), are really worth reading. And few sources on Russian music at the time are as absorbing as Rimsky-Korsakov’s own memoirs.

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November 2009


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