November 2009 Archives

It's not every day that I'll take the trouble to go to Birmingham to hear a piece of contemporary music - or to do anything else, as the train fare is 20 per cent more than the fare from Oxford to London (though the distance is smaller), and as my wife refuses to drive in Birmingham because of its diabolical navigation difficulties.  Despite having to share our carriage on the return leg with a gang of totally hammered public school boys with cut-glass accents pretending to be proletarian lager louts - a charming, if baffling aspiration - it was worth the journey. For we were at the world première performance of "Rumpelstiltskin: A grotesque fable for our times" by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, the score composed by David Sawer and directed by Richard Jones.



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November 17, 2009 2:42 PM | | Comments (0)

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photo credit: Johan Persson / ENO

I've recently been to a performance in London where I imagine  the audience reaction resembled that of the audience at the Paris première of The Rite of Spring on 29 May 1913. Indeed, the second half of the evening was a performance of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring; but this was a double-bill, and it was the conclusion of the first half at which the audience sat for 30-45 seconds, too shocked (or embarrassed, claimed its detractors) to applaud. There was not a sound in the vast auditorium of the Coliseum at the end of  Bartók's Duke Bluebeard's Castle until the stage lights went off altogether, and the house lights came up. Then there was a great deal of clapping and shouting - with the voice of a solitary booer carrying over the crowd. I, for one, was too stunned to make very much noise. 
November 12, 2009 6:50 PM | | Comments (0)
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Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could hear the voice of Boswell, or of Mme de Lieven. Or if we had recordings of the voices of Hume, Gibbon and Macaulay? Or, to enter the realm of the possible, of Lytton Strachey, who wrote about the others in Portraits in Miniature. Indeed, Strachey's recording might be the most interesting of the bunch, because all who knew him have remarked on his remarkable speaking voice, which rose from a deep bass to a tinkling soprano, only to swoop again to the lower timbre. I think I understand what is meant by this, because I had an Uncle Louis whose voice played this trick. It was completely undependable in its pitch, and not in his control; even in his old age, it sounded like an adolescent boy's voice that had not quite broken or changed. But in addition to this, Strachey had a family vocal tic of accenting the unexpected syllable, and of strange inflection. 
November 6, 2009 8:46 AM | | Comments (0)

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