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Last orders

For those still filling in their worst-ever classical Christmas track, there's a late surge of support for Robert Alagna's Sleigh Ride Medley on DG's We Wish You A Merry Xmas album. No more egregious assault on English language and cadence has been heard since the late King Lucy slaughtered cod lyrics to Adolphe Adam's Cantique de Noel - dee star (sic) are brytlee shyning, eet ees dee nyte - in duet with Crown Prince Placido on untouchable Sony. There's also a specially written slice of mince on … [Read more...]

The sincerest form of flattery

My recent book, The Life and Death of Classical Music, contains an analysis of the 20 worst classical records ever made. Colin Larkin (see press release below) has appended the 100 worst pop records to his outstanding and important Encyclopedia of Popular Music, which goes online from next week (see below once more). Among Colin's 100 worst are seven chilling Xmas albums. My list had room only for Kiri at Christmas, although a new compilation from Sony came tantalisingly close. Has there ever … [Read more...]

A winner for all time

The discreet charm of Arthur Rubinstein, discussed in my current column, provokes this memory from an audience member at his first international piano competition: Emanuel Ax won and everyone got terribly pompous and aware of The Great Occasion, Rubi stood up and said to Ax something like: As the lucky winner you get a medal with my profile! Just in case he forgets who's number one... … [Read more...]

A job designed for doormats

I was sorry to read (on that Harry Kraut had died. In a job designed for doormats, Harry stood up combatively to Leonard Bernstein, whose business affairs he managed from 1972, and did his best to curb his excesses. Discreet as a trappist, he gave no quarter to journalists or biographers and kept publishers, orchestras and festival organisers at an appropriate arm's length. Meryle Secrest, Lenny's most objective biographer, thought he bore a passing resemblance to the … [Read more...]

All bets are off

Hot ticket at next summer's Salzburg Festival is Gounod's Romeo and Juliet with Paris Hilton and Jonny Depp in the title roles - sorry, make that Netrebko and Villazon. Both dumped on Salzburg with last-minute cancellations last summer, so don't book yet. Myself, I'd check the pedigree of the understudies before making smmer plans. Over at the Landestheater a week later, London's National Theatre will be staging David Hare's production of Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking with Vanessa … [Read more...]

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