an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

A fan letter to Dave Hill

Dear Mr Hill   I have greatly admired your doggedness in pursuing the paper trail that revealed Boris Johnson's unflinching, partisan support for Veronica Wadley as London chair of the Arts Council. We always knew it was so, but it was good to see the proof. What else have we learned? Not much. Most public appointments are partisan. Blair-Brown inserted trusted cronies into every cranny of the arts, not least the present chair and chief executive (notionally a non-political post) of Arts … [Read more...]

Do you know the way to Cadaques?

All it takes for a competition to get onto the musical map is to pick the right winners. Cadaques, in Spain, has just hit the jackpot for the third time.   In 1994, the winner was Gianandrea Noseda, who is just ending a tremendous decade with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester. In 2002, Vasily Petrenko came top. He has since turned the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic from a grumbling mob to a brilliant band. This week, the first prize went to Andrew Gourlay, Assistant Conductor … [Read more...]

New Arts Council chief

Veronica Wadley has been announced as the new Arts Council chair for London, a job which covers most of the country's largest arts institutions and comes with the backing of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. It's a case of if you don't succeed at first. Last year, her candidacy was shot down by the national Arts Council chair, Liz Forgan, on the spurious grounds that she had no arts cred. Forgan's personal and political prejudice against Wadley was backed by the Labour Culture Secretary, Ben … [Read more...]

Breaking news: Maestro quits Manchester

Gianandrea Noseda is stepping down after a decade as chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in Manchester. It has been a fairly glorious time in which the Italian, a protege of Valery Gergiev's, gave the first Beethoven cycle to be made available as a free download, pursued a strong strand of 20th century Russian music and made more than 20 commercial records for Chandos. The orchestra showed itself to be in fine form in the Mahler cycle it shared recently with the Halle and … [Read more...]

Does opera have a future? erm….

Hot out of the sacred music cauldron in Fez, I came home to the heart of the opera debate. Last night, I contemplated the future of opera on BBC Radio 3's Night Waves with ENO artistic director John  Berry and ex-Arts Council chair Christopher Frayling. Tonight, I'm on BBC4 in a repeat of David Thompson's excellent film Pavarotti: A Life in Seven Arias. What hope is there for an art whose creative ferment ran out in the 1920s when Puccini and Janacek died? Since then, fewer … [Read more...]

Holier than wow!

I've just got back from the Festival of World Sacred Music in Fez, Morocco, positively pullulating with multiple forms of musical spirituality that ranged from Burundi war drummers to stately Cambodian ballet. I won't fill in much detail at this point other than to lay down a personal marker for the blind Mali singers Amadou and Mariam - late stand-ins for the injured US performer Ben Harper - whose act was both ecstatic and hypnotic. I have rarely sat so breathless through a musical … [Read more...]

Breaking news: Universal cleans out classical stable

No connection to the Paris trial of its former bosses, Universal Music Group has finally moved today to get rid of its weapons of mass classical destruction. Universal Classics and Jazz, a hybrid construction, is to be shaken down from the top. Its president, Chris Roberts, is expected to leave today 'to pursue other interests' (the official line goes) and the dumbing-down policies of the last 15 years are to be reversed. They didn't exactly cheer at … [Read more...]

Music bosses in court

The former head of Vivendi, Jean-Marie Messier, went on trial in Paris this morning charged with criminal fraud, false accounting and other counts arising from his takeover of the international music group Universal in the freewheeling 1990s. Among five others charged with him is Edgar Bronfman Jr, a former Universal chief, now head of Warner Music Group. Messier, 53, was forced to quit in 2002 and has been back-pedalling ever since. Bronfman, heir to a liquor fortune, has bounced … [Read more...]

One of the best

I have just been told that the composer Benjamin Lees has died, aged 86. A delightful man, I last heard from him a few weeks back to say he was writing a second violin concerto, his vigour undimmed by the recent unfashionability of his hard-worked, ever-expressive music. Ben belonged to no cult, style or school of composers. A student of the iconoclastic George Antheil, he wrote what was on his heart and his mind, and he wrote well. There is a not a misplaced note or stress … [Read more...]

an ArtsJournal blog