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

So where did your summer go?

  It's getting worse, year by year. American orchestras, whose players once went off to shoot bear or pool in the Adirondacks, now oblige staff to report to work ever earlier in August to rehearse the Aix-Proms-Lucerne-Salzburg-Lübeck festival programme. Pallid and jet-lagged, the musicians return to open the home season with as much enthusiasm as an England goalkeeper facing a penalty kick.   Festivals have become an etiolating factor in our lives, stealing our precious summers, … [Read more...]

Charlie’s gift

Waiting for someone in the lobby of English National Opera, I let my eye roam idly over the list of private donors who heped towards the restoration of the glorious Coliseum. There, in the middle, was a 'Mrs Doris Lessing' (she collaborated on an opera some years back with Mr Philip Glass) and there, just below, were 'Sir Charles and Lady Mackerras'. Now that's noble, I thought. Charlie, as I recalled when he died last month, had a wretched time as music director of ENO in the 1970s. The … [Read more...]

I could have been Philip Langridge

From time to time, on a Lebrecht Interview, the person in the opposite seat reveals unsuspected depths of ambition, frustration and regret. With Sir Roger Norrington, tonight's subject, we were chatting in his Berkshire gazebo about his former life as an academic publisher and out-of-office-hours singer, when he burst out with the assertion that, has he persisted with the singing, he could have gone as far as any of his contemporaries, as far as the … [Read more...]

Now playing at the Proms: Happy birthday, sweet sixteen

The BBC has just let it be known that Neil Sedaka will join the Last Night of the Proms in an extra-mural capacity - that is to say, singing for the outdoor crowds in Hyde Park with other denizens of Memory Lane, including Kiri Te Kanawa, Jose Carreras and Brian May. And who said popular music is strictly for the kids? Press release follows: BBC PROMS IN THE PARK Saturday 11 September 2010, Hyde Park, London Stellar line-up also includes internationally acclaimed opera stars Dame Kiri Te … [Read more...]

Breaking news: Bryn Terfel in festival crash

Bryn Terfel's annual summer festival on the Faenol estate at Bangor in Wales has been cancelled for the second year running due to poor ticket sales - and this, despite £250,000 of public money given to the singer last month by the Welsh Assembly. The grant provoked widespread resentment, coming at a time when every arts organisation in the country is having to cut budgets. A dejected Terfel told BBC Wales: 'We have looked at the situation in great detail and from every possible angle. We have … [Read more...]

Gergiev’s mixed doubles

Performing two Mahler symphonies back to back promised to be more an athletic feat than an aesthetic one. By scheduling them at the BBC Proms in the same week as he conducted Salome at the Verbier Festival, Valery Gergiev seemed to be registering early for the triathlon in the 2012 London Olympic Games. A packed house awaited a record-breaking effort. The fourth symphony was semi-coherent. Gergiev took the opening sleighbells at an artificial plod, promising a few … [Read more...]

Guess what? Another composer in the bath…

  This is the Brazilian Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980) as you've never seen him before. Not sure about the glasses, but the rest seems true to life. He was known as 'the little poet' and he's revered as one of the fathers of the Bossa Nova.   What's he doing in the bath? Blame it on the bossa nova....       Thanks for the photograph are due to Fernando Novaes Duarte.       … [Read more...]

Three more composers in a bathtub – this time, no clothes

Diana Diaz has sent in three members of the rock band Menomena, classifying them as composers. Menomena are an indie band from Portland, Oregon. Its members are Brent Knopf, Justin Harris, and Danny Seim. Like Archimedes, they get many of their best ideas at bathtime. Enjoy. e.  … [Read more...]

Breaking news: Pletnev pulls out

The Russian pianist and conductor Mikhail Pletnev, charged with paedophile offences in Thailand and released on bail, has cancelled his appearances at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh Festival later this month. In a terse statement, issued through the Russian National Orchestra's press office, Pletnev said he needed the time to deal with the accusations against him and repeated that he was innocent of the alleged offences. Over the past week he has been seeking representation offers from … [Read more...]

The most composers you have ever seen in a bathtub

Reading left to right: Mark Adamo, Robert Spano, John Corigliano, Jennifer Higdon (it may take her a few years to live this down), Steve Reich (him, too) and John Mackey. You can read more about it - but not much more - on Mackey's site: http://ostimusic.com/RubDub.html … [Read more...]

No more Sunny boy

Bobby Hebb, who wrote the teenage hit Sunny - inescapable in my teens - has died. He was prompted to write it when his brother was knifed to death outside a Nashville nightclub, a day after the John F Kennedy assassination. Sunny was a girl who smiled at him. Jerry Ross produced the record. Here's the original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbUl_E-R91Q One of the oddest things about it is a resemblance to the Bond theme from Dr No (I think) that connects the first two verses. Hebb … [Read more...]

New boss at the Bolshoi – just like the movie

No-one who saw Radu Mihaileanu's delightful rom-com The Concert will be startled to learn that the Bolshoi Theatre has a new music director. In the film, it is the office cleaner who grabs the baton and takes the orchestra to Paris. In real life, the lucky loser, announced today in Moscow, is Vasily Sinaisky, a highly proficient conductor who has worked with the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, making several records for Chandos, and recently conducted the Shostakovich … [Read more...]

Boston Pops beat man moves to the Beeb

Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops since 1995, has been named chief conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, a band catering for light music and family concerts. Lockhart, 50, has also been music director of the Utah Symphony. A forthright character, he has not shirked public controversy with his predecessors and over his personal life (he went through a messy divorce with a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra). He will add a welcome splash of colour to the BBC's most … [Read more...]

Mahler in the Congo

    Well, would you believe it? Our man has made it to the heart of Africa, featuring on a rather lovely postage stamp of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The portrait is by R B Kitaj, and you can read the background to it in Why Mahler? The original can be seen in the Vienna State Opera and there is a copy of it hanging in my hallway at home. It's nice to see Gustav Mahler getting his fifteen cents of fame - actually, one franc fifty, but that's inflation - in a country without a … [Read more...]

Mahler’s busiest week

In 36 years of Mahler chasing, I cannot remember a week of more intensive performance than the one ahead - with the singular exception of the Mahler fest that Riccardo Chailly directed in Amsterdam in 1995. But that was a festival dedicated to Mahler; this is just the BBC Proms. In the week ahead at the Royal Albert Hall, and online the world over, you can hear Mahler's third symphony conducted by Donald Runnicles (4 Aug), the fourth and fifth from Valery Gergiev (Aug 5) and … [Read more...]

an ArtsJournal blog