main: March 2008 Archives
I first realised there was a problem with Alfred Brendel when, a decade ago over dinner with the Menuhins, he muttered 'you made an intellectual of me,' and turned his head away.
I knew what he was on about, just about. Some time before, I had written a playful op-ed dividing pianists into two categories, eggheads and fruitcakes. The first are balding brainboxes who commune with Schopenhauer in their down time. The other category is full of nuts like Vladimir de Pachmann, who carried a smelly sock that he claimed belonged to Chopin, and Vladimir Horowitz who only gave recitals at 4pm and lived on a diet of Dover sole.
On balance, I reckoned, Mr B belonged to Category A. Apparently, he has never forgiven me.
Last weekend in a Guardian quiz, he was asked: 'What is the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?' Alfred Brendel replied: 'Cerebral pianist (Norman Lebrecht).'
Well, I guess no critic gets it right all the time, but when an artist cites Stendhal and Bunuel as his leisure pastimes and Peter Brook as his most admired living person, it might be reasonable to suggest that he has a whiff of bookishness about him, no matter how wacky an eccentric he would like to seem.
Even in his last season of playing concerts, I don't see Mr B coming on stage in a polka-dot tie and tutu. He is certifiably sane and fit for purpose, which is more than can be said of one or two younger colleagues. He is also unbendingly serious in his approach to music.
I am truly sorry for having cut him to the quick. I certainly didn't mean 'intellectual' in the English, pejorative sense, meaning someone not fit to be seen on BBC television.
Alfred, this is an apology. If you promise to play another couple of years, I'll upgrade you in my next piece to fruit-and-nut. Deal?
The German magazine Partituren has asked 52 critics to name their current hottie. Top of the singers is Juan Diego Florez, best composer is Hans Werner Henze and fastest up-and-coming is Gustavo Dudamel. No surprises, there.
But when it comes to favourite orchestra, a large majority of critics plump for the Freiburg Baroque ensemble, followed at some distance by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie of Bremen. In third place, with just three votes, stands the Berlin Philharmonic, supposedly champions of the world.
Well, a poll is a poll is a good way to fill six pages. But what jumped out at me from this survey was the breakdown which showed that critics who live in Berlin voted more than 2-1 for Freiburg against their local ensemble. These are people who hear Rattle & Co perform week in, week out. They don't seem too impressed. Perhaps they ought to tell us why.
Elsewhere in the mag, there is a long piece of hagiolatry on Herbert von Karajan by one of his misty-eyed biographers. Say what you like about the K brand, but in his time no German magazine would have dared to place his orchestra third to some baroque outfit and a chamber phil - not without Herbie's lawyers having the issue injuncted before it hit the newsstands. Those were the days...
Here's the survey, for those that read German:
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Joe Horowitz on music
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog