mon 21/10/2019

Classical Features

Sci-Fi Week: Scoring the Impossible

graham Rickson

Classical composers have always enjoyed depicting the implausible. Operas based on mythological subjects abound, creating near-impossible staging demands. Musical works based on science fiction are far rarer. Haydn's plodding opera Life on the Moon isn't one of his most scintillating works.

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theartsdesk in Stockholm: A Nobel Prize for Musical Excellence

David Nice

Should you not have caught one of the 20th century’s handful of greatest Wagnerian singers live - I did, just once, in a Prom of uneven excerpts - chances are that you first heard Birgit Nilsson in Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung on Sir Georg Solti’s Vienna Philharmonic Ring recording.

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theartsdesk in Bamberg: Top Town, Top Orchestra

David Nice

As a town of 70,000 or so people, Bamberg boxes dazzlingly above its weight in at least two spheres. The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, risen to giddy heights under its chief conductor of the last 14 years Jonathan Nott, is decisively among Germany’s top five, and acknowledged as such in its substantial state funding (to the enviable tune of 80 percent, a figure known elsewhere, I believe, only in Norway). And a galaxy of great buildings has won the place UNESCO World Heritage status.

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Remembering Christopher Hogwood (1941-2014)

theartsdesk

He was not only a bracing conductor/harpsichordist pioneer in period-instrument authenticity, writes David Nice, but also a gentleman and a scholar.

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theartsdesk in Verbier: Festival with Fireworks

alexandra Coghlan

Mahler’s Sixth Symphony is dominated by the doleful clang of cowbells. They are an other-worldly intrusion into an otherwise familiar musical scene – unless you happen to be in Verbier, that is, in which case they are just another everyday part of the aural landscape.

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theartsdesk in La Foce: War and Peace in Val d'Orcia

David Nice

“If this isn’t nice, what is?” Kurt Vonnegut’s vow to repeat his Uncle Alex’s mantra when things were going “sweetly and peacefully” has been much on my mind during various idylls this war-torn summer. It certainly applied to hearing three boys and a girl in their early teens play a cloudless early Haydn string quartet in the beautifully restored small neoclassical theatre of a perfect Umbrian hill town.

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theartsdesk at the East Neuk Festival: Littoral Schubertiad

David Nice

Schubert played and sung through a long summer day by the water: what could be more enchanting? The prospect did not take into account the pain in that all too short-lived genius’s late work: when interpreted by a world-class trio, quartet and pianists at the 10th East Neuk Festival, it could be exhausting.

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Lorin Maazel (1930-2014) on Puccini's Golden Girl

David Nice

I met one of the 20th century’s most impressive, if not always sympathetic, conductors twice, on both occasions to talk Puccini before La Scala recordings of La fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West) and Manon Lescaut.

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theartsdesk in Setúbal: Youth and music under the jacarandas

David Nice

José Mourinho is Setúbal’s most famous son. Non-Portuguese readers are not expected to know the two other celebrities most feted by this extraordinary port city on the estuary of the River Sado, with miles of sandy beaches opposite where a school of dolphins resides and the lush national park of the Arrábida mountain range just to the west.

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Extracts: John Tusa - Pain in the Arts

ismene Brown

In the midst of ferment as the arts world faces fast-shrinking public subsidy, Sir John Tusa, former managing director of the BBC World Service and the Barbican Arts Centre, publishes this week a brisk new book that urges arts and politicians to reject the emotive clichés and lazy token battles and focus on what matters. In Pain in the Arts, Tusa urges that both sides take personal responsibility for an essential part of human life.

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