sat 14/12/2019

Classical Features

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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theartsdesk in Dresden and Berlin: Happy Birthday, Richard Strauss

David Nice

Richard Strauss was born in Munich 150 years ago today. Christian Thielemann is celebrating the fact by conducting the Staatskapelle Dresden in the juiciest of all-Strauss operatic potpourris, a festive concert to be held in the city’s glorious Semperoper. What wouldn’t I give to hear Anja Harteros, alongside Anne Schwanewilms the loveliest of Strauss sopranos, and chaste nymph Daphne’s metamorphosis into a laurel in a peerless operatic epilogue?

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theartsdesk Q&A: Conductor Robin Ticciati

David Nice

Poised when I met him six weeks ago between 40th anniversary celebrations of  the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, of which he has been a shaping chief conductor for the past five years  and putting his new music directorship of Glyndebourne into action, Robin Ticciati hardly seemed like a man in positions of power, more an idealistic youth with a touch of the dreamer softening a powerful intellect.

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Unfinished business: completing Mozart

Roger Montgomery

Horn concertos don't make frequent appearances in the standard concert repertory and when they do it will usually be a work by Mozart or Richard Strauss. It wouldn't be entirely true to say that horn players feel keenly the lack of a serious core of works such as that available to pianists, string players and singers.

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RE:naissance: Festival under the influence

Matthew Sharp

Shakespeare's ubiquitous “planetary influence” is well-documented. As Stephen Marche points out in How Shakespeare Changed Everything, not much from our sex lives to the assassination of Lincoln remains untouched. And, of course, there's the language. You may think that what you are reading has more rhyme than reason, be madness (though there is method in it) or amount to nothing more than a wild goose chase.

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