shortest webern piece
devil painting barney’s version
stravinsky atomic misadventure
the demonic nuns of loudun
lizzie eats london
marco pierre white critical of jamie oliver
is opera dead
greek pasta salad pictures
can you cook clams with sherry
eggs tuna tortilla
is having potatoes and pasta too much
the temperance seven
end of an era harry potter
eton mess muffins
naked person in cheese
nigella lawson cabbage
represents roger norrington
full name of mr stravinsky
what do musicians think of the proms
one piece naked robin
wagner most intense pieces
toad in the hole
is hans zimmer classical
jug of bacon how to
shutting of salford docks
i hate eton
beverley callard wearing leather
whisky in porridge
Archive for classical
shortest webern piece
Pianist Lang Lang, described by BBC Proms director Roger Wright as “arguably the best known classical artist in the world”, will become the first artist ever to perform at both the Proms in the Park and the Royal Albert Hall on the same night.
Classical music meets comedy at the Proms for the first time. Tim Minchin, the Australian performer, presents an evening of music and laughs with Sue Perkins, cabaret duo Kit and The Widow, pianist Danny Driver, soprano Susan Bullock and the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra will take requests from the crowd in a highly unusual late night Prom. The audience will choose from a list of up to 300 pieces, none of which the orchestra has rehearsed.
The Spaghetti Western Orchestra will use rubber gloves and coat hangers to perform extracts from Sergio Leone film soundtracks. Roger Wright, controller of BBC Radio 3 and the director of the Proms, called them “five cracking musicians”.
Havergal Brian’s vast Gothic Symphony which has been rarely performed since it was composed in the 1920s will be played on 17 July when the 1,000 musicians required – including two orchestras and 10 choirs – are marshalled. Wright said: “Once we have fitted in the performers there will be hardly any room for the audience.”
Rossini’s William Tell is another work hardly ever performed. The opera lasts nearly five hours. Audiences will have a rare chance to hear this gripping story of Swiss nationalism conducted by the Royal Opera House music director, Antonio Pappano.
I can’t go on …
I enjoy a lot of Schoenberg’s music, in the broadest sense of “enjoy”. It’s not really music to relax or wind down to, it can be so intensely personal and subjective, especially the works of the free atonal period, exhibiting a plethora of intense emotions which tend towards the dark side. I don’t expect any more than a minority of classical music listeners will ever want to listen to it on a regular basis, but I think it is unique and meaningful music (if very much a product of a particular time and place) and does have an importance for that reason.
Certainly all art is very much a product of its time and place – the question is whether it still has anything to say to people here and now? That sort of sensibility that comes through in Schoenberg – rootlessness, alienation, inhabiting a certain precipice within “high culture” and the social world it inhabits, etc., certainly speaks to me, but I don’t find it wholly surprising if many others don’t find it relevant to them.
Schoenberg’s life beyond the concert-hall – his listing by the Third Reich as “degenerate”, his escape to the United States, his life as an émigré, his teaching there, his prominent position as a Jewish refugee – brought his name to a greater prominence than many of his contemporaries. His name became a byword for a kind of purposed complexity and intellectual rigour in music … to a wider public who’d never heard a note of it, but had heard of Arnold Schoenberg.
And they fervently believed that this Schoenberg man represented the very summation of everything they wouldn’t like in music, and should be avoided like the plague.
Think of the Askenazys, Mravinskys, Petrenkos, Kondrashins, Luganskys, Gergievs of this world.
Do you think they find a hidden voice in Russian classical music that no other musician can hear?
Many experts would dismiss any suggestion that nationality has any relevance whatever when it comes to performing music but then you think of all those Russian musicians and orchestras and you have to think again. There is no question in my view that the Russians seem to have a direct line to the composer’s soul (especially apparent in Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich) that no other nationality seems to possess.
At the same time, I also wonder if the St Petersburg band and other Russian outfits get fed up with playing their compatriots’ music when on tour. Wouldn’t they like to let rip with a little Mahler, or Strauss, or Elgar, occasionally?
If you talk to Russian musicians there is a real sense of respect when they tell you that “I studied with X who was the favourite student of Oistrakh” and this kind of thing. One often gets the impression of how seriously they regarded the handing down of the flame in terms of teaching – obviously with a strong emphasis on Russian music – and this did impart a tradition in performing their native composers.
Alhough in earlier times, the results of this lineage could be surprising. From the early professionalisation of music-making with the founding of the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1862, and that in Moscow three years later, Russian instrumental pedagogy was for several decades heavily staffed by foreigners (especially in St Petersburg, somewhat less so in Moscow). One of these was the Jewish-Hungarian, Leopold Auer, himself a student of Joseph Joachim. Now Auer, whilst heavily influenced by Joachim’s teaching, modified the so-called “Joachim grip”, with the arm very close to the body, somewhat locked in (which was taught quite extensively in the Berlin Musikhochschule, which Joachim founded). Both Auer and Joachim inveighed vociferously against the use of continuous vibrato. Yet three of Auer’s most important students – Mischa Elman, Efram Zimbalist and Jascha Heifetz – played a very significant role in establishing this practice towards its becoming the norm in the 1920s and 1930s. Within two generations of teachers we have gone from Joachim to Heifetz – a pretty major transformation in my opinion. Auer has been characterised as the most important teacher of the violin in Russia prior to the Soviet era (I know more about Russian pedagogy between 1862 and 1917 than afterwards, but certainly various people have suggested there was a very significant shift after the later date with the new types of politicisation of musical life), yet his own style of playing and teaching seems very far from those that developed at a later date.
Similarly the Polish Theodor Leschetizky, a student of Czerny and a teacher at St Petersburg from the very opening of the Conservatory (then later in Vienna), could teach Ossip Gabrilowitsch, Mark Hambourg, Ignacy Paderewski and Artur Schnabel – all extremely different players.
Now I do believe one can talk of schools of playing, especially centered around particular teaching institutions (certain ways of playing have been predominantly taught in London, Paris, Vienna, St Petersburg, Moscow, New York, etc.) and also the aesthetic norms and demands of various localised musical scenes (certain types of player or styles of playing tend to be favoured depending upon who is awarding prizes, running concert series, radio stations, etc.). And the same for composition. But I’m not so convinced about how much the lineage counts with the best players, many of whom often move in a quite different direction to their teachers.
A survey reveals that Britons are clueless about classical music. A third of participants have never listened to the genre and 4% wrongly identified a type of Italian cheese ball as a composer.
One in three people (33%) have never listened to classical music and 4% of those surveyed wrongly identified Bocconcini – small Italian cheese balls – as a composer. The Reader’s Digest survey of 1,516 people also found that most were unable to link composers to their masterpieces. Three out of four (75%) did not know that Elgar wrote Pomp and Circumstance, and 27% did not even know he was a composer. Sixty-eight percent did not know Tchaikovsky wrote the 1812 Overture.
The Welsh were more likely to own some Vivaldi or Wagner, with 72% possessing at least one classical CD compared with the British average of 59%.
Most participants (61%) said they liked classical music, with the older generation much keener than the younger generation.
Gill Hudson, editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, said:
As our survey shows, there’s clearly an appetite for classical music. I suspect that a combination of uninspired teaching and the elitism that surrounds much of the genre has alienated many people, hence the lack of knowledge of some of the greatest classical music and composers of all time. Classical music at its best can be moving, life-enhancing and uplifting. It should be accessible to all.
The curators and administrators of the Handel House Museum in Mayfair, London, are now preparing to pack up their files, dismantle their desks and open up the rooms where Hendrix lived to visitors to mark the 40th anniversary of his death.
Twin blue plaques on the outside wall pay tribute to the extraordinary flatmates, separated by two centuries, who lived in 23 and 25 Brook Street, once separate buildings but long since interconnected.
Independent Record Store Day celebrates these fast-disappearing bastions of alternative culture. Click the link and read leading musicians on what their favourite record shops mean to them.
I have fond memories of Vincent’s, a record shop specialising in classical music, hidden away up Needless Alley in Birmingham city centre.
Why are there no shops like this nowadays?
Back when the classical album was an important sub-set of music buying, the listener was prepared to invest in their recordings. This was in the tacit understanding that paying a premium meant getting a better quality product, and paying those who made that product a living wage.
Then everyone got greedy. Performers began to act like celebrities and demand celebrity salaries. At the same time, buyers started bargain hunting and the whole shooting match began to collapse in upon itself.
The problem going forward is one of educating the next generation. Good, independent record shops (like Vincent’s) had a knowledgeable staff who could make customers progress from genre to genre and deepen the listener’s interest and understanding of the music. I have the guy from a little specialist shop called Musgrave’s Records to thank for taking my teenage interest in Emerson Lake & Palmer into an interest in Aaron Copland and from there pointing me towards Samuel Barber, Albinoni and then onward. Were I simply buying off iTunes or Amazon, my teenage interest in ELP would have gone no further than the limits of prog rock.
His shop closed long ago, because people kept asking for premium products at discount prices.
This is the key problem. Classical music does not sell in the sort of numbers to make price discounting economically viable for most labels. This means the output and scope of a label is either reduced to pop classics (that sell comparatively well), forced to sell back catalogue and not much else or follow the Naxos model of recording the Smolensk Symphony Orchestra or the Latvian Dinner Ladies String Quartet because they are cheap.
The majority of classical recordings currently released sell less than 10,000 at the moment. With those numbers, the costs involved in making a classical recording are difficult to recoup at premium price, but you want to pay as little as possible for these recordings. How do you expect this to last?
Is it any wonder classical labels and classical stores are closing?
It’s one of the great ironies of the classical concert experience – the most explosive, exhilarating music is often greeted by total silence. Let our applause be heard, says Alex Ross, who gave the Royal Philharmic Society lecture at the Wigmore Hall, London.
I have a lot of time for Alex Ross, and I say that as someone not massively keen on music journalism. He is a tireless champion of cutting through all the tiresome “traditions” that permeate the environment of “classical” music performance, and which seems so beloved of dullards everywhere. When to clap? What should I wear? And so on.
In “The Rest is Noise” I like the connections Ross makes with jazz and so-called “difficult” modern music. He’s not on virgin territory here: Wilfrid Mellers’ “Music in a New Found Land” pioneered this approach, albeit to American music only. That book however was a drier read; I finished Ross’s book even before it had been published in the UK, and found it to be one of the most readable music histories I’d encountered for a long time.
However, I find myself at odds with his point about how ubiquitous some elements of modernism has become. Whilst he’s not wrong to suggest many modernist touches have become a staple of horror film soundtracks, I think it’s a dangerous route to go down. It gives the impression that much 20th century music is designed simply to be eerie and unsettling. Some of it surely is, but we only need to hear the use of Bartók in Kubrick’s “The Shining” to see how great music can be damned by excursions into popular culture.
Someone asked me if the soundtrack to the film Gladiator could be regarded as classical music. Seriously. The conversation turned to the similarities between the battle scene and Mars from Gustav Holst’s Planets Suite. But he also asked if the zither/vocals and the charismatic droning of a woman’s voice in the closing titles was also derived from older music.
I have a CD entitled “Music of the Post-Byzantine High Society” by Christodoulos Halaris, and there appear to be some superficial similarities to the two works.
The music for Gladiator also features the extraordinary Jivan Gasparyan who is probably the greatest duduk player in the world, and there is an obvious nod to Armenian music.
To get back to the question: “classical music” is unfortunately a term applied so widely and loosely that it’s impossible to arrive at a consensus. For instance, some people would say it is music written in the idiom that predominated in Europe between about 1750 and 1828 (i.e. from the death of J.S. Bach to the death of Beethoven), while others seem to think that anything played by an orchestra including violins is “classical” , even if it’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. So, subjective taste influences the use of the term.
Music composed to accompany films and TV programmes is often written for orchestras similar to those used in 19th and 20th century symphonies, and the musical idiom used often incorporates features of the “classical” music that might have been used in the period in which the film’s story is set, e.g. the Napoleonic Wars or Edwardian England, such as Patrick Gowers’ music for the Granada TV “Sherlock Holmes” which emulates part of a romantic violin concerto.
But “part of” is an important consideration, I think. Film music rarely needs to be a convincing or extended structure, because it is usually heard for a minute or so and then faded out for dialogue. This, and the fact that it often deliberately imitates the music of a previous century, may explain why many people consider it in a separate category from what they call “classical music”.
This is from a recent edition of Private Eye. This sums up so perfectly the reasons I can’t stand Classic FM, (apart from the predictable choice of repertoire, adverts, and patronising presenters of course), that I thought it worth reproducing in full:
The formula of screaming ignorance, kitsch and smug self-satisfaction that is Classic FM isn’t new. But it’s intensified since BBC Radio 3 won Station of the Year in last month’s Sony awards. The CFM bosses weren’t happy at all; and so to divert attention they increased sharply the volume of their hymns of self-love.
To select one absurdity among many, they’re advertising a new, double CD with the title “Made Famous by Classic FM”. And what are the pieces CFM has made famous? Well, there’s The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams, who of course owed his career to CFM. There’s Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which did get briefly a bit of exposure on some film or other, but it was a long time ago. Then there’s the Clarinet Concerto by an unknown called, er, Mozart (but only the second movement: Wolfgang will have to wait for CFM to make the rest of his effort famous). And Handel’s coronation anthem Zadok the Priest – what’s a royal investiture, after all, without a Classic FM soundtrack?
As if this guff weren’t bad enough, the CFM website (which incidentally commends the theme from Star Wars as a wedding anthem) also catalogues the Classic FM empire. There, music lovers will be interested to learn that the station has its own orchestras: the LSO, the Philharmonia, the RLPO (“CFM’s Orchestra in the North West”) and the Royal Scottish National (“CFM’s Orchestra in Scotland”). It also has its own opera company, apparently, Welsh National Opera, and a music college. Very impressive – and great news for hard-pressed taxpayers who were under the illusion it was they who propped up these institutions.
The bad news for Classic FM is that several legally-minded music lovers, not amused by the station’s absurd claims, are considering a test case under trade descriptions legislation. If it goes ahead, it will be interesting to see what evidence CFM produces to verify its ownership of the LSO and its gift of celebrity to Mozart. Even if the case is thrown out as frivolous, the sight of CFM in court won’t be wasted on its many friends at Broadcasting House.
We as a nation are not exactly popular anyway in many (sorry, most) parts of the world. And I bet our continental neighbours are now laughing their heads off at this attempt by CFM to demonstrate our so called musical enlightenment. What this sham station can’t see is, that what is routine and standard fare for them is somehow a highbrow excursion for us, a lacking we are blind and deaf to. A bit like the little kid that lectures grown-ups from the benefit of his greater knowledge. And so they laugh.
I don’t like Classic FM and I agree that it’s not aimed at me. What a shame though that one of the best presenters of music on radio, Natalie Wheen, fell out with BBC Radio 3 and is now only on Classic FM. I would just add, for the benefit of those who never listen to it, that much of Classic FM is no worse than BBC Radio 3’s more populist output.