Archive for January, 2010

Symphony No. 2 by Gustav Mahler

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Another clip from Sir Simon Rattle’s farewell concert with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 1998.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 is performed by the Hallé Orchestra under Markus Stenz this Thursday at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, part of the complete cycle marking the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth.


Modern composers on Gustav Mahler
Tom Service explores the passions that powered Mahler’s music

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Brown Bread: Jean Simmons

Posted in Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Jean Simmons, the British film star who played Ophelia to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, sang with Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls and co-starred with Gregory Peck, Paul Newman and Kirk Douglas, has died at the age of 80. Last year, the 60th anniversary of I’m Spartacus! coincided with the release of Shadows in the Sun, which was, apart from Jean Simmons’ performance, a complete turkey.

Here’s Wendy Ide reviewing Jean Simmons’ last film, Shadows in the Sun for the Times last year:

Shadows in the Sun is middlebrow mush wearing a handful of beads in an attempt to appear bohemian. A stilted family story set at the end of the 1960s, the film is unrelentingly bland and staggeringly uneventful. An octogenarian, Hannah (Jean Simmons), lives alone in a crumbling pile on the Norfolk coast. Her friendship with a beefy young loner, Joe (Jamie Dornan), is a comfort to her, as is the cannabis he supplies her to ease her pain. But her uptight son Robert (James Wilby) disapproves. And that’s basically it, barring a freak paddling accident. Its director, David Rocksavage, pads the tale with lots of scenic shots of coastal Norfolk. There’s more drama in a breakfast cereal ad.

R.I.P. Jean Simmons 1929-2010

Guardian obituary
Jean Simmons: Filmography

Brown Bread: Kate McGarrigle

Posted in Obituaries with tags , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

The singer Kate McGarrigle died of clear cell sarcoma on Monday at home in Montreal, aged 63. With her sister Anna she formed the acclaimed and influential folk duo the McGarrigle Sisters. McGarrigle was the former wife of singer Loudon Wainwright III (they divorced in 1976) and the mother of singers Rufus and Martha Wainwright

This is awfully sad. I didn’t even know she was ill.

Kate and Anna’s debut album will always be a “desert island disc” for me; a top album from start to finish. I’d never heard anything remotely like it at the time and sad to say that sort of album simply doesn’t get made anymore.

I saw them in the 1980s at the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden with the extended family and all the kids onstage (Rufus, Martha, Lily, I think even Kate and Anna’s elder sister Jane was also on that tour).

Kate was a wonderful songwriter too. To think the same person who wrote the chirpy, seductive “Kiss And Say Goodbye” could also come up with the dark, insecure “Go Leave” (both on that first album).

Kate McGarrigle remembered in the Guardian.

Kate McGarrigle: tributes from Rufus, Martha and Anna in the Times.

R.I.P. Kate McGarrigle 1946-2010

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More Bloody Lieder

Posted in BBC Radio 3, Music with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

As much as I love BBC Radio 3 I’m getting very fed up with the amount of song plugged on the station. I listen to the radio a lot and at random times and it amazes me how often I switch the radio on to be greeted by voice and piano and more often than not it’s lieder. Why so much of it?

I get the impression there’s a small but very dedicated following of lieder trying to force feed it to those of us that listen to BBC Radio 3. I would be much happier if the time devoted to lieder was cut by half and that time devoted to just as valid forms of great music such as top British composer Birtwistle, solo piano recitals, harp or organ recitals or even Gilbert and Sullivan.

These art forms now hardly get a look in these days, even as I write there’s a lieder recital being broadcast at this precise moment. What’s going on?

I have a number of friends that don’t care for it either, but my argument is it gets an disproportional amount of air time compared to other equally valid art forms. I know it’s hard to keep everybody happy all of the time, but I listen to BBC Radio 3 a lot and at varied times and the amount of times lieder gets aired is becoming very annoying, just too much of it.

I switch on the radio in the morning and my first words to myself and my cats are nearly always: “Bloody singing again!”

Hans Werner Henze: Total Immersion @ London’s Barbican

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

“Every year, 200 litres of olive oil are pressed from Henze’s ancient grove.”

Go to London to hear some Henze this weekend. Or pull out your own fingernails, it will be less painful.

Hans Werner Henze likes to play the victim. His supposed “ostracism by the post war avant-garde” needs to be read in the context of the fact that his work was played in 1950s Germany more often than that of any of his more avant-garde contemporaries, and he was on very chummy terms with all the individuals (save perhaps Herbert Eimert in Cologne) who ran the institutions which have subsequently come to be popularly associated with such a music (on the basis of a highly partial reading of their programming).

But even if he had the world’s most elaborate persecution complex, that would not gainsay his status as composer of some of the most lyrical, stimulating music of the last half century.

I have some time for his earlier music, but find much of the later work saccharine, kitschy, Hollywood-like, drawing in large measure upon too-transparent expressive clichés; or when not like this, rather academic in a Hindemith-like manner. In terms of the former, I feel his continual evocation of the supposedly hard time he had at the hands of the avant-garde is part and parcel of a strategy to legitimise further his own approach.

Henze’s music is simply dull.

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Grilled sardines with chickpeas

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , on January 13, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

Sardines work with all number of things – beetroot, horseradish, little roasted tomatoes … and chickpeas are very good, too. Their creamy texture and nutty flavour balance this oily little fish that tastes so completely of the sea.

8 very fresh sardines, scaled and gutted
enough olive oil to brush the sardines
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200g cooked, warm chickpeas
the juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
50ml extra-virgin olive oil
wedges of lemon to serve

Preheat your grill. Rub the sardines well with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Lay the sardines on your grill and cook for two minutes on one side before turning and cooking for a further couple of minutes on the underside.

While the sardines are cooking, dress the warm chickpeas with the lemon juice and olive oil, add the crushed garlic and chopped parsley, and stir well to combine.

Once the sardines are cooked, divide between four warm plates and spoon over the chickpeas. Serve with a wedge of lemon.

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