Archive for March, 2010

Camille O’Sullivan

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Singing In These Shoes? by the late Kirsty MacColl.

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Protesters disrupt Jerusalem Quartet Wigmore Hall broadcast

Posted in BBC Radio 3, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

BBC Radio 3 pulled the plug on the broadcast of this recital, announcing a “disruption” at the Wigmore Hall. Listeners were startled to hear singing interrupt Mozart’s String Quartet in D major K. 575. I think the broadcast should have continued, but of course it is typical of the craven cowardice of the BBC that it did not.

Within an hour, the incident was reported in the Jewish Chronicle (and nowhere else):

A lunchtime performance by the Jerusalem Quartet at London’s Wigmore Hall, being broadcast live on BBC Radio Three, was taken off air partway through the concert on Monday afternoon after protesters disrupted the event. But the musicians played on and completed the Mozart and Ravel concert programme.

The clash came after four or five pro-Palestinian protesters bought tickets for the concert, and, about five to ten minutes into the music, began shouting and heckling the Israeli musicians. They shouted: “The Quartet, who are cultural ambassadors for the state of Israel, are promoting the interests of Israel and all its policies against the Palestinians, to the British public.”

The demonstrators were taken away by Wigmore Hall security officers and a decision was taken by the concert hall management to take the broadcast off-air “in order to deny these people publicity.”

A clearly shaken John Gilhooly, director of the Wigmore Hall, told the JC: “It is such a pity that music has become politicised.”

John Gilhooly should sit down and have a chat with the members of the Jerusalem Quartet about politicising music.

No doubt the protestors are feeling very pleased with themselves (they organised the demonstration through Twitter), but beyond making John Gilhooly sweat and irritating a couple of hundred people who couldn’t care less about the plight of Palestinians, what did they achieve?

Absolutely … nothing.


7 ways to stop musical “ambassadors” for Israel

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Ten Commandments for Concert-Goers

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Thou shalt hearken unto the music with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and all thy mind, to aid thee in thine endeavour. Study thou thy programme notes and hereby be sore fully prepared to garner the blessings of the inspired melodies which are about to be sounded.

Thou shalt not arrive late, for the stir of thy coming disturbeth those who did come in due season; neither shalt thou rush forth as a great wind at the interval or before the end of the programme; or shalt thou trample to thy left nor thy right the ushers or the doormen or the multitudes that are about thee.

Thou shalt keep in check thy coughings and thy sneezings for they are an abomination, and they shall bring forth evil execrations upon thee and upon thy household, even unto the third and fourth generations.

Thou shalt not rustle thy programme, for the noise thereof is not as the murmur of the leaves of the forest but brash and raucous and soothest not.

Thou shalt not “yahoo” unto thy relatives, nor unto thy friends, nor unto any member of thy club or of thy household, nor unto any of thy neighbours.

Thou shalt not whisper, for thy mouthings, howsoever hushed they may be, bring discord to the ear of those who sit about thee.

Thou shalt not chew with great show of sound or motion. Remember that thou art not as the kine of the meadow who do chew the cud in the pastoral serenity which is vouchsafed them.

Thou shalt not direct thy index finger at persons of public note and say unto thy neighbour, “Yonder goeth so and so,” but reflect that some day thou shalt perchance be a celebrity, and thou shalt be in great discomfort when thou art pointed at and thou shalt not be pleased one jot or tittle thereby.

Thou shalt not slumber, for in thy stupor thou hast ears and heareth not; peradventure thou possesseth a rumbling obbligato when thou sleepeth and, verily, the rabble may be aroused thereby to do thee grievous harm.

Thou shalt not become a self-ordained music critic and with booming voice comment garrulously about the players or the playing; neither shalt thou hum, or tap thy foot; for thou hast come as a listener and a lover of music, not as a critic nor as a performer, and remember that none among the multitudes has paid to hear thy hummings or thy tappings or to listen unto thine opinions.

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World’s oddest book title award

Posted in Books with tags , , , , on March 27, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

The annual prize for the oddest book title has been won by the splendidly eccentric Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes, by Dr Daina Taimina. Last year’s winner was The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais.

The Diagram prize has been awarded annually by The Bookseller magazine since 1978. Horace Bent, the magazine’s diarist, who administers it, said: “I think what won it for the book is that, very simply, the title is completely bonkers. On the one hand you have the typically feminine, gentle and woolly world of needlework and, on the other, the exciting but incredibly unwoolly world of hyperbolic geometry and negative curvature.”


Thirty years of odd titles

Some of my favourites from previous Diagram prize shortlists:

The Anger of Aubergines by Bulbul Sharma
Bombproof Your Horse by Sgt. Rick Pelicano
Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley
Living with Crazy Buttocks by Kaz Cooke
Fancy Coffins to Make Yourself by Dale Power
Highlights in the History of Concrete by Christopher C. Stanley
Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan by Robert Chenciner, Gabib Ismailov & Magomedkhan Magomedkhanov
Baboon Metaphysics by Dorothy Dorothy L Cheney and Robert M Seyfarth

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Brown Bread: Susana Walton

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

I have to say I find the Walton and Susana story fascinating – and I am not necessarily sure I really believe all of it. However, I particularly like the story of their courting in Argentina, where he asks her on a daily basis (a woman he had not previously even met) to marry him. I think sometimes one just knows, but even so …

I suppose today that type of behaviour would be regarded as stalking or harassment, but she obviously loved it, probably rather more than actually being married to Walton, in fact the obituary in the Telegraph makes one wonder how she managed to tolerate him:

The marriage began unpromisingly. Walton had given Susana a sex manual as a wedding present but informed her, on their wedding night, that children made him physically sick and that if she had any, he would divorce her. Unfortunately, neither he nor the manual had bothered to explain to her the mysteries of contraception and, inevitably, she soon became pregnant.

By this time the Waltons had moved to London, and it was clear that Susana would have to choose between Walton and the baby. She had no hesitation. Her husband, she decided, must come first. “As an artist, he needed space. He needed his wife to defend that space,” she explained. After employing the services of a backstreet abortionist in Chelsea, she was dangerously ill for a week.

Walton certainly seems to have been an unpleasant and adulterous husband, demanding that all be sacrificed for his great art.

Rupert Christiansen compares her with Wolfgang Wagner, both of them “keepers of the flame” and she certainly seemed to be indefatigable in that, especially when the music became unfashionable.

R.I.P. Susana Walton 1926-2010

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Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90 No. 3

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Alfred Brendel is one of my favourite pianists. Although he never changes a note or any other indication that I’ve ever heard, he still brings everything he plays to vivid life. I still treasure his 1970s recording of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Heinz Wallberg and the Vienna Pro Musica.

He said once that he never played anything the same way twice.

Portrait: Appeciating Brendel at 75

Vibrato: Idle Thoughts

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

I must say, having listened recently to Benjamin Britten’s recording of The Dream of Gerontius that like cholesterol there is good and bad vibrato. Yvonne Minton (what a beautiful voice) represents the good creative use of vibrato whereas Peter Pears represents the bad, using it permanently. Actually performances of Elgar’s music seem to suffer from excessive vibrato generally. Did he ask for it in scores? But of course Roger Norrington went too far the other way and played Elgar with no vibrato at all … with horrendous results.

I know that Pears’ voice is like Marmite – you love it or you hate it. But comparing his performance with (for instance) a more recent Gerontius release (from CBSO/Oramo), I much prefer the passion of Pears to Lavender who (with a rather all-purpose, non-expressive vibrato) sounds rather like a rather annoyed accountant, rather than a human being about to meet his maker.

Bad vibrato is the all-time killer for me as far as musical enjoyment is concerned (it keeps me away from a lot of opera).

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