Wednesday, April 26, 2006

And still more...

Stormin' Norman is the latest writer to applaud the new Elgar Concerto CD - read his pithy piece from La Scena Musicale here. Recommended heartily for anyone who doesn't like English music, less heartily for patriots of all things green and pleasant, but very heartily indeed for Graffin groupies and Elgar fiddle concerto fans.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More about Elgar violin concerto...

Addendum to Island Mentalities: the CD that sparked my article about Elgar, Kreisler and the original Elgar Violin Concerto manuscript is being released today. The soloist is Philippe Graffin, who I reckon has the romantic sensibility nearest to good old Fritz of any violinist working today, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Vernon Handley. Ordering details from Avie Records.

No excuses for recent hiatus in blog's just that I haven't been doing much, at least not outside my study. In-study activities have included producing an Indy review section cover feature on Placido Domingo, which appeared last Friday, plus writing up my interview with someone who may be the world's greatest pianist (watch this space) and editing Book No.2. Meanwhile Hodder is reprinting the hardback of RITES OF SPRING, which is rather good news!

Sunday, April 16, 2006


How long do you think it took the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff to sell out the forthcoming Ring Cycle to be performed by the Mariinsky and Valery Gergiev?

1. 4 hours
2. 48 hours
3. 4 days
4. 4 weeks

Friday, April 14, 2006

Theatres of

BBC Radio 3 is broadcasting Wagner's Ring Cycle complete on Easter Monday. The Guardian made Charlotte Higgins test-drive the idea and here's her reaction.

One of the finest Wagner experts I know found his lifelong fascination for the composer sparked into existence when his uni flatmates threw him out for 24 hours so that they could perform exactly the same exercise. He wanted to know what made them tick, and the rest is history: he's now a prof at Oxford.

I've not dared try this at home, but I do broadly share La Higgins's views on the individual operas - Walkure and Gotterdammerung come out as the clear winners, with Siegfried proving less thrilling and Rhinegold whizzing by like a deceptively pleasant fairy-tale. The father-daughter relationship in Walkure is my favourite thing in the whole cycle and the apocalypse of the Immolation Scene is as mind-blowing now as it was that time I switched on Classic FM while driving down the M3, heard it & then discovered I was doing 100mph. It's some of the most astonishing music ever written, but can one swallow it in one gulp? If you want to try, Monday's your chance.

By the way, I was commissioned to write an article about Gotterdammerung & why it's important, ahead of Covent Garden's new production that opens next week. What with one thing and another, it took me a week to do this. Then it turned out that someone in the News section had done something similar ahead of us in Arts, so my piece never came out. I've started a section in my permasite Archive to provide a home for such orphans, which do occur now and then. Find it here (you'll need to scroll to the bottom of the page).

For some light relief, Richard Morrison, in today's Times, is pretty perplexed by his latest evening at the Barbican. Read his write-up of Marina Laszlo's performance here...

Happy Easter/Pesach/Springtime, everyone!