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Category archive: Classical music
You don’t have to believe that animals either have or should have rights to realise that people who are gratuitously cruel to animals are likely to be more cruel than usual to their fellow humans. But what of fake cruelty to fake animals leading to real cruelty to real creatures, animal or human? I imagine there is some kind of correlation there too, although my googling skills fell short of finding an appropriate link to piece demonstrating that.
Being cruel to a fake animal that another human loves is clearly very cruel, to the human.
As was, I think, this demonstration of fake cruelty that recently hit the internet. That link is not for those who are squeamish about beheaded teddy bears.
And what of people who are nice to fake animals?
Here is a picture I took in my favourite London shop, Gramex in Lower Marsh, in which there currently resides a teddy bear who was recently rescued from sleeping rough, by Gramex proprietor Roger Hewland:
If you consequently suspect that Roger Hewland is a kind man, your suspicion would be entirely correct. I agree with you that kindness to fake animals and kindness to real people are probably also correlated.
I sometimes drop into Gramex just to use the toilet. Never has the expression “spend a penny” been less appropriate.
On January 20th I attended one of Christian Michel’s 6/20 meetings. The subject was: The Meaning of Life. To be rather more exact, it was: What kind of question is the question “What is the meaning of life?”
So, when I was making my way home, via Earls Court Underground Station, I guess I was in a Meaning of Life kind of mood. Which might explain why I took this photo:
This particular message is a bit too sentimental for my liking. Those little hearts put me right off. But actually, I don’t really object to these little sermons that the Underground has taken to erecting at the entrance to its stations. This is because something that is merely written, no matter how big the lettering, is easily ignored. I think this is one of the things I like about signs and adverts and posters and notices. You can pay them all the attention you want to pay them, from a great deal, right the way down to absolutely nothing.
This is in sharp contrast to those appalling underground train guards who insist on preaching sermons over the intercom, instead of just telling you about how you have stopped in between stations because of a train still stuck at the next station. Those sermons are impossible to avoid.
See also those buskers who actually climb onto trains and play. Both these buskers and the tube train intercom sermonisers are on my personal Room 101 list.
The above also explains why Modern Art is so successful, but why, on the other hand, Modern Classical Music is so profoundly unsuccessful. It’s not that Modern Art is mostly good while Modern Classical Music is mostly crap. Modern Art is also mostly crap. But, crucially, when a piece of Modern Classical Music traps you (when played live, in between two bits of proper Classical Music), you are stuck with it until it finishes. Modern Art, in total contrast, is, when it’s crap, crap that is easily ignored. Even when it ambushes you in an Art gallery, you can still just walk right past it. Or, you can photo it, and then walk right past it.
I just started watching the Opera North Ring Cycle on BBC4 TV. Very good.
The basic problem with The Ring is how to stage it, and how to do the costumes. Extreme Trad, where they all dress like nineteenth century fictional fantasy characters almost always looks ridiculous, like a bunch of opera singers clumping about in silly costumers on a daft stage, which is of course what they are. (The only way to do that would be to do it as a fantasy cartoon movie. Which I hope somebody will eventually get around to doing.) But modern costumes on a stage that looks like the inside of a nuclear power station is even sillier, because it plays havoc with Wagner’s very carefully scripted symbolism. You end up with blokes who look like merchant bankers or geography teachers, holding spears and waving them at steam turbines, or some such ancient-modern mish-mash. Either that or they go totally modern, and rewrite the opera. Yes. They literally do not perform Wagner. If you change the Rhine and its maidens into a nightclub and some strippers, that’s something else, and something else pretty damn stupid.
What Opera North have done is film a stage performance. The singers all wear suits and dresses, albeit suits and dresses that were very carefully chosen. And then on top of that is photographically superimposed Wagner scenery, and, when it helps (it often does), simple words on the screen to tell you what is happening. Plus, because it’s the telly, you get subtitles to tell you what they’re singing about. (CDs have the best costumes, i.e. no damn costumes, but you do need to know what they’re singing, if you don’t do German.) It’s hard to describe, but I don’t need to, because you can sample it here, it you care to.
The Rhinemaidens are three opera singers in matching dresses on a stage, with wateriness added on top of them. At no point are you asked to believe that they are actually swimming about, naked, under water for minutes on end, and singing. I have never before not seen that scene look totally ridiculous, one way or another, and I bet it was totally ridiculous, one way or another, on the first night. This time, it was not ridiculous. That’s how very, very good this production was.
I particularly liked how, when Donner was summoning forth the right sort of weather for the Gods to enter Valhalla, at the end of Das Rhinegold, he was dressed like a conductor. He was dressed that way throughout, but it worked especially well for that moment.
Loge was particularly good, both as an actor and as a singer. His look and manner reminded me a bit of Stan Laurel.
When I make my way, as I do from time to time, to Gramex (which is near to Waterloo) to get another fix of classical CDs, I tend to use the 507 single decker bus.
Many bus stops have become a lot more customer friendly in recent years by having electronic notice boards which say what buses are arriving, where they will go, and when they can be expected to arrive. Very soothing, especially if you are not in the habit of tracking buses with your mobile, as many are, but not me.
My 507 bus stop sports no such signs, probably because the 507 is the only bus that stops there, and there will be another one soon because they are very frequent.
But inside these 507s, I am starting to see signs looking like this:
Again, very soothing. You get to see progress. You get to learn when you need to be making a move towards the door, if you are seated far away from the door, so you wont be barging past people in a hurry. It all adds to the sense you have that buses are nicer to be on than they used to be.
Tragically, this afternoon, what one of these signs was saying was merely this:
Not even the one item of information it did still offer was right. It was not 6.28pm, nowhere near.
But, I am anything but scornful about this little setback. New kit needs the bugs worked out of it. Things get tried out, and they go wrong. The significant thing here is that these kinds of notices are being deployed, not that they don’t yet work as well as they should.
Here is an earlier posting I did about the bus stop signs, also with photos. And that bus stop sign was malfunctioning also, hence that posting also, and that didn’t stop them pressing ahead with installing those signs either. Quite right too.
Click on TRUMP to get the Opera House.
This fantastically cost-effective piece of political signage reminds me of the stuff that Julian Lewis MP used do to CND demos in the eighties. They’d put however many hundred thousand pro-Soviet bodies on the street, and he’d put one big sign across the top of Whitehall for them all the walk under, saying something like: SOVIET STOOGES. His sign would get about half the news coverage. Drove them nuts.
Classical music making is mostly museum curation. Nothing wrong with that, because it is the best museum ever. But that is what it mostly is. Perhaps for this reason, it has long been speculated that classical music would soon stop being re-performed or re-recorded. But there seems to be little sign of this happening.
Here, to illustrate the non-demise of classical music making, is a list of currently performing pianists. It was rather hastily compiled. Perhaps some of those listed have retired. Some may even have died. And there are surely many omissions, including, quite possibly, some major omissions, including, for instance people who I am assuming to be retired or dead who are nothing of the kind.
Also, there must be a huge number of Asian pianists who are very, very good, but who I have simply not noticed the existence of. I live in London, and this list surely reflects that, both with its inclusions and its exclusions.
The number at the end of each clutch is simply me counting how many there are starting with each letter, thereby making it easier for me to count the total. It came to: 175.
Depending on how you determine inclusion or exclusion, the list could be far longer. I went for things like: Have I personally heard of them? Have they done recent recording? Are they hailed as good by classical music critics? Do I personally like their playing?
I seriously doubt whether there have ever before been as many pianists roaming the earth, performing this amazing music, mostly by dead people.
So, here we go:
Pierre-Laurent Aimard - Dimitri Alexeev - Piotr Anderszewski - Leif Ove Andsnes - Nicholas Angelich - Martha Argerich - Vladimir Ashkenazy - Yulianna Avdeeva - (8)
Sergei Babayan - Andrea Bacchetti - Daniel Barenboim - Martin James Bartlett – Jean-Efflam-Bavouzet - Alessio Bax - Mark Bebbington - Markus Becker - Boris Berezovsky - Boris Berman - Michel Beroff - Kristian Bezuidenhout - Jonathan Biss - Christian Blackshaw - Rafal Blechacz - Frank Braley - Ronald Brautigam - Yefim Bronfman - Rudolf Buchbinder - Khatia Buniatishvili - (20)
Bertrand Chamayou - Frederic Chiu - Seong-Jin Cho - Arnaldo Cohen - Imogen Cooper - (5)
Alexandra Dariescu - Lise de la Salle - Jorg Demus - Jeremy Denk - Peter Donohoe - Barry Douglas - Danny Driver - Francois-Rene Duchable (8)
Severin von Eckardstein - Michael Endres - Karl Engel - (3)
Til Fellner - Vladimir Feltsman - Janina Fialkowska - Ingrid Fliter - David Fray - Nelson Freire - Benjamin Frith - (7)
Ivana Gavric - Alexander Gavrylyuk - Boris Giltberg - Havard Gimse - Bernd Glemser - Nelson Goerner - Anna Gourari - David Greilsammer - Helene Grimaud - Benjamin Grosvenor - Horacio Guitierrez - Francois-Frederic Guy - (12)
Marc-Andre Hamelin - Wolf Harden - Rustem Hayrouodinoff - Martin Helmchen - Angela Hewitt - Peter Hill - Ian Hobson - Stephen Hough - Leslie Howard - Ching-Yun Hu - Bruce Hungerford - (11)
Valentina Igoshina - Ivan Ilic - (2)
Peter Jablonski - Paul Jacobs - Ingrid Jakoby - Martin Jones - (3)
Cyprien Katsaris - Freddy Kempf - Kevin Kenner - Olga Kern - Evgeny Kissin - Mari Kodama - Pavel Kolesnikov - (7)
Piers Lane - Lang Lang - Dejan Lazic - Eric Le Sage - John Lenehan - Elizabeth Leonskaja - Igor Levit - Daniel Levy - Paul Lewis - Yundi Li - Jenny Lin - Jan Lisiecki - Valentina Lisitsa - Louis Lortie = Alexei Lubimov - Nikolai Lugansky - (16)
Joanna MacGregor - Alexander Madzar - Oleg Marshev - Denis Matsuev - Leon McCawley - Alexander Melnikov - Gabriela Montero - Joseph Moog - Vanessa Benelli Mosell - Olli Mustonen - (10)
Jon Nakamatsu - Eldar Nebolsin - Francesco Nikolosi - David Owen Norris - (4)
Noriko Ogawa - Garrick Ohlsson - Gerhard Oppitz - Christina Ortiz - Steven Osborne - Alice Sara Ott - (6)
Enrico Pace - Murray Perahia - Javier Perianes - Alfredo Perl - Maria Perrotta - Daniel-Ben Pienaar - Maria Joao Pires - Artur Pizarro - Jonathan Plowright - Awadagin Pratt - Menahem Pressler - Vassily Primakov - (12)
Beatrice Rana - James Rhodes - Pascal Roge - Alexander Romanovsky - Martin Roscoe - Michael Rudy - (6)
Fazil Say - Konstantin Scherbakov - Andras Schiff - Dimitris Sgouros - Howard Shelley - Grigory Sokolov - Andreas Staier - Kathryn Stott - Martin Stadtfeld - Yevgeny Sudbin - (10)
Alexandre Tharaud - Jean-Yves Thibaudet - Cedric Tiberghien - Sergio Tiempo - Geoffrey Tozer - Daniil Trifonov - Simon Trpceski - Noboyuki Tsujii - (9)
Mitsuko Uchida - Florian Uhlig - (2)
Nick Van Bloss - Denes Varjon - Stephan Vladar - Lars Vogt - Arcadi Volodos - (6)
Wiayin Wang - Yuja Wang - Ashley Wass - Llyr Williams - Ingolf Wunder - Klara Wurtz - (6)
Christian Zacharias - Krystian Zimmerman – (2)
That’s a lot of pianists. All the major items of the piano repertoire have each received numerous recordings, and they each get performed somewhere on earth about every other day, and in the case of the popular piano concertos, several times a day. It just refuses to stop. The classical audience keeps aging, and then dying, only to be replaced by more aging people, who also then die, and so it goes on.
Real comments here are very rare, so all real comments on this would be very welcome. But especially welcome would be comments informing me of major omissions to that list.
This afternoon I read in the Evening Standard that Chelsea FC were hoping to get planning permission for a big new stadium, and sure enough, this evening, they got it. I guess they’re all pretty happy there, what with Chelsea being top of the Premier League and all. (Although, I can’t help mentioning their recent winning-streak ending loss by Spurs.)
Here’s how it is reckoned the new stadium will look (I found this picture here), from above, when it’s dark:
The architects are Herzog de Meuron, the same firm that did the Tate Modern Extension. And, they also did that amazing new opera house out in the estuary in Hamburg. And hey, that opened today, according to that report. Blog and learn.
But back to that Chelsea stadium, what strikes me, yet again, about this major eruption of architectural modernism is that while it is very modern, it is also very carefully crafted to fit the inevitably rather oddly shaped site. Indeed, the architects make use of this odd shape to give their stadium its rather particular, asymmetrical shape, while nevertheless contriving an exact rectangle in the middle, in the manner required by the rules of football. Form follows site plan. That’s the way modern architecture is now done.
(It would seem that the exact same principle applied to the new Hamburg opera house also. It was put on top of an “historic brick base”. A brick base, I’m guessing, which was whatever shape it was, and could not be otherwise.)
And what also strikes me, yet again, is what a total nightmare it would have been to have attempted a design like this Chelsea stadium without computers to keep track of everything and handle all those asymmetrical shapes.
(The Hamburg opera house was plagued with delays and cost overruns and defects and took a famously long time to finish. But that’s a different story.)
I have a new CD player which has the delightful property that it does not put a little pause in between tracks. My previous CD player, an abomination perpetrated by something called Cambridge Audio, does insert such gaps. This doesn’t matter, mostly, because mostly the tracks I want to listen to have gaps between them anyway, so gaps that are a tiny bit bigger are not a problem. But if you are listening to one of those classical pieces which is played in one continuous lump, but which is divided up into episodes on the CD, and when each of these episodes is given a separate track, the effect is disastrous. A total deal breaker. Strauss Alpine Symphony Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini or Corelli Variations. Almost any opera. There are actually a lot of such pieces.
Just after buying this abominable device, and before I started suffering from its vile gap habit, I also acquired a CD of Daniil Trifonov doing several Rachmaninov variations pieces, and it was while attempting to listen to this CD that I discovered how appalling this Cambridge Audio CD player was.
So now I have a new CD player, which leaves no gaps, and I went looking for that Trifonov CD, in order to actually enjoy it for the first time. But then came the mystery. I couldn’t find it. I have a vague recollection of putting this CD in a different place, to play it on a different player, I think. But what different place? Did I even own this CD at all? Had I only imagined owning it, and had I actually played another CD of those Rachmaninov pieces?
As I searched I realised that I was tidying up. I guess there are two ways to look for something. You made the place even more of a mess, or you make it less of a mess. And, if only because there was nowhere to put any mess I created, I found myself actually reducing the mess. And once I found myself doing that, I also found myself rereading this, which is me telling me about an earlier effort along similar lines.
I may never find that Trifonov CD. But if an imaginary CD causes me to contrive the reality of a more tidy home, ...
An enlarged Dinky Toy in Belgravia
John Croft: Composition is not research
Pletnev plays Haydn and I own it!
I want to write more here about music
Mozart’s Requiem in Narbonne
John Cage does Sudoku
A bus ride and tea versus one of the best concert halls in the world
Bach’s development of the most intense musical vision from a straitened environment
A machine for playing in that nobody knows how to design
I slept right through it
Ronald Harwood on Karajan
On clapping in between movements at classical concerts
Out and about with GD1 (3): Baritone borrows my charger
Church not dwarfed by anything
Paul Johnson on Mozart and Da Ponte
Ruddigore in Blackfriars
Paul Johnson on what the young Mozart was up against
An interesting front page story
Snohetta does zig zag roofs for competitive cities
Going from knowing a piece of music to also knowing what it is
The ROH bar and its floating-in-the-air drinkers
Incidental Last Friday details
To Covent Garden (1): The twisty footbridge
Photoing at the ASI party
The Magic Flute at the RCM
Pavarotti could not read music (very well)
The man who photoed the CDs in Gramex this afternoon
On the unappealingness of classical music on the internet
Having a baby can change or ruin your voice
A speculation about why Great Conductors carry on for so long
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom musical quote of the day
PID at the Times
Vespa GS in Lower Marsh
The joyful excitement of the Festival lyrique international de Belle-Île-en-Mer
Noah – Cosi at the Imax – Big Blue Cock
Happiness is a wallet that I didn’t lose after all
Christopher Seaman on conducting
The ROH from the ME Rooftop Bar
Bits of music at non-musical blogs
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Quotes from there
Amazon pricing puzzle
Steve Davies talk last night
Wedding photography (6): The Wedding and the Reception
Classical CDs from Gramex
Big London Things with clutter in the foreground
A (slightly delayed) Happy New Year
England squeak through against Scotland
Knowing it but not knowing it
76 operas and a monument in the wrong place for Hermann the German
Bizarre History - Johannes Brahms did not murder cats
Shostakovich with cat
An amazon reviewer defends Alex Ross
Mozart might have become a criminal
Dawkins does better sound than God ever did
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
A down and up weekend
Only up to some random linkage and a little felinity
Unusual leg extension
An after-echo of the creation of the world - Burgon recycles Milhaud
How building St Peter’s Rome split the Catholic Church and how marzipan was invented in Luebeck
Scrounging Englishmen and stories too good to check
Alex Ross on Sibelius
Llyr Williams and Llyr Williams play Bach
MP3 Haydn symphonies
Ingrid Fliter has a problem with the piano
Our shortening atten … ooh look!
On Bernstein – and Previn
Handel in London – and an angelic tenor aria
“. . . and the air froze . . .”
“Dying is a fulltime business. You haven’t time to do a lap of honour.”
A little drunk blogging
On not seeing Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra
Leonidas Kavakos (and a pianist) at the Wigmore Hall
Further thoughts on Karajan’s conducting
Lang Lang crushes Yundi Li!
Cheap CDs and sopranos I’ve never heard of
Solo piano solace – John Lenehan
Mahler’s 9th in Vienna in 1938
Gramophone are putting their back catalogue of articles online for free
On classical music voice addiction
Nigel Kennedy’s amazing Elgar
Tea with CDs
Oddities and specialisms
Dominic Lawson on Herbert von Karajan
You tend to listen more carefully when something might go badly wrong
Sounding like a different country
Exciting posting about shelves
New classical music venue just down the road from Kings Cross Supplementary
The Rite of Spring sounds to me like technology rather than nature
Toshiba’s violin playing robot
Me talking about the great twentieth century musical divide
Eee PC and Brahms CDs
Pianists conducting themselves
The great DVD packaging clearout
Michael Jennings photos Disney Hall
Taking the recording studio into the concert hall
Humphrey Searle’s Hamlet is the worst Shakespeare opera ever
Photos - four transport - two artistic
At the dogs
Lots of links
Friends of Slava
How compulsion deranges the spreading of ideas
The Emperor Quartet at Conway Hall
Comparing classical music with modern architecture
Glenn Gould on the hereafter
The Joyce Hatto affair - no big deal
Cats and keyboards
He likes it - but does he understand it?
How Stephen Hough took a nap during a piano concerto (that he was playing)
The future of music
Harold C. Shonberg on how to perform Bach
Dutilleux piano music on Naxos
Other people’s photos (2): New architecture in Hamburg
Fixating on particular recorded performances
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Superb Simon Hewitt Jones gig – and a couple of blogger gripes
Me and Alex talking Gilbert and Sullivan
What next for the virtuoso violinists? - Simon Hewitt Jones has some answers
More G&S - and some strange Times errors
John Holloway plays unaccompanied Bach on the baroque violin
The Pirates opens in New York
Sullivan and Grove find some Schubert diamonds
At least I got today’s obligatory posting done before midnight
Feeling Much Better
Heifetz on YouTube
Alex talks (clearly) with me (not so clear) about classical music
As if for the first time
All hail to the Rolling Stones assembly line
Samizdata cranks it out
A little transport history
Classical music Natalie
Alex is too busy - Sting records Dowland songs
Alex and Brian’s latest classical music mp3 – Saint-Saëns etc.
Zehetmair plays the Brahms
Alex and Brian talk classical music mp3 number two
Bartók outside South Kensington tube
Jeffrey Bernard is unwell but very entertaining
This month’s Alex and Brian mp3 about classical music
Debussy denounces Massenet but Puccini follows him
Beneath the treble line with the Voglers
Another mp3 - Alex and Brian talk classical music
Giving up rouge for Lisbon
Armando Iannucci on going to classical concerts - and me on not bothering
Sergei Khachatryan plays Shostakovich Violin Concerto 1
Charles Rosen on Richard Taruskin and on the socially unbound nature of some of the greatest music
Lazar Berman’s Rachmaninov 3
I don’t know the score
More about music bingeing
Thoughts on habits and on killer apps
Christmas with Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues
Thoughts after watching Abbado’s Lucerne Resurrection Symphony
The Elgar/Walker piano concerto and the future of “classical” music
This and that at 9.07am
David Zinman – Thomas Adès – Howard Shelley
Benjamin Nabarro and the Belmont Ensemble