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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Classical music

Friday July 28 2017

Where were you when England won the World Cup? I’m talking about the women’s cricket World Cup that England won, a week ago tomorrow?  It looked like rain might wreck the occasion, but they got the full hundred overs of cricket and a grandstand finish.

While all that drama was unfolding, I was, as already reported, out in the countryside to see and to hear GodDaughter 2 and her pals performing a Mozart opera.  The journey to this opera required me to arrive at Alton Station, in time for another pal to collect me from there and drive me the final few miles.

Given the choice between using public transport to get to an unfamiliar destination just in time, or getting there far too early, I greatly prefer the latter procedure.  Last Saturday, the trains of the south of England lived down to their current low reputation, with postponements all over the place.  Trainline had told me to change at Wimbledon, but at Vauxhall they told me to change at Clapham Junction, and it all took quite a bit longer than it should have.  But I had left so much time to spare that I still had over an hour to kill at Alton Station.

Google maps had informed me that a short walk away from Alton Station there is a quite large pond, which I checked out.  It is the home of numerous birds, including these ones:

image

I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever set eyes on non-baby but nevertheless non-adult swans.  I have certainly never noticed such birds before.  Are they really that colour, like they’ve been mucking about in a coal cellar?  It would seem so.  Cameras can lie through their teeth these days, but my one isn’t lying, I can assure you.  That is what they looked like.

I always photo signs on days like these, and when I got home I learned that in refusing to share any of the food I had brought with me, I was also following local instructions.  As the big sign said, you can help care for the pond by:

image

And the sign went on:

(Uncontrolled feeding leads to over-population of birds, too many for the pond to support, as well as water pollution from droppings and rats feeding on uneaten bread).

So, good on me for resisiting the temptation.

Wednesday July 26 2017

I have a new camera, and I am not as happy as I would like to be about the photos I am photoing with it.  They often seem vague and blurry, as if seen through a mist.

But then again, the humidity levels during the last week or two have been very high.  Maybe the views have all looked as if seen through a mist because they were seen through a mist.

Here, for instance, is a photo of a favourite building of mine, the big decorated box that is the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, as seen from Westminjster Bridge, which is quite a way away:

image

But I got to work with my Photoshop clone, and beefed up the contrast, and darkened things a bit.

Thus:

image

Which looks a bit better.  I’ve chased away some of the mist.  The trees look greener.  The details of the ROH’s exterior decoration are clearer.

I have a vague recollection of trying to reset my camera, so that it did things more darkly and more contrastingly.  Maybe at that point, I contrived to do the opposite of what I thought I was doing.

But then again, not long after taking that photo, I took this one, of the giant 4 outside the Channel 4 headquarters building at the top end of Horseferry Road, a short walk away from where I live.  I often go past it on my way home after an afternoon of wandering, and so it was that day, nearly a week ago now:

image

That looks bright enough and clear enough, doesn’t it?  That’s without any zoom, i.e. space filled with blurriness.  And without this weather making its presence felt, the picture doesn’t look like it needs any artificial editing attention.  So maybe the camera is fine, and it has been the weather.  And I just made the weather better.

Sunday July 23 2017

Today is the Women’s World Cup Final at Lord’s, mentioned here earlier.  They’re calling it the biggest game in the history of women’s cricket, and they’re not wrong.

So, what does the London weather do?

A dry start for many with some sunny spells. Through the morning scattered showers are likely to develop, locally heavy with a risk of thunder in the afternoon before dying away during the evening.

Could have been worse.  Sounds like (a) they’ll get a game, but (b) it will be a terrible let-down, involving Duckworth and Lewis.  This is the much feared and universally not understood formula for deciding who wins a cricket match, by calculating a revised target in fewer overs for the side batting second, or, later, by guessing who would have won if it hadn’t rained so bloody much and put a stop to everything.

Meanwhile, I’ll be journeying to Newton Valence, in faraway Hampshire, to see GodDaughter 2 in Le Nozzi di Figaro.  This was to have been outdoors, but wisely, it has already been moved into the barn:

The Long Barn is one of the most spacious and exquisite barns in Hampshire. Nestled in the picturesque village of Newton Valence, amidst spectacular rolling countryside, The Long Barn offers breathtaking views from one of the highest points in the South Downs National Park.

But how breathtaking will those views be today?

Let’s hope those sunny spells make their presence felt.

Friday July 14 2017

I spent a frightening proportion of my waking hours last week scouring London for the exact sort of computer screen than I wanted, and sorting out the resulting mess caused by one of the screens that I bought malfunctioning and then its identical replacement malfunctioning in the exact same way.  I may write more about that, but threaten nothing.

My scourings took me all over London.  On Tuesday, having had no success in any of the electronic toy shops of Tottenham Court Road and nearby places, like John Lewis in Oxford Street, I journeyed West, to Peter Jones in Sloane Square.  On my way, I had the latest of many goes at photoing the statue of the young Mozart in Pimlico Square, and this time, I quite liked the result:

image

That’s not a very good likeness of the statue, but I quite like the photo, because of all the rather nicely lit greenery, and even despite that strange object in the tree with wires coming out of it.  Something to do with electrical lighting, I think.  Next time I am there I may check, if I remember.  If you want to know more about the statue, you surely know how to do that, now that you know, if you didn’t already, that it’s there.

Peter Jones having not provided me with a computer screen, and me having then drawn a similar blank at PC World in Kensington High Street, I journeyed on Wednesday to Brixton, where PC World has what turned out to be an impressively large super-store.

On my way there, I wasn’t looking for photo-ops but encountered quite a few, including this one:

image

That’s a bust of Sir Henry Tate, in front of Brixton Library, which he founded and paid for.  Also Streatham Library, apparently.  And yes, Tate also founded a big old Art Gallery right near where I live.

To me, one of the intriguing things about my photo is the strange pattern of greenness (copper oxide?) which only partially covers the bust.  Most of the photos you get if you image google for this thing do their best to minimise this effect.  I made a point of capturing it, because it was what first got my attention.

Wednesday July 05 2017

The best thing about seeing Turandot at the R(oyal) O(pera) H(ouse) earlier in the week was definitely seeing Turandot.  But almost as good was what I saw during one of the intervals.

So, do you remember this?

image

The “this” I am referring to is the disembodied rectangular box hovering up near the roof there.  I copied and pasted the sanskrit my blogging system demands for that photo from this earlier ROH posting.  To quote my earlier description in that earlier posting:

I especially like that disembodied clutch of drinkers, suspended up there as if in mid air, but actually in mid mirror.

All of which means that you don’t need to remember it, because I just told you again.

Well, during the interval in question, I found myself stretching my legs inside this aerial box.  From it, I got views like this:

image

Which was all very fine, although I can’t really tell how good or bad this photo is, because I only have this terrible little replacement screen to look at it on.

But then, things got even more interesting.  I looked through that big semi-circular window, and saw other interesting things.  In particular I saw this:

image

That is one of London’s finer assemblages of roof clutter, made all the more magnificent by being anarchically perched, like a tiny shanty town, upon one of London biggest and blandest and most geometrically severe pieces of sculpted Big Thingness from the Concrete Monstrosity era.  Namely: One Kemble Street, which used to be known by the much cooler name of Space House.

If you image google for One Kemble Street, you get a deluge of photos of One Kemble Street, but just about all of them are taken from below.  It’s like they’re ashamed of that marvellous roof clutter.  But why?  It is magnificent.

Here is another view of part of this roof clutter:

image

That was taken in December 2014, on the same day I photoed the floating bar in the sky, in the first photo, above.

Memo to self: check it out again, and try to photo the whole thing, in nice weather like that.

Tuesday July 04 2017

Yesterday I attended a Royal Opera House Covent Garden dress rehearsal, of Puccini’s Turandot.  Never having seen Turandot on stage before, I learned a lot.  The singing was pretty good, especially the choral singing, but maybe I say “especially” about that because I generally prefer choral singing to “operatic” solo singing.  The staging looked appropriately splendid and exotic.

But the best fun of all was, afterwards, finding this bizarre piece of writing by Michael Tanner, for the Spectator.  What is bizarre is that Tanner disapproves of the characters and he disapproves of the “happy ending” at the end of Turandot, like some myopic Victorian moralist objecting to King Lear because of what sort of people they are and because of what happens at the end of that.

Turandot is obviously a very wicked and tyrannical ice-queen type of a woman.  But Calaf earns Tanner’s special condemnation.  This is because Calaf, being from Asia in olden times rather than the Home Counties of England now, prefers conquest, sexual and political, to the love of a good woman.  He is going to subjugate Turandot, sexually and politically, or die trying, and damn the consequences.  But in Michael Tanner’s world tenors are not supposed to think and behave like that.  Their job is to embody virtue, not watch while the slave girl who has been in love with Calaf throughout the opera is tortured and then commits suicide to spare herself more torture. After which Calaf carries right on with subjugating Turandot.  But the fact that Calaf is not the sort of person whom Tanner would want marrying his sister is rather beside the point.  Or to put the same point a quite other way, it is exactly the point.  It isn’t just the setting of Turandot that is exotic.  These are profoundly different sorts of people to those that Michael Tanner, or for that matter I, approve of.

This is like denouncing the Ring Cycle because Wotan is a god rather than a geography teacher, or because the dragons in the Ring Cycle do not behave like hedgehogs.

Calaf was also criticised by Tanner for standing still and just singing, instead of doing lots of “acting” in the modern style.  But Calaf’s whole character is that of a would-be ultra-masculine tyrant.  And tyrants instinctively exude power and strength, for instance by standing still in a very masculine chest-out pose, and singing very sonorously, rather than by doing lots of fidgety acting.  It is their underlings and victims who do all the acting, by re-acting to people like Calaf.

However, it often happens that critics who denounce works of art in rather ridiculous ways nevertheless understand them very well, and often a lot better than the people who say that they like them.  They absolutely get what the artist was doing.  It’s just that they don’t happen to like it.  I recommend Tanner’s piece as a way of understand how very different Calaf and Turandot are from their equivalents in, say, La Boheme.

Friday June 30 2017

Last night I sent out the reminder emails concerning my meeting tonight, the first of the ones listed in the previous posting, and I hoped for a few more replies saying: I’ll be there.  So far: nothing.  So now I am worried there won’t be enough people, and I will look like a plonker.  This morning I woke up, but then went back to sleep and had a scary and absurdly over-the-top warning dream about what a disaster tonight is going to be.  The plot line was: I went out shopping for stuff, and didn’t even get back in time myself.  Maybe the message was: relax.  It’ll be bad.  But it won’t be this bad.

So, now I face a day of fretting, and a day of making optimistic preparations for what could be a fiasco that won’t need them.  So, what did I just do?  I dashed off a Samizdata posting about the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and what a bad thing this is.

This is not as crazy as it sounds.  If there is one thing that will totally ruin by last-Friday-of-the-month meetings it is the universal (but unstated-to-my-face) understanding that I am now a person of zero significance, the significance of whose meetings is likewise: zero.  But, I like these meetings, so long as people attend them in sufficient numbers, and I would miss them if I stopped doing them.  So, I need to put myself about more, on Samizdata and generally.  Even though what I really like doing is reading books about people like Chopin, listening to music by people like Chopin, wandering around London and posting pretty pictures of it here, waffling about them, and troubling nobody.

When you get old, you have to go on being what you are and doing what you do, even if you’d rather not.

Sunday June 25 2017

I’ve been reading Adam Zamoyski’s book about Chopin.  So far, I love it.  And I love learning so much about a fascinating man, of whom I knew just about nothing besides his music, and the fact that he was Polish and is a very big deal in Poland, but that he lived mostly in France.

I have, in particular, learned just exactly how Polish Chopin was, and was not.  His father, Nicholas Chopin, was French.  But when the Polish aristocrat for whom he worked went back to Poland, Nicholas went with him.  In Poland Nicholas married a Polish woman, and Frederick was thus born in Poland, but with his French-sounding name.  It sounds French because it was French.

So far, I have reached the stage where Chopin has played his first few concerts at which he performed, to great acclaim, his first few compositions, most of them for piano and orchestra.  (I am very fond of these pieces, the two piano concertos and the various other one movement works for piano and orchestra.)

As for how Chopin played, Zamoyski supplies this especially pleasing quote, from an unnamed Warsaw newspaper critic:

He emphasised but little, like one conversing in the company of clever people, not with the rhetorical aplomb which is considered by virtuosos to be indispensable.

But Chopin found it difficult working with orchestras, and I’m guessing that this is partly why that stopped, and he concentrated henceforth on solo works.  But as I think the above quote reveals, that probably suited his manner of playing better.

Just how Polish Chopin was and how he played
Heat
A recital by GodDaughter 2 at the Royal College of Music
Liking the sound that it makes
Stabat Mater at St Stephen’s Gloucester Road
Gloucester Road with evening sun
Die Meistersinger was very good
ROH Covent Garden here I come
The god that failed
Cruelty to a fake animal – kindness to a fake animal
An Underground sermon
Opera North’s Ring
A sign in a bus and the same sign malfunctioning
Trumping the Opera House
A list of well-known currently performing classical pianists
A new stadium for Chelsea
A vanished CD and a more tidy home
An enlarged Dinky Toy in Belgravia
John Croft: Composition is not research
Pletnev plays Haydn and I own it!
Art comment
I want to write more here about music
Wonderful
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
Customer service
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
Classical Amazon
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
Biker shadow
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
Quotes dump
Alex Ross on Sibelius
Llyr Williams and Llyr Williams play Bach
Slumponomics
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
Watching Karajan
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
Classical under-15s
Friends of Slava
How compulsion deranges the spreading of ideas
Slava dies
The Emperor Quartet at Conway Hall
Lost Bach
Comparing classical music with modern architecture
Lebrecht daily?
Glenn Gould on the hereafter
The Joyce Hatto affair - no big deal
Incognito
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
Normblogging
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
Bang! Bang!
Frederick May
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
One click
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
Another Natalie
British villainy
Charles Rosen on Richard Taruskin and on the socially unbound nature of some of the greatest music
Lazar Berman’s Rachmaninov 3
Toaster
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
Boulez
Benjamin Nabarro and the Belmont Ensemble