Wednesday, November 16, 2005

David Hockney's 'Private Passions'

David Hockney's creative genius embraces the performing, as well as the visual, arts. His first stage commission was for a production of Jarry's Ubu Roi at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1966. In 1974 he designed his first opera, the highly acclaimed Rake's Progress by Stravinsky for Glyndebourne. A second collaboration with Glyndebourne followed, on Mozart's Magic Flute (below) in 1978. I remember sitting in the audience that year wearing the de rigeur Glyndebourne uniform of dinner jacket, Hockney was in the row behind wearing a tee shirt and a non-matching pair of old trainers.

Other notable stage commissions included triple bills of Satie, Poulenc and Ravel (Parade, Les Mamelles de Tiresias and L'enfant et les sortilèges) and Stravinsky (Le Rossignol, Le Sacré du Printemps and Oedipus Rex) in 1981 for the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde for the Los Angeles Music Centre, Puccini's Turandot in San Francisco and Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten at Covent Garden.

Given such a brilliant involvement with the performing arts it is not surprising that David Hockney's selection of musical 'Private Passions,' selected for the BBC Radio 3 programme of the same name, is an enchanting selection of magical moments from the theatre:

* Richard Strauss, 'Falcon Aria' (from Die Frau ohne Schatten, Act II), René Kollo (Emperor)/ Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Wolfgang Sawallisch EMI CDC 749077-2
* Mozart, 'Bald prangt, den Morgen zu verkunden' (from The Magic Flute), Lucia Popp (Pamina) / Tolz Boys' Choir / Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra / Bernard Haitink EMI CDC 747953-2
* Ravel, 'Five o'clock Foxtrot' (from L'enfant et les sortilèges), Jocelyne Taillon (Chinese cup), Philip Langridge (Teapot) / London Symphony Orchestra / André Previn EMI CDC 747169-2
* Stavinsky, 'Song of the Nightingale' (from Le rossignol), Phylis Bryn-Julson (Nightingale), Neil Howlett (Emperor) / BBC Symphony Orcestra / Pierre Boulez Erato 2292-45627-2
* Wagner, Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, Philharmonia / Wilhelm Furtwängler EMI CDC 747322-2
* Bartók, String Quartet No. 2 (second movement, Allegro molto capriccioso), Takás Quartet Hungaraton HCD 12502-2

And here is something of a scoop. A Hockney exhibition is opening tomorrow (17th November) at the Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, London. There are no less than thirty-six new paintings in the exhibition created to be viewed as a single group titled Midsummer: East Yorkshire 2004. They are watercolours, and represent a significant development from Hockney's previous style. As the title indicates all the watercolours are of Yorkshire painted a new 'pastoral' style, and represent a return to Hockney's roots. But these new paintings are certainly not an exercise in nostalgia, more an 'Indian Summer' paralleling the late burst of creativity from Richard Strauss that resulted in masterpieces such as Metamorphosen, the Oboe Concerto, and of course the sublime Four Last Songs. Understandably artists and their agents are neurotic about copyright. There is a low res image of one of the new watercolours, Roads and Cornfields: East Yorkshire on Sue Bond PRs web site, and I am taking the liberty of deep linking to - not copying - it (above) with full acknowledgement of ownership and copyright. Other watercolours from the new exhibition can be viewed via this link.

Programme broadcast on 30th September 1995.
Listen to the latest BBC Radio 3 Private Passions programme
with this link.
Information reproduced from
Private Passions by Michael Berkeley, published by Faber ISBN 0-571-22884- 4
Image credits - ownership and copyright acknowledged:

Header - 'Peter getting out of Nick's pool', David Hockney 1967 - Liverpool Museum
Magic Flute design for Glyndebourne - Stage Image
Roads and Cornfields: East Yorkshire - Sue Bond PR
Please report broken links, missing images, and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
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Henry Holland said...

I've seen his Tristan, Frau and Turandot and I loved all three, especially the Frau. Like most directors/designers, they had a bit of the "seen this before" about 'em, but that's OK. Too bad the singing didn't match up to the sets! :-)

Anonymous said...

Do not overlook one of the greatest men in music:

He will be touring the UK next week, with the Katia Labèque Band.

Do you know him? I do. A Great Musician. Just have a look at his discography.

Anonymous said...

Would anybody tell me how to authentify drawings and watercolors from David Hockney, and if a contact with the artist is possible?
Thank you