Thursday, August 31, 2006

BBC Proms Last Night - I flee the country

The final week of the BBC Proms brings what may well be the concert of the season. Bernard Haitink is one of the great living Mahlerians, and on Wednesday (September 6) he conducts the mighty Symphony No 2, ‘Resurrection’. I have attended some inspirational performances by Haitink of this symphony, and next week, with the combined forces of the BBC Symphony and London Symphony Choruses underpinned by the Royal Albert Hall organ, the finale of Mahler’s masterpiece should add some spiritual uplift to what has been a distinctly earthbound season.

It is a good week for both the late romantics and adagios, and the Berlin Philharmonic’s concert on Saturday (September 2) couples Bruckner Symphony No 7 with Karol Szymanowski’s rather neglected Violin Concerto No 1. And can you get more romantic, or adagio, than Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 2? I have heard Tadaaki Otaka do it blisteringly well, listen out for his performance on Tuesday (September 5) with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. It is a very lean week for anything remotely post-Romantic, and all I can really highlight are Matthias Pintscher’s setting of Mallarmé, Hérodiade-Fragmente, on Sunday (September 3), and the lunchtime recital on Monday (September 4) which brings Stephen Kovacevich playing Berg’s early Piano Sonata Op 1. The Proms season ends for me on Friday (September 8), and inevitably it is an all Mozart programme, with Sir Charles Mackerras bringing us the UK premiere of Robert Levin’s new edition of the Mass in C minor, K427.

The traditional Last Night of the Proms on Saturday September 9 is celebrated in many different ways. This year I will be celebrating it in the best possible fashion by leaving the country. By the time the egregious mono-cultural ritual is in full swing I will be 800 miles away, and listening on CD to one of the pinnacles of English music, Christopher Tye's Mass Euge Bone, in the seclusion of the provençal countryside.
I will be in France for the rest of September, but please don't go away. Posting will continue, but I am sure you will understand if the frequency of upload is a little variable, and if there is a delay answering emails and responding to comments - even I need the occasional break! But stay tuned, there are some great articles in the pipeline from France.

Learn to live within yourself. Explore a universe
That's you. Behold between your soul's shores
All the mysterious thoughts. Know: noise
Rips the enigmatic lace , destroys
The magic chorus. Noon rays will make it weak.
Listen to its song. But do not speak.
Fedor Tyutchev (1830)

Proms highlights:
Saturday September 2 – Szymanowski Violin Concerto No 1, Bruckner Symphony No 7, Berlin Philharmonic conductor Simon Rattle
Sunday September 3 – Pintscher Hérodiade-Fragmente, Philadelphia Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus conductor Christoph Eschenbach
Monday September 4 – Berg Piano Sonata Op 1, Stephen Kovacevich
Tuesday September 5 – Rachmaniniov Symphony No 2, BBC National Orchestra of Wales conductor Tadaaki Otaka
Wednesday September 6, Mahler Symphony No 2, ‘Resurrection’, BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, London Symphony Chorus conductor Bernard Haitink
Friday September 8 – Mozart Mass in C minor completed by Robert Levin. Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conductor Sir Charles Mackerras.

This is the final personal selection from the 2006 BBC Proms On An Overgrown Path, a full listing of the concerts is available here. All the concerts are broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and as web casts. All Proms should be available for seven days after broadcast on the BBC listen again service, but check BBC listings for confirmation. Concert start times are 07.30pm British Summer Time unless otherwise stated. Convert these timings to your local time zone using this link.

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Beyond the borders of language

The world’s top ten spoken languages:

1. Mandarin – 1000m,
2. English – 350m
3. Spanish – 250m
4. Hindi – 200m
5. Arabic – 150m
6. Bengali – 150m
7. Russian – 150m
8. Portuguese – 135m
9. Japanese – 120m
10. German – 100m
Data measured as mother-tongue (first-language) speakers. Source The Cambridge Factfinder, Cambridge University Press 1993.

Although we have a universal notation system for the music itself the problem of the language for the text still remains, and the table above shows that English is no longer the safe option for a libretto, and Latin no longer cuts it for sacred works. Lou Harrison (left) came up with a typically unconventional solution. His choral masterpiece La Koro Sutro is a translation into Esperanto by Bruce Kennedy of the Heart Sutra, which is one of the most profound Mahayana Buddhist texts. La Koro Sutro was first performed for an international gathering of Esperantists in San Francisco in August 1972.

There is a tendency today to dismiss Esperanto as a failed experiment, but this is far from the truth. Estimates vary, but there are around 1.5 million speakers of the language worldwide. More than 25,000 books have been written in Esperanto (originals and translations) as well as over a hundred regularly distributed Esperanto magazines. Two full-length feature films have been produced entirely in Esperanto, Angoroj in 1964 and Incubus starring William Shatner in 1965, and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin used Esperanto for signage on storefronts and buildings in his 1940 classic The Great Dictator. There are a number of music resources on the internet in Esperanto, and numerous popular and rock tracks with Esperanto lyrics available as MP3 downloads.


Gustav Mahler missed a trick when he used a volume of ancient Chinese poetry translated into German by Hans Bethge, titled, Die Chinesische Flöte ("The Chinese Flute") as the text for his symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde. Of course Esperanto is chump change compared with Chinese, and Tan Dun (below) has quite an advantage when it comes to setting Mandarin texts. His acclaimed Peony Pavillion uses a text by Tang Xianzu (1598) delivered in Mandarin and English, and a score that uses a range of traditional Chinese instruments as well as synthesizer, sampler and pre-recorded tracks. The linguistic efforts of Lou Harrison, Tan Dun and many others guarantee a real future for music beyond borders.

Image credit: Esperanto - lacorteweb, Lou Harrison - jimhair.com , Tan Dun - tandunonline. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
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Music beyond borders


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Masses of early music on iPods

'Mass settings or collections of motets were never intended to be heard in unbroken sequences as they often are today, and once one has started performing sacred liturgical music to a concert or record-buying audience, and in a context so remote from the composer's intentions, arguments about what is or is not appropriate or authentic in terms of presentation become fairly pointless. It is wonderful that people still love the music, and if a general audience today that might be unlikely to listen to a whole Palestrina Mass might still enjoy one of his beautiful Agnus Dei settings, or a few 'sampled' gems from one of Byrd's large motet collections on their iPods, who should complain?'

Those are the words of the founder and director of the William Byrd Choir Gavin Turner. In August last year I wrote a very complimentary review of Hyperion's re-release of Masterpeices of Portugese Polyphony, but also commented: "The only quibble (and it is just a quibble on a super-budget priced CD) is the absence of any information on the sleeve (or the Hyperion web site) about the singers- the William Byrd Choir, or their director Gavin Turner. They have one other recording listed on the Hyperion site (Byrd: Benedicta et vererabilis & Alleluia) but I can provide no other information." Hyperion never had the courtesy to reply to my request for information (too busy with the fall-out from the Sawkins appeal result?), but Gavin Turner did. A friend of his read my article, and I recently received a fascinating and wide-ranging update from Gavin which is published for the first time below. This gives both a valuable insight into the fragile existence of specialist ensembles like the William Byrd Choir, and also some interesting thoughts on leveraging iPod and other technologies to widen the audience for Renaissance music. Here is Gavin fascinating account of the choir's history.

'I ran a student early music ensemble, sang in the university chamber choir and at St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral when a student in Edinburgh in the Sixties. I was an alto lay-clerk at Gloucester Cathedral for 18 months in 1966/67, before becoming a civil servant in London. I also worked as a music journalist for the now defunct Music and Musicians and Records and Recording magazines. In London I sang with John Hoban's Scuola di Chiesa and for some years deputised in various professional church choirs in London. In 1984 I was transferred to Edinburgh to run HMSO's Scottish Office (photo above), and lost touch with the professional music scene in London. After working in Norwich and then in London again in the Nineties, I finally retired to live in North Norfolk.

The William Byrd Choir was founded in 1973, and always specialised exclusively in the church music of the late Renaissance (Byrd especially, Gibbons, Weelkes and co, Palestrina, Victoria, Lassus, etc). Our first appearance was at a lunch-hour concert at St Andrew's Holborn. It was attended by the distinguished BBC producer Basil Lam, and we started doing Radio 3 broadcasts almost immediately, which continued throughout the Seventies, mainly with the early music producer Hugh Keyte. However in the early Eighties, partly to do with restraints imposed by Equity, partly because of BBC cutbacks, the BBC virtually stopped making its own recordings with the various professional early music choirs.

We did our first Queen Elizabeth hall concert in 1975, and continued giving regular concerts there and in other London concert halls (the Purcell Room, St John's Smith Square, and the Wigmore Hall) in the late Seventies and early Eighties. We did English festivals like Bath and Camden, and we toured abroad to Spain and Portugal, and to Italy several times.

In 1980 we went to Rome with a BBC production team and made the first recordings by an outside choir ever to record in the Sistine Chapel. (Photo at head of article is the choir recording in the Sistine Chapel). For various classically Italian reasons, the recording sessions were rather fraught and we were not very pleased with the results.

Our main recording was a curious Soriano double choir re-working of Palestrina's celebrated Papae Marcelli Mass which we sang with male voices only. It was originally broadcast in Hugh Keyte's Octave of the Nativity series on BBC Radio 3. The Soriano Mass was a particularly odd choice by the producer, because singing as we were, all cramped together in the tiny choir gallery set high up into one of the side walls of the Chapel, no antiphonal or spatial effects made any impact whatsoever. We also had no sense at all of the effect our sound was having in the vast space below. The acoustic picked up the soprano falsettists and blotted out all the lower voices. One would need to work for some time in the Sistine Chapel to get to grips with that alarmingly resonant acoustic. Indeed, it is now thought that in Palestrina's day, because of the acoustical problems, they probably used only one voice to a part, which would have produced less volume to be magnified by the acoustic and more clarity for the individual vocal lines

From the floor of the Chapel we also recorded a highly embellished version of the Palestrina Stabat Mater and the Allegri Miserere. In spite of tuning and balance problems, the BBC insisted on producing a commercial recording of the Mass for St Sylvester (BBC Artium REGL 572), because they said it was such an 'historic' recording.

In 1978 we made our own recording in St Jude's on the Hill in Hampstead of music by Byrd with Hugh Keyte as producer. We sold the tapes to Philips and they issued it as a stereo LP (9502 030) in 1979. The two Hyperion recordings were Masterpieces of Portuguese Polyphony (1986), and Marian Masses from Byrd's Gradualia (1990). They were made after the Choir had stopped working regularly as a recital/broadcast choir. These have recently be re-released as CDs on the Helios budget label. Both had good reviews. They have sold around 15,000 and 10,000 respectively, which is apparently fairly impressive for early music recordings.

The Choir worked with a number of distinguished early music editors.Bruno Turner produced a sequence for us called Iberian Requiem, which was broadcast on Radio 3, given at a QEH concert, toured to Portugal and (without the Spanish element) was made into the Hyperion recording. The original sequence included the now famous Alonso Lobo Versa est in luctum of which I believe we gave the first modern performance, though it has since been much recorded by other choirs. Sally Dunkley produced a number of original editions of English and Portuguese music for our broadcasts, recordings and concerts, and Philip Brett advised on the Byrd Gradualia recording.

One of the main reasons why I gave up while the choir was still very successful, and apart from the difficulty of organising London concerts while I was living in Edinburgh, was simply the cost of it all. I could not afford to pay a manager, so I did everything (booking musicians and venues, organising publicity and PR, chasing potential sponsors and the London Orchestral Concert Board, negotiating with foreign festivals, booking flights and hotels, paying BBC repeat fees to all the singers, doing Choir accounts for the Charity Commission, etc) while doing my normal job as well. I used to arrive on the podium at QEH barely having had time to think about the actual music. I remember a musical lodger of mine saying: 'I bet John Eliot Gardiner isn't sitting at home after midnight the day before a concert stapling programmes together!' Over a period of about six years in the late seventies, I spent around £25,000 ($ US 44,000) of my own money promoting London concerts - which was quite a large sum in those days. It is easy to see now that I might have been better off to have done what certain other groups who started about the same time did, to spend money on setting up a record label which would have produced some income, rather than frittering it away on self-promoted concerts which always lost money, however successful at the box office and critically. Having made a good recording of Byrd in 1978, perhaps we should have made our own LP rather than selling the tapes to Philips; but at the time it seemed less hassle, and I thought it would get more high profile sales - which it did.

In a way I am sorry I did not persist. I was interested in slightly later English repertoire than that which the Clerks of Oxenford, The Tallis Scholars and the Sixteen made very popular, and it is only relatively recently that people have really got stuck into the Byrd repertoire.

The revival of the Choir as a recording ensemble is still under consideration. I am quite interested in the recording possibilities that iPod technology has opened up for much of this repertoire. Masses aside, much of the music that we used to perform is in fairly short slugs - the same length as pop tracks. Now that people can 'sample' their Keane or Franz Ferdinand, they are also starting to sample classical tracks for their iPods too, and Renaissance polyphony is particularly suitable for this. I suspect fewer and fewer people, apart from the geeks, will want to sit down and listen to 80 minutes of two or three minute tracks (cf our Hyperion Byrd CD which I must confess that even I find unlistenable-to as a whole). Mass settings or collections of motets were never intended to be heard in unbroken sequences as they often are today, and once one has started performing sacred liturgical music to a concert or record-buying audience, and in a context so remote from the composer's intentions, arguments about what is or is not appropriate or authentic in terms of presentation become fairly pointless. It is wonderful that people still love the music, and if a general audience today that might be unlikely to listen to a whole Palestrina Mass might still enjoy one of his beautiful Agnus Dei settings, or a few 'sampled' gems from one of Byrd's large motet collections, who should complain? However, launching into the iPod market successfully would now require quite a lot of money too.'

(c) On An Overgrown Path & Gavin Turner 2006. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Five and a half hours – one piece of music

Five and a half hours – one piece of music. Par for the course for Wagner operas and the opera bands that have to manfully keep it up for that long. We haven’t had to yet, but now we’re doing Meistersinger in a concert performance for the Edinburgh Festival. A few years ago we did the Trojans marathon – two night’s long – but that, greatest of all operas, comes in perfectly paced bite- sized sections. While at the reins of the Edinburgh Festival, Sir Brian McMaster has given us important stuff to play, and provided me with some of the greatest highlights of my life.

We’ve had a summer of biggies. Heldenleben, the full version of Firebird, Bruckners 2 and 6, three superb new pieces and now the Wagner. There isn’t a much bigger test of sheer stamina and concentration than Meistersinger. I’ve got a big problem with it. It simply doesn’t do it for me. But if I’m going to have a bit of a nark about Wagner, you need to be re-assured that I haven’t forgotten my place in life. Ant snarling at elephant. I have no delusions. Rank and file, below stairs, humbler than Uriah Heep. There’s nothing I can do that will harm Wagner’s music or folks love for it.

To get to the point, if Elgar had written a five and half hour opera called ‘The Morris Dancers of Daventry’, every bar of it would have been as good music as anything in Meistersinger – but the big difference is that it would never (or very, very rarely indeed) get performed. The Brits just don’t do self-aggrandisement on that scale. The sheer arrogance of such a massive piece beggars belief. There is something in the shadow of Wagner’s genius (I had to bite my tongue to avoid saying ‘evil genius’) that not only wrote the damn thing in the first place, but then seduced people into putting their money up to stage it and then – and then got the whole world to go on staging it centuries after he died. If Wagner’s operas had received only half the quarry loads of dosh that’s been dumped on them, he would still have had more than his fair share, but how much richer we would all be for the other half having being spent on other composers and projects.

I can easily stand aghast, as did Bruckner, at Wagner’s sheer skill – composition, vocal writing, orchestration etc., but for me the whole towering edifice never rises above coffee table chat. No sin in that…..but five and half hours? That’s an incredibly long time to sit there playing, giving my all, my heart and technique, whatever, and using up what’s left of my strength for a piece that I feel so duff about – but I’m a professional, I go at it with a will. So this performance will be testing the bits that others don’t. I’ll be proving the credo, “There are no boring pieces of music, just boring performances”. Come along and see.

This whole Wagner grump has been fired up by the blinding contrast with the Bruckner symphonies that we’re also doing. By the way, just in case you think I’m a miserable heretic deserving the fire, or just a delinquent intellectual vandal trying to deface the Wagner façade,
I should remind you that no less than the great Scottish musician, Sir Donald Tovey (right) of that ilk, asserted that there was more in Beethoven’s opus 131 quartet than the whole of the Ring and he was ever a huge admirer of Wagner’s musical achievements. Any ten minutes of the Bruckner can take you to visionary heights that Wagner never glimpsed. Maybe he was just too busy down on the floor putting together his flat-pack DIY mythology and stagey pseudo spirituality that he never looked up and beheld.

While I’m on this rant – what about those romantic heroes? Who are these guys in his opera plots? Who admires some knight who deserts his family duties in pursuit of a very strange relationship with a swan? We did the complete Schumann Manfred the other day. Now, it takes heroism just to read the original Byron in English, but to listen to it all in German as our audience had to…..? At least they had it spiced with some of the best snippets that Schumann ever wrote. Byron shows real dragon challenging heroism as he tilts at the overwhelmingly fearsome sacred cows of our culture. Schumann bought into all this and then, in his anguish, depression, and fatal degenerative illness he tried to follow it through by throwing himself into the Rhine – I’d like to see Lohengrin or Siegfried try and live that life. That’d be heroism.

To un-rant a bit. Meistersinger is McMaster’s last big gig as boss of the Festival (McMaster’s singers…?). His first also involved us – in Schoenberg’s Moses and Aaron. That was a milestone for me, journeying through my little life. Meistersinger is a fabulously apt finale.

I’ve begged all sorts of questions here. What makes one pile of notes more spiritual than another? What on earth do you mean by spiritual? What is the ‘more’ that Tovey was going on about? Don’t get me going on that – we’d need lots of bottles. Buy a ticket for our City Hall performance of Bruckner 3 on October 12th because after it Richard Holloway,
he who knows about these things because he appears on the telly, will be talking about exactly those questions and as far as I am concerned that is un-missable. You might be worried by the two words in the brochure, ‘James’ and ‘MacMillan’(left). His The World’s Ransoming is the quiet and reflective cor anglais concerto bit of his otherwise shattering Easter triptych. The ‘cellist doing the Haydn in this concert is wonderful. I’ll not want to be skiving off that concert, and I won’t accept any of your excuses. If you grace me with a reply to this blog, and then introduce yourself at the concert, I’ll buy you a drink (the first one of you anyway).

Reblogged from one of the best musician blog around, cellist Anthony Sayer writes in the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra blog. Great post Anthony, but I have to confess that if I could only take one piece of music to my desert island it would be Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

It's encouraging people to get into music …

Are sound samples the alchemy that will turn the base metal of dwindling audiences and falling CD sales into the gold of new young audiences and profitable classical music downloads? After the digital orchestra playing Beethoven and the LSO playing NOTION another London orchestra has joined the sound samples bandwagon. But there is a big difference between the Philharmonia Orchestra’s new Sound Exchange and the other ‘cash for samples’ projects that are currently doing the rounds. Sound Exchange is part of an pioneering new music education website aimed at the hard to reach young audience, and at the centre of it is PLAY.orchestra, a collaboration between the Phiharmonia Orchestra, the South Bank Centre and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.

56 colourful plastic cubes and three hotspots are laid out on a full size orchestra stage on the Royal Festival Hall terrace (photo below), and each cube contains a light and a speaker - sit down on the cube or stand in the hotspot and the instrument from that position will sound, becoming part of a full orchestra. The more people taking part, the more layers of the score are revealed. The project opened on August 18 and music performed will range from specially commissioned works to a traditional repertoire taken from the Philharmonia's 2006/07 season. On the orchestra's Sound Exchange website every instrument has been sampled in different musical styles and dynamics, and the samples are available as free downloads. Bluetooth mobile phones users can get involved by recording their own sound and sending them to the online sample library.

It’s too early to tell whether the Philharmonia’s innovative thinking will convert the base metal, but there are already some glimmers of hope. As part of the PLAY.orchestra project, 18-year-old Adam Nicholas from Suffolk (photo above) has been commissioned to compose a piece to be 'played' through the cubes after sending the orchestra samples of his work. Adam has been involved in other Philharmonia projects as a student and is the youngest of only six composers asked to compose a new piece of music. He has to create his two-and-a-half to three-minute piece using the samples sent in by the public and it will be played for a week from September 23.

Adam, who is also working on two albums of his own, said: “I'm really excited. It's really good and it opens music up to the public. You see people smile when they sit on the boxes. It's a mad opportunity and it's with the Philharmonia as well, which is really big. It's to encourage people to get into music. A lot of people my age and younger are not really interested in classical music. Stuff like this, and people like me, can bring the two together."

* Sound samples can be e-mailed to play@philharmonia.co.uk
or log on to the Sound Exchange website.

Image credits - Adam Nicholas from EDP, PLAY.orchestra from Philharmonia. Any copyrighted material on these pages is used in "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
But the Philharmonia aren't the only ones with this idea, you read about it first On An Overgrown Path at Now the audience composes the music

Fairytales - an album beyond words


I’m a great fan of Swedish jazz pianist Esbjorn Svensson who was a recent guest on the excellent BBC Radio 3’s programme Private Passions (hosted by Michael, son of composer Sir Lennox Berkeley). Among Esbjorn Svensson’s eclectic choice of music was a CD by an artist that I had never heard of, which Svensson described as ‘one of the best records I have ever heard.’ So I had to find out more.

Radka Toneff (above) was a Norwegian jazz singer who died in 1982 at the tragically early age of 30. Her last studio recording was Fairytales with pianist Steve Dobrogosz. It is a mixture of standards (this is probably the last time an Elton John track will be recommended on an overgrown path!) and original compositions. The interpretations are quite straight, they remind me somewhat of Norma Winstone. But the singing (and piano accompaniment) are totally sublime. The producer was Norwegian bass legend Arild Andersen at an early stage of his career.


Esbjorn Svensson is spot on. This is an exceptional album, and is certainly a jazz classic. But here is the sting, how do you get hold of it? Fairytales was recorded for the Norwegian label Odin and is deleted. It is only available from the Japanese specialist label Bomba who have remastered it. The cheapest price I could find was 33 euros including shipping from the excellent Caiman USA via Amazon Germany. This translates to £24 or $42 for less than forty minutes music (it was recorded for LP, hence the short playing time).

But Fairtytales is quite simply one of the most musical albums I have heard for a very long time – and that includes jazz and all other genres. Forget the price, another jazz fan sums Radka Toneff up beautifully: "Her musical work is beyond words. If you see one of her albums, and you are interested in jazz – get it quick!"

Footnote: in one of those strange examples of coincidence which litter the overgrown path I typed this listening post listening to today's Private Passions with Scottish poet and guitarist Don Paterson. And one of the pieces of music he chose was from Fairytales, with Raka Toneff singing the title track from Kurt Weill's 1949 opera Lost in the Stars.

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* This article was originally published on July 18, 2005, and is reblogged here as part of On An Overgrown Path's second anniversary celebrations of Music beyond borders. Follow this link to read the comments posted to the original article.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Beyond Shostakovich

'No, I dreamt of a holy mission in life.' Her words were again well practised and cold. 'Living in close proximity to art, religously watching over its creation, assisting at its birth with a thousand details that were in themselves mundane and yet would add up to a great, sacred trust, a short footnote next to my name for all eternity: 'Nina Sukhanova, born Malinina, the daughter of a hack, the wife of a genius". Pathetic, isn't it - all those young Russian girls raised on nineteenth-century novels, searching for an idol at whose plaster feet they might sacrifice their own aspirations, only to wake up decades later, aged and bitter, to find their visions of vicarious greatness shattered, their husbands average, talented nobodies ... Only that's not exactly how it turned out with us, is it, Tolya - and to tell you the truth, I sometimes think I'd prefer such a trite, unambiguous ending to ... to ...'

From Olga Grushin's brilliant first novel The Dream Life of Sukhanov. It tells the story of Anatoly Sukhanov, who at the age of fifty-six has everything a man could want: a glittering career, a beautiful wife and two talented children, a grand partment in the smartest part of Moscow, a dacha with a fireplace, and a personal chauffeur. He thinks he has achieved his dream - 'to carve from the world around him a small, secure happiness, all his own'. Then, as political alignments shift in the Kremlin and the rigid structures of the world in which Sukhanov has thrived start to crumble, he suddenly finds himself beset by heartbreaking visions from his past: nearly twenty-five years ago, he chose the perks and comforts of a high-ranking Soviet apparatchik over his precarious existence as a brilliant underground artist. Now the shadows of his youth plunge him into a terrifying state of uncertainty, as he begins to realise that when when he compromised his dreams to live a better, safer life, he ended up hardly living at all. A brilliant study, both of the collapse of a cultural system and of an individual human being. A quite exhilirating and remarkable literary tour de force - essential reading.


Born in 1971 in Moscow, Olga Grushin's father is Boris Grushin, the pioneering Soviet sociologist. She spent her early childhood in Prague. After returning to Moscow in 1981, she studied art history at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts and journalism at Moscow State University. In 1989, Olga Grushin (below) was given a full scholarship to Emory University, and became the first Russian citizen to enroll in and complete a four-year American college program, graduating summa cum laude in 1993. Since moving to the United States, she has been an interpreter for President Jimmy Carter, a cocktail waitress in a jazz bar, a translator at the World Bank, a research analyst at a leading Washington law firm, and, most recently, an editor at Harvard University's Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. A citizen of both Russia and the United States, Grushin lives near Washington, DC.

* For an interesting take on the novel read the Moscow Times review here, New York Times review here, and the Washington Post here.

* Illustrations The Death of the Soviets and 10 Pentacles by David Caitens and reproduced with the kind permision of the artist. Do visit his website to see more of his work.

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Simply chic symphonies?

The Overgrown Path leads to the symphonies of Leonard Bernstein. There have been very perceptive posts from Hucbald (check his excellent blog A monk's musical musings) and Fairhaven Friend (who contributed my guest blog A year at the symphony) on my recent Mass post. These prompted me to listen last night to Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony (No 3) in his own performance with the New York Philharmonic and soprano Jennie Tourel.

It strikes me that Bernstein’s symphonies contain the same blazing creativity that crackles through Mass, without the excesses and indulgences that flaw it. Why aren’t these works better known? Or am I wrong? Are these simply chic symphonies?

Whatever we think of his Mass and symphonies, there is no doubt that Bernstein was a larger than life figure. When I was at EMI/Angel in the ‘70s he was one of our artists. He was contracted with us to record with the French National Orchestra. I clearly recall a Milhaud album with La création du monde and the wonderful jazz inspired Le boeuf sur la toit, and was there also a Berlioz Harold in Italy?

Lenny (right) came to London's Royal Festival Hall on tour with the Vienna Philharmonic. At the time he was having a mutual, and passionate , affair with the orchestra. He conducted a typically over-the-top Eroica which included all sorts of gymnastics on the podium. Immediately after the applause died down my wife and I ducked round backstage to congratulate him on cloning Martha Graham with Beethoven. In the Green Room the maestro was stark naked apart from a skimpy shot-silk bath robe. As we both went to congratulate him he started to play with the chord fastening the robe. I’m still trying to work out who that performance was for.

* My photo actually shows Bernstein with sister Shirley in the Green Room at Carnegie Hall after a performance with the Israel Philarmonic, March 1951. The image credit is an interesting article Leonard Bernstein Talks About the Theremin, the Ondes Martenot and the Tape Recorder, which also allows me to add another Overgrown Path my own theremin article
Neil Armstrong finally reveals his moon music.

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* This article was originally published on August 2, 2005, and is reblogged here as part of On An Overgrown Path's second anniversary celebrations of Music beyond borders. Follow this link to read the comments posted to the original article.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Music beyond boundaries - the birth of rock

"There are many accounts of what happened next. Dylan left the stage with a shrug as the crowd roared. Having heard only three songs, they wanted 'moooooooooore', and some, certainly, were booing. They had been taken by surprise by the volume and aggression of the music. Some loved it, some hated it, most were amazed, astonished and energized by it. It was something we take for granted now, but utterly novel then: non-linear lyrics, an attitude of total contempt for expectation and established values, accompanied by screaming blues guitar and a powerful rhythm section, played ar ear-splitting volume by young kids. The Beatles were still singing love songs in 1965 while the Stones played a sexy brand of blues-rooted pop. This was different. This was the Birth of Rock. So many taste crimes have been committed in rock's name since then that it might be questionable to count this moment as a triumph, but it certainly felt like one in July 1965.

Yarrow appeared onstage, an inane imitation of a showbiz MC. 'Do you want to hear more?' I watched backstage as Neuwirth and Grossman ran relays to the artists' tent, trying to persuade Dylan to go back on. Finally Yarrow announced he would come back 'with just his guitar' (huge roar). Dylan strolled up to the mic and strapped on his harmonica neck-rig. 'Anyone got an E Harp?' Only at Newport could this request be followed by a shower of half a dozen harmonicas on to the stage.

He sang 'Mr Tambourine Man' brilliantly, reclaiming the song from the shiny but shallow Byrds version and sending a signal to anyone who might be gratified by his return to acoustic moderation: there would be no 'Blowin' in the Wind' tonight. Dylan had left the didactic world of political song behind. He was singing now about his decadent, self-absorbed internal life. He finished with 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue', spitting the lyrics out contemptuously in the direction of the old guard."

Bob Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival recalled in 'White Bicycles - making music in the 1960s' by legendary record producer Joe Boyd, whose credits include Fairport Convention, the Incredible String Band, and Nick Drake. 'White Bicycles' is published by Serpent's Tail, ISBN 1852429100. It is essential reading for any student of contemporary music. The title, incidentally, is from a song by Tomorrow inspired by the free transport provided by Amsterdam's revolutionary provos.

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Peak melody

The blog Tampon Teabag (yes I know) posted the following very interesting (and long) piece back in September 2005. I missed it first time round, so here it is (language and all) in case you did as well.

"Every society throughout history and throughout the world has made and enjoyed music! But we, now, here, in the west are unique… in our hunger for ever more, new music. Music surrounds us: in our houses, blasting out of radios, CD players, computers. It wakes us up, and it sends us to sleep. Outside we pump music into our ears through up-to-the-minute mobile phones and MP3-players...

"We cannot get enough of it! We hear it in our supermarkets, and we sing it in our churches and in our karaoke bars. Rock anthems in pubs, and recorder-concerts in schools. We chant it at our football matches, hum along to it in our cars, and dance to it in our nightclubs. We go to Sing-Along-Sound-of-Music evenings. There is no getting away from music. Our lives are musical lives, and our world is a musical world. Musical. Music."


So wrote the philosopher Jacob Applebloom in his suicide note.

Just as so often in his life (not least in his decision to end it) Applebloom was right: our western appetite for new music does indeed know no bounds. Music is now officially the fourth most important factor in our lives, after food, drink, and sex. Chillingly, it even comes above our own children, and going to the toilet.

And central to western music, is melody.

But melody is a finite resource: the number of distinct melodies of a certain length which can be composed from the few notes we have at our disposal, is limited, and experts agree that we are getting through the various possible combinations and permutations at an alarming rate.

So how much longer can we continue to plunder melody reserves like this? The plain fact is that we’re already running out: the production of genuinely new melody peaked in late 1996, and has already started to fall away, reciprocal-logarithmically speaking. Experts predict that if the rate at which the rate of increase of consumption of melody increases continues to increase at its current rate, then by 2027 every single repeatable tune lasting less than 30 seconds will have been recorded.

An overhaul of the copyright law is urgently needed if total economic prolapse is to be avoided. But that is only the first, and easiest step.

The serialist movement of the early 20th century led by Arnold Schoenberg was one of the first concerted attempts to locate new reserves of melody. Schoenberg searched for tunes in the atonal wilderness, but he met with only limited success. Experiments in microtonal technology (initiated by the likes of Carillo and Ives in the late 19th century) are ongoing, but so far they also show little prospect of producing anything approaching a memorable, repeatable tune. Others have searched further afield: Olivier Messiaen searched for melody in birdsong. But it seems that birds and humans have different ideas about what constitutes a good tune. John Cage in his infamous piece 4’33”, posed the paradoxical question “is silence actually the best melody?” But the world was not convinced, and the rate at which the rate of increase of consumption of new, audible, melody increases continued to increase unabated.

Greater success has been achieved by the world-music movement, and by the melody-conservationists of the minimalist movement. The likes of Steve Reich and Philip Glass have discovered techniques to make melody go further: Reich, for example, has composed single pieces of music of over an hour in length, which feature only one or two snippets of simple melody. Significantly, this approach has now crossed over into the mainstream (in for instance the music of Kylie Minogue, and in the dance-clubs of Ibiza).

All genres of music (excluding the extreme avant-garde) are struggling to come to terms with the impending melody-crisis. Hip-hop for instance has managed to dispense with melody almost completely, but unfortunate knock-on effects of this have been felt in the world’s dwindling stocks of rhythm and swear-words.

As the crisis deepens, mainstream pop-music will be the first to be hit hard, and record-producers have now adopted a policy of containment, and are trying to saturate the market with endless remixes, covers, and re-covers in a desperate attempt to maintain public interest whilst getting more mileage from fast-disappearing melody stocks. But consumers will not put up with this state of affairs indefinitely. Mohammed Propane from the music watchdog OFFPOP struck a threatening note in an interview last month: “At best these singles are indistinguishable from the originals, but more often they’re just inferior copies. Have you heard Britney Spears' version of "I love Rock and Roll"? It’s an insult to the taste and discernment of the general public, that’s what it is. And do you remember All Saints' cover of "Under the Bridge"? And then there’s the Crazy Frog. Fuck-a-duck that thing irritates me, and I’m not the only one. Studies show unprecedented levels of public anger with the music industry at the moment, and if record producers think they can fob off audiences with this sort of childish crap for much longer, then they’ve got another thing coming. I tell you this: if things don’t improve, we’ll begin by blockading CD-factories, and end by burning their fucking studios to the ground, in the name of Allah.”

It is beyond doubt that when future generations look back on the 20th and early 21st century, they will view it as a time of disgraceful musical profligacy. And the court of history will undoubtedly reserve the most serious charges of melody-wasting for jazz-musicians. In a single gig a competent jazz musician can utilise up to 100,000 notes of melody. It is estimated that Charlie Parker alone expended over 1% of the world’s melody supplies during the course of his 23 year career.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the goatee-stroking foot-tappers: Jazz also takes pole position in the only realistic attempt to forestall the effects of the global melody-shortage. For although melody is an essential component of western music, it has been discovered that suitable alterations in the harmony, rhythm, timbre, volume, tempo, or lyrics can allow a single line of melody to be safely reused several times over.

“Melody-recycling” has become the buzzword, and the most successful examples of melody-recycling in action are so-called Trans-Genre Arrangements (TGAs). Jazz leads the way. As long ago as 1934, blind-in-one-eye piano virtuoso Art Tatum stunned the musical establishment with his sublime jazz-arrangements of compositions by Massenet and Debussy. This approach was continued by gauloise-smoking left-banker Jacques Loussier, most famously in his arrangement of Bach’s “Air on a G-String”. More recently Django Bates’ anarchic arrangement of “New York, New York” came to symbolise a new chapter of British jazz. These days TGAs are stock in trade for jazz musicians, with the likes Brad Meldau covering several Radiohead songs, and The Bad Plus tackling everything from Aphex Twin to Queen.

But TGAs are not the domain of jazz alone. Punk’s history of musical vandalism has given us a host of iconoclastic and humorous reworkings of classic songs, including the most notorious of all TGAs: The Sex Pistols’ version of “My Way”.

Electro-music too has taken on the melody-recycling mantle, and whilst the charts heave with lazy remixes, samples, and plagiarism, more imaginative experiments in “bootlegging” are beginning to turn out some worthwhile results. As often as not though, this melody-saving innovation finds itself on the wrong side of British copyright law, as in for instance The Evolution Control Committee’s song “Rocked by Rape” in which the voice of CBS newscaster Dan Rather is set to riffs by AC/DC.

Interestingly Paul Anka who wrote the lyrics to “My Way” is now in the vanguard of the TGA-movement. His recently issued disc "Rock Swings" features classic rock songs being played by a swing-band. His arrangement of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has made a particularly strong impression on the public consciousness, and suggests that the future of the TGA may be bright, even in the mainstream.

Critics agree that to be successful, a TGA must fearlessly deconstruct and rebuild a well-known, and well-liked piece of music. The greatest TGAs of all time are widely considered to be Jimi Hendrix's version of "All Along The Watchtower" by Bob Dylan, and The Easystar Allstars’ “The Dub Side of the Moon”, in which the entirety of Pink Floyd’s seminal album “The Dark Side of the Moon” is reworked in the reggae genre. Many more bold efforts like this are needed if the world is to avoid total musical-meltdown in the near future.

But one man’s imaginative re-arrangement is another man’s sacrilege, and further down this road, danger certainly lies. Imagine a world where all the music sounds like William Shatner’s cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, or even more frighteningly, like Barbara Cartland’s nauseating rendition of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. As the amount of available melody dwindles, the musical establishment is going to have to regulate itself with increasing sensitivity, whilst trying to keep the market afloat. Some are already calling for government intervention to prevent a glut of novelty records by the likes of Weird Al Yankovich or the Dangleberries’ bagpipe version of “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath.

But econo-musicologists such as Honey Jezebel warn that further tightening of music laws could spell disaster. “What we desparately need is more albums like "Maximum Rockgrass" by Hayseed Dixie [an album of classic rock songs performed in the blue-grass genre]. Sure, a few purists are not going to like it, but we’ve got to look at the bigger picture here. We’ve got major melody-problems here, people, major problems, and if we’re not careful it could be game over for music as we know it.”

Unless new reserves of melody can be found, by 2020 the face of music is going to look very different from now. A terrifying hint of what’s to come can be found in the music of London-based sound-artist Xper.Xr. Such is his dedication to melody-conservation, that he painstakingly transcribed the song “No Limit” by 90s dance act 2-Unlimited, before arranging it, and translating the result into traditional Chinese musical notation. Xper.Xr then hired traditional Chinese instrumentalists to perform the work. By 2020, such elaborate and extreme techniques may be the only option left to music-makers struggling to satisfy humanity’s never-ending thirst for new music. So at least thought Jacob Applebloom:

“We just cannot conceive of life without music. But music is not eternal. Music, like humanity, needs to evolve to survive. But what will happen when the wells of melody, harmony, and rhythm run dry as they must? Our delicate world of songs and symphonies will die, and a nightmarish dystopia of industrial machinery and radiation-burns will be born in its place: an apocalyptic place where gun-runners whistle Stockhausen, and whores hum techno. This is a world I cannot bear to witness.

“So I shall bid farewell to this planet with its musical richness and diversity still in tact, and as I swing from the strings of my grand piano, I shall smile, and feel glad ever to have lived, and listened, in the land of Elgar.”


Reblogged from Tampon Teabag

Picture credits: Steve Reich - Glass pages John Cage - Kunstradio Paul Anka - Encore4 Bob Dylan - Blind Pig Music Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
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* This article was originally published on November 22, 2005, and is reblogged here as part of On An Overgrown Path's second anniversary celebration of Music beyond borders. Follow this link to read the comments posted to the original article.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sweden's best kept secret - Jan Johansson

Sweden is famous for its jazz. Most recently the home grown Esbjorn Svensson Trio has become a worldwide success. Yet the best selling jazz record in Sweden was made by an artist virtually unknown outside Scandinavia, and whose records are very difficult to get hold of.

The artist is pianist Jan Johansson (photo above). The recording is Jazz på svenska (Jazz in Swedish), and it has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Johansson was born in 1931, and met saxophonist Stan Getz while at university. He abandoned his studies to play jazz fulltime, and worked with many American jazz greats, becoming the first European ever to be invited to join "Jazz at the Philharmonic." invisible hit counter

The years 1961 to 1968 produced a string of classic albums. These included Jazz på svenska and Jazz på Ryska (Jazz in Russia) which are available together on a single CD titled Folkvisor. Jazz in Sweden comprises variations on sixteen Swedish folk songs with George Riedel playing bass. Also worth exploring is Musik genom Fyra Sekler (Music from the Past Centuries) which is another exploration of traditional Swedish melodies using larger forces. There were also two excellent trio sets, 8 Bittar and Innertrio, which again have been issued as a single CD.

In November 1968 Jan Johansson was killed in a car crash on his way to a church concert in a church concert in Jönköping, Sweden. He was just 37.

For reasons which are very difficult to understand Jan Johansson has remained relatively unknown outside Sweden. His son, Anders Johansson, runs Heptagon Records which does an invaluable job of keeping his recordings available. But they are still surprisingly difficult to find. I bought mine from the oddly named, but very efficient CD Baby who are based in Portland, Oregon.

Here to give you a taste of what the rest of the world has been missing are eight minutes of Jan Johansson courtesy of the Heptagon Records web site:

Folkvisor (Two samples 2' 08" & 1' 41"): - -

Musik genom Fyra Sekler (3' o"): -

8 Bittar and Innertrio (1' 52"): -

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* This article was originally published on October 3, 2005, and is reblogged here as part of On An Overgrown Path's second anniversary celebration of Music beyond borders. Follow this link to read the comments posted to the original article.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I am a camera - Dresden


In July 1960, Dmitri Shostakovich visited Dresden, which was then in the communist German Democratic Republic, to write the score for a film, 'Five Days, Five Nights'. This was the first time he had seen the devastation caused by the Allied bombing raids on February 14th 1945. The experience directly inspired his Eighth String Quartet, Op 110, which was written in just three days, and dedicated to the victims of fascism and war. The quartet became a musical symbol of the devastated city.

In the same way the rubble of the beautiful Frauenkirche (above), which was consecrated in 1734 and collapsed two days after the 1945 attacks, became a visual symbol of the ruined 'Florence on the Elbe.' The cathedral's famous organ by Gottfried Silbermann was also totally destroyed. It had been played by Johann Sebastian Bach in a recital in December 1736. The acoustics of the cathedral were said to have inspired passages in Wagner's Parsifal, and he conducted the first performance of his Biblical scene Das Liebesmahl der Apostel, Op. 69 there in 1843.

But a miracle has taken place. The Frauenkirche has risen like a phoenix from the ashes after sixty years, and the meticulously rebuilt cathedral with its restored Silbermann organ was re-consecrated in October. Last week we made a pilgrimage from Berlin through the former DDR to the restored cathedral. Here are some of my photos. Feast your eyes for this is truly a miracle.

Exterior of the restored Frauenkirche, taken from the left of the statue of Martin Luther seen in the top photo. 8400 outer facade pieces, and 87,000 internal masonry blocks recovered from the ruin were mapped onto a computer, and re-used where possible in their original locations in the rebuilding. The recovered stones can be seen as black blocks in the new facade. Photo - On An Overgrown Path

Above is the beautifully rebuilt interior of the dome. Below is the restored altar originally created by the Dresden sculptor Johann Christian Feige the Elder, and recreated from more than two thousand pieces of rubble. Above it is the magnificently restored Silbermann organ which has already been captured on CD. Photos - On An Overgrown Path


Anyone who doubts the ability of our culture to regenerate itself should make this pilgrimage.

The three colour pictures were taken by me on an 'old-school' Nikon F50 on 25th November 2005 (by an extraordinary coincidence 300 years to the exact day that the Silbermann organ was originally dedicated). The interior shots were hand-held using 200 ASA film. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk Image owners - if you do not want your picture used on this site please contact me and it will be replaced
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* This article was originally published on December 3, 2005, and is reblogged here as part of On An Overgrown Path's second anniversary celebration of Music beyond borders. Follow this link to read the comments posted to the original article.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Music beyond borders


I was delighted recently to receive a request from Dennis Wu Ming Yiu for permission to use one of my photos from BBC Proms - summer in the city. Dennis is a producer and presenter on Radio 4, the Fine Arts and Music Channel of Radio Television Hong Kong, and one of many people working in the media who are regular readers On An Overgrown Path. He wanted to use my image in Fine Music, the Chinese language equivalent of the Gramophone. You can see the results illustrating this article, and read the magazine online and listen to Radio 4, including some fine classical music, via this link.


One of RTHK's projects is called Music beyond borders, and I was particularly pleased to see an image from On An Overgrown Path appearing in Fine Music as I had worked in Hong Kong on the promotion of classical music in the 1980s. Since then music has truly travelled beyond borders as the former British colony is now the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Fine Music reports on a very healthy classical music scene in Hong Kong. Among the August highlights are three concerts by the Asian Youth Orchestra including the Hong Kong premiere of Howard Hanson's Symphony No 2, the Romantic, a performance of Samuel Barber's heavenly Violin Concerto with the 21 year old Stefan Jackiw as soloist, and a Mozart and Mahler programme conducted by Okko Kamu. All these concerts are broadcast on radio, TV and the internet.


Music beyond borders will be the theme of On An Overgrown Path for the next week. Two years ago today the first tentative article was uploaded here. Since then On An Overgrown Path has gathered an awful lot of readers in Hong Kong and other places around the world. And an awful lot of words have been uploaded; this is post number 634, and that means 317,000 words, or the equivalent of more than two decent length books, written in two years, plus more than 2000 images!


To celebrate the second birthday I am running a retrospective week featuring some personal favourites from the blog’s archives, as well as any breaking news. Thank you for your support, and I hope you enjoy my short season looking back at two years of music beyond borders.

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Quiet celebration with friends

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and the Third Reich

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (left) took her first professional steps in the early years of the Third Reich. The young soprano had moved to Berlin at the age of 17, from the provincial town of Cottbus on the Polish border, and entered the Hochschule für Musik. She was just at the right age to be genuinely impressed by the trappings of National Socialism; in the German capital, she would have got full exposure to flags, speeches and fanfares. She would eventually join three different Nazi organisations and, long after 1945, this may not have caused the stir it did had she herself acknowledged her actions as soon as those circumstances came to light.

But very much like her frequent collaborator Herbert von Karajan, she kept denying these accusations when confronted with them, by American journalists as much as by historians. When she finally admitted them, she made light of the matter, claiming that joining these organisations had been routine, and that all her colleagues did it for the sake of a job. But she was prickly about it.

Did all this help her career? When Schwarzkopf fell ill with tuberculosis during the war and retired for about a year to a sanatorium in the Tatra Mountains, she was apparently shielded by her lover, a high-ranking SS officer, whose power was beyond Goebbels's jurisdiction. Exactly who this man was has never been established.

In 1944, she was finally able to join Böhm in Vienna, under the care of the city's gauleiter, Baldur von Schirach. Her presence in Vienna facilitated her transition to the postwar music scene, because Nazis in Austria were more easily "denazified" than those in Germany. As for the SS lover, the composer Gottfried von Einem (photo above) told me in Vienna, shortly before his death, that this had been the gauleiter of Lower Austria, Dr Hugo Jury. Jury was an SS general, but by profession he was a doctor, specialising in tuberculosis.
Michael H Kater pens the inevitable re-evaluation in today’s Guardian. He is the author of The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich published by Oxford University Press - left.

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Downfall - and the mystery of Karajan’s personal photographer

Golijov out, BBC Young Generation Artist in

Soprano Dawn Upshaw (left) has been forced to withdraw from this evening's (August 24) BBC Prom performance with the Minnesota Orchestra of Osvaldo Golijov’s Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra due to illness. Dawn Upshaw has issued the following statement: “I am sorry and disappointed not to be able to perform Osvaldo Golijov’s Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra at the BBC Proms. This music has touched me and my Minnesota colleagues deeply, and singing at the Royal Albert Hall is an unforgettable experience. I look forward to returning to London soon with this wonderful music.”

Since Golijov wrote these songs specifically for Dawn Upshaw, the BBC have had to change the programme, as there is not time for another soprano to learn and rehearse them. Pianist Llyr Williams is the last minute substitute in the rather surprising choice of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3. The little-known Williams is one of the BBC's in-house stable of Young Generation Artists who benefit from broadcast and performance opportunities via BBC Radio 3. The BBC website says 'The scheme offers 12 young artists or groups unique opportunities across the network to develop their considerable talents.' As part of the scheme Radio 3 has also set up a collaborative venture with EMI Classics, (see my article The hidden power of the music super agents). This has so far resulted in nine co-produced CDs in the EMI Debut series, three of which (Belcea Quartet, Simon Trpceski and Jonathan Lemalu) have won Gramophone Awards for the best Debut CD of the year. And a number of New Generation Artists have contributed to cover CDs for BBC Music Magazine.

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