Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Royal Opera House loses the plot


The advertisement above is from the Royal Opera House's current press campaign. Their production of Parsifal, which gets a tiny mention bottom left, is conducted by Bernard Haitink (age 78) and John Tomlinson (age 61) is singing Gurnemanz. Which makes it one of the musical events of the year in my book. But, sadly, Holy Fools don't have as much sex(ist), or age appeal, as a 29 year old soprano.

Below is an advertisement from the programme for another memorable musical event in London, Otto Klemperer's 1961 London Beethoven Festival. It is followed by part of the acceptance speech Maestro Klemperer made when he was awarded an honorary doctorate in law from Occidental College, Los Angeles.


'The lawyer fights for justice; his highest duty is to go and permanently fight for innocent people, to save their life against the attacks of their enemies. And what are we doing, we musicians? We fight for the innocent Lady Music. Is she not accused? I think she is. She is accused of being useless, a thing of luxury. And is she not innocent? Is there any reason to condemn music to death? I do not believe it. The contrary is true. We musicians have to protect this noble Lady, Music; we have to save her from the attacks of materialism'.

Attitudes towards Lady Music have changed very little in some parts since that speech was given on 24 September 1936. But recognition of her contribution is increasing. A wonderful book has just been published which chronicles an important contribution to twentieth-century music. It celebrates the life and work of Imogen Holst, who was an important influence on English music for more than three decades, and who worked alongside that great figure of twentieth-century music, Benjamin Britten, for twelve years.

The stereotype of Aldeburgh portrays it as an exclusively male domain. But the inclusiveness of that most musical of places is reflected in the location of Imogen Holst's grave, alongside that of Britten and Peter Pears in Aldeburgh churchyard. The words on her headstone, from her father Gustav Holst's Hymn of Jesus, deliver a message that is still not fully understood today:

The heavenly spheres make music for us
All things join in the dance


Now join in the dance here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, and read about Britten's women here.
The Beethoven Symphonies advertisement comes from my own collection. The Occidental College speech is from Klemperer on Music (Toccata Press ISBN 0907689132) - highly recommended for advertising agencies everywhere. Imogen Holst - A Life in Music is published by Boydell & Brewer ISBN 9781843832966. 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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