Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Seven Last Words


My photograph was taken at the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, Norfolk, and celebrates both the birth of Joseph Haydn 275 years ago, on March 31st 1732, and the start of Holy Week.

Now playing – Emerson Quartet performing Haydn’s ‘The Seven Last Words’. The cathedral in Cádiz commissioned Haydn, who was a devout Catholic, to write orchestral interludes for performance between the spoken parts of the service in the great Spanish Baroque church during Holy Week. The composer wrote seven adagios for the cathedral, and transcribed these for string quartet in the year of their first performance, 1787, and later made a choral version. The Emerson’s recorded ‘The Seven Last Words’ in New York in 2002 as part of their complete Haydn project.


Joseph Haydn was born in Rohrau, Lower Austria, and ranks as one of the most important composers of all time. However, unlike Mozart's, today's important anniversary of his birth has passed virtually unnoticed. He was the first great Viennese composer, and is known as both the "Father of the Symphony" and the "Father of the String Quartet" in whose footsteps Mozart and Beethoven followed.

Meanwhile back in Cádiz, Manuel de Falla was buried in the crypt of the cathedral in 1946.

Now enjoy Easter at Aldeburgh
Photograph by Pliable. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included for "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

Peter Paul Fuchs - one path ends


Hello Pliable, No sooner than we speak of Weigl and a few of his students than I see this today:

In Wednesday’s (3/28/2007) Greensboro News & Record (NC), Dawn Decwikiel-Kane reports: “Peter Paul Fuchs, longtime conductor of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Greensboro Opera Company, died Monday night after a long illness. Fuchs, 90, died at Friends Home Guilford after a 17-year battle with Alzheimer's disease (follow this link for more on music and Alzheimer's - Pliable). The Vienna-born Fuchs brought his vast musical experience and pleasant temperament to the symphony and opera company from the mid-1970s through the early 1990s. Their leaders praised him Tuesday for his role in sculpting both organizations. ‘His expertise and talents led the orchestra to achieve the professional status and artistic excellence it enjoys today,’ said Dmitry Sitkovetsky, the symphony's current music director. Before arriving in Greensboro, Fuchs conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, directed the opera and orchestra at Louisiana State University and had led the Baton Rouge Symphony. Fuchs served as the Greensboro Symphony's music director from 1975-87, then retired and became its conductor laureate.”

He was a talented man that I was honored to meet once and speak to at length. I still have a score or two of his in my library, though I was unable to convince anyone to perform them at the time. That was no reflection upon his music. Best, John McLaughlin Williams

* Now playing - Bach's Goldberg Variations transcribed for strings by current Greensboro Symphony music director Dmitry Sitkovetsky (below), and played by NES Chamber Orchestra. The sleeve notes of this 1995 Nonesuch CD are by none other than John Adams, and say: 'The opportunity to experience a new view of a familiar work such as the Goldberg Variations should not be grounds for a skeptical raising of critical eyebrows, but rather a cause for celebration. Arranging the Goldberg Variations is risky business, however. One is working here not with a melodic fragment of single song, but rather with one of the summas of Western music, specifically a work which is a compendium of all the principal developments in European keyboard up to and including Bach's time. ... John Cage, in his lecture "Composition as Process," defines form as "the morphology of continuity." The morphology of the Goldberg Variations' continuity is one of a perfectly shaped and harmonious continuity. Symmetry and unpredictability coexist in an environment of impertuable serenity. ' Nice CD as well.

Now read about a year at the symphony.
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Friday, March 30, 2007

The art of the mosque


No two modes of architecture could be more different from one another than the Muslim and the West Christian. West Christian architecture in its early phase is filled with the craving for weight and massiveness; and in its second phase, the Gothic, in that for a spectacular liberation from that weight in a skyward ascent ... Moslem architecture is quite the opposite. A mosque is to be a court, a square, a market-place, lightly built to hold a large concourse of people. Allah is so great that nothing human can vie with Him in strength or endurance ... Even the Moslem castles, large though they are, give the effect of being light and insubstantial. But a Mosque is also a place for the contemplation of the Oneness of Allah. How can this better be done than by giving the eyes a maze of geometric patterns to brood over? The state aimed at is a sort of semi-trance. (Pliable - See my reference to the Mevelevi Order below). The mind contemplates the patterns, knows that they can be unravelled and yet does not unravel them. It rests therefore on what it sees, and the delicate colour, the variations of light and shade add a sensuous tinge to the pleasure of cetainty made visible.

Gerald Brenan writes above in his 1950 book The Face of Spain about the art of the Mosque. This photo essay celebrates a sublime example of that art, the Rüstem Pasa Camii in Istanbul.


The mosque was built by Rüstem Pasa, son-in-law and grand vezir of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1520-1566). Although Rüstem Pasa was one of the wealthiest nobles in the Ottoman Empire at the peak of its power he had to reflect his role as a servant of the Sultan by building a mosque that was subordinate in size, if not in beauty, to the sultan’s great mosque.


Mimar Sinan was the architect of the Rüstem Pasa Camii. Born a Christian in Anatolia, from either a Greek or Armenian background, Sinan was conscripted into Ottoman service in 1511, and converted to Islam. He was the chief Ottoman architect to four sultans, and his most famous buildings are the great Süleyman Mosque in Istanbul, and the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne. Sinan worked in seismic, as well as political, fault zones, and his buildings are famous for their earthquake resistance. His extraordinary output included 146 mosques and 57 universities, a track record that even Norman Foster can’t beat, although Mimar Sinan doesn’t have any airports in his portfolio


Rüstem Pasa chose a site alongside the Golden Horn in the Eminönü district of Constantinople, and at the foot of the hill crowned by Süleyman’s great mosque. Compact in size, but beautifully proportioned, Rüstem Pasa Camii is decorated with exquisite Iznik faience tiles which are notable for the use of red pigments, seen in my photo above, as well as the famous blue. Although in the popular spice bazaar area the mosque is not on the main tourist routes, and it takes some determination to find the entrance.


Rüstem Pasa Camii is one of the finest examples of the art of the mosque, and it was built at the peak of the Ottoman Empire. But sadly Rüstem Pasa was involved in the political intrique and murder that resulted in Selim the Sot - or drunkard (1566-1574) ascending to the throne on Sultan Süleyman’s death in 1566. Selim’s priorities were carnal rather than cultural, and his reign was the start of the long decline of the Ottoman Empire. We are very fortunate that many fine examples of the work of Mimar Sinan and other great Ottoman visionaries survive to remind us of this glorious period of Islamic art.


Now playing - Mevlevi Müzigi, the music of whirling dervishes. Mimar Sinan’s design for Rüstem Pasa Mosque follows the Ahaadith, and makes no provision for figurative art or the performance of music. But the exact position of the Qu’ran on this is not precise, and there are many fine examples of the creative arts from Ottoman culture. The Mevlevi is a Sufi Order founded by the followers of Mevlana Celalleddin-i Rum (left) in 1273 in the Konya province of Turkey. The Mevlevi Order is also known as the Whirling Dervishes due to their practice of whirling to celebrate Allah. During the peak of the Ottoman Empire the Mevlevi Order produced many musicians and poets, and much of the stereotypical “oriental” Turkish music heard in the West originated from the order. Islam is usually perceived to be repressive of women’s rights, but this period saw the emergence of women in the creative sector, with Ayat Sweid identified as the first female artist.

In 1925 the Mevlevi Order was outlawed at the start of the secular revolution in Turkey. But in the 1950s the government realised the cultural and tourist value of the Whirling Dervishes, and performances in Turkey and overseas were reintated. The Istanbul Music and Sema (Whirling Ceremony) Group was founded to bring traditional music and spiritual ceremonies to a wider audience. They perform Turkish classical music, Tasavvuf (mystical) music, and Sema ceremonies (Whirling Dervish rituals) in historically authentic performances. In striking contrast to the doctrines of Islamic fundamentalism these Mevlevi rituals are centred on "human love", "brotherhood" and "tolerance" as advocated by their founder 750 ago. Follow this link link for music and video samples from the Istanbul Music and Sema Group. Also recommended is Laleh Bakhtiar's book Sufi, Expressions of the Mystic Quest (Thames and Hudson ISBN 050081015).

Now read how music and books reflect the crisis in Islam
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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Elitism on the world's great orchestral stages


A reader wrote yesterday and asked whether I agreed with everything I post here. The answer is an emphatic no. But I do try to provide food for thought. Which is why I offer an extract from, and link to this article in the current American Spectator. And for those arriving from Agonist.org I would point out that the words below are a quote (which is what an extract is) from the American Spectator article - not my words.

So what should orchestras do to increase the numbers of minority violists? Perhaps they should follow Nazi Germany's lead which set quotas on the number of Jews who could attend medical or law school in order to allow more goyim to become doctors and lawyers? Orchestras could limit the number of white male and female Asian-American orchestra members, and instead of calling it a quota system, they could call it "diversity."

Or orchestras could follow the lead of the professional athletic associations which 50 years ago stopped excluding athletes on account of skin color and now simply hire the best. Does any one really want to see boxing or the NBA adopt a quota system?

Traditionally government and academia have been the testing grounds where theories of social engineering are put into practice. Social engineers, however, have been less successful making inroads into professional sports, the arts and the military. Perhaps that is why our government and schools run like an Edsel, while the San Francisco Symphony and the U.S. Marines are beyond compare.

Certainly a good case can be made that black and Latino students should be exposed to classical music. I'm all for it. But a similar argument can be made for poor and middle class white kids in rural schools, and yet I do not hear
Aaron Dworkin pushing for more hillbilly cellists.

If ever there was a case for elitism it should be made on the world's great orchestral stages, where perfection should never be held hostage to political correctness. If you want mediocrity, look to the government and the public schools. Plenty there to go round.

Now for an alternative view read here, here, or anywhere else on the blog.

Thanks to Bernard T for the heads-up. 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

He was in every sense a good man


Cormac Rigby (second from left above), who has died aged 67 of cancer, had two distinct careers: as a BBC radio announcer, and later as a Roman Catholic priest. Both called for an easy mastery of the spoken word, and to both he brought a naturally cultivated talent.

As presentation editor of Radio 3 from 1972 to 1985, Cormac set the tone of the channel, supervising the work of established announcers such as Patricia Hughes and Tom Crowe, engaging younger ones (among them Tony Scotland) and himself taking a full share of the announcing and presenting load. After leaving the BBC in 1985, he trained for the priesthood, served first in Ruislip, Middlesex, and then in Stanmore, north London, where he was specially happy and very well liked.

He was born in Watford, Hertfordshire; his mother had been born Grace McCormack, and his first name was a conscious recollection of her Irish maiden name. Baptised on May 21 1939, he was to be ordained on the very same day, 49 years later, by
Cardinal Basil Hume in Westminster Cathedral. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' school, Northwood, Middlesex, and read history at St John's College, Oxford.

But the church beckoned, and in 1961 he went to the English College, in Rome, to train for the priesthood. There, however, he found the regime unacceptably narrow-minded, and returned to Oxford to complete a doctoral thesis on
Edward Thring, the 19th-century preacher and headmaster of Uppingham. In 1965, he became an all-purpose announcer at the BBC, working for the Home Service and the Music Programme, which then preceded the evening Third Programme.

In due course he was permitted to announce for the Third Programme, and by 1968 Cormac was also engaged as a planner for that network. Here, he first tasted blood when an internal conflict arose over the relative artistic and financial merits of Solti's Die Meistersinger, from Covent Garden, and Goodall's The Mastersingers, from the Coliseum. Cormac's championship of the latter won the day and he confessed himself "jubilant". (All of us who were privileged to attend Goodall's Mastersingers can only confirm how right Cormac was - Pliable)

In 1969 the BBC published Broadcasting in the Seventies, a document that heralded the "dumbing-down" of the Third Programme. Early the following year, 134 BBC staff members - all in breach of their contract - signed a letter of protest to the Times, and Cormac's name was, characteristically, among them. In 1972, he was nevertheless appointed presentation editor of Radio 3, where his regime was distinguished.

Cormac expected his colleagues to be cultivated personalities, at ease with musical terminology and correct pronunciation in whatever language was called for. He asked that their delivery be measured and accurately stressed. And he set an admirably urbane example.


He was also fiercely loyal to his staff and, as I discovered during the musicians' strike over the BBC plans, eventually dropped, to disband five orchestras in 1980, heart-warmingly supportive of those in conflict with the Philistine tendency. In 1985, he introduced his last Last Night of the Proms for television, on which he was seen regularly, then left the BBC and began, for the second time, to train as a priest.

Apart from his faith and his skills as a broadcaster, Cormac had a passion for ballet, in which he was knowledgable and discriminating. During the 1970s he devised and presented a Radio 3 programme, Royal Repertoire, which complemented the current programmes of the Royal Ballet. He also wrote for Dance and Dancers, using the pen-name John Cowan. Even after his ordination he contributed to Dance Now, and he was always glad, a friend remarked, "to get his dog collar off and go to the ballet".

In three attractive books of sermons,
The Lord Be With You (2003), Lift Up Your Hearts (2004) and Let Us Give Thanks (2005), he related without self-pity how his prostate cancer had spread and he felt obliged to give up his Stanmore parish. During a longer-than-expected remission, he went to Ireland and enjoyed "the most beautiful reprise of some of my happiest journeys up and down the Irish fjords". He was in every sense a good man.

A wonderful obituary, by Robert Ponsonby in today's Guardian, of a truly wonderful man. Cormac Rigby was an inspiration to all of us involved in broadcasting - paragraph 6 says it all. Read an interview with Father Cormac here. The header photograph, with Cormac Rigby second left, was taken in the Broadcasting House control room at Christmas 1971. (There is a less flattering photo of me on the same site, taken a few weeks later just after I joined the BBC.)


Now listen to Cormac Rigby's 'easy mastery of the spoken word', this is what radio can be -

And now visit the Carmelite monastery where Cormac Rigby had his Christmas cards printed.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Karl Weigl photo album


Preparing articles about composers such as Elizabeth Maconchy, Elisabeth Lutyens and Karl Weigl is difficult bcause there are very few photographs of them available. After he read my Karl Weigl article today John McLaughlin Williams kindly obtained permission from the composer's grandson to make available the family photographs here. John explains: 'Weigl was a good athlete. I saw other pictures at his daughter-in-law's house that showed him to be quite muscular in the manner of a wrestler. The lovely portrait above is with his wife Vally.'














Now here is an exclusive picture of a very different kind.
Many thanks to Karl Weigl Jr for permission to reproduce these photographs. 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

Mahler's forgotten assistant

John McLaughlin Williams has just added this comment to my post Young composers sit at their computers: How woefully true about what supposedly can and cannot be done on the pro conducting circuit. I had a meeting with a well-known manager at a premiere New York management agency. Said manager inquired about my predilections, to which I answered a number of composers including Karl Weigl. He responded matter-of-factly "you can't do Weigl". The incredulous look upon my naive visage probably explains the subsequent course of my musical life!

Karl Weigl (below) can't be done on the pro conducting circuit, but he can be done On An Overgrown Path - here is his story. Gustav Mahler was appointed director of the Vienna Court Opera in 1897, and in ten years there he transformed both the repertoire and performances. He brought a new focus on the classical repertoire including Gluck and Mozart, and in collaboration with Alfred Roller created revolutionary productions of Fidelio, Tristan und Isolde, and Der Ring des Nibelungen.

In 1904 Mahler appointed as his rehearsal conductor, Karl Weigl, the 23 year old son of a prominent Viennese Jewish family. Weigl’s teachers included Alexander von Zemlinsky and Guido Adler, and his circle included Webern and Schönberg. In 1903 the Vereinigung scaffender Tonkunstler was founded by Zemlinsky, Schönberg and Weigl under the patronage of Mahler, and was programmed much ‘new’ music, including works by Mahler, Richard Strauss, Zemlinsky, Schönberg , Pfitzner, Reger and Bruno Walter, as well Weigl’s own compositions.

In 1906 Weigl left the Vienna Opera to concentrate on composing, and his chromatic harmonies and imaginative orchestration, which did not follow the musical path of his friend Schönberg, achieved considerable success. His Phantastisches Intermezzo, was performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under Furtwängler, and the Rose Quartet premiered several of his chamber works. Other champions of his work included George Szell and the Busch Quartet. In 1929 joined the music department of the University of Vienna, and his students included Hanns Eisler, Erich Korngold and Kurt Adler.

In 1933 the political, and cultural, map of Europe started to change. The rise to power of the Nazis saw the start of discrimination against non-Aryan musicians and music. After Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938 Weigl’s music was removed from publisher’s catalogues, and exile became inevitable. In October 1938 he arrived in New York with the conductor Kurt Adler and the cellist Emanuel Feuerman. His letters of recommendation from Schönberg, Richard Strauss and Bruno Walter cut little ice in America, and Weigl struggled to survive giving private lessons. Later he held several teaching posts on the East Coast, but these were a far cry from the post in Vienna that he had left. Karl Weigl died after a prolonged illness in August 1949, eleven years after he had arrived in New York.

After this denouement it would be pleasing to report a revival of interest in Weigl’s music, but sadly this has not been the case. Stokowski gave the premiere of the Fifth Symphony Apokalyptische in New York, and other performers including Richard Goode have performed his compositions. Admirably BIS have recorded his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies together with the Phantastisches Intermezzo. Both the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies were composed by Karl Weigl in America, and the poignant sub-title of the Fifth says it all - Apocalyptic.

* See also a Karl Weigl photo album and Peter Paul Fuchs - one path ends.
* Follow this link to the website of the Jewish Music Institute

Now playingKarl Weigl’s String Quartets No 1 and No 5. Nimbus has done a wonderful job championing forgotten and suppressed music. This highly recommended 1999 recording by the Artis Quartett Wien is only the second recording of these two quartets. Schönberg urged Arnold Rosé to perform them, praising their “extraordinary qualities and inventiveness”.

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Now take An Overgrown Path to Holocaust opera's rare performance

Young composers sit at their computers ...

Mahler 9. Circuit training’ll be a dawdle after this. What a play. What a play-fest. Ilan (Volkov) (above left) skippered us through it in Glasgow and Leeds last week. The last time the band played it was 1976 – that’s the year Ilan was born. Christopher Adey conducted that time. It was one of his last gigs with us during his tenure as ‘Assistant Conductor’. He was desperate to do the piece, the producer couldn’t really budget for it, so they agreed (i.e. they forgot to discuss it with us down at the coal face) to do it on half the rehearsal time.

The next ‘Assistant Conductor’ was Simon Rattle, and he tried the same trick with Mahler 7, but he programmed two studio recordings instead of the quick bash for one. Surprise, surprise: when we got to the first recording he announced that we weren’t ready and cancelled the recording in favour of a day more rehearsal before the second session. And they docked his pay! Which didn’t leave much, considering the pay those assistants got. In his two year tenure, Simon introduced us to a number of the big expensive orchestral showpieces – fantastic times.

The Assistant Conductor post has disappeared now. It was a good enough institution for the likes of Simon,
Alex Gibson, Bryden Thompson, Christopher Seaman, Andrew Davis and many others. As young conductors they got to do a whole load of stuff that wouldn’t be available to them on the open commercial conductor circuit. Can you imagine the auditions for the post? We had a day in which six hopefuls would turn up with the same repertory excerpts and an hour in which to prove their worth.

There’s a grim side to any audition process, but if the hopeful can’t keep his cool under that pressure, then he’d best find that out quickly. ‘Lesson one’ would be: can they beat through a series of complicated time-signature changes, e.g. the slow movement of Stravinsky’s Symphony in C? We knew the answer by the second bar, but we had to be very professional for the rest of the hour!

Nowadays, many young composers sit at their computers, having left their brain in the bathroom, and unthinkingly use the computer to churn out the most ridiculously complicated sequences of time-signatures, further complicated by speed changes at every bar and notation within those individual bars that contradict the time-signature anyway. We have to take this in our stride now, though you will have gathered from my tone that we might get a tad irritated. But a conductor who can’t take this in his stride – he’s a no no.

When do conductors get to ‘practise’ their instrument – which is a skilled professional band that can actually play the piece? Bear in mind that we, the players, don’t want to appear in public as cannon fodder for inexperienced or weak conductors. What’s the answer?
Cellist Anthony Sayer tells it like it is on the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra blog, and as I've said here several times before, they are a band on a roll, after a near-death experience.


My header photo, from NMC. shows Ilan Volkov, composer Stuart MacRae and violinist Christian Tetzlaff at the recording sessions in Glasgow City Halls in 2006 for MacRae's Violin Concerto, which was a BBC Proms commission. I hasten to add I am sure Anthony Sayer's comments about young composers don't apply to Stuart MacRae, it just happened to be a nice shot that fits the story!
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In search of the lost score

Hello, I have read with interest your posts about Russian composers and Stalin. Your blog is highly informative and entertaining as well, and on an amazingly wide array of topics. I've been trying to find scores by and information about Vavera Gaigerova and Valery Zhelobinski (Jelobinsky). These tantalizing figures have proven completely elusive, yet they were published by the Soviet houses during their lives. Do you know of any resources that I might consult that may lead to performance material? I've been asking folks around the world to no avail. What did the Soviets do with music by composers who fell out of favor? Did they destroy it or bury it within archives? If I can find material I am reasonably sure that I can get recordings made.

My apologies for bothering you out of the blue. Thanks for any info you might offer. Regards, John McLaughlin Williams.

Can anyone help John? Add Comments below, or email to me at overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk and I'll pass it on.
And while we are on the subject of lost scores read about Furtwängler and the forgotten new music.
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Berlin March 28th 1933


Berlin was thrown into great excitement last night by two fires - the one at the Reichstag building (the German Parliament) and the other at the former Imperial Palace. Fire broke out at the Reichstag shortly after 9 p.m., and burned so fiercely that within an hour the main hall in which representatives of the German people meet when Parliament is in session was completely destroyed. Flames leaping from the great glass dome surmounting the building could be seen for miles around, and attracted huge crowds to the scene.

Police in full force on horseback and on foot kept the crowd back, while all the fire brigades in Berlin poured water on to the flames. The building was surrounded by the fire-fighting appliances, and high ladders were run up the walls and illuminated by searchlights. Firemen directed streams of water into the burning building, and hoses were run in through the numerous entrances to the seat of the fire, in the main session hall. It is believed (says an Exchange Berlin telegram) that the fire was due to arson, as it commenced at five or six different points simultaneously. A man was arrested in the building . He was found clad only in his trousers.

A Reuter telegram says that the fire was started by heaps of documents which were set alight in six different places. The police assert that Communists are responsible, and apart from the man who was arrested there were several other people in the building, although the Reichstag is not in session. The wildest rumours were circulating in Berlin last night, adds Reuter. One was to the effect that secret orders had been issued to the Nazi Storm Troopers to create a Bartholomew night on Saturday, when all political opponents of renown were to be "disposed of." Although the police asserted the Communists are responsible, some people think that the fire might have bee started by irresponsible Nazis with the object of provoking trouble.

The fires were extinguished at 10.45 p.m. The session hall presents a scene of desolation with all the deputies' seats, diplomats', public, and press galleries destroyed, and all the iron pillars supporting the dome twisted out of shape. The fire brigade state that the fire must have started at several points. It developed with extraordinary rapidity and began to find its way downstairs to the rooms below.

The police, "suspecting the conflagration to be the first of a series of Communist acts of terrorism," have arrested a number of Communist leaders "in order to forestall any attempt to cover up tracks."
The man who was discovered in the Reichstag building and arrested is stated to be a Dutchman named Van der Luebbe, aged 24 (photo left). He is said to have confessed that he started the fire, but denied that he was acting as anyone's agent. It is added that he said he used his shirt as firing material. The police found a rag steeped in petrol as they entered the building, and the arrested man's cap was found close to other firing material. He has been conducted to police headquarters, where he is being subjected to a thorough examination. His manner had been extremely calm and self-possessed throughout.

Herr
Hitler, Herr Göring, Herr von Papen, and other prominent persons including Prince August Wilhelm, entered the building whilst it was still burning, and Herr Goring, President of the Reichstag and "Commissarial" Minister for the Interior in Prussia, took command of the police and issued orders to keep the crowds at a distance. If the new Reichstag is summoned after next Sunday's elections it is unlikely to be able to meet in the Reichstag building owing to the extensive damage done by the fire. The fire at the former Imperial Palace broke out earlier in the day in an attic, and was quickly subdued by the fire brigade before any damage had been done. The police suspect arson, as burnt matches were found in the attic.

Report from the Guardian. Now visit the rebuilt Reichstag.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The essence of the music itself is there

When does a recording become a forgery? How much can be added that wasn't created by the musicians on the label before it is a fake? My post on a 'recreation' of Glenn Gould's 1955 Goldbergs raises some interesting questions, and so does the following story.

By chance I bought last week the excellent transcriptions of Handel's recorder sonatas for cello and harpsichord played by Tatty Theo (cello) and Carolyn Gibley (harpsichord). The girls are part of the local baroque ensemble, The Brook Street Band. The recording was made a few miles from here in Raveningham Church in Norfolk, the label is Avie, and the producer and engineer is Simon Fox-Gál.

Now here is the first interesting point. The sleeve contains the following message: 'Reverberation included in this recording from Classical Reverberations Impulses produced by Ernest Cholakis for Numerical Sound'.


Research reveals the Toronto based Numerical Sound: 'develops low level manipulations of sound's primary elements. Essentially, we deconstruct, analyze and separate sound by recognizing individual events, elements, or spectral properties, and depending on the situation use the resulting components to modify existing sounds or reconstruct new ones. For example, we might separate a tone into its harmonic or partials or percussive components, and then rebuild those elements into something new.'

A number of high profile classical recordings use Numerical Sound's technology, which shapes sounds to pre-determined profiles in a similar way to the Loft Recordings Tournemire project that I wrote about here. The Numerical Sound website includes some musical examples before and after reprocessing.

I don't want this to get out of proportion. Artificial reverberation has been added to recordings for decades (although why it is needed in the acoustics of a church is a puzzle). On the Handel sonatas disc we are told the sound shaping technology has been used for the reverberation only. But this technology can also reshape instrumental sounds, and this is where the story gets very interesting.

Producer and engineer Simon Fox-Gál of the Handel disc is the grandson of the Viennese born composer Hans Gál (photo below), and he has created recordings of his grandfather's orchestral scores using another technology that has featured here before - Vienna Symphonic Library - which synthesizes music using digital samples of real instruments. Here are Fox-Gal's words about the Hans Gál project: ' It's not a real orchestra, but the essence of the music itself is there, time and our imagination being the only limits to the extent to which we can achieve perfection in the smallest of musical details.' You can listen to the 'not a real orchestra' playing Hans Gál's Symphony No 2 here.

Yes, all perfectly above board, and just the wonders of technology. But let's not forget these words - 'He thinks he began editing “ambience” in the late 1980s.'

Now wonder How much is Stravinsky, and how much is Craft?

Fractal sampled from Jing-reed with many thanks. 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

Dresden February 13th 2007


Nazi numbers were down to 1,600 – among them extremists from Hungary, the UK, Austria and France – for the 2007 annual fascist commemoration of the Allied air raids on Dresden in February 1945. For several years the event has been a key date in the German and international nazi calendar. Two years ago more than 7,000 fascists attended.

As usual the nazis marched with the slogan “No bombing Holocaust ever again”, ridiculing the victims of the real Holocaust, Hitler’s industrialised mass murder of
Jews, Roma and Sinti. This year the demonstration was accompanied by an “action week” organised by an alliance of all Dresden’s rightwing extremists outside the National Democratic Party (NPD) under the leadership of “Free Nationalist”. The NPD’s leaders attended the march.

The nazis were faced with a strong protest from 1,000 mostly
young anti-fascists who repeatedly blocked their path, delaying them and finally forcing them to shorten their demonstration. Some of the more militant nazis tried violently to break out of their own demonstration but ran into conflict with the police and anti-fascists. To some extent they succeeded but ended up fighting with police and anti-fascists.

Scandalously, however, the police this time allowed those nazis who had not already gone home in frustration at the anti-fascist blockade to demonstrate directly opposite the New Synagogue. Nevertheless, anti-fascists, encouraged by their success in ruining the nazi’s evening, are optimistic about preventing next year’s demonstration.


Frank Buschmann reports from Dresden via Antifaschistisches Infoblatt, Antifa-Net , and International Searchlight.

Now read about, and see, Dresden, 13th February 1945.
Picture credit International Searchlight. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included for "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

Monday, March 26, 2007

Classical music flowers in springtime Britain


Academy of Ancient Music, Chief Executive - £na
The Conservatoire, Director of Music - £32k
Scottish Ballet, Head of Development - £32 - 38k
Music at Oxford, General Manager - £na
London Symphony Orchestra, Head of LSO Discovery - £38 - 43k
Britten Sinfonia, Marketing Director - £na
London Sinfonietta, Development & Marketing Managers - £na

It's a beautiful spring day here, and the header photo was taken five minutes ago in our garden. On BBC Radio 3 this afternoon was a stunning performance by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra of that British masterpiece, Elgar's Symphony No 2 in E flat major. Today's Media Guardian lists the music vacancies above. Last Saturday we heard the Pergolesi Stabat Mater and Rachmaninov Vespers in Norwich Cathedral. On Friday it's Prokofiev and Stravinsky at Snape, and on Saturday Schütz and Pärt in Blythburgh Church.

But it's all a mirage. Read here about the death of live classical music, and here about the death of the recording industry.
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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Albert Baez, scientist, pacifist and parent

Albert Baez (left) has died age 94. A remarkable scientist and pacifist, he was also father of folk singers Joan Baez and Mimi Fariña. Follow this link to the San Francisco Chronicle for an excellent celebration of a remarkable life.

Now read why we aren't marching in the streets anymore.
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Now that's what I call music blogging ...

So much quality music had been unfairly forgotten and so much tat put on a pedestal. Top of my tat-list is Dmitri Shostakovich. I personally can't wait for his flatulent 'sarcastic' bubble to burst. A close second and third on the tat-list are two more po-faced Soviet gits, Alfred Schnittke and Sofia Gubaidulina (left). When will that old witchy bore Gubaidulina shut up? When, EH? And when will the quieter craftsmen composers, Edison Denisov, Valentin Silvestrov and Dmitri Smirnov, get their dues?

Igor Toronyi-Lalic reminds us what music blogging should be about on the Telegraph website. And he links to my Elizabeth Maconchy article. Priceless, but I'm not so sure about Silvestrov.

Now read how Soviet blacklist fatigue sets in.
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Happy Birthday Maestro Toscanini!

Arturo Toscanini was born on 25th March 1867 in Parma, Italy. My photograph shows him celebrating while on tour in the US in May, 1950. The photo was taken at Sun Valley, Idaho, where the maestro conducted an impromptu band of toy guitars, wash-tubs, and a clarinet for a refreshingly multi-cultural audience.

Now listen as the maestro conducts a real orchestra (after a brief Finnish introduction) in the complete Prelude to the third act of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg in November 1951. The orchestra is Toscanini's own NBC Symphony, and the recording was made in Carnegie Hall, where the orchestra and its conductor can be seen in my picture below -


Toscanini's Wagner may have been sublime, but his opposition to fascism was trenchant, read about it here. And for another Toscanini download take An Overgrown Path to Schoenberg on Toscanini Audio file credit YLE Radio 1, NBC Symphony from Wikipedia/NBC TV. 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

Click here for a Glenn Gould forgery

Or is it a forgery? Read here how digital technology helps build a virtual concert hall.
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Friday, March 23, 2007

Maconchy, Schubert, and synchroncity

Superb response to my article on the recordings of Elizabeth Maconchy's string quartets. Superb article in today's Guardian on Schubert's symphonies. Serendipitous synchronicity that Misha Donat produced the 1989 recordings and wrote the Guardian article this week.

Now read about serendipity, synchronicity and Bernstein
Fractal sample from Geodeomp.com. 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

Music’s unmerry widows

Recent reports that Sergei Rachmaninov's great-great-grandson is a control freak will come as no surprise to anyone who has read John Drummond's autobiography - it seems to run in the family.

John Culshaw’s first foray into music, not long after leaving the RAF in the late 1940s, had been to write a very short book on Rachmaninov – at that time a deeply unfashionable figure, very little of whose music was played. The book was a triumph over the unavailability of material, and when the typescript was completed Culshaw went to see the composer’s widow in Switzerland. Ferried across Lake Lausanne in a private launch by a liveried servant, he was graciously received and asked to come back a week later, when Madame Rachmaninov would have read the typescript. Limited to twenty-five pounds ($48) in foreign currency, Culshaw had to explain that he could not wait that long. Grudgingly, Madame Rachmaninov agreed to a shorter time.

When he returned, he was told to wait in the hall. Shortly afterwards she appeared holding the typescript in an outstretched hand before dropping it on the floor. ’I have spoken to my lawyers in New York, Paris and London’, was her only comment. Yet the book is entirely favourable. It is one of the many examples of the disastrous influence of some composer’s widows - Die Unlustigen Witwen, as Boulez calls them – ‘The Unmerry Widows’. He has had to cope with Frau Schoenberg, Frau Mahler and worst of all Frau Berg, who for forty years spoke daily with Alban’s spirit and blocked the completion of Lulu.


Now read more about Rachmaninov’s music here.
Extract above from John Drummond's autobiography Tainted by Experience (Faber, ISBN 0571200540). Graphic sampled from an original by Jeff Ostrowski. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included for "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

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lebrecht's only show in town

November 8 2006: Norman Lebrecht writes - Classical blogs are spreading but their nutritional value is lower than a bag of crisps. Unlike financial blogs, which yield powerful and profitable secrets, classical web-chat is opinion-rich and info-poor. Until bloggers deliver hard facts and estate agents turn into credible critics, paid-for newspapers will continue to set the standard as only show in town.

March 15 2007: Norman Lebrecht becomes a blogger.

Now read how blogs bloom as Lebrecht blusters
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Meanwhile, in the real world ...

I've been doing some very rewarding media training with young victims of crime for the charity Victim Support Norfolk. Here are the results from BBC TV News. You can catch a glimpse of me in the middle of the human knot, which is kind of appropriate.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I am weary of the constant US bashing

Hi Pliable, I just need to confess: I've enjoyed so much of your writing and reporting on music and humanity, and your postings have added much to my enlightenment and delight in life. But I may be coming to a point where I won't go there much anymore.

I happen to live in the US, and I am getting very weary of the constant bashing of mostly anything US - politics, composers, music, morals, etc. I am a decent person, a pacifist (Quaker), to a degree a political activist (I attended my first anti-war protest *since* the Viet Nam war when Bush II invaded Iraq, and have continued)... you get the picture. But I just don't need to be constantly told how bad I am, how little I do, etc.

I hope you understand my perspective. For those of us who fight regularly, and have for a good long time, to retain the best qualities of our country while attempting to contain or diminish the bad, it is hard to see ourselves - because we are here, not there - perpetually painted in very bad light.

Yours in music and light, Jon

Now read some of my US bashing articles here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and ...
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I am a camera in East Berlin


"I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed." (from Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, 1939)

The remarkable photo above was developed, carefully printed, and fixed in the 1970s, but has never before been published. It shows two of the feared East German Vopos (Volkspolizei) whose job it was to guard the Berlin Wall. The photograph was taken across death-strip from the West side of the Wall using a powerful telephoto lens. The original print was passed to me recently, and I scanned it to create the image above. The photographer tells me it has never been seen in public before.


For long periods both sides in the Cold War stand-off exchanged nothing more than shots from cameras across the Wall. But for short periods the shots came from guns. Estimates vary as to how many died trying to cross the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989. The official figure from the German Federal Prosecutor's office is 86 dead at the hands of the Vopos and others. The German Government supported website Chronik der Mauer puts the figure at 125. An even higher figure of 227 is given by Arbeitsgemeinschaft 13, an organisation linked to the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum, and known for its strongly anti-communist stance.

Fortunately Berlin is no longer divided, and for pictures of the city today see I am a camera - Berlin re-unified. A united Germany, including the former East Germany, is now one of the member states of the fast-growing European Union. This weekend the EU is marking its 50th anniversary with a celebration of its many achievements. These include creating the political climate that allows democracy to flourish in 27 member countries. Among these are Spain, Portugal, Greece and ten former Communist countries, none of which were truly free in the decades following the Second World War.

In 2005 the European Union and its member states paid out more than €43bn in 2005 in aid to developing countries. This is 0.32 per cent of GNP of the 25 member states, and is approaching double the per capita aid level paid out by the United States, which currently spends 0.2 per cent of GNP. The expanded EU is developing common foreign and defence policies, and these are starting to provide a much needed counter-weight to the global power of the US and China.

Europe loves a party, and we also love music. Centrepiece of the EU anniversary celebrations are an all-night bash in a rejuvenated Berlin,and a birthday party in Brussels where Zucchero, Axelle Red, Simply Red, Hooverphonic, Carla Bruni, The Scorpions, Helmut Lotti, Kim Wilde, Las Ketchup, Nadiya (left), Lou Bega and many others come together for an evening of rock at the Atomium. Across town, the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra will be performing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, while some of Europe's best jazzmen will be dotted around the city performing at ‘Jazz in Europe now!’. The Jacky Terrasson Trio, Aka Moon, the 18-year-old sensation Gabor Bolla and his quartet are just some of the top bands in Brussels.


In Portugal, more than 220 'bandas' will open their concerts throughout the country by playing the Europe Anthem all at the same time. In Germany, musicians from all 27 EU countries take to the road to play in 50 German cities. Were you born on 25 March? If so, you are invited to a special concert of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in Luxembourg. The EU is not new to supporting musical events. The Brxl Bravo Festival (Brussels, 2-4 March) and the European Border Breakers Award (EBBA) are just two recent examples. Most of the financial support comes from Culture 2007.

* I Am a Camera is the title of the play by Christopher Isherwood that became the hugely successful musical and film Cabaret (right). The play was based on Isherwood's Berlin novels, Mr Norris Changes Trains (1935) and Goodbye to Berlin (1939). During his time in Berlin in the 1930s Isherwood lived in a tenement block in Schöneberg, which after the war was in the American Sector to the south of the Wall.

Now read about contemporary music from 1930s Berlin in Furtwängler and the forgotten new music.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

They were demanding jazz and rock and roll

"There is no doubt that On the Road was the seminal book of my coming of age. What I didn't know then is that it had turned millions of others around the world on to Whitman's America. During the Cold War it was not the so-called Voice of America, Treasury-hemorrhaging military expenditures, Foggy Bottom's diplomatic cunning, CIA cloak-and-dagger derring-do, or even democracy American-style that fueled the young intellectual radicals and freedom fighters of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The voice of America they heard was Walt Whitman's - the voice of the Mississippi Delta blues, spontaneous jazz, reckless rock and roll, Bob Dylan protest songs, Allen Ginsberg's Howl, and Jack Kerouac's (photo above) On the Road supplemented with images from Hollywood and later from MTV.

From the Molotov cocktail-throwers of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, to the underground legions of young radicals avoiding jazz police during the Prague Spring of 1968, to East German John Henrys swinging their sledgehammers for freedom in 1989 as the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in our CNN living rooms, the Eastern European youth movement against totalitarianism was not seeking democracy per se: They were demanding jazz, rock and roll, Hollywood, and Beat poetry, and Jack Kerouac's On the Road was an important catalyst. "Kerouac opened a million coffee bars and sold a million Levi's to both sexes," William Burroughs has said: "Woodstock rises from his pages." So does the Velvet Revolution. Indeed, as columnist George Will has commented, it was John Lennon - a student of American pop and culture - and not Vladimir Lenin whom these young people emulated.

I find it incredible that the CIA was caught by surprise when the Berlin wall was struck down in August 1989, for that June in New York's alternative East Village music clubs, such as
CBGB's and the Continental Divide, young underground poets and rockers were matter-of-factly discussing the August teardown over beer, wondering if they had enough cash to lend a hand. What Bob Dylan (right) sang in 1965 applied in 1989: "Something is happening and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr Jones?" Even the teenage tank resisters of Tiananmen Square had traded in Mao's Red Book for smuggled copies of Ginsberg's poetry and recordings of Thelonius Monk's Mysterioso and Charlie Parker's Ornithology:" - from Douglas Brinkley's 1993 book The Majic Bus.
The Majic Bus recounts the maiden voyage of Hofstra University's travelling course, "An American Odyssey: Art and Culture Across America." At the prompting of his students, Professor Douglas Brinkley arranged to teach a six-week experimental course aboard a fully equipped sleeper bus. The curriculum would call on them to visit thirty states and ten national parks and read twelve books by great american writers. They attended a Bob Dylan concert in Seattle, gambled at a Las Vegas casino, danced to Borbon Street jazz in New Orleans, paid homage to Elvis Presley at Graceland, experienced a Californian earthquake, and Brinkley was mugged at gunpoint in Georgetown.

They also visited Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Abraham Lincoln's Springfield, Harry Truman's Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt's North Kakota Badlands. And they had the unforgettable experience of meeting some of their cultural heroes including William S. Burroughs and Ken Kesey, with the latter taking the class for a spin in his own psychedelic bus. In more than five hundred pages Majic Bus never ceases to inform and entertain, and serves as a timely reminder of the rich history and culture of the US which is so overshadowed today by the humanitarian disasters of Iraq and elsewhere. Above all this remarkable travelogue is a dazzling reminder of how education really should work.

Now listen to Allen Ginsberg live via streamed audio
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