Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Great Wagnerian who does not spin the Ring


A truly talented 65 year old conductor with just one catalogue CD to his credit scores a full page Guardian profile. How cool is that? And what is even cooler is that the profile does not boost a BBC Prom and Tom Service did not write it.

Some readers may recognise Reginald Goodall and Anne Evans in the photo above taken at a rehearsal for a Welsh National Opera production of The Valkyrie. But who is conducting?

Well, it is Goodall's assistant Anthony Negus and I personally have experienced his truly great talent. A 2003 WNO Parsifal conducted by Negus ranks among my most moving experiences in more than fifty years of concert going and it was also my good fortune to be at Longborough when he conducted the Jonathan Dove adapted Ring with Donald McIntyre as Wotan.

Anthony Negus' credentials are impressive. As well as working with Reginald Goodall at Welsh National Opera and at English National Opera on the their legendary demotic Ring and Mastersingers he was an assistant at Bayreuth in the early 1970s and supported Pierre Boulez on the WNO Pelleas Et Melisande in 1992. More recently he has assisted Valery Gergiev with concert performances of Elektra in London and Vladimir Jurowski on the acclaimed Meistersinger at Glyndebourne where he conducted one of the performances.

But, despite being an accomplished Wagnerian, the sexagenarian Negus does not spin well. Which means he remains virtually unknown in a profession where today, youth trumps talent and ego trumps both. So it was good to see a profile of him in the Guardian last week. To read it follow this link, and for more on his mentor read Reginald Goodall - the holy fool.


* Anthony Negus, seen above, is currently conducting Siegfried at Longborough opera. An additional performance has been added due to demand for tickets, a case of age before ego perhaps?

** The one catalogue CD conducted by Anthony Negus is the Chandos recording of James Macmillan's opera The Sacrifice. This was a Welsh National Opera commission and is not mentioned in Nicholas Wroes' otherwise excellent Guardian profile. You can listen to my Britten Sinfonia pre-concert talk with James Macmillan as a podacast here.

*** Another forgotten English maestro here.

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3 comments:

Philip said...

Fascinating and I thank you. At 65, certainly not so old in the conducting world, I must hope that there is still time for him truly to come into his own and receive the recognition (in other words, conducting posts and recording contracts) he deserves. But then again, I seem almost daily to discover yet another musician who never did.

I too was relieved that Tom Service was not assigned to this. I'm probably not the only person who hasn't forgetten the column in which he had Valkyries zooming about the planet killing warriors. In the melee that ensued in the following days, I almost got banned by the Guardian, one of the proudest moments of my life.

Pliable said...

'Watching Watchmen at the weekend, there was a piece of intertextual film-music-ography that tickled me. In one of the movie's many flashbacks, there's a scene in the Vietnam war, with Dr Manhattan in gigantic, God-of-destruction form (rather than his human-size, Blue Man Group incarnation), administering the final blow in Vietnam, while the Comedian murders a few children and soldiers along the way. The music? Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. It's an association of image, story, and score nicked straight from Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, when Robert "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" Duvall as Colonel Kilgore (geddit?) leads his flight of death-giving helicopters to destroy a Viet Cong village, blaring the Wagner from on-board speakers.'

That is the start of the Tom Service piece referred to above. For more of the same and some very intersting comments follow this link -

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/tomserviceblog/2009/mar/10/watchmen-valkyrie-apocalypse

Philip said...

Ah, yes, I remember it well. I was 'Chrysostom' on that battlefield, though I can't recall why I used a 'screen name' for commenting in the Guardian rather than my own, as per usual. But never mind. Reviewing it now, I was pleased to see that I made the point, and bluntly, that the issue was not Tom Service and his notion that Wagner's Valkyries "are angels of death...scouring the world for warriors to kill", but rather the distressing decline in the quality of music journalism and writing on the arts in general: Cardus to Service. I also noted that A.C. Douglas, not a man given to sudden and fanciful enthusiasms, seconded me on that quite heartily. And then the editor, Andrew Dickson, arrived with admonitions, a ban for Mr. Douglas, and a lovely post-modernist conclusion: "...surely it is a matter of interpretation what (the Valkyries) exact role is...".

BBC Radio 3,will, I suppose, make this abysmal state of things into a sort of national standard. The worst journalists and bloggers it co-opts by dipping into its very weighty bag of goodies because they fit in well with Radio 3's own standards, and so also they try to co-opt the best, often with success, because they live in mortal fear that they may one day train their critical faculties full bore on Radio 3 itself. And so I wasn't surprised to find Dr. Service occasionally is on there, nor to learn that Mr. Lebrecht will be. There are only two music blogs in Britain, as I review in my mind those I'm pretty well-acquainted with, that I know are untarnished by all this, and only one I can think of that is willing to go head to head with the Beeb, and that is the most admirable one I'm commenting on at this very moment.