Monday, February 25, 2013

Classical musicians behaving inappropriately

For the first performance of John Tavener's The Cappermakers at Charleston Manor in 1964, students from the Royal Academy and the Royal College were bolstered by professionals. Tavener himself conducted, and Francis Steiner took the prominent piano part in the ensemble, which consisted otherwise of woodwind, horn, trumpet, harp and string quintet. The chorus was the St Christopher Singers, who also provided the male trio to sing the part of Christ. One solo tenor and one baritone shared the parts of Lazarus and the four Jews.

In a volume of Stravinsky's conversations, Tavener had read the great composer's description of the part of Satan in his opera The Flood: 'a high, slightly pederastic tenor'. Having no idea what 'pederastic' meant, but assuming it was a musical term, and loving the sound of Satan on the recording of The Flood, John urged his soloists to sing more pederastically. One of them 'turned the colour of an orange', he remembers. During the next break in rehearsals, someone explained to Tavener what a pederast was.
From Geoffrey Haydon's biography John Tavener - Glimpses of Paradise. Header photo shows Igor Stravinsky greeting Mistlav Rostropvich at the Royal Academy of Music, London in June 1964. Stravinsky was in England to conduct his Symphony of Psalms and Variations on the Bach Chorale Von Himmel Hoch da komm' ich her at the English Bach Festival in Oxford, and rehearsals were held at the Royal Academy. Mrs Stravinsky has her back to the camera, while the figure in the background extreme upper-left is the 20 year old John Tavener. Stravinsky's early serial composition Canticum Sacrum was a major influence on the young Tavener.

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