Sunday, April 30, 2006

Googling the Goldbergs

The internet is a wonderful and extraordinary world. Google ‘goldberg variations’ if you will. At the time of writing there were 580,000 results (nearly 3 times as many as for Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, and over twice as many as for his 9th symphony).

From Richard Egarr's notes for his new recording of the Golbergs played on a reproduction Ruckers instrument voiced with quill, tuned to musicologist Bradley Lehman's 'Bach temparement', and including all the repeats, plus the rarely heard 14 Canons on the Ground from the Goldberg Variations, BWV 1087. These were discovered in 1974, and Egarr plays both voices in the canons using double-tracking. The sound, from the Dutch venue of the Vereenigde Doopsgezinde Gemeente in Te Haarlem, is demonstration quality.

The CD set includes an abbreviated version of Richard Egarr's excellent notes, you can read the full version online at the Harmonia Mundi website, including details of the tuning system used, via this link. And incidentally Egarr (photo above) doesn't mention in his notes that there are more than 100 recordings of the Goldbergs in the catalogue. But, despite that, his new version is a valuable, and recommended, addition. And interestingly, despite the repeats, it is not the longest at 83 minutes. Glen Wilson (Teldec), Sergio Vartolo (Tactus), and Igor Kipnis (EMI) all take the same time as Egarr, or longer. This new version spans two CDs, but Harmonia Mundi are pricing it as one.

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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Messiaen stars in early music festival

Friday, April 28, 2006

About 50% musical forgery

Back in December I ran an exclusive story that an uncompleted Elgar sketch of a sixth Pomp and Circumstance March has been discovered, and that Anthony Payne was en route to completing it.

Yesterday BBC Proms Controller Nicholas Kenyon announced that the highlight of the 2006 Proms season will be ..... the first performance of Anthony Payne's completion of Elgar's sketch for a sixth Pomp and Circumstance March. Payne said the new march was about "50% Elgar and 50% me... when I do it, I feel I am getting under his skin, like an actor taking on a role" .

I repeat Paul Hindemith's words in his 1952 book A Composer's World:"You are not permitted to sell unsanitary macaroni or mustard, but nobody objects to your undermining the public's health by feeding it musical forgeries."

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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Music history rewritten

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Musical chauvinism and inconsistency ...

Norman Lebrecht's latest tirade accuses English composers of 'chauvinism, amateurishness and bumbling inconsistency.'

I wonder when Norman last listened to Beethoven's Wellington's Victory, Op. 91?

Image credit - Euskalnet: Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Wagner downloads and Beethoven cycles

New music scores with free downloads

Free MP3 downloads of classical music receive much attention, but a pioneering project using free downloads has been overlooked, and it may just be an important tool for contemporary composers as it offers free downloads of scores of specially commissioned new works.

New Music is a series of pieces for choir and organ specially commissioned from young composers by Choir & Organ magazine. In each bi-monthly issue a composer is profiled together with an analysis of his new composition. Unlimited copies of the composition can then be downloaded as pdf files from the Choir & Organ website via this link. The current magazine (May/June 2006) offers Chimera for organ by Matthew Martin, and the Antiphon to Mary by Basil Athanasiadis is also available.

Control of intellectual property ownership is attempted by the licensing small-print which says: 'New Music scores are available under license to be printed free of charge for a period of six months, after which time copies must be destroyed as copyright reverts to the composer. Further copies can then be ordered direct from the composer or publisher (see score for details)'.

There are some distinguished precedents for promoting new music via magazine giveaways. Tchaikovsky wrote Les saisons (The Seasons) from December 1875 to November 1876 at the request of N. M. Bernard, the editor of the Nuvellist, a St. Petersburg monthly music magazine. The composer contributed a 'season' per month, with the sheet music being given away with the magazine.

It remains to be seen as to how many performances will be achieved by the New Music project; but even it if it just one doesn't that make it worthwhile? And I have some doubts as to how effective the voluntary six month 'destroy' clause will be - as the record companies have discovered to their cost it is remarkably difficult to turn sausages back into pigs. But Choir & Organ's New Music initiative is to be heartily applauded. We need innovations like this to bring deserving new music to appreciative audiences, not the BBC's self-serving PR exercises with Wagner and Beethoven downloads.

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For more like this take An Overgrown Path to What exactly is a 'classic'?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Bring forth new life - Chernobyl 26th April 1986

It was a night spent in the basement of a burnt out building.
People injured by the atomic bomb took shelter in this room, filling it.
They passed the night in darkness, not even a single candle among them.
The raw smell of blood, the stench of death.
Body heat and the reek of sweat. Moaning.
Miraculously, out of the darkness, a voice sounded:
"The baby's coming!"
In that basement room, in those lower reaches of hell,
A young woman was now going into labor.
What were they to do,
Without even a single match to light the darkness?
People forgot their own suffering to do what they could.
A seriously injured woman who had been moaning but a moments before,
Spoke out:
"I'm a midwife. Let me help with the birth."
And now life was born
There in the deep, dark depths of hell.
Her work done, the midwife did not even wait for the break of day.
She died, still covered with the blood.
Bring forth new life!
Even should it cost me my own,
Bring forth new life!

by Sadako Kurihara

Early in the morning of 26th April 1986, at 01.24 Moscow time, two explosions destroyed reactor no. 4 at the Soviet nuclear power station at Chernobyl in Ukraine. The explosions released 100 times as much radiation into the atmosphere as the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War. Much of this radiation fell on the now independent republics of Belarus, Ukraine and in western Russia. My own words are inadequate, so to mark this dreadful event and all other nuclear disasters, and to express the hope that history will not be repeated, I offer the moving photographs of Observer journalist Juliette Jowitt together with Sadako Kurihara's poem Bring forth new life.

Sadako Kurihara (right) was at her home in Horishima when the atomic bomb exploded on August 6th 1945. Two days later, in a nearby basement shelter just a mile from ground zero, a baby was born in pitch darkness surrounded by the dead and dying. The seriously injured nurse that delivered the child died, but the baby survived and grew into an adult who sixty years later still lives in the city.

After the trauma of Hiroshima Sadako Kurihara was determined to express her furious hatred of nuclear weapons, and to campaign against their use. Her talent as a poet gave her a powerful outlet for her beliefs. Her most famous work is the story of the baby born amongst nuclear devastation. In Japanese it is Umashimenkana, which translates as Bring forth new life.

For the rest of her life Sadako Kurihara was a staunch anti-war and anti-nuclear campaigner. She published a literary magazine on the theme of the atom bomb attacks on Japan, and circulated an anthology of anti-war poems when discussion of the bombing was restricted by the occupying Allied powers. The author of more than five hundred poems in a writing career spanning more than seventy years, Sadaro Kurihara lived to see her worst fears realised in the Chernobyl disaster, and died in March 2005 aged 92.

* The colour photos are from Juliette Jowitt's excellent Observer photo feature 'Chernobyl 20 years on' which I urge you to read. The moving header picture is of Tolya who lives in Vesnovo Children's Asylum, which is also where the third photo down is taken. The second photo is of Sasha, 10, who was diagnosed with hydrocephalus when she was a baby but doctors were unable to operate because she had an infection. The final picture is of Luba, 19, (left) and Ira, 15, who were both born in Belarus with mental disabilities.
Photo of Sadako Kurihara is from Art Random, but you will need a Japanese character set installed to view the text.

* International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is a non-partisan international grouping of medical organisations dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons. They work with the long-term victims of nuclear explosions and accidents from Hiroshima to Chernobyl, and their work has been recognised with the 1984 UNESCO Peace Prize, and 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. For the last 21 years IPPNW-Concerts has been working from its Berlin office with top musicians world-wide to raise funds for their work.

Related resources On An Overgrown Path include * The Winter's Tale * Radiance of a thousand suns * Musicians against nuclear weapons * Mahler songs mark Chernobyl anniversary *

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Harpsichord magic from Don Angle

'I always found his Bach to be scandalously empty of whatever musicality, crammed with fantastic and meaningless inventions. And I'm not mentioning the articulation nor the phrasing' - Harpsichordist Scott Ross on Glenn Gould.

Ross, who gave us the heavenly Scarlatti sonatas that I wrote about recently, was sparing with praise for his peers, although he did acknowledge a debt to Kenneth Gilbert.

But there was one harpsichordist Scott Ross admired unreservedly, and amazingly that player has never recorded any baroque music.

To find out why Ross admired Don Angle (photo above) so much listen to these three samples of his playing -and prepare to be amazed:

* * *

* Scott Ross resources On An Overgrown Path include * If you only buy thirty-four CDs this year - buy these ..... * The perfect ethical, and musical, Christmas present *

* Visit Don Angle's web site via this link.

Audio clips from Don Angle's Harpsichord Magic at Image credit - Trinity Episcopal Church, Tariffville, CT. Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Instruments of extreme beauty

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Above Oblivion's Tide there is a Pier

Above Oblivion's Tide there is a Pier
And an effaceless "Few" are lifted there -
Nay - lift themselves - Fame has no Arms-
And but one smile-that meagres Balms

by Emily Dickinson

Now playing: Aaron Copland's exquisite 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson (1944-1950) sung by the much-missed Susan Chilcott, who died of cancer in 2003 aged just forty, with Iain Burnside piano (Black Box 8012510742). Copland's 1950 setting of Dickinson's poetry was pioneering and used early inaccurate editions, but that scarcely matters. About the cycle, the composer (below) wrote modestly: 'The poems centre about no single theme but they treat of subject matter particularly close to Miss Dickinson: nature, death, life, eternity. Only two of the songs are related musically, the seventh and the twelfth. Nevertheless, the composer hopes that, in seeking a musical counterpart for the unique personality of the poet, he has given the songs, taken together, the aspect of a song cycle'.

It was Susan Chilcott's portrayal of Ellen Orford in Britten's Peter Grimes – described by the Guardian critic Tom Sutcliffe as “a crown jewel of a performance” – at La Monnaie in Belgium, which in 1994 won her universal recognition, and led to appearances throughout Europe and in the USA. It is a terrible irony that, in the last of the very few interviews she granted (to a local paper, of course, not a glossy), Ms Chilcott (right) said “I am going to sing right through for the rest of my life.” And so she did. But she could not have known on that fine, Spring day in Somerset, that the ‘rest of her life’ would be less than six months.

It is hard to make sense of a world in which such a shining light can be snuffed out so early. But a visionary Scholarship set up in Susan Chilcott's memory bring closer Emily Dickinson's cycle of nature, death, life, and eternity. Through the Scholarship new stars may emerge whose musical lives would otherwise have remained unfulfilled, and these singers will give something of the same delight to others. Susan Chilcott would have loved such a legacy, the Scholarship can be contacted via this link.

Photos:- Cromer Pier, Norfolk, 8th April 2006 by Pliable. Aaron Copland from With acknowledgments to the Susan Chilcott Scholarship for use of text and photo. CDs featured in this article are available from Prelude Records.
For more like this take An Overgrown Path to 'Tis the gift to be free and Simple Gifts - Shaker chants and spirituals

New Chicago classical music blog

Hi - I’m writing to let you know about a new classical music blog and online community -- Chicago Classical Music:

The site was created by a consortium of Chicago-area music groups, including Ravinia, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Chamber Musicians, Chicago Sinfonietta, Chicago Opera Theater, Elgin Symphony Orchestra, Music of the Baroque and Grant Park Music Festival.

Executive staff members from each organization contribute to the blog. Other features include a calendar of upcoming performances; forums for discussing classical music, swapping tickets and finding rideshares; online chats with other members and special guests; and reviews and articles submitted by readers. The site is free, though registration is required to create a personal profile and submit reviews.

Chicago Classical Music is still in its early stages, and we’re officially in pilot mode through July under the auspices of the Arts & Business Council of Chicago. But we’re proud of what we’ve pulled together so far and invite you to take a look.

Your blog is one of the ones featured on our classical music blogroll. We’d love a link or mention from your site if it seems appropriate.

Steve Burkholder, Administrative Intern, Arts and Business Council of Chicago adminintern at

My pleasure Steve, good luck with the blog, here's the link again.

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For more like this take An Overgrown Path to
Reflections on the Philadelphia Orchestra

Friday, April 21, 2006

And classical music is in crisis ....

Vanessa-Mae tops young rich list

Singapore-born violinist Vanessa-Mae Nicholson is the wealthiest young entertainer in the UK, according to the Sunday Times Rich List 2006. In the latest annual guide to the richest people born or living in the UK, published on Sunday, Ms Nicholson's wealth is estimated at £32m.

Also featuring in the top 10 of richest entertainers aged under-30 are the four members of the rock band Coldplay. Led by singer Chris Martin, each member of the group is said to be worth £25m. Both Vanessa-Mae and Coldplay sell millions of albums around the world. In second place among the young entertainers is Kiera Chaplin, the 23-year-old Belfast-born granddaughter of comic actor Charlie Chaplin.

1. Vanessa-Mae - £32m
2. Kiera Chaplin - £30m
3. Guy Berryman - £25m
4. Jon Buckland - £25m
5. Will Champion - £25m
6. Chris Martin - £25m
7. Karen Elson & Jack White - £20m
8. Orlando Bloom - £14m
9. Daniel Radcliffe - £14m
10. Kate Winslet - £12m
Source: Sunday Times Rich List 2006

Worth £30m, Ms Chaplin has a 30% stake in Hollywood production company Limelight Films. She is also president of the company behind the website, aimed at helping the super-rich source the must-have helicopter and Ferrari, or finding a reliable bodyguard.

The 18th annual Sunday Times Rich List profiles the 1,000 richest people and families in the UK. It comes to its figures based on a person's identifiable wealth, including land, property, other assets such as art and racehorses, or significant shares in publicly quoted companies. This year it takes a £60m fortune to make it into the top 1,000, 20% higher than last year's £50m qualifying mark.

From BBC News story today.

* To visit Vanessa-Mae's web site (if you must) follow this link.

Image credit - Henley Festival Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed (or were horrified) by this post take An Overgrown Path to
Is recorded classical music too cheap?

Bach and modern technology

The parcel was half a metre high, cube-shaped and wrapped in shiny red paper. It stood next to his breakfast plate: tied with large wreaths of gold tassel and addressed in a scrolled script of suitably baroque loops and curves.

'Not another one!' said Bach, shoving it aside and reaching for the marmalade. Down the Initials' end of the table young CPE, JC and WF were squabbling about the future of late Baroque, throwing crusts at each other to settle whether the advent of digital technology would elevate contrapuntal writing to ever-greater heights or render it obsolete. CPE was accused of clinging to outmoded harmonic practices; JC's Early Classicism would lead only to base salon music, came the spirited reply. WF looked on gravely and said nothing. He was the eldest of Bach's Initials and all his brief life, had been subjected to the full weight of parental expectations. Even at such an early age, he knew sorrow.

Breakfast over, Bach turned to his unopened parcel and sighed. He could guess what it contained. Kapellmeisters, however, were expected to be grateful. After the first half-dozen similar such gifts, he had run off fifty form letters of grovelling thanks appropriate to his humble station. In the circumstances, none of the recipients would want a mere handwritten effort, Deference was easy, the real problem was what to do with the damn things. Ever since that article, 'If Only Bach Had A Computer', appeared in the previous month's Digital Digest, the house had been filling up. Anna Magdalena, as she made increasingly clear after each special delivery, was getting more than a little annoyed at the loss of storage space. Her linen cupboards were bulging with monitors, printers and keyboards, there were laptops stacked on the stairs and windowsills; the bath brimmed with new software packages; whenever a door opened or closed, white polystyrene filler drifted across the floor like miniature tumbleweed. Discs were being used as coasters, fibre-optic cable doubled as clothes-lines and, more importantly of course, as goal-netting.

No, you are not hallucinating. That extract is from Scottish author Ron Butlin's Vivaldi and the Number 3. He is being touted as a successor to Borges and Kafka, and if this takes your fancy buy the book - everyone from Telemann to Nadia Boulanger get the same treatment. Just delicious.

* Vivaldi and the Number 3 by Ron Butlin is published by Serpent's Tail, ISBN 1852428422

Image credits - The Hibernian Orchestra and Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Gentlemen, old Bach is here ...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mahler songs mark Chernobyl anniversary

Early in the morning of 26th April 1986 two explosions destroyed reactor no. 4 at the Soviet nuclear power station at Chernobyl in Ukraine, and started the chain of events that led to the world's worst nuclear power accident. There will be many events next week to mark the twentieth anniversary of this terrible disaster, but few will be as courageous, or as deserving, as the Benefizkonzert zum 20. Jahrestag der Reaktorkatastrophe in Tschernobyl concert in Berlin on 24th April.

The sheer audacity of IPPNW Concerts is breathtaking. In partnership with the Berlin Philharmonic Society they have booked the famous Philharmonie Hall in Berlin, and have persuaded a distinguished line-up of musicians including Grammy winning baritone Thomas Quasthoff, and the orchestra of the Hanns Eisler Academy to donate their services. The programme is movingly appropriate, Gustav Mahler's lament for dead children Kindertotenlieder, and Franz Schubert's Octet D803 played by the Scharoun Ensemble of Berlin. Preceeding these will be a reading from the best-selling book by Belarus author Swetlana Alexijewitsch titled Tschernobyl - Eine Chronik der Zukunft (Chernobyl - a chronicle of the future).

The concert is a fundraiser for two totally appropriate causes. The Lower Saxony Fund for the Children of Chernobyl (Kinder von Tschernobyl-Stiftung des Landes Niedersachsen) funds early recognition and treatment of thyroid illness among Chernobyl survivors, while Homeland Chernobyl (Heimstatt Tschernobyl e.V) helps resettle displaced families in environmentally friendly housing in the Chernobyl area.

Among the guests at the concert will be twenty young people from the Belarus town of Gomel which was badly affected by the radioactive fallout from nearby Chernobyl. Also attending will be a lady from Kiev whose technician husband died in the disaster. This guest had arranged to bring her young son to Berlin, but last week he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, probably as a consequence of radiation from the accident.

Benefizkonzert zum 20. Jahrestag der Reaktorkatastrophe in Tschernobyl is the latest fundraising project in the twenty-two year history of IPPNW Concerts. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) is a non-partisan international grouping of medical organisations dedicated to the abolition of the nuclear threat. They work with the long-term victims of nuclear explosions and accidents from Hiroshima to Chernobyl. Their work has been recognised with the 1984 UNESCO Peace Prize, and 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. Their concert in Berlin is an extraordinarily appropriate way to mark this terrible anniversary. I know all the readers On An Overgrown Path will join me in sending best wishes for a successful, and financially beneficial, evening.

* Your donation matters. All funds sent through IPPNW Concerts' donation account will be tranferred to the two benefiting charities. To make a donation contact IPPNW via this link.

* Full details (in German) of the concert at 8.00pm in the Philharmonie Hall in Berlin via this link, and tickets can be booked online here. German resorces can be translated by Babel Fish Translation.

* The concert is being recorded by the European Broadcasting Union for transmission on Deutschlandradio Kultur and other international stations on 27th April.

* Watch a video podcast (29.4MB) of an interview (in German) with IPPNW Concerts founder Dr Peter Strauber from the Berlin Philharmonic website via this link.

Images from Kinder von Tschernobyl - Stiftung des Landes Niedersachsen. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If this post struck a chord take An Overgrown Path to Terry Riley - Requiem for Adam

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The real piano man

From : illtemperedclavier
Sent : 18 April 2006 17:10:48
To :
Subject : [On An Overgrown Path] 4/18/2006 05:10:37 PM

Many thanks for this wonderful post on Michel Petrucciani, which I missed the first time. Any and all writeups of great or neglected pianists are always welcome here. Bravo. I would love to see which classical pianists you feel never got as much appreciation as they should have.

Follow An Overgrown Path to The real 'Piano Man'

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bark's St Matthew Passion

From Saturday's Washington Post review of Helmut Rilling's performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Unfortunately, during some of the most extraordinary moments of the score -- from the beginning of the trial right up to and including Christ's crucifixion -- one heard a strange wailing from the balcony. As it happened, it was a seeing-eye dog, which eventually quieted down or was removed -- a noble beast, to be sure, but its steady whimpering made for bizarre counterpoint with music of such exalted lamentation.

The concert, most likely without canine descant, will be repeated tonight at 8.

Thanks to Garth Trinkl for the heads-up, but don't blame the headline on him. Image credit Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Gentlemen, old Bach is here

What was on Hitler's iPod?

'He was genuinely convinced that he had an infallible musical ear. Heinz Lorenz suggested, 'My Führer, you ought to give a concert in the Great Hall. After all, you could afford to invite the best German musicians, Gieseking, Kempff, Furtwängler and so on. You don't go to the opera or the theatre any more, but you could listen to music. It wouldn't strain your eyes either'. Hitler rejected the idea. 'No, I don't want to trouble such artists just for me personally, but we could play a few records.'

A thick book listed all the records that the Führer owned. There must have been hundreds of them. The wooden panelling of the wall turned out to be a cupboard holding records, with a built-in gramophone that was invisible till the cupboard doors were opened. The black discs stood in long rows, labelled with numbers. Bormann operated the gramophone. Hitler nearly always had the same repertory played: Léhars operettas, songs by Richard Strauss, Hugo Wolf and Richard Wagner. The only pop music he would let us play was the 'Donkey serenade'. It usually formed the conclusion of the concert.

Hitler's colleagues enjoyed the musical evenings with the records even less than those conversations around the hearth. One after another they would leave the Hall. You could hear them laughing and giggling and talking in the living room, where the deserters assembled to amuse themselves in their own way, leaving their boss alone with the sleeping Morell and the faithful Eva, the duty adjutant and the von Below and Brandt ladies. I must admit that I sometimes slipped quietly away myself, until the valet came in to say, 'The Führer misses his company, and back there in the Hall he can hear your noise.' Then the 'faithful' reluctantly went back on duty again.

'No, my entourage isn't very musical,' Hitler said, resigned. 'When I was still going to official festival performances of opera I usually had to keep an eye on the men with me to see they didn't go to sleep. Hoffman (he meant the press photographer Heinrich Hoffman) once almost fell over the balustrade of the box during Tristan und Isolde, and I had to rouse Schaub and tell him to go over and shake Hoffman awake. Brückner was sitting behind me snoring, it was terrible. (Pliable - this is Wilhelm Brückner, one-time adjutant to Hitler.)
But no one went to sleep during the Merry Widow because there was a ballet in it.'

I asked Hitler why he only ever went to hear Die Meistersinger or other Wagnerian opearas. 'It's just my luck that I can never say I like something without finding I'm stuck listening exclusively to one piece of music or hearing one particular opera. I once said that Meistersinger is really one of Richard Wagner's finest operas, so since then it's supposed to be my favourite opera and I don't get to hear anything else.''

From Traudl Junge's 'Until the Final Hour - Hitler's Last Secretary' (Weidenfield & Nicholson ISBN 0297847201). Traudl Junge was Hitler's private secretary from 1942 to his death, and she typed his last private and political will and testament in the Berlin bunker. Her journal was written in 1947, and the extract above describes the musical soirées at Hitler's Berghof retreat in the Obersalzberg. Oliver Hirschbieger's excellent film Downfall draws heavily on Traudl Jung's account of the last days of Hitler.

The photographs in this article are from the remarkable Siegfried Lauterwasser Collection. Follow these links for the extraordinary story of this archive, and to view more stunning photos:- * Downfall - and the mystery of Karajan's personal photographer * The mystery of the Siegfried Lauterwasser Collection solved via the internet * How photo archive was salvaged from a trash can *

Also relevant are * The Berlin Philharmonic's darkest hour * Furtwängler and the forgotten new music * Dresden Requiem for eleven young victims * Holocaust opera's rare performance *

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The life-enhancing Passion story

The only thing that matters is the life-enhancing unfolding of the Passion story told by the greatest master of them all, Bach, and our chance, performers and audience alike, to share in this wonder and be changed by it. I measure a year's life on this day. Involvement in this piece forces me to ask questions of myself; what was my feeling last year compared with today? What have I learned about myself during these twelve months? How have I changed, if at all? Have I developed as a musician?

The only honest answer I can give myself is to admit that there has been change. Whether for 'good' or 'bad' no longer concerns me. I am grateful for the fact that I am not standing in the same place. Certain things have altered; some things are quite obvious to me, such as the increasing feeling of peace and stability; I am beginning to look at myself with much more compassion after having driven myself relentlessly for a quarter of a century; perhaps this too was necessary and not to be regretted.

Is it middle age which teaches us to put a gentle, kindly veil over what we are, and in becoming kinder to ourselves, therefore kinder to other people? Is this what the impossible command to Love our neighbour as ourselves may mean? I just hope there may never come a day when I sit through this Passion music untouched by the experience, or unchanged by the passage of time.

As music at its greatest is for me an experience of the fourth dimension, that is, all human experience plus the extra one of time, past, present and future, so is the Passion the truest single reflection of music as a whole, because it gathers up every factor, composer, music, performer, audience, and while leaving us complete individuals binds us together as one. If this is not an expression of Holiness, I don't know what is.

Janet Baker writes of her performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion at Easter 1982 with the London Bach Choir and Sir David Willcocks. The extract is from the diary of her last year on the opera stage, Full Circle, published by Penguin (ISBN 0140068267 - OP)

Both photos of St Thomas' Leipzig, where the St Matthew Passion was first performed on Good Friday 1727, are copyright On An Overgrown Path, see link below. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to I am a camera - Leipzig and Gentlemen, old Bach is here ...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Professional politicians and amateur musicians

As Condoleezza Rice prepares us for possible US action against Iran it is disappointing to see so many people swallowing the spin about the US Secretary of State's musical activities.

History has proved that politics and music don't mix. British prime minister Edward Heath was one who tried, and Richard Ingrams summed up the results rather well:

Conductor unbecoming - Edward Heath was hugely proud of his musical abilities, an estimation not shared by all

Heath has had very kind obituaries and I would only quarrel with the Guardian's veteran music critic Edward Greenfield, who said that as far as his music was concerned, he was 'impervious to criticism'. In the musical world, Heath's cack-handed attempts to conduct an orchestra, a very difficult thing to do, were the subject of much mirth. When I made some disparaging remarks in this column on his musical abilities, he responded with a furious letter, listing all the orchestras he had conducted. It did not seem to occur to him that he might have conducted them very badly.

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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Music for Iran's nuclear programme?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I am the power-assisted light of the world

For almost 300 years parishioners have simply climbed a ladder to light the 24 candles that sit in a chandelier in Wymondham Abbey. But like many things now deemed to be a health and safety hazard, that tradition has come to an end - at a cost of £6000 (US$10800). Instead of wobbling on top of a ladder several feet above the ground, technology has taken over, with a pulley system and electric motor installed so the striking brass chandelier can be lowered for maintenance and lighting. This Easter weekend the public will see it lit for the first time in two years after work on the project was finally completed, see photo above.

Churchwarden, Bruce Wilson, said there was no record of anybody being hurt in the past, but they had to comply with a risk assessment carried out. "We either had to stop using it or comply with the regulations, so we have to have this motor costing £6000. "If you look from the church's point of view, £6000 can be so much better spent, it's a considerable sum." But Mr Wilson also said that with an ageing congregation there were fewer people who could "shin up a ladder", adding: "Most of us are fairly infirm and doddery!"

The chandelier was given to the abbey in 1712 by parishioner Elizabeth Hendry. It was once the main source of light in the historic Grade I-listed building, before being moved to the Lady Chapel in 1903 at the time of the great restoration. "It's a huge chandelier and very heavy. It had to be lit whenever they had a service in the evening, during the hours when it was dark," said Mr Wilson. "It would have meant someone going up ladders to replace and light the candles. It's very important from our point of view, it's a really beautiful piece."

The cost of the work is being met by the church's Friends group and Abbey Preservation Trust. (Picture of Abbey to left.) The story is reminiscent of the situation faced by a church in Beccles last year, which was left with a £1300 bill to replace a handful of bulbs costing 84p each, because of new health and safety laws. In recent years the chandelier at Wymondham has only been lit from Maundy Thursday or Good Friday to Easter Sunday. But when parishioner Paul Wood was made the abbey's health and safety advisor two years ago, his first job was to explain that it was too dangerous for people to climb ladders to do this.

"My take on it was with health and safety we had no choice but to do something. It's not only the cost, it's the human cost as well," said Mr Wood. "The people who do the cleaning in the abbey are all volunteers and the people who used to take it apart were volunteers. If one of them falls you have the cost to the individual, the family and the financial cost. "This means it can be cleaned by a group of people and it doesn't matter who they are and it can be lit by anybody, rather than someone who's able bodied." Mr Wood said it had been a long process to get the equipment installed as they had to get permission from the diocese and English Heritage, then find the right contractor to do the work.

Story and image credit - Eastern Daily Press. Image owners - if you do not want your picture used in this article please contact me and it will be removed. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Shostakovich and candles

Music rises from the ruins of Berlin

During the terrible Allied air-raids on Berlin on the night of 23rd November 1943 the old Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in the city centre was destroyed. The design for a replacement church by the architect Prof. Egon Eiermann surrounded the ruins of the old church tower with a new tower and a separate contemporary place of worship. The new church, which we visited last year, was consecrated in 1961 and is made of concrete, steel and glass. The construction uses a double shell to give acoustic isolation from the busy traffic outside.

One of the most striking features is the extensive use of stained glass inspired by Chartres Cathedral, and created by the French artist Gabriel Loire in Chartres. The new church and tower use 21,292 panes of stained glass. The picture above shows the figure of Christ suspended above the altar against the background of stained glass. The figure is the work of Munich sculptor Karl Hemmeter, and was created after the original more contemporary design by the church's architect was rejected. Housed in the church is the moving Madonna of Stalingrad which I wrote about at Christmas.

Opposite the altar is the dramatically suspended organ by Berlin organ maker Karl Schuke (top below). It has four manuals with sixty-three stops and around 5000 pipes. The stops can be selected electronically in two hundred and fifty six combinations, these can then be expanded using the internal disc drive.

The new church and organ are truly remarkable achievements. Now sample the sounds of live music making in Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church below.

Gregorianik & Orgelimprovisationen is a double CD from Picaromedia of organ improvisations and plainchant with organist Wolfgang Seifen and the vocal ensemble Virga Strata. It was recorded live in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church using the Schuke organ during a concert in November 2004. Listen to samples via this link.

Other examples of Gabriel Loire's work include * Prisoners of Conscience Chapel, Salisbury Cathedral * St George's Cathedral, Cape Town * Christ Church, Los Altos * Thanksgiving Chapel, Dallas * Image credits: Organ - Schuke-Berlin, Altar - Studio Kolmeier via

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Watch Michel Petrucciani video online

Back in January 2005 I wrote about legendary jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani (right), and that article remains high in my 'popular pages' listing after fifteen months. Since writing that piece Overgrown Path reader Andrew Nathan and I have been tracking down Petrucciani video footage, and just this week Andrew came up with an absolute gem that is available free on Google video.

In my original article I wrote that Michel Petrucciani was a 'pianistic genius', and it is no coincidence that he is buried in the Pierre Lachaise cemetery in Paris alongside Chopin. This 38 minute video with excellent sound (and a bonus guest appearance from the gorgeous Charlotte Rampling) is not just essential viewing for jazz fans, it should be watched by all students of the piano - whatever their discipline. Just click here to view this important document. (The video is not hosted by On An Overgrown Path, this is a link to an external site).

And to set the video into context here is my original article.

Improvisation is a recurring thread on An Overgrown Path. Keith Jarrett is already well woven into the postings, and the colossus of Bill Evans (whose influence reaches as far as Gyorgy Ligeti) awaits. But today it is the turn of jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani.

First, let's get the obvious out of the way. Osteogenesis Imperfecta, the so-called "glass bones" disease meant that Michel Petrucciani grew to just three feet tall, weighed a mere fifty pounds, and was left fatally vulnerable to illness, resulting in his death in 1999 at the age of just thirty seven.

He made his impact before making allowances for those with disabilities quite rightly became the norm.But Michel Petrucciani needed no compromises, he was a giant of the keyboard in everything except stature. He was born in the land of the Gods, Provence, to a French mother and Sicilain jazz pianist father. Like Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, who he is often compared to, Petrucciani had a classical training, and his love for Debussy shines through his solo recordings. But his genius was for jazz, and this took him first to Paris, then to the States where his collabaration with saxophonist Charles Lloyd led to international stardom which lasted until his untimely death.

Fortunately Petrucciani left a legacy of inspired recordings. Of the trio work Live at the Village Vanguard (Blue Note 2435-38329), Kool Jazz Festival (Blue Note 2435-38329), and Trio in Tokyo (Blue Note 36605-9) are stand-outs, while the double CD of trio and solo work The Owl Years (Owl 548 288) gives a valuable overview including a three and a half minute video clip.

There are also some 'novelty' recordings including a swinging session with jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli (Flamingo on Dreyfus 36580), a not altogether convincing collabaration with string quartet and Dave Holland (Marvellous on Dreyfus 36564), a duo with his guitarist father (Conversations on Dreyfus 36617), and the acclaimed Conference de Presse (Dreyfus 36568) which is a duo with Eddy Louiss on Hammond Organ (you either love or hate the Hammond, I am in the latter group I am afraid).

If the trio recordings are great, and the novelties a little self indulgent, the solo piano work is sheer genius. Here we have the musicality of Bill Evans being extended into a more innovative language, and the creativity of Keith Jarrett without the interminable post-Lisztian monologues. Petrucciani can appeal both to the emotions with melody, and guts through the power of his playing (helped by first class piano sound, something Bill Evans was not always blessed with). Whether improvising from standards (e.g. Ellington's Caravan) or delivering his own compositions Petrucciani is up there with the best.

'Must have' solo recordings are Solo (Dreyfus 36597). Au Theatre Des Champs-Elysees (Dreyfus 36570), and a personal favourite Oracle's Destiny (OWL032).

Michel Petrucciani was a pianistic genius. The power of his playing transcended his physical limitations. He was also an extrovert, bon viveur (the sleeve notes for Flamingo include the credit "Michel Petrucciani's hats are supplied by Motsch ), and ladies' man with a chequered romantic history that certainly proved that size doesn't matter. A marriage to Gilda Butta, a pianist, ended in divorce, and he was survived by his companion, Isabelle, and by a son, Alexandre, and a stepson, Rachid Roperch, both from a previous relationship.

He packed more into thirty seven years than most of us will achieve in a full lifetime. Through his recordings he will endure as an example of what can be done.

People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them.
Mrs Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw

Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Ligeti's Etudes fit the Bill

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I am a camera - St Tropez 1967

'Those long lecture-free days in France were tailor-made for Nick to practice his guitar. That's what people remember about him during those months leading up to what became known as the Summer of Love. Jeremy Mason recalls going to a bookshop with Nick and buying a copy of Baudelaire's poems Les Fleurs Du Mal (Flowers of Evil).

They read Dostoevsky and Rimbaud. And they had a cheap old gramophone for which Nick bought a copy of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, a work which he was always keen to have around and which may have just been the last piece of music he heard before he died seven years later.

His earliest outings with the guitar were as a busker. Simon Crocker joined him on harmonica a few times in the streets of Aix and even, on a couple of occasions, near the chic harbour area of fashionable St Tropez.'

The words above are from Trevor Dann's superb new biography of singer-songwriter Nick Drake who died in 1974, aged just 26. Nick Drake was in St Tropez in the summer of 1967, and so was another British student also taking a year off between school and university.

Roger Vadim's 1957 film And God Created Woman (Et Dieu... créa la femme) with its cast of Brigitte Bardot , Curd Jürgens , and Jean-Louis Trintignant had positioned St Tropez at the epicentre of the sensual world. In 1967 St Trop was chic, and Bardot was topless on the Plage de Pampelonne. But St Tropez was also where it was happening musically and artistically, and there was magic (and something else) in the air.

The highlight was
Jean Jacques Lebel's production of the Picasso play Desire Caught By The Tail in a vast circus tent near the sea, with music by Soft Machine. The sound was pretty impressive in the auditorium, it was almost as impressive on the beach at Grimaud, three miles away, where I grabbed a few hours sleep each night.

I had the one of the first Olympus camera with me, a 35mm half-framePen S. The photos here were all taken in St Tropez in August 1967 on Kodachrome 2 slide stock, and have never been published before. Somewhere in those crowds was Nick Drake ...

Nick Drake resources On An Overgrown Path include * A Skin Too Few * A troubled cure ... for a troubled mind * Monteverdi in Cambridge * Smile why it has been * All photos by Pliable and copyright On An Overgrown Path.

Trevor Dann's book Darker Than The Deepest Sea, The Search For Nick Drake is published by Portrait, ISBN 0749950951. Other I am a camera photo features On An Overgrown Path * Berlin * Dresden * Leipzig * Aldeburgh *