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Showing posts from June, 2006

Herbert von Karajan - Ein Heldenleben

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Above left - Herbert von Karajan aboard his yacht Helisara Vl. Above right - with his Falcon 10 jet at Salzburg Airport, photographer Emile Perauer. Above left - Die Walkure Act lll Salzburg 1967. Above right - Karajan playing a walk-on part in his 1967 film of Carmen, photographer Siegfried Lauterwasser Above left - Karajan receiving an honorary doctorate Waseda University, Tokyo, photographer Akira Kinoshita. Above right - untitled, photographer Jaywant Ullal Photo collage by Pliable, photographers as credited. With apologies to those viewing via RSS feeds, click on this link to solve the puzzle. This collage layout is a one-off experiement, my advice to other Blogger users thinking of doing the same is - don't. 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 - ov

If you don't go to opera for pretty tunes ...

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Michael Berkeley's name seems to recur On An Overgrown Path . He is the son of Lennox Berkeley , presents one of the best programmes on the radio, is Benjamin Britten's godson, and most importantly is a major composing talent in his own right. The Opera Theatre of St. Louis have just given the US premiere of his new opera Jane Eyre , and here is the review from STLtoday . The story is compressed beyond mere telescoping. The score is musically and dramatically intense. But if you don't go to opera primarily for pretty tunes and costumes, Michael Berkeley's "Jane Eyre" might just prove to be your cup of tea. Seen at its U.S. premiere Sunday night at Opera Theatre of St. Louis, "Jane Eyre" doesn't pull any punches. At 80 minutes, it may be too tightly written for the drama it explores. David Malouf's libretto, from Charlotte Bronte's classic novel, jettisons all of Jane's early story and most details of her time at Thornfield. If it

Germany remains divided for the World Cup

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Like most of what was once the former GDR, it is fair to say that Dresden , the capital of Saxony, has been shut out from the official World Cup party. If you exclude Berlin , whose Olympiastadion is in the old western part of the city, only five of 64 World Cup games are scheduled to be played in the east, all in Leipzig . Only one team, Ukraine , has its base in the east, in Rostock . And now following Saturday's match between Argentina and Mexico in Leipzig, the World Cup is leaving the east altogether. There will be no more games here. One suspects that the east remains something of an embarrassment to the rest of Germany. It is too poor. The social problems are too deep, with unemployment as high as 20 per cent. Racism and suspicion of the outsider are entrenched, especially in smaller towns. Parts of the east, notably Hoyerswerda in eastern Saxony and some of the Baltic towns, have indeed become, 'no go zones' for non-whites. There is a problem with young disadvanta

This Be The Verse

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Last Sunday was Father's Day here in the UK, and the standard currency for presents for Pliable are Prelude Records vouchers. The delights these have brought in previous years include Mikhail Pletnev's wonderful CPE Bach Sonatas and Rondos . This year brought a real discovery, Hyperion's new release of Thomas Crecquillon's Missa Mort m'a privé . In 1539 Isabella — wife of Charles V , the Holy Roman Emperor and undisputed king of much of Europe — died in childbirth. Charles’s grief was profound, and we can share it today through his commissions in memory of his beloved wife. Titian , the leading painter of the day, was commissioned to create a number of posthumous portraits, his Portrait of Empress Isabella of Portugal is used on the CD liner, and is reproduced below. Charles turned to his chapel master Thomas Crecquillon to create a musical tribute, and it is remarkable today that so little is known about this composer whose skills were rated alongside Titian.

Norman Foster's Sainsbury Centre

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Many outstanding buildings been created by Norman Foster and the partners in his architectural practice. They include Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong, the Nimes C arré d'Art gallery , Berlin's Reichstag , the Swiss Re "Gherkin " in London, the Sage arts centre in Gateshead, and the fabulous Millau viaduct in France (my personal favourite). These are both works of art and funtional structures, and we are lucky to have an early Foster building near to our home here in Norfolk. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury were avid art collectors who had amassed a fortune from the eponymous supermarket chain. When they were looking for a university to donate their collection to they wanted their collection to be kept, and displayed, in one location. The new University of East Anglia campus at Norwich had space available, and was already a showcase for contemporary architecture with Denys Lasdun’s famous designs for the main buildings. The Norman Foster designed Sainsbury Centre

"The best damn record we've ever made"

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The eclipse of live performance by CDs and MP3s means that a number of composers are familiar to us from recordings, but rarely receive live performances. One such is the late-16 century Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck , and it was therefore a delight last Saturday to hear his variations on " Mein junges Leben hat ein End (My young life has an end)" played on the organ of St Michael's Church, Framlingham (above) in Suffolk. The occasion was the recital by Malcolm Russell given in memory of renown organ builder Noel Mander who lived nearby, and died in September 2005 aged 93. I first came to know Sweelinck's music through Glenn Gould's (right) recording of Tudor consorte music which on the CD version (but not the LP) includes Gould's own piano transcription of the Fantasia in D. The placing of Sweelinck alongside William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons is totally appropriate as Sweelinck was a vital link, both geographically and musically, between th

Your tiny hound is frozen

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T onight (22nd June) Battersea Dogs & Cats Home , in association with the European Chamber Opera , presents Madama Butterfly, with guest doggy appearances by two live canines. Taking place at the Royal Geographic Society in London, all proceeds from the opera will go towards caring for the unwanted animals in the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home . This Home provides temporary shelter, veterinary and behavioural care to lost or abandoned dogs and cats, while finding them homes, or reuniting them with their owners. Image credit (is it a Basset Profundo ?) - One Big Honkin' Pile of Dog Pictures (yes, really). 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 If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Bark's St Matthew Passion

This miraculous music ...

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In fact, MacMillan's music was not the most moving on the programme: instead, the six-voice fugue from Bach's Musical Offering, played by solo strings, was a revelation of this miraculous music, and the way Bach creates a spiritual experience from the most rigorous of musical forms - from Tom Service's review of the Scottish Ensemble at the St Magnus Festival in today's Guardian. Image credit - St Magnus and the dragon, not in Orkney but in Kempten from Bestarium.net 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 If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Farewell to Stromness - a page which interestingly has received more visitors than any other on this blog; something to do with the MP3 link I think, or is it

Solicitor succeeds where Dissolution failed

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My recent story Not quite so loudly please Maestro Ashkenazy about the attempt to limit sound levels in a historic concert venue which has hosted premieres of music by Benjamin Britten and many others prompted expressions of concern from many readers. Today brings the following deeply disturbing news from the Eastern Daily Press. The owner of a bed and breakfast opposite St Andrew's Hall in Norwich has won an appeal to curb noise from music at the venue. Solicitor John Hardman and his wife Carol, who also live at the B&B on Prince's Street (above), won their battle at Norwich Magistrates' Court on Monday to get further restrictions on amplified music at the hall. The couple's success means a sound limiter will stay in place at the venue and a deadline of 10.30pm will be imposed on amplified music - an hour earlier than the curfew put in last year following complaints. A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: " This is deeply disappointing and will threa

The delight of the classical music industry

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Less than six months after it was unveiled as the Royal Opera's contribution to the Mozart anniversary celebrations, David McVicar's staging of Figaro is back at Covent Garden. The cast is almost entirely new and the show has been revived by Stéphane Marlot with a superb eye for the period detail that makes the production so satisfying. McVicar's shift of the action to a French chateau on the eve of the 1830 revolution, to a community that appears not to have absorbed the significance of the 1789 one, makes perfect dramatic sense. What makes it really special this time around, though, is the conducting. It is more than 20 years since Colin Davis last tackled Figaro in this house, and his account of the score is a reminder of his qualities as a Mozart interpreter. If there are long stretches of this performance when his contribution goes unnoticed, it's because it is so seamlessly matched. When he does intervene - to steer the second-act finale, or to pull the dramatic

The frustration of the classical music industry

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Orchestra insiders giving a mole’s eye view of musical intrigues are currently the hot thing in the media. The Guardian’s contribution is Philippa Ibbotson, who is billed as ‘a freelance violinist’, and yesterday she gave us the inside track on Simon Rattle’s current problems with the Berlin critics. Ms Ibbotson takes many words (I suspect her favourite composer is Havergal Brian ) to tell us that Rattle's problems in Berlin are because ‘in classical music … self-promotion has become an art in its own right. But Rattle does not play the game. He is a democrat, not an autocrat’ . Now I am sure Philippa Ibbotson is a very fine violinist, but her take on the Rattle problem is rather off-key. I have been a very great admirer of Simon since being able to make a very small contribution by arranging one of the first ever classical recording sponsorship deals for his Mahler 10 with the Bournemouth Symphony in the 1970’s. But we have to accept that he is a truly fine musician who has bee

Roma - the forgotten Holocaust victims

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The fate of the millions of Jews murdered in Hitler's death camps is well documented, but less is known about the 500,000 Gypsies who also died . There are not many written accounts of the Roma or Sinti travellers who died in the camps, because, their culture is traditionally oral, not literary. By contrast the majority of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust came from educated middle-classes, and left behing written records of their terrible fate. The photograph above shows Roma prisoners in the Belzec concentration camp . The genocide of the Roma by the Nazis is the most shocking example, but the history of the persecution of Gypsies goes back to their first appearance in Europe in the 15th century, when they were often confused with the hated Muslim invaders from the east. Laws were enacted against them across the whole continent, and centuries of persecution, forced assimilation, enslavement and extermination followed. In England the last executions for the crime of being

Suzi Quatro on Mozart

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"Mozart - his music is wonderful, but where are the mistakes?" - from today's thought-provoking BBC Radio 3 Private Passions where Suzi Quatro was Michael Berkeley's guest. Her choice of music ranged from Beethoven to Dylan and Billie Holiday, and, yes, Mozart - the Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, K. 622. Worth listening to, catch via Listen Again until June 25. Image credit: Suziquatro.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 If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Mozart MP3 download fatigue cured

Andrew Lloyd Webber on Puccini

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"When people ask me if musical theatre should be taught in music colleges, I reply that there is no need. All anyone needs to study is the second act of La Boheme because it is the most tightly constructed piece of musical theatre that there is. It is practically director-proof: you can't stage it badly because it just works too well. If you can write La Boheme, you can write anything. I would also recommend studying Britten's Peter Grimes." And on Prokofiev ... "My father gave me a choice of two records: Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker, which he was hoping I would go for, or Love For Three Oranges, which was rather more dissonant and not my father's favourite music at all. But my brother and I fell in love with it, and it led me to Prokofiev's Seventh Piano Sonata, the third movement, in 7/8 time, which is one of the greatest rock'n'roll pieces - it's got a pulse going though it and it's absolutely wonderful. Every single musical I have

Shostakovich on Puccini

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Opera producer Colin Graham's account of an exchange between Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten : Shostakovich: 'What do you think of Puccini ? ' Britten: ' I think his operas are dreadful.' Shostakovich: 'No, Ben, you are wrong. He wrote marvellous operas but dreadful music!' From The Tongs and the Bones, the Memoirs of Lord Harewood (Weidenfeld & Nicholson ISBN 0297779605) Image credit - Shostakovich and Britten meeting after a concert of Britten's works in the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire in Moscow, December 1966 from the Guardian . Any copyrighted material on these pages is included in "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 If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to A direct line to Britten

No organist? No musicians? No problem!

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This week saw the passing of György Ligeti whose choral work Lux Aeterna touched millions. In the same week articles about the new technology of MP3 downloads featuring music by Mozart and historic performers generated the kind of readership figures On An Overgrown Path that most commercial websites would kill for. If a Google search for MP3, Ligeti or Mozart brought you here I urge you to read on, this article is important. Comment posted to my recent tribute In Memoriam Kenneth Ryder - God rest your soul, sir. I just learned of your passing via my parents. I was one of your original 'Norwich Boys' Choir' members back in the early 70's. For sure you helped shape my musical career. You touched the lives of so many. Roger Hewett , Musical Director, Cirque du Soleil , Montreal, Canada. The fact that the organist and director of music of a church in distant East Anglia could 'touch the lives of so many' on other continents started me down An Overgrown Pa

Treasure trove of historic MP3 downloads

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The Finnish national broadcaster YLE Radio 1 has the most extraordinary treasure trove of historic MP3 downloads on their website. I can't even list the riches available, but the artists include Dinu Lipatti, Pablo Casals, Alfred Cortot, Kirsten Flagstad , Yehudi Menuhin, Arturo Toscanini, and many, many more. There are lots of downloads for each artist, and the technical quality is very good. The whole site is in Finnish, but navigation is intuitive. Just select the artist from the left hand side list, then select the Real Audio or MP3 hyperlink under the composition. Each download has a spoken introduction of around 20 seconds in Finnish, but don't let that put you off. This is an extraordinary discovery. I am listening to Toscanini conducting the adagio molto e cantabile from Beethoven's 9th as I write - beautiful. Here is the link, and many thanks to reader Walt Santner for the heads-up. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", f

Mostly Mozart MP3 downloads

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The UK's Mostly Mozart Festival runs at the Barbican from 6th June to 29th July. The organisers are supplementing the great concerts with fourteen free MP3 downloads. The artists and performances are top-notch, but the MP3s are a motley mix of Mozart - single movements from symphonies, concertos and the Requiem K626, and only one complete work, the String Quartet K156. But if mostly, but not completely, Mozart MP3s are your thing follow this link and start downloading. Or you can take An Overgrown Path to Mozart MP3 download fatigue cured Image credit Poemitas.com Any copyrighted material on these pages is used in "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

Neither avant-garde, nor traditional ...

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"My compositions defy all attempts to categorise them: they're neither avant-garde, nor traditional, nor tonal, nor atonal. And certainly not post-modern, for dramatizing the past in ironic fashion is something that is completely foreign to me." - György Ligeti, born Tirnaveni 28 May 1923, died Vienna 12 June 2006 Now playing - György Ligeti Etudes with Toros Can piano . "My studies for piano are not jazz, not Chopin either, nor Debussy or Nancarrow, and even less mathematical constructions ... They are virtuoso pieces for piano, studies in the pianistic sense of the word and in the sense of the composition itself. " György Ligeti certainly defies all attempts to categorise him. When he appeared on BBC Radio 3's Private Passions programme on 22nd November 1997 his personal choice of music was: *Nancarrow, Study No. 3a, Conlon Nancarrow (player piano) Wergo WER 6168-2 * Trad., 'Gending: Dhenggung Turulare' , Langen Praja Seven Seas KICC 5184 (Pli

The latest spin on CD prices

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Today I ordered Tchaikovsky's Liturgy of St John Chrysostom coupled with Gretchaninov's Vespers sung by the National Academic Choir of Ukraine - "Dumka" . This newly recorded Brilliant Classics 2CD set cost me £3.10 ($5.50) plus £1.24 ($2.25) shipping from the very dependable Caiman USA. Here in the UK a large Starbucks Frappuccino ice blended coffee costs £3.60 ($6.50). If I hadn't just written a piece about the demise of Warner Classics I would have said that Starbucks' prices are too high. Image credit Cwa.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 If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Is recorded classical music too cheap?

Cherie, I shrunk the record label

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Prime minister Tony Blair’s choice of classical record label seems to be as unlucky as his choices of Home Secretary . Last Friday in Rome, as reported On An Overgrown Path , he gave worldwide publicity to Warner Classics by presenting Pope Benedict XVI with the label’s boxed set of the Mozart Piano Concertos played Daniel Barenboim who also directs the Berlin Philharmonic from the keyboard. Meanwhile back in London on the same day, in a move that surprised both industry insiders and staff, the effective closure of the very same Warner Classics was announced . The label will make no more new recordings, and will be absorbed into Rhino, Warner's reissue division. Artists in the Warner catalogue include Barenboim, Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Sakari Oramo, and their sub-labels include Erato and Teldec. Outstanding releases from Warner featured On An Overgrown Path recently have included Scott Ross' complete Scarlatti Sonatas and Chanticleer's Sound in Spirit . Warner C

I am a camera - Robert Schumann's Zwickau

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Few people have heard of the town of Zwickau in the former East Germany which we visited recently, and if they have it is probably in connection with the huge car factory there. Today's Volkswagen plant is a symbol of the post-unification free market. But the huge manufacturing facility was previously the home of another car that came to symbolise the economic failure of the GDR , the Trabant . Three million of the plastic bodied two-cylinder cars rolled off the Zwickau production line under communist rule. Prior to 1989 Trabants were banned from West German roads due to their very high pollution levels - five times as much carbon monoxide and nine times as much hydrocarbon as the average Western car. But post-unification Trabants have the run of German roads, Trabi safaris are all the cool thing in Berlin, and their iconoclastic status is confirmed by the post- Wende image above painted on the remains of the Berlin Wall . The Trabants simple plastic construction coupled with