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Showing posts from November, 2006

Stravinsky in St Petersburg

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The Stravinsky family lived in this apartment block on the Krioukov Canal in St Petersburg for more than eighty years. Their exact apartment can be located by the windows on the second floor above the entrance. Now take a Path to Stravinsky - the last great composer? 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

Shostakovich we'll allow, but take out Stravinsky

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One of the recurring themes On An Overgrown Path has been the control of agents , broadcasters and record companies over the music we hear. The question is a simple one - do we hear the music we want, or do we hear the music chosen for us by others? A very perceptive comment today on my Peteris Vasks article by Daniel Wolf (do visit his blog Renewable Music ) reminded me that hidden agendas among programmers are not new, and raised the interesting point that Shostakovich was actually promoted, rather than suppressed, by the Soviet authorities at certain times. As soon as I read Daniel's comment I located Stormy Applause, Making Music In A Worker's State by Borodin Quartet founder Rostislav Dubinsky in my library. The events in the extract below took place in 1955. Goskoncert was (and still is) the Russian state run concert agency, and the programs under discussion were for the Borodin's first ever overseas tour to the German Democratic Republic . At Goskoncert th

Composers struggle under Shostakovich regime

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This week BBC Radio 3 broadcasts a series of programmes titled Shostakovich in Context , which means devoting yet more airtime to an already over-exposed composer. The saturation coverage of the Shostakovich centenary has meant the exclusion from concert and broadcast schedules of many other deserving composers with anniversaries this year. There is a particularly bitter irony in this cultural hegemony by a Russian composer for Peteris Vasks (left) who celebrates his 60th birthday in 2006. For Vasks is a Latvian, a country whose very culture was under threat for more than fifty years from Russian ideologies and military power. Latvia is one of the so called A8 countries from central and eastern Europe which joined the EU in 2004, the others are Poland , Hungary , Czech Republic , Slovakia , Lithuania , Estonia and Slovenia . The A8 countries should be joined by Bulgaria and Romania in January 2007, although Bulgaria has a few money laundering and related problems to sort first -

Classical music and the paid-for media

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Norman Lebrecht recently roared “Until bloggers deliver hard facts and estate agents turn into credible critics, paid-for newspapers will continue to set the standard as the only show in town ”. So on Friday it was good to see a paid-for newspaper setting the standard and covering the wonderful music education programme in Venezuela. In a major article that made the front page of the influential Film & Music supplement (above) Guardian journalist Charlotte Higgins visits both Venzuela and Rome, and sings the praises of what she calls ‘The System’, or to give the Venzuelan education programme its full title Fundacion del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela . Also championing Venezuelan music education is Simon Rattle, who gushes euphorically in the article about wunderkind conductor Gustavo Dudamel, and declares "If anyone asks me where is something really important going on for the future of classical music, I say here.&qu

A treasure trove of music recording history

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An interesting, and rewarding, recent development On An Overgrown Path recently has been the interest in the recording process and sound quality, an interest also reflected in other new blogs including the excellent The Crunch . Recording history is a particular area of interest for me as I worked for both the BBC and EMI in my time in the music industry, so I was delighted this week when our internet sleuth Walt Santner sent me details of a veritable treasure trove of recording history links. The links are part of the University of San Diego's project documenting the history of recorded sound. The timeline only currently goes up to 2005, so it doesn't yet cover topics such as SACD in depth, but there is some really interesting material there including a history of microphone development . But the real gem is the extensive list of internet resources and links . And please don't think this is just for geeks, there is important musical and cultural material there as well

Musical riches for anyone to enjoy

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Five hundred years ago the Italian town of Ferrara was ravaged by what today’s media would call a pandemic. Bubonic plague broke out in Europe in the 14th century, and continued sporadically until the 17th century. The plague was carried by rats, and population growth in medieval Europe slowed causing widespread economic decline. Ferrara was the seat of the house of Este , and became a cultural centre with a university. During the late 15th and early 16th century the Duke of Ferrara, Ercole 1 , became one of the most important patrons of the arts in Italy after the Medici , and the city was particularly noted for its music. Josquin Des Prez was employed by Duke Ercole , and wrote his Missa Hercule dux Ferrariae for him. Antoine Brumel was principal musician in the early 15th century, and the patronage of Ercole’s son Alfonso 1’s resulted in the city becoming an important centre for the lute. The cultural and economic strength of Ferrara attracted a large Dutch and German populat

Benjamin Britten – We Shall Overcome

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There are four anniversaries today, and three of them are of important events connected by a fascinating thread. November 22nd is remembered by many for the assassination of John F Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, while on a happier note Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft on this day in 1913, and quite appropriately today is also the name day of Saint Cecilia , the patron saint of musicians. The connection between these three anniversaries also involves folk singer, political activist and pioneering conservationist, Pete Seeger . Here is the little known story. In his Inaugural Address on January 20th 1961 President Kennedy vigorously defended the principle of liberty with these words: - Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of

You couldn’t ask for anything more ...

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I missed this one because I was in France in September, but it is worth reprising. The top three aren't too much of a surprise, but numbers 4 and 5 are worth the click as well. The Times September 02, 2006 - The top five websites. This week - classical music 1 On An Overgrown Path - This blog is updated every day with well-written posts on the likes of Britten and the BBC Proms, along with links to news articles and MP3s. You couldn’t ask for anything more. 2 Sandow - A long-standing critic, Greg Sandow asks the big question — “Is classical music dying?” — and explores it with angst and expertise. He also responds in depth to readers’ comments and questions. 3 The Well-Tempered Blog - If you like short posts delivered within three minutes of each other, you’ll like Bart Collins’ blog, which is essential reading for all classical music news junkies. 4 Classical pontifications with Professor Herbie McJeebie It may sound like some crazy Open University programme made by Dis

November Woods by a brazen romantic

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Photograph above taken at the Carmelite Monastery , Quidenham, Norfolk on November 18th 2006 by Pliable. Now playing - November Woods (1917) by Arnold Bax , performed by the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Bryden Thomson (Chandos LP ABRD066). Bax described himself as a 'brazen romantic', so you won't find him on Sequenza21. His life and music were informed by literature and nature, and he drew on Celtic and Nordic mythology for inspiration. November Woods is a close companion to two other Bax tone poems, The Garden of Fand and Tintagel . The legends of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table are linked to the Cornish castle of Tintagel , and Bax's eponymous tone poem is available on one of my nomination for the greatest records of the 20th century. This EMI recording was made in No 1 Studio, Abbey Road with Robert Kinloch Anderson producing in 1967. The coupling is one of the great 20th century symphonies, Vaughan Williams 5th , the score of which was

Killing classical music in the US .....

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The following comment was posted by the irrepresible Henry Holland on my recent A shuttle maestro for the IPod audience , but it is well worth a post to itself: << "Playing the same old 19th century rep over and over is part of what is killing classical music in the US (that and no music education anymore)" - Oh, that again. *sigh* Where's the PROOF --I mean, actual rigorous stats, not wishful thinking-- for that view? I guarantee the bean counters on Grand Avenue rejoiced when Sariaaho's Passion of Simone got cancelled recently because of Dawn Upshaw's unfortunate breast cancer situation and was replaced by the Mahler 2nd. I was bummed, I love her music, but then I'm a distinct minority. Having been to more concerts than I care to remember of concerts featuring contemporary fare that drew 1/2 full, heavily papered houses in the old Dot, I don't think your claim is true at all. I've been saying for years that orchestras should market thems

You read it first On An Overgrown Path

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At least Norman Lebrecht was right when he wrote above that "the one blog that aims to break news, and occasionally does, is On An Overgrown Path." On Sunday Nov 12 On An Overgrown Path sung the praises of Catherine Bott's new CD Convivencia in a big article about the new FRED label. Six days later, on Friday Nov 17, Lebrecht's CD of the week was ....... Catherine Bott's new CD Convivencia . And while on the subject, last week Lebrecht accused On An Overgrown Path of having "a bug about the BBC." This week Norman devotes 936 words to ....... the BBC. Now read how Norman Lebrecht blusters as blogs bloom 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

A shuffle Maestro for the iPod audience

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Today’s Guardian positively salivates over the news that Esa-Pekka Salonen (left) is taking over as principal conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London from Christoph von Dohnanyi. Martin Kettle gushes that “in this new battle of the batons the only certain winners look likely to be the London music public, who can look forward to an orchestral life of a quality and diversity with which no other city can compete … Salonen’s wide-ranging, non-traditional approach makes him the closest thing any London orchestra could have found to Sir Simon Rattle. Short of tempting Rattle back from the Berlin Philharmonic, it is hard to think of a more exciting appointment for the Philharmonia to have made”. But slipped in among the purple prose are the key words that Salonen “will remain in charge in Los Angeles when he takes over the Philharmonia.” Now if we leave aside the fact that some of the Berlin press may well have wished that Rattle had been tempted back from Berlin, we will soon

New music lunch box

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Do we all agree that contemporary music needs a new audience? And do we also agree that reaching that audience takes imaginative commissioning, innovative programming, a very wide reach, and some damn hard work from the musicians? Well, I’ve just returned from the first in the new season of Britten Sinfonia at Lunch concerts in Norwich, and I challenge anyone to show me an ensemble that are doing more to reach new audiences with contemporary music. First let’s take the concerts. The 2005/6 Britten Sinfonia at Lunch project comprises five separate concert series. Now listen to this. Each concert series consists of four lunchtime concerts played over five or six days, and not only are all the four concerts in different venues, but three are here in East Anglia, and one is in the Philharmonic Hall in Kraków , Poland, which is 750 miles away. But stay with me, it gets even better. Everyone of the five concert series features a world premiere by a contemporary composer, and to complete

Ali Ufki - a 17th century Al Jazeera

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Tomorrow the English-language news channel of Arab TV station Al Jazeera starts broadcasting. With four studios around the world, and presenters including Sir David Frost , Dave Marash and Darren Jordon the new service has summarised its ambitious plans as ‘building a bridge between cultures’ and ‘a forum for the West to speak to the Muslim world’. Impressive sounding rhetoric, but it is worth telling the story of how a 17th century scholar achieved exactly these aims using music instead of satellite broadcasts. Wojciech Bobowski was born a Pole in 1610 in Lwów , then part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and now part of Ukraine . He was raised as a Protestant and trained as a church musician. These were times of great instability, with Lwów suffering frequent raids from Crimean Tartars . In one of these the eighteen year old Bobowski was taken prisoner by the Tartars, and his musical training meant he was sold to the court of Mehmed IV in Constantinople, whose reign saw t

New record label delivers music with real sting

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This classical music thing just gets weirder and weirder , and to prove it I bring you today the story of a contemporary art gallery that has started a record label. Here, to set the scene, is the extraordinary story of the Fred label taken from their website, followed by a review of their remarkable first release, and no, the date is not April 1st: Why Fred (Label) Ltd? Fred (label) is the brainchild of Fred Mann. Following the success of his contemporary art gallery, Fred [London] Ltd Mann decided to look at his other great love, Music. The label will work as a sister company to the gallery and, like the gallery, will respond in a close knit and creative way to the recording artists it seeks to nurture and promote. What For? FRED has been set up to record, produce, distribute and promote new music by a wide range of artists. The label, unlike a large slice of the established indie or major labels has the luxury of being able to respond to projects by different recording artist a

This Requiem is a real discovery

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Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK when we remember all those who gave their lives for the peace and freedom that some of us are fortunate to enjoy. Wilfrid Owen's poems from the First World War and the War Requiem of Benjamin Britten , which sets Owen's poetry, are two of the most moving tributes to the victims of war, and tonight (Nov 12) BBC Radio 3 are broadcasting the War Requiem , followed in the coming week by Owen's complete war poems . But today, as part of my remembrance, I turned to another Requiem by a little known English composer who was profoundly affected by his traumatic experiences in the Second World War. George Lloyd was born in Cornwall in 1913, and achieved considerable success as an operatic composer in the 1930s when his opera Iernin enjoyed a long run in London, and he had an opera performed at Covent Garden when he was just 28. Lloyd served with the Royal Marines in the Second World War, and his ship was sunk by one of its own torpedos

Are musicals the new opera?

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English National Opera's new Opera Guide lists sixty-one performances between April and July next year. Twenty-two of the performances are of three operas, Philip Glass' Satyagraha , Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice and Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito , and thirty-two them are of two musicals, Bernstein's On The Town (ENO production shot above) and Robert Wright & George Forrest’s Kismet . For some personal memories of Leonard Bernstein take An Overgrown Path to Simply chic symphonies? With thanks to the letter by Stewart Trotter in today's Independent 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