Browsing: Classical Music

Playing with Propaganda by Norman Lebrecht / March 22, 2000 IT would be easy to imagine, amid the hoo-ha and the hype, that the man born in Montbrison (Loire) 75 years ago this weekend was some kind of musical saviour. The birthday of Pierre Boulez is being serenaded on a scale that even Richard Wagner might have found embarrassing. The London Symphony Orchestra have been trailing his vapour since January, from the Barbican Centre to Carnegie Hall. Through the spring, Boulez is accepting bouquets at the South Bank (this weekend), the Parisian Cité de la Musique, Brussels, Cologne and beyond.…

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The demon drink by Norman Lebrecht / March 8, 2000 MUCH to report from behind the baton. Paris is abuzz over its next two conductors, Myung-Whun Chung and Kurt Masur. Chung, who left the Opéra six years ago with a nine-million-franc payoff, is back this week at the head of the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Can’t wait to read the severance clause in his new contract. Masur, who is saying a long goodbye to the New York Philharmonic, is about to sign up with the Orchestre National de France. This may explain why his title with the London Philharmonic has been…

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It hardly seems 12 years since the famous a capella early music quartet Anonymous Four was founded. Yet it was way back in 1986 that four women with a passion for medieval polyphony and chant met and planned their now historical incursion into the male-dominated field of early music. They started slowly, with a recital series at St. Michael’s Church on Manhattan’s Upper West side. It was there that the group evolved their trademark seamless vocal blend, and their almost liturgical concert ritual. A typical A4 recital at St. Michael’s starts with the slow procession of the chanting women up…

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Not resisting but gesturing by Norman Lebrecht / March 1, 2000 THE return of Gérard Mortier to the Salzburg Festival poses more problems than it resolves. Mortier, who announced three weeks ago that he was quitting a year early as artistic director in protest at the neo-nationalist Vienna coalition, has now changed his mind. In view of “the impressive stand taken by Austrian citizens” in recent anti-government demonstrations, Mortier has decided to lend his “fullest artistic support” to the “resistance” against Jörg Haider’s Freedom Party. He also pledged to make next year’s festival a melting pot of multiculturalism, and to…

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New contender in the battle of the upper shelves by Norman Lebrecht / February 23, 2000 MORE trouble between the sheets. Word leaks from New Grove, the once and future bible of musical lexicography, that its esteemed editor, Stanley Sadie, has left his desk. All perfectly amicable, it seems. Dr Sadie, who made such a fine job of the 1980 New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians that Macmillan entrusted him with the next edition, was given a whole week to clear his drawers rather than the customary hour. “I’m 69, you know,” says Sadie, “and it’s a good thing…

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The Singing World’s Golden Couple# ##by Norman Lebrecht / February 16, 2000 THE Alagnas are splitting up, one hears. Word of their separation has been spreading like greenfly on the musical grapevine. My date to see the celebrated lovebirds gets changed at the last minute to separate interviews, two months apart. Angela Gheorghiu sits alone before Christmas on a sofa in Chelsea, Roberto Alagna confronts me in February across a Mayfair coffee table. A less prudent ornithologist might be tempted to give credence to the rumours of a rift. Totally false, of course. For the record, Angela Gheorghiu, 34, and…

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Why artists have a duty not to ostracise Austria by Norman Lebrecht / February 10, 2000 TO boycott or not to boycott? That is the burning question. Whether to ostracise Jörg Haider’s Austria until it returns a government we can approve of is one of those conflicts of conscience and self-interest that bring out the best and worst in cultural leadership. Gérard Mortier has led the exodus, resigning this week a year early as artistic director of the Salzburg Festival and precipitating instant withdrawals from a leading sponsor and conductor. More painful is the loss of Betty Freeman, who helped…

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Domingo goes solo There could be a new lease of life for the aging tenor, says Norman Lebrecht ON Sunday afternoon, Placido Domingo did something different. In front of a packed Carnegie Hall, with Daniel Barenboim at the piano, Domingo sang a solo recital for only the third time in his life. The first was last spring in Berlin, the second last week in Chicago. Is this a trend, or just making amends? When Domingo started singing 40 years ago in Mexico City there were two-and-a-half career options for a good-looking tenor. He could sing opera; he could do recital…

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Can he see off the gremlins? Disaster has dogged the new Royal Opera House. But closure is not an option, says boss Michael Kaiser. Norman Lebrecht reports LET’S face it: nothing works. The London Eye is glazed over, the Jubilee Line to the Dome keeps stalling and the Royal Opera House can hardly raise a curtain without having to make an apology. So far, the great British public have displayed high forbearance and the spirit of the Blitz. Many are aware that any new theatre crawls with ghosts and gremlins. It took a dozen years to get all systems working…

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Dissident notes What Shostakovich is really all about, by Norman Lebrecht THERE is a striking symmetry between the Holocaust “denial” issues that are being heard in the High Court and the publication of a purportedly authoritative biography of Dmitri Shostakovich which argues that he was essentially an obedient Soviet citizen. The historian David Irving, who has acknowledged that millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis, maintains that this cannot properly be attributed to Adolf Hitler’s instigation since no one has ever seen a signed Führer order for the prosecution of genocide. The American musicologist Laurel Fay follows similar thinking…

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