One of the Famous Five

March 18, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, MUSIC |

Rimsky-Korsakov by Ilya Repin

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 18 March 1844 to 21 June, 1908 R-K is placed with the so-called ‘Mighty Five’ Russian Composers – Modeste Mussorgsky, Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin and César Cui. Neither hidebound by convention nor restrained by the strictures of an academy, they created an original and inventive ‘Russian’ sound. Mussorgsky is rightly regarded as the best, and while Borodin is often ranked second, The Varnished Culture disagrees: “It is regrettable, perhaps, that many today know Rimsky-Korsakov mainly for the ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’, an orchestral interlude from the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, which was written as the…

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Venetian Voices

Photo by Jörg Bittner (Unna)

(by Christine V. Courtney) (2017) Venice is of a set, in that it is a Great City, but it is also sui generis, a brilliant bauble set amid a swamp, a rococo castle in the air, an ornate pagoda floating on water. Venice and its inhabitants, whether citizens or arrivistes, spell romance on a myriad levels, and pose a historical jigsaw of massive scope and complexity, so it makes sense to wander its narrow streets and sail its intricate waterways clutching some sort of evocative Baedeker.  Our favourite Venetian history is the massive Folio tome (merging two volumes) by John Julius Norwich…

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Valentine’s Day

"The Morning of St Valentine" by John Callcott Horsley

TVC will, as usual, celebrate St. Valentine’s day with a fancy dinner and a private viewing of Picnic at Hanging Rock.  Unlike the poor sainted martyr, the idea on his day is to lose one’s heart, not head. Here’s a little from Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto that featured so sweetly in “Picnic” to enliven the day…  

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Happy Birthday Hector!

December 11, 2017 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, MUSIC, Opera |

Berlioz conducting (by Louis Reybaud)

Hector Berlioz (11 December 1803 – 8 March 1869) was treated shamefully by his countrymen.  His works were seminal and influential upon, among others, Wagner himself. He certainly didn’t get the best press in his career, and his somewhat doleful nature made him the butt of those with a skerrick of natural humour: Yet as his great memoir shows, Berlioz knew he had something and you only have to play a few of his recordings to appreciate that: For example,  the Symphonie fantastique. And his Faust. Even Les Troyens, with its Wagnerian length, is worth its salt. And then consider his overtures based…

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Being Wagner

(by Simon Callow) (2017) Wagner was the Richard Nixon of Art: Revered, and reviled. Hugely accomplished and hugely flawed. Shining Knight and Scaly Dragon. So many words have been written by him, about him, for him and against him that when our literary friend Janelle sent us this book as a gift, it evoked a wan sigh – another Wagner book by an enthusiastic amateur, you might say!  Quelle Horreur you might say! Well, you all ought to be ashamed of yourselves!  This is a lovely book, full of sound insight and as easy to slip between its sheets as…

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