Recently In The Blogs
Being an occasional survey of some of the interesting
articles in the classical music blogosphere ...
For a comprehensive link list of classical music
blogs, see Chris
Before moving to the new blog for this month, some business arising from last
month's. I remarked that the origin of the blog name Ionarts wasn't made clear.
Jens Laurson, one of the contributors and a reviewer for Musicweb, sent me a
message (via Len Mullenger) explaining it, and it becomies very apparent if you
say the name, rather than just read it: "Eye on (the) Arts"! And I
should correct my statement that the contributors are based in Washington DC
- they aren't. One is in Baltimore, another in Hollywood and Jens mostly in Munich!
One of my favourite musicians and writers on music is the pianist Susan Tomes,
who is a member of the Florestan Trio and the regrettably disbanded quintet
Domus. She is one of the bloggers for The Guardian newspaper in the
UK. Her posts are not all that frequent - which makes me feel better that I
don't do more on my own blog - but are insightful and intelligent. The most
recent - The
BBC ruined the Young Musician of the Year - laments the dumbing
down of that competition, turning it into no more than entertainment. While
her posts might be sparse, the comments on them aren't. This one has prompted
27 so far, mostly in agreement.
I mentioned in last month's post that I was presenting a talk to my music
society on British music. If you are interested in seeing what I chose,
try the excitingly titled Music
Talk. Jason at TooManyTristans seems to have disappeared:
the blog is there, it hasn't been updated for two months, which is disappointing.
You might be interested in reading Alex Ross's
account at The Rest Is Noise of a new music 12-hour
marathon concert by Bang on a Can in New York - Bang,
whimper - including Stockhausen at dawn. Jessica
Duchen is in the middle of organising "the concert of the
book" for her most recent novel Hungarian Dances and
contributes an amusing fictonalised tale of the problems involved: The
apprentice concert manager.
Finally, while Hilary Hahn's blog has fallen silent since March (precisely
when I mentioned it!!), Angela
Hewitt has been busy around the world (South Africa, Canada, Britain)
and has launched a scholarship in memory of her recently deceased mother, associated
with the Ottawa Music Festival.
We are journeying to the US capitol for this month's "new" blog (yes,
I have bowed to the inevitable and
this to be a monthly article).
This five contributors to this blog, the origin of whose name is not made clear,
are based in Washington DC, and write reviews and commentary on a range of
arts topics, but a random survey suggests that music, both recorded and performance,
is the most common.
Two recent entries to illustrate the content: Hilary
Hahn performs Paganini concerto gives "arguably
the most outstanding American violinist of her young generation" a
rave review, and Magdalena
Koená's latest disc of Handel arias is
also well received.
Robert Hugill at Planet Hugill has written an extended piece, the
title of which is fairly self-explanatory: Gleanings
from this month's Opera magazine, so if you don't subscribe but
are interested, Robert has saved you the expense of buying it! He has also
reviewed the new Birtwistle opera The
Minotaur at Covent Garden.
John France continues his excellent work commenting
on the obscure byways of 20th century British music, which is
of particular relevance to me, since I will be presenting a talk
to my Recorded Music Society on just that topic next month. Almost
certainly I will be using some of his recent selections, such
as William Alwyn's piano miniature Cricketty
We are travelling to a little-considered part of the classical world for this
posting's new blog: Thailand.
Classical music is not what you think of when Bangkok comes to mind. For me,
Bangkok, which I have never visited beyond the international airport(s),
is being stuck in a aeroplane for seven hours at the old international airport,
which was deserted for the very good reason it is now the domestic airport
and we we were diverted there at 1 am. So instead of .... no, I better not
go any further on this.
Anyway, onto Brian Hinrich's blog about musical
life in and around the Thai capital (did you know that it is
only called Bangkok by ignorant outsiders - the local's name
for the city is the longest place name in the world and shortened
to Krungthep). Brian is an expatriate New Yorker, which explains
all his links to blogs on musical life in the Big Apple, and
on a Fulbright scholarship studying ethnomusicology, and also
the growing influence of western classical music in Thailand.
One specific post that I want to mention tells
of a recent concert with a rather curious juxtaposition: John
Cage in Bangkok. He described it as an interesting
experience, but concluded with "sales for the recital unfortunately
appeared similar to those in the States for all-contemporary
Jessica Duchen in Sokolov
makes a stand records the ridiculous situation that has arisen
with the new work visa laws in the UK, and their impact on visiting musicians.
The Russian pianist, Gregory Sokolov, has visited the UK regularly for the
last eighteen years, but his next visit, which may not happen, will require
him to supply biometric data.
Alex Ross (The Rest Is Noise) has returned
from travels to China and Alaska (he includes some photos) with
news from LA which relates the news that a prominent
arts critic, Alan Rich, has been let go from the LA Weekly.
Bob Shingleton at On an Overgrown Path has
a wonderfully diverse range of topics, including Handel's
suites are miracles - some comments on the 1982
recording of the Handel suites by Richter and Gavrilov - and Glenn
Gould engineered, about a novel by the Austrian
writer, Thomas Bernhard. He has even "pinched" my musical
quotation challenge idea in Xenakis
- the eyes have it!
It does rather look like a monthly update is all I'm going to be able to manage,
but I promise not to let it slip further than that!
For this posting's new blog, I thought I would find a well-known recording artist
who wrote a regular blog. In fact, I found two, though to be absolutely pedantic,
they aren't really blogs in that they have no provision for reader feedback.
The brilliant young American violinist has been writing an online journal since
2002, and also includes photos from her travels (not professional ones of her
playing, but her own personal record of the places she has visited). As far as
I can tell, the journal entries are restricted to her touring dates, but nevertheless,
the journal does get a regular update (four so far this year, all in February).
Her most recent post from Copenhagen (February 25) recounts the experience of
having been the sole guest on a late-night Danish chat show:
"I actually got to play music at the length at which it was intended. No
one-minute cutoff, no requests for fast and happy showpieces, just artistic freedom
and a nice conversation and some goofing off with a thoughtful host".
Her writing is informal, but intelligent, and allows the reader to get some sense
of the loneliness of being a concert soloist travelling the world. Homesickness
and isolation make it less glamorous than it might seem.
I am pleased to be able to include one of my favourite pianists. Like Hilary
Hahn, it concentrates on her touring and concerts, and the individual entries
are relatively short, unlike Hahn's which can occupy a number of screens.
Sadly, one of her recent posts (January 20) was to record the death of her
mother in Canada, whilst Angela was performing in London.
Returning to some of my favourite blogs, Jessica
Duchen is busy promoting her new novel Hungarian Dances, and her
husband, a member of LPO, is off on tour also. Robert Hugill has written about
the stereotyping of woman in 19th century opera, under the title Virgins
and Whores. John France has added several more thoughts about
works by British composers, such as Elizabeth
Foulds and Alan
David J Barker