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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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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 Foley's page.

Newest articles

February 16
A three week gap this time between articles, since I'm now back at work on my daytime job - the bills do have to be paid. As promised, I will always try to include a new blog in each issue, and today's is first up.

Violinist.com
The site describes itself as "a global community of violin players, teachers, students and fans. We gather here to ask and answer questions about the violin, to post daily diaries of our lives with the violin and to waste time between practice sessions" and claims 6,000 violinists as members (I wonder how you prove you are a violinist). It is run by Californian Laurie Niles, who not surprisingly is a violinist and Suzuki-qualified teacher.

The most recent entry (February 12) is an extended interview with the American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. The conversation ranges from her earliest musical education through to the author's thought about a recent recital, on the way referring to the numerous new works written for her. Meyers has purchased a 1730 Strad and talks about how important it is to her, but equally how vital is her bow: "I would die without that Peccatte. It’s my life blood."

At the end of the article is a link to a YouTube performance by Meyers of the Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra at an outdoor concert (you do have to put up with some disconcerting clunks, as though someone is kicking a microphone).

Elsewhere
Jason at Too Many Tristans has been busy with a number of interesting posts.

Firstly, he continued to delve into the archive of awful LP & CD covers again: the series is now up to Part 6.

He also provides an illuminating list of the Google search phrases that led people to his blog (as opposed ot those who followed a link from another site, for example). It might surprise you to know the top three phrases involved Anna Netrebko and nudity or sex, but this is understandable on further investigation, since Jason wrote a post entitled "Anna wants to be naked" relating to an article in The Times, in which Ms N declared she very much wanted to do Salome, and that this would mean appearing naked. I can hear the phones ringing at the ticket agencies already!

Finally, he provides a link to a site - Handelmania - which has a number of hilarious excerpts from operas (in mp3 format). The title of the post is "Shut up with your damn coughing", referring to Jon Vicker's outburst at a performance of Tristan & Isolde in Dallas.

John France at Land of Lost Content has been very busy establishing his new blog - there are now 45 posts in the space of 6 weeks - and some of the most recent have been reflections on works by little known English composers, such as William Blezard's Battersea Park Suite, Haydn Wood's Soliloquy and Greville Cooke's High Marley Rest. John provides links to the recordings, and I certainly shall be chasing them up.

January 25
The first thing today is that there has been a change in the links associated with this page. Initially, the sidebar link went straight to here, but you will see that it no longer says Recently in the Blogs, but rather Classical Blogs, and doesn't link to here, but to another page.

The new page is a link page which provides a growing link list of the blogs I refer to on these pages, as well as a link to Chris Foley's page. It eliminates the needs to wade through these articles searching for the name and URL of a blog you read about months ago!

The first Recently article concentrated on English-based blogs, so I thought for this one, I should move across the "pond" and check a few American blogs.

The rest is noise
Alex Ross is a music critic for the New Yorker magazine, a blogger for four years and the author of a book of the same name as his blog about music in the twentieth century. He writes widely across all areas of music, and also links to his magazine columns. It is to one of these which I draw your attention (subscribers to the New Yorker may safely move on). He writes of the appointment of Marin Alsop as musical director of the Baltimore Symphony, becoming the first woman in that post of a major American orchestra.

Too many Tristans
No obvious connecting theme for this blog, nor is it entirely about classical music, but I include it because of a hilarious ongoing series, titled Greatest Classical LP Covers EVER (up to Part V at time of writing, and yes, he is being ironic). My favourite, if that is the appropriate term, is the Crystal Records release Sound Waves, featuring bass trombonist Donald Knaub (presumably), sitting (crossways??) on a director's chair by the water with his instrument with flippers.

Dial M for Musicology
Also on the trail of appalling LP & CD covers is the blog of American music academics, Jonathan Bellman and Phil Ford. They refer to the Tristans articles, and then find some more of their own from the Westminster label of the 1970s. The first cover of this series - with the Beethoven busts, if you'll pardon the expression, is a reflection of how times have changed.

There are quite a few articles on academia in general, which will not be of much interest to those outside "the ivory towers", but there are interesting musical articles to be found. One such is a review of the Fifth Symphony and string quintet of the teenage prodigy composer, Jay Greenberg.

Living at the opera
A blog (though nowhere on the site can I see it labelled thus) which concentrates not surprisingly on opera, mainly reviews of live performances. The principal contributor is Nick del Vecchio, who also writes reviews for Musicweb, particularly Seen and Heard (links from the blog to these reviews), and more recently, disc reviews (see his review today of the Dynamic DVD of Rossini's Torvaldo e Dorliska).

If comprehensive and thoughtful reviews of opera appeals to you, then this should be in your bookmarks. The downside is that new entries are fairly slow in arriving. A few examples for you:
•  Rossini's Otello at the Pessaro Rossini Opera Festival
•  Carlisle Floyd's Susannah in Arizona
•  Boris Godunov at the Mariinsky Theatre

January 10, 2008
I should explain a few things about this "blog" being the first one.

Firstly, it isn't a true blog in that you aren't able to post comments in reply to my entries. I certainly welcome feedback but this is being done for the time being as a normal Musicweb page. There is, of course, the Bulletin Board, and I certainly would appreciate comments, suggestions etc via that medium.

Secondly, it will be a personal selection of articles that I recommend each time. I don't intend to wade through every classical music blog every day looking for interesting articles: there are more than 200 of them, and I do have other things to do (despite what my wife might occasionally think!). I will tend to avoid blogs that concentrate on very local matters, which would be of main interest to only those living in the area. There will be a number of well-known classical blogs which I will dip into on a regular basis, and I recommend them to you beyond the confines of my choices. However, in each of my blogs I will ensure that there is a mention of a blog I haven't mentioned before.

Thirdly, this blog will be no more than a recommendation - no critique of the content is intended beyond the simple fact of that I have recommended, and provided a link to, the article. Just because a specific blog article doesn't get a mention doesn't mean that I didn't like it. After all, I may not have seen it.

Finally, I hope that this blog will be on a fortnightly basis, but don't hold me to it (see Secondly!).

So onto the blogs. At the risk of seeming nepotistic, I thought I would begin with blogs from two of our own reviewers: Robert Hugill and John France.

Planet Hugill
The end of 2007 saw the release of the first recording of compositions by Robert Hugill, and clearly his blog reflects that excitement, with links to reviews of the disc (The Testament of Dr Cranmer, Divine Art DDA25053). Other blog entries are links to his CD reviews on Musicweb, "gleanings" from magazines, most often Opera Monthly, and reviews of concerts he has attended.

There are also general opinion piece articles, one of which is the one, dipping back in December 2007, that I wish to mention specifically. Through a glass darkly is ostensibly a comment on a book - Handel as Orpheus by Ellen Harris - but is actually a reflection of how we perceive composers who live to a ripe old age. Handel and Vaughan Williams are the two mentioned - we think of the old men and forget that they were once young.

Land of Lost Content
John France's blog is very new: his first entry dates from January 6, 2008. His entries thus far have principally been comments on media reports on topics of interest, and personal experiences.

Two items have caught my eye: Elgar's Enigma Solved? I doubt it..., a brief comment on, and link to a Yorkshire Evening Post article on the most recent attempt to identify the "enigma" theme in Elgar's masterwork, this time by Leeds University lecturer Clive McClelland. In the other - An interesting find - John describes his passion for second-hand bookstore browsing and the finding of manuscripts of the English composer, Robin Milford, signed by the composer apparently as a gift to his teacher at the Royal College of Music, Ralph Vaughan Williams.

To finish with two of the best known classical music blogs, Jessica Duchen and On an overgrown path.

On an overgrown path
One of the oldest of the still-functioning classical blogs, the blog named after a piano work by Janácek has been going since 2004. Its author goes by the pseudonym Pliable, otherwise known as Bob Shingleton. He presents a radio program on FutureRadio - a community radio station in Norwich, UK - from which occasional podcasts are made available. His interests are broad, but early and contemporary music are common themes.

The two articles I will direct you to are good examples of the content. Great music doesn't need surtitles comments on the continued overlooking of Vernon Handley when it is time to hand out the knighthoods. Music critics are World Requiems apart contrasts two views of the so-titled work by John Foulds, now recorded and released by Chandos.

Jessica Duchen's Classical Music Blog
Ms Duchen is "a music journalist for The Independent, novelist, orchestra spouse and cat owner" (her own description). She is also the author of biographies of Erich Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (Phaidon Press). The cat's name is Solti. Her blog entries are diverse and pithy, often commenting on articles in the English press.

She, too, has commented on Vernon Handley's absence from the knighthood list - Another fruitless nod for Tod - but the main one I want to point you towards is about Tasmin Little's upcoming free download - Tasmin's violin goes naked - apparently connected to an article by Ms Duchen in The Independent from April 2007 documenting Tasmin Little busking on the streets of London.

Good reading.

David J Barker

 


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