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
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.
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
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).
Jason at Too Many Tristans has been busy with a number of interesting
Firstly, he continued to delve into the archive of awful LP & CD covers again:
the series is now up to Part
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
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.
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
The rest is
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.
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
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.
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
Floyd's Susannah in Arizona
Godunov at the Mariinsky Theatre
I should explain a few things about this "blog" being the first
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
Secondly, it will be a personal selection of articles that I
recommend each time. I don't intend to wade through every classical
blog every day looking for interesting articles: there are
more than 200 of them, and I do have other things
(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
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.
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.
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.
are also general opinion piece articles, one of which is the
one, dipping back in December 2007, that I wish to mention specifically.
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
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
- 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
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.
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.
David J Barker