As a teenager on the third
world, I started listening to western classical
music on a tiny transistor radio. Fortunately
we had relays from the BBC in its glory days.
So, like a blackbird, I listened to everything,
from early music to the most up to date contemporary
art music. I learned to listen without prejudgment,
without following fashion. Having nothing
but the music to connect to, I "really"
learned to listen and try to understand. It
was unique, if unconventional, training. Gradually
I gravitated towards song, which is perhaps
my speciality, but I've never ceased to listen
My experiences influence the reason I review. Composers
and performers do what they do because they are artists, creating music
from their interaction. Listening to music is like listening to a conversation.
For me, a reviewer's role is to understand that conversation and express
it for others in such a way as to get readers thinking and listening
for themselves. I write, not for myself, but to try and give back to
others what the music has given me.
R.I.P. Anne Ozorio
I have just heard, with great sadness, news of the death of my friend
Anne Ozorio. Anne and I first 'met' on the Mahler List, which I joined
when, somewhat belatedly, I finally started using the Internet. Hers
was always one of the most intelligent, interesting, and generous whilst
critical voices there. We became friends, writing to each other often
(indeed after both of us had left that list, following unpleasantness
neither of us had time or energy to indulge). We then met in person
for the first time when she drove over to Cambridge for the launch party
for my first book, Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire. She acquired
a copy and wrote a generous review.
Then, when I tentatively started writing more about music in performance,
she encouraged me and recommended that, as well as writing for my blog,
I write for another website, Seen and Heard, for which I still write.
Apart from anything else, that enabled me to attend more performances
and to gain greater experience in such writing, which has in turn greatly
influenced much of my 'academic' work too (not that she or I would ever
have made such a hard and fast distinction). My most recent completed
article, 14,000 words on Frank Castorf's Ring and the politics of postdramatic
theatre may otherwise never have been written.
Anne's blog, Classical Iconoclast, was always one I would check and
read with enthusiasm, even, perhaps especially when we differed, in
order that I might be challenged to rethink. I shall greatly miss her
thoughts on performances and on much else, not least her Macau family
history, from which she has been posting so many fascinating old pictures
with commentary. I shall also miss her presence at the Wigmore Hall,
the Festival Hall, Covent Garden, and many other venues, whenever, God
willing, they reopen. Bumping into her and, often, Roger too for a pre-performance
or interval chat was so often part and parcel of the experience, not
least with respect to new music. Anne's voice will, of course, remain
Remembering Anne Ozorio by Marc Bridle
The relationship between an editor and a writer is not always an easy
one; it is not always one which eventually becomes one of deep friendship
either. I first came across Anne Ozorio when she became a contributing
writer to Seen & Heard when I was editor more than twenty years
ago; those roles would be reversed in more recent times, as late as
March this year in fact, when she would come to edit my final live music
review - of an NHK Symphony Orchestra concert - for her website, Classical
Iconoclast. In those intervening years classical music would draw us
closer together as friends, sometimes fray our relationship a little
at the edges, and eventually allow us to go behind the music into each
other's private lives.
I think why Anne and I got off to such a flying start in our early
musical relationship was because she never really gave me much to do.
An editor is often grateful for a writer who knows what she is writing
about - and Anne's knowledge of Lieder especially wasn't just encyclopeadiac
it was written with a love and enthusiasm for the subject which never
made it dry for the reader. Her love for Mahler's symphonies, too, wasn't
just borne out of the music - her reviews of them were founded on the
authority of her knowing Mahlerian scholars like Henri-Louis de La Grange
and Sybille Werner. But it was typical of Anne that with that depth
and sweep that made her reviews so compelling went a certain modesty.
In the years I was editor of Seen & Heard Anne enjoyed a much wider
breadth of music to cover than would progressively become the case.
She enjoyed the Proms, and still did right up until a few years ago,
though by that stage she had become wheelchair bound. It was a sign
of the esteem in which she was held that press offices went rather beyond
what they had to do to meet her needs. Illness and 'legal' blindness
would prevent her from covering live operas (though she once told me
given the dross on stage this was possibly a godsend. And she wasn't
being ironic). Anne could always see humour in the adversity of her
illness, too, so she saw the light side when her lack of vision became
a blessing when a pair of hands wandered too far towards her in a restaurant.
In one of our final emails, Anne wrote: "You and I have never
been the sort of people to cruise through life timid and bland".
Her fearless embracing of the music of Stockhausen, Boulez and others
put her in a different league to other writers I have come across. There
was, indeed, nothing timid or bland about the music she would write
about. Take a quick glance at her website and you'll find that there
are 49 links for Birtwistle (only 31 for Brahms), 75 for Boulez (just
57 for Beethoven) and for Stockhausen 26 (against 15 for Tchaikovsky).
Britten and Mahler, I think the two great musical passions of her life,
stand as pillars on which everything else is balanced in this vast temple
which she built up over many years. A website which she became devoted
to and perhaps a response to the unsettling dispute which she had with
a writer on MusicWeb. Differences of opinions mattered to Anne; but
those differences had to be argued and justified and she was a merciless
taskmaster if they weren't.
Beyond classical music, Anne's biggest passion was Chinese opera, film,
music, history and culture. And Chinese stereotyping. This was founded
in Anne's heritage, her birth and her family. Her Facebook page was
one of the most interesting because it was a complete social history,
not just of Anne's own family but of her father's, mother's and her
grandparents. Indeed, the Ozorio clan in itself could read like one
of those great sweeping novels by Tolstoy, or of a dynasty founded by
Victoria in the nineteenth century. This was a history that came from
a time which was not always kind, one which was from a time-line many
of us would rather forget. All of this was recounted in magnificent
photographs, some of which seemed to look as if they had been taken
around the beginning of photography itself. But the span of them was
extraordinary. In one picture from 1903 the Ozorio clan is shown in
western dress, which was apparently common at the time for prosperous
merchants and stamp dealers. The treasures go on: a picture of her father
mountain climbing in 1947, a photo of Anne as a child, almost as fragile
as a doll. These are extraordinary personal documents. But among these
you will find pictures of flowers, the black and white of her past in
sharp relief against the vivid brightness of Japanese blossom and flowers
from the garden she tendered so lovingly.
Anne was a post-war child, having been born in 1951. I think her view
of modern society was shaped more radically than many of us would normally
experience ("Read feminist books? I could write feminist books!"
she wrote to me in February 2020) - and she certainly had a view of
the world which was significantly less introspective and myopic than
many of us. Many people who knew her would simply say she was kind about
people and that was very much rooted in her past. She would become horrified
by Brexit and its divisions, her instincts were entirely about healing
wounds not opening them. Rather surprisingly, a lot of our emails discussed
politics and society generally - perhaps more than they did music. I
think we left the music to our public life: Our Facebook groups, where
we would find ourselves joining, quite independently of each other,
the same groups on Mahler, Bruckner and so on. Last year she co-founded
a classical music group for much wider discussion on music - the rules
being politeness and civility, but, of course, music divides opinion
as much as any subject. Anne could sometimes be a little, um, difficult
perhaps assuming that everyone had her level of expertise when it came
to music and this could come across as curt. She once seemed surprised
when someone didn't know who George Szell was. But she enjoyed the gossipy
side of music politics as well. The succession of conductors to orchestral
seats seemed to enthuse her as much as the history of imperial thrones
from Chinese or Japanese dynasties.
Thankfully, our views of many things aligned very neatly so unlike
many friends we never really fell out over twenty years of knowing each
other! We were like twins on many of the subjects we came to talk about.
Social care (or the lack of it) was one and she became increasingly
open about her illness and where it was going. That she knew her time
was short was made easier by a few things she told me - and many others
she would tell other people: That she had lived her life to the fullest
and made the contribution to music that she had wanted to. She had no
reason to complain about many things, least of all many of the people
who had enriched her life. She had for some time been reliant on her
partner, Roger, without whom it would have been impossible for her to
travel to concerts in London. The decision for her not to have chemotherapy
was made somewhat easier by the knowledge her life would not be prolonged
with it. It almost came as a relief for her; instead her goal was just
to live as close as possible to her 70th birthday.
One of the final things Anne wrote to me - her philosophy on life -
was that it should be lived to the utmost. "I should have hated
to have lived with nil mental horizons". One can say with absolutely
certainty that the sun barely had time to settle on Anne's horizon.
Anne will be deeply missed by all who loved her for her passion for
music, life and her friendship.
Anne Ozorio (8th October 1951 - 22nd August 2020)