Experience Bayreuth Live!

For those not as fortunate as Ron and me who’ve actually been to Bayreuth, a chance is coming up to make a virtual visit to this year’s Festival. Beginning at 2.45 pm on Sunday 14th August (curtain rises at 3.00), the performance of Lohengrin will be broadcast live on the web. As with all services of this type, site registration is required. The cost is €14.90. If unable to watch live, payment also entitles you to log on any time between August 15th and August 30th to watch a video recording on demand.

Personally, I’ve already pushed the Buy button (even though, judging from the photo, the production may well be from a director who’ll make it onto our black list). I’m cancelling all social engagements on that day (I prefer the thrill of watching live).

Full details are here.

Josef Suk RIP

Okay, so he was 81 when he died on Wednesday last, 6th July. Still, he’s a sad loss, especially since it’s only a year since he recorded a CD of arrangements for violin and piano of songs by Dvorak (on the Toccata label, with Vladimir Ashkenazy, incidentally, and well worth investigating — a recommendation which might surprise those familiar with my normal distaste for such arrangements).

I heard about his death last night, thanks to an email list which I subscribe to, and I must say the news saddened me. One commenter on the obituary in The Telegraph rightly mentions that he’s “far too male and not wearing a revealing enough dress to be listenable to today, as far as the Classic FM [or Lyric] world is concerned”. A wonderfully musical artist despite the shallow preferences of the Lyric generation.

As usual, the Telegraph obituary is excellent (there’s one in The New York Times too, but it’s less detailed). For those without the time to read either of these in full, here are a few quotes to be going on with:

  • Josef Suk, who died on July 6 aged 81, was a Czech violinist who carried the mantle of his grandfather, the composer Josef Suk, and his great-grandfather, Antonin Dvorák.
  • His grandfather, who was Dvorák’s favourite pupil at the Prague Conservatoire and a member of the Bohemian Quartet, had married Dvorák’s daughter Otilie in 1898 and later served as Rector of the Conservatoire. His father, although musical and an amateur composer and painter, chose to pursue a career in engineering, while his mother died when he was eight. Josef never knew Dvorák and he was only 5 when his grandfather died, but the musical dynasty was rescued when his talent was spotted at an early age by the great Bach interpreter Jaroslav Kocián, one of the foremost Czech pedagogues; they remained teacher and pupil until Kocián’s death in 1950.
  • After the Suk Trio disbanded he played trios with the cellist János Starker and the pianist Julius Katchen. He continued to travel to Britain, setting the seal of authenticity on the Wigmore Hall’s Bohemian Festival in 1990; in 1996 he gave what the critics called a “passionately spontaneous performance” of the Violin Sonata by Leos Janácek, another of his compatriots.
  • He … performed in New York as a recitalist, though not always with the same success he achieved in ensemble performances. After a 1979 recital at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Donal Henahan wrote in The Times that in works by Dvorak and Smetana, “Mr. Suk played everything with the verve of a civil servant filling out an official document.”
  • In 1999 President Havel awarded Suk his country’s highest medal for merit. He was decorated again on his 80th birthday by President Klaus. He also held the title of National Artist in the Czech Republic.

A welcome new online outlet for CDs

ArkivMusic.com has long been one of the most respected online resource for CD purchase, but it’s US-based. Now, a European sister-site has been launched and is well worth a look. I’ve registered (yes, registration is required in order to make purchases) and have placed my first order. To give an idea of just how extensive their stock is, the following is the text of the thank-you-for-registering email I received:

Thank you for your registration and welcome to ArkivMusic.eu.

It’s our ambition to be able to provide every classical music issue on CD, SACD and DVD. We have 60,000 titles in stock and by the end of 2011 we will be able to deliver 120,000 unique titles to every classical music lover in all 51 European countries.

Together with our American sister organisation, ArkivMusic.com, we have developed a unique search system, which means it is very simple to find every title easily and quickly. Every week we have a number of interesting and attractive offers for you, each tailored to the part of Europe where you place your order.

We ensure that your order is dispatched within 5 days and delivered quickly at competitive prices.

I hope to be able to welcome you as an enthusiastic customer and I would like to thank you for your interest and dedication to classical music. We are convinced that as a classical music lover you will really enjoy our online shop!

Musical greetings,
On behalf of ArkivMusic.eu

Theodoor Lap

Apart from that, a couple of other things worth noting are: (a) they have several items on sale right now, along with a promotion of CDs for under €10, and (b) shipping/packaging charges are very fair and reasonable (in the case of my first order, €2.95 in addition to a CD cost of €25.23 — that odd 23c bit is due to the fact that there is currently 25% off the entire Naxos catalogue).

Actually, shipping charges are remarkably low. In an FAQ, they are stated as follows:

  • Up to 6 products (per order): €2.95
  • 7 products or more (per order): €6.95
  • For shipping purposes, multi-disc sets (even very large boxed sets) count as one item (!)

I’ve added ArkivMusic.eu to the CD Sales list on our weblog’s home page, or you can find your way directly using this link.