Director vanishes after spat with conductor at the Royal Opera House

Guardian Unlimited Arts
“Opera has a distinguished history of strops, hissy fits, temper tantrums — a whole spectrum of diva-ish behaviours and hostility covered by the wonderfully euphemistic phrase “artistic differences”. It remains unusual, however, for a director to walk out on the first day of rehearsals and go to ground — which is what has happened at the Royal Opera House. A new production of La Finta Giardiniera, written by Mozart when he was aged 18, is due to open there on September 21, directed by the German-born Christof Loy and conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner.”

Follow the link for more. One further quote to whet appetites: It was from Loy’s 2004 revival of “Ariadne auf Naxos” that soprano Deborah Voigt was famously sacked by the Opera House, for being too overweight to fit into the little black dress required. Interesting that the director is the common denominator.

Please, give him room to mature

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CRITIC’S NOTEBOOK, LA Times
“I try not to be shocked by the depths to which the music business can sink. And I fail. Remember David Helfgott, the mentally unstable Australian pianist? His handlers literally pushed him onto the stage and suckered a large classically clueless audience into feeling deep sympathy for this poor, lovable, deer-caught-in-the-headlights soul. Typically, his New York record company and Hollywood, which lavishly embellished his story in ‘Shine’, threw him away once they had made their quick bucks off him.

Now we have the attempt to treat an unquestionably talented and perhaps profoundly musical 15-year-old as the next Mozart. I hope Jay Greenberg becomes a composer we one day cherish, but there is simply no way to know.”

So begins an interesting article by Mark Swed, LA Times staff writer, in which he goes on to bemoan the make-it-rich-quick mentality of the music business, delves deeper into the ridiculous comparisons being made between Jay Greenberg and the young Mozart, and muses about child prodigies in general.

I especially like this quote: Of all the great prodigies in music history, only Schubert wrote music of consequence at Greenberg’s age. Anyway, enough from me. As usual, follow the link, read the full article and make up your own mind.

Oldest Bach manuscripts found

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The two manuscripts date from around 1700 and contain copies Bach made of organ music composed by Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Adam Reinken, said Hellmut Seemann, president of the Foundation of Weimar Classics.

Researchers found the documents in the archives of the Duchess Anna Amalia library in Weimar, where a previously unknown aria by Bach was discovered last year.

The photo shows restorer Nanett Woithe with the manuscripts. The full news article goes into further detail about the find.

Weblog problems

OK, so I’ve worked out a stopgap way of returning functionality to our weblog. Things are working fine again as a result, and all posts, comments and pages can be accessed once again.

What has changed, though (as the observant among you have no doubt already spotted), is that the actual web addresses which control this access are different from what they were before. Because of this, I won’t provide direct links to specific weblog posts in any emails until the problem is resolved on our hosting provider’s server. I’ll keep an eye on things and let you all know when things are fully back to normal.

UPDATE, 3rd September, 9.00 pm:  Well, I take back some of my criticism of our hosting provider. They seem to have sorted out the problem which was affecting our weblog. We’re now back to normal.

The 100 best CD’s of all time?

The Definitive CDs
I once met a lady who had seen Starlight Express, a show vacant of intellectual content, 120 times. Her dedication did not surprise me. I know people who own 80 recordings of the Symphonie Fantastique and, feeling deprived of a perfect performance, buy another on the day of release.

After a century of classical recording, we suffer the twin frustrations of too much and too little. Enter any classical store or website and you will be overwhelmed by repetition – the same works, done over and over again. Yet there is nothing to suggest which might be the right one for you, let alone the elusive best. Too many records, too little to help anyone choose.

These are the opening words in an article written by Norman Lebrecht in September 2004 which is well worth delving in to. He stresses that the list is a personal one, and is not intended as a list of the best versions of the works included, but rather as a compilation of the most significant ones. He presents the list in the context of what he describes as the demise of the classical recording industry, and also apparently as a sort of advance promotion for a new book, Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness, which is due for publication in March 2007 (how can they give such a precise publication date two and a half years in advance, I wonder?).

Didn’t someone in the Group mention another book by Norman Lebrecht some time or other? What was that, can anyone remind us?