Archive for the 'Uncategorised' Category


April 13 2014

Back April 22.

Chesterton speaking on Canada

April 11 2014

At the Canadian lunch in London in 1933 at which Kipling proposed the toast (last post), the seconder was Chesterton. No film (or none that I am aware of), but here is a complete sound recording.

Is there a complete recording of Kipling? The YouTube poster and commenters wrongly assume that Chesterton is speaking in Canada. Also, he is not “introducing” Kipling.

He refers to the President of the Royal Society of Literature, Lord Crewe.

I like his phrase “our more fatigued society” about Britain compared with North America.

When he reads poetry, Chesterton’s voice sounds almost classless, but there is an occasional lower middle-class twang here. Kipling’s accent is that of the broad English educated class, of which the Oxford accent and the BBC accent were distinct offshoots.

Kipling on film

April 10 2014

Who even knew that there was film of Kipling, and with sound?

July 12 1933, Claridge’s, London, luncheon of the Royal Society of Literature for visiting members of the Canadian Authors’ Association:

Full text here (the Kipling Society has the year wrong and contradicts itself as to the day), with a link to notes. It’s a subtle set of remarks and a fine tribute to Canada.


April 5 2014

“Although the summer sunlight gild
Cloudy leafage of the sky,
Or wintry moonlight sink the field
In storm-scattered intricacy,
I cannot look thereon,
Responsibility so weighs me down.

Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.”


Yeats, from Vacillation, not in the collection called Responsibilities, but a later one, The Winding Stair.


March 24 2014

Back April 3.

Tchaikovsky’s four surviving letters to his wife

March 19 2014

Letter 720a – January 8/20 1878, from San Remo

Letter 822a – May 1/13 1878, from Kamenka

Letter 1168a – April 30/May 12 1879, from Kamenka

Letter 4019 – January 30/February 11 1890, from Florence

All are drafts. The first, third and last were not sent; the second may not have been.

And one photograph, by Ivan Dyagovchenko, July 24/August 5 1877, Moscow:

Tchaikovsky and A Miliukova

Sixteen letters from Antonina Tchaikovskaya to the composer, dating from 1877 to 1890, are preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive.


Carnegie Hall, November 14 1943

March 17 2014

The first item, Schumann’s Manfred overture, in the event, reported on the front page of The New York Times on the following day, that launched Leonard Bernstein’s career. The CBS radio introduction tells us what we need to know (the words “American-born” are key); the heady wartime singing of The Star-Spangled Banner is moving (you can hear that they are winning), the Schumann thrilling:

The Herd-Boy

March 16 2014

Benjamin Britten, fourth of six Songs from the Chinese for voice and guitar, opus 58, 1957; texts from Arthur Waley, translator, Chinese Poems, 1946; Lu You, twelfth-century Southern Song; Peter Pears, Julian Bream, 1963:

“In the southern village the boy who minds the ox
With his naked feet stands on the ox’s back.
Through the hole in his coat the river wind blows;
Through his broken hat the mountain rain pours.
On the long dyke he seemed to be far away;
In the narrow lane suddenly we were face to face.
The boy is home and the ox is back in its stall;
And a dark smoke oozes through the thatched roof.”

Playlist for the cycle, same performers:

The Big Chariot, from The Book of Songs, eleventh to seventh centuries BC

The Old LutePo Chü-i, Tang

The Autumn WindWu-ti, Han

The Herd-Boy

DepressionPo Chü-i

Dance Song, from The Book of Songs.

Reading the world in 2012

March 14 2014


February 28 2014

Back March 10.

On an Overgrown Path

February 12 2014

Vintage Bob Shingleton.

One part of BBC music that is still up to par most of the time is Building a Library (Radio 3). Jonathan Swain last Saturday on Vaughan Williams’s ninth symphony (a kind of continuation of his sixth, also in e minor) proved that. But they need to do some living or recent composers: composers if not specific works. What to buy by Ligeti, Xenakis?

Maxwell Davies and the string quartet

February 9 2014

Quartet movement: Allegro vivace 1952

String Quartet 1961 To Alexander Goehr

Little Quartets

  1. 1982 To Oriel Glock (In Memoriam)
  2. 1987 Reconstructed from 1977 sketches

Naxos Quartets 2002-07

  1. To Ian Kellam
  2. To Eric Guest
  3. Children’s Games To Giuseppe Rebecchini
  4. Lighthouses of Orkney and Shetland To Thomas Daniel Schlee
  5. To Alexander Goehr
  6. Metafore sul Borromini To Archie Bevan on his eightieth birthday
  7. To Her Majesty The Queen on her eightieth birthday
  8. To Kathleen Ollerenshaw
  9. To the memory of Fausto Moroni

Blake Dreaming String quartet and baritone 2010 Commissioned by Nicholas and Judith Goodison

Concerto Accademico String orchestra and string quartet 2012 Commissioned by Regia Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna and Stuttgarter Kammerorchester


Why this? I’m trying to get to know them.

I am starting with the seventh because of its affinity, via Borromini, with the tenth symphony, whose premiere I attended the other day.

Am also trying to get to know the third symphony (1984), which was inspired in part by the churches of Brunelleschi.

The seventh has been criticised for being all slow movements, seven of them. That is its virtue. It is not overly Beethovenian, nor agitated and expressionist, nor minimalist, nor monotonous, nor funereal.

A big Roman work to parallel the seventh quartet and tenth symphony is the tone poem Roma Amor (1998), which I heard at the Proms several years ago.

This is all a way into Max that does not go via the Orkneys.

Une page d’éphéméride

January 20 2014

Pierre Boulez. Gaspard Dehaene.

Claudio Abbado

January 20 2014


December 31 2013

Back January 19.


December 24 2013

Back December 28.

Old song

December 19 2013

Brahms, Zwölf deutsche Volkslieder, WoO 35, no 9, Altes Volkslied. Amadeus-Chor, Nicol Matt. Words in a comment. Rembrandt, The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by the Angel, Louvre.


December 3 2013

Back December 5.

Élégie pour Pierre

November 29 2013

Darius Milhaud, opus 416 (1965). For Pierre Monteux. Dimitri Mattu, viola. Carlo Pusceddu, timpani. Andrea Desogus, Stefano Tiesi, percussion.

Other short elegies from the mid-’60s.

Tippett and Britten

November 22 2013

Michael Tippett dedicated his Concerto for Orchestra to Britten on his fiftieth birthday (last post). Performed LSO, Colin Davis, Edinburgh Festival, August 28 1963.

When I listen to it now, the theory of a “great divide” in his music between the works before and after King Priam seems mistaken. The Concerto for Orchestra seems to me to grow naturally enough out of the Corelli Fantasia and the piano concerto.

LSO, Colin Davis (not, I think, the premiere):

Tippett himself (not Meirion Bowen, I think) made a successful setting of the first movement for wind band (no longer on YouTube), called Mosaic (not a very wind-bandy name).

Was the only known photograph of Britten and Tippett together taken at a Britten fiftieth birthday party? Britten dedicated his church parable Curlew River to Tippett in the following year.

The London Sinfonietta’s 1986 Britten-Tippett Festival should be repeated.

See Arnold Whittall, The Music of Britten and Tippett, Studies in Themes and Techniques, Cambridge University Press, 1990. And Ivan Hewett, Michael Tippett: a visionary in the shadow of his rival, Telegraph, October 19 2012.

Hymn to St Cecilia

November 22 2013

Benjamin Britten was born on St Cecilia’s day a hundred years ago today.

Hymn to St Cecilia has words by Auden. Composed US, 1940-42. Text shown in clip. Kings College Choir, Sir David Willcocks.

His fiftieth birthday, fifty years ago today and the day of Kennedy’s assassination (last post), saw the publication of Tribute to Benjamin Britten on his Fiftieth Birthday, elegantly produced by Faber. Tributes by William Plomer, Imogen Holst, Ronald Duncan, Peter Pears, Yehudi Menuhin, EM Forster, Julian Bream, Aaron Copland, Francis Poulenc, Mstislav Rostropovich, George Malcolm, Kenneth Clark and others. Anthony Gishford, editor. 1963 was the year of the great Cello Symphony, of the Cantata misericordium, and of Nocturnal after John Dowland for guitar.

Parliaments and alcohol and that kind of thing

November 17 2013

A conversation [...] took place in the nineteen-twenties between the Zaydi Imam Yahya of Sanʿa and a British envoy whose mission was to persuade the Imam to restore peacefully a portion of the British Aden Protectorate which he had occupied during the general War of 1914-18 and had refused to evacuate thereafter, notwithstanding the defeat of his Ottoman overlords. In a final interview with the Imam, after it had become apparent that the mission would not attain its object, the British envoy, wishing to give the conversation another turn, complimented the Imam upon the soldierly appearance of his new-model army. Seeing that the Imam took the compliment in good part, he went on:

“And I suppose you will be adopting other Western institutions as well?”

“I think not,” said the Imam with a smile.

“Oh, really? That interests me. And may I venture to ask your reasons?”

“Well, I don’t think I should like other Western institutions,” said the Imam.

“Indeed? And what institutions, for example?”

“Well, there are parliaments,” said the Imam. “I like to be the Government myself. I might find a parliament tiresome.”

“Why, as for that,” said the Englishman, “I can assure you that responsible parliamentary representative government is not an indispensable part of the apparatus of Western civilization. Look at Italy. She has given that up, and she is one of the great Western powers.”

“Well, then there is alcohol,” said the Imam, “I don’t want to see that introduced into my country, where at present it is happily almost unknown.”

“Very natural,” said the Englishman; “but, if it comes to that, I can assure you that alcohol is not an indispensable adjunct of Western civilization either. Look at America. She has given up that, and she too is one of the great Western powers.”

“Well, anyhow,” said the Imam, with another smile which seemed to intimate that the conversation was at an end, “I don’t like parliaments and alcohol and that kind of thing.”

The Englishman could not make out whether there was any suggestion of humour in the parting smile with which the last five words were uttered; but, however that might be, those words went to the heart of the matter and showed that the inquiry about possible further Western innovations at Sanʿa had been more pertinent than the Imam might have cared to admit. Those words indicated, in fact, that the Imam, viewing Western civilization from a great way off, saw it, in that distant perspective, as something one and indivisible and recognized certain features of it, which to a Westerner’s eye would appear to have nothing whatever to do with one another, as being organically related parts of that indivisible whole. Thus, on his own tacit admission, the Imam, in adopting the rudiments of the Western military technique, had introduced into the life of his people the thin end of a wedge which in time would inexorably cleave their close-compacted traditional Islamic civilization asunder. He had started a cultural revolution which would leave the Yamanites, in the end, with no alternative but to cover their nakedness with a complete ready-made outfit of Western clothes. If the Imam had met his Hindu contemporary Mr. Gandhi, that is what he would have been told, and such a prophecy would have been supported by what had happened already to other Islamic peoples who had exposed themselves to the insidious process of “Westernization” several generations earlier.

Toynbee’s distant perspectives are as dangerous as the Imam’s. The modern cultural interaction of the West with other societies was a subtler process than he acknowledges. He rarely examines its nuances. He had a rather superficial conception of what constituted modernity.

The Imam is, in Toynbeean terminology, a Zealot rather than a Herodian.

Britain in Yemen (old post).

List of British residents in Aden.

Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948


November 10 2013

Back November 17.


October 1 2013

This blog is seven years old today. Back November 4.


September 28 2013

Back October 1.

A cat’s amorous longings and laments

September 20 2013

Part of Minette, Canti e rimpianti amorosi per due chitarre, arranged from Henze’s music by Jürgen Ruck. Gil Fesch and Nuno Pinto, guitars. I could write about this cat’s pedigree, but I recommend the CD which had the whole arrangement and much more, where the players are Jürgen Ruck and Elena Casoli.

The leveller

September 16 2013

Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.

[Footnote: ShirleyDeath the Leveller, stanza i, ll. 5-8.]

He was presumably referring to the Levellers.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954


September 14 2013

The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the World.

Tennyson: The Passing of Arthur.

The Passing of Arthur is one of the Idylls of the King.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

Menuhin and Mozart

August 31 2013

Violin concerto 3, K 216. Menuhin and players, 1961. Ensemble not stated, perhaps Bath Festival Orchestra, June 14.


August 21 2013

Alberto Ginastera of Argentina, Concerto per archi, Concerto for strings, Orchestre de Picardie, Edmon Colomer. Composed 1965, first performed Inter-American Festival, Caracas, May 14 1966, Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy.

“Onganía ordered repression of all forms of ‘immoralism’, proscribing miniskirts, long hair for boys, and all avant-garde artistic movements.” Wikipedia.

He banned Ginastera’s opera Bomarzo (1966-67).

Variazioni per i solisti
Scherzo fantastico
Adagio angoscioso
Finale furioso

Ginastera’s Cantata para América Mágica (1960), for dramatic soprano and percussion, had been based on pre-Columbian legends.


August 19 2013

“Rarely, rarely, comest thou,
Spirit of Delight!”


Shelley, from Invocation.

Song for Athene

August 11 2013

King’s College Choir. Last post refers. Text (in comment below): Alleluia sung before successive extracts from the funeral service of the Eastern Orthodox Church (modified) and from Hamlet.


August 7 2013

Worlds on worlds are rolling ever
From creation to decay
Like the bubbles on a river
Sparkling, bursting, borne away.

Shelley, from verse drama Hellas. (Not from closing chorus beginning “The world’s great age begins anew,”.)

Charon and Hermes.

A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934 (no footnote, only Shelley’s name mentioned)

Also An Historian’s Approach to Religion, OUP, 1956 (differently punctuated and with full citation)


July 29 2013

Back August 5.

Summer balm

July 25 2013

Mozart, K 313, Emmanuel Pahud, Haydn Ensemble Berlin, Salzburg, 2000. What is it with French and Swiss flautists?



July 24 2013

Julian Bream is eighty (July 15) before Britten (picture) reaches a hundred: Britten, Nocturnal after John Dowland, opus 70, 1963. After Dowland’s song (lyrics anon or by Dowland) Come, heavy sleep.

The separate videos do correspond to the movements of the piece.

The technically best recording made before …

July 20 2013

… 1930, of anything or at least of music, must be that of Beethoven’s Archduke Trio with Thibaud, Casals and Cortot made on November 18-19 1928 in the Queen’s Hall, London. EMI, now out of copyright.

There may be some recent digital manipulation, but it was always exceptional. This may not even be the best rendering of it. Cortot comes off best, followed by Casals, followed by Thibaud. The balance is right and there is a spaciousness in the sound. The performance is wonderful.

The three of them look in another photograph like bohemians of thirty years earlier. Perhaps it is an earlier photograph. The fourth here is Fauré, who had died in 1924.


July 16 2013

Advertising is a great blot on the free way of life. If people in the West would only say that it was an evil but a necessary evil in a free society, I wouldn’t mind so much. But when they say that advertising is a splendid thing in itself, and when they talk about maximum consumption of consumer goods to avoid unemployment, and so on, I feel that this is somehow sub-human.

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963


July 13 2013

Melvyn Tan again strikes me as a real pianist, not a period instrument pedant. I don’t know what fortepiano he is using.

It must be Stephen Hough who is reviewing this on Amazon, if this is the same recording.

Second movement. Third.

A foreign country

July 10 2013

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”


LP Hartley, The Go-Between, Hamish Hamilton, 1953.

Far from the madding crowd

July 8 2013

Along the cool sequester’d Vale of Life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.

Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751). No citation. Tenour spelt thus here.

Nineteenth stanza:

“Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.”

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934

New life

July 1 2013

Neuen Lebenslauf
Mit hellem Sinne,
Und neue Lieder
Tönen darauf.

[Footnote: Goethe: Faust, ll. 1622-6 [...].]

A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939