Picasso-Ingres Face to Face at National Gallery

In room 46 of the London National Gallery, two portraits hang, one by classical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the other by Pablo Picasso. Ingres’s portrait is of society beauty, Madame Moitessier (1856). Picasso’s portrait, several metres away, is of his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, entitled Woman with a Book (1932).   You may wonder why these works have been given…

Spear pressure: ‘Parsifal’, Opera North

‘Here is where time becomes space’: this is one of the most famous – and mysterious – quotes from Wagner’s final opera, ‘Parsifal’, which at its best can make that scientific impossibility seem real. Unhurried, epic storytelling punctuated with moments of overwhelming beauty or horror that somehow transcend a mere auditorium in what feels like…

Walter Sickert Unsettles and Enchants at Tate Britain Retrospective

Walter Sickert is a bit of an enigma. Brilliant certainly, rather weird, probably. Author, Patricia Cornwell, wrote a book about him, claiming that he was the Jack the Ripper. She is not the first writer to associate Sickert with the infamous murderer. Other writers postulate that Sickert was the Ripper’s assistant. What is undeniable, is that Sickert…

Close to the edit: Edna Stern, ‘Schubert on tape’

Edna Stern’s latest release is a fascinating find. Beautifully performed, for sure, but those performances are led by an intriguing, impeccably realised idea. The pieces on this disc are well-loved and oft-recorded: the first four ‘Impromptus’ (D899) and the ‘Moments Musicaux’ (D780). But Stern, following the courage of her convictions, has arrived at a new…

Leonore Piano Trio plays Bargiel’s Piano Trios Nos 1 and 2

Woldemar Bargiel is not a composer I had heard of. His connection to Clara Wieck (later Schumann) is intriguing. Born in 1828 in Berlin, Woldemar was Clara Wieck’s half-brother – younger by nine years. Despite their difference in age, they enjoyed a life-long closeness of music-making. When Bargiel was born, Clara had already met Robert…

Fashioning Masculinities at the Victoria and Albert Museum

With its latest exhibition Fashioning Masculinities, the Victoria and Albert Museum traces the paths of masculinity through clothes, objects, film, and painting, from the 16th century to the present. I admit to having been a little sceptical about the enterprise, fearing that it would be too much of a challenge to cover such a broad topic over…

Stephen Hough Releases Chopin’s Nocturnes

As winter approaches why do classical music lovers tend to whip out the nocturnes? Chopin’s nocturnes conjure up cosy evenings by the fire, home concerts, cigars and cognac. When I was a child, record covers of Chopin, certainly propagated this image. This is probably why Chopin’s music seems accessible, approachable. A little too accessible at…

Two of US: Lucas Meachem & Irina Meachem, ‘Shall We Gather’

This is a big, bold, beautiful beast of an album: a concept recital that uses song to grapple with belonging, community and how those noble aims align with what it means to be American. Let me say at the outset that this is a bravura performance by both singer and pianist. This may be a…

Vital organ: Anna Lapwood, ‘Images’

No matter how long I’ve listened seriously to classical music – and with a mere decade of doing so behind me, I’m still one of the beginners – it’s always a good thing to be reminded that I’ll remain a learner for the duration, until my senses fail. There are always new sounds and new…

In Opera Holland Park’s Amico Fritz, the love duets rule

In an age where maximum noise and drama seems to be a prerequisite to an opera’s success, Amico Fritz might be regarded as the cuckoo in the nest. Its pastoral, gentle story-line is likely to pass most opera goers by. Opera Holland Park on the other hand is championing Mascagni’s work in a new production – presenting…