César Franck’s Cello Sonata

  After the Paris Commune came to an end in 1871 and right up to the First World War, Paris enjoyed a period of frenzied reconstruction and renewal. Paris’s renaissance is referred to today as la Belle Epoque (The Beautiful Era). Most memorable were the universal exhibitions that took place during this period of great optimism,…

Himalayers: revisiting and revising ‘Black Narcissus’

‘Black Narcissus’ has, like the mountain palace of Mopu itself, been haunting me for some days now, after watching both the new TV adaptation and going back to the 1947 Powell & Pressburger (‘P&P’) film. What is the allure of this strange story, and why does Rumer Godden’s original novel somehow elude both versions? *…

Margaret Catchpole Horse Stealer

 Based on Victorian bestseller The History of Margaret Catchpole, ‘Margaret Catchpole’, the opera, is the story of a Suffolk servant girl who steals a horse to join her lover in London. In the 18th century when this true story played out, horse-stealing was a capital offence.   Stephen Dodgson’s opera was a slow burner during his lifetime. It…

Tracing the blues

Singer and guitar player, Skip James. Born 1902 Yazoo County, Mississippi In the 1920s and early 1930s *RACE record companies such as OKEH in America, went in search of the South’s most talented African-American blues artists. Musicians and singers were brought off the streets, where they had been performing for nickels at a time, and…

Thrill of ‘La chasse’: I Fagiolini, ‘The Stag Hunt’

Harmony, hilarity – and a touch of horror – are seamlessly combined in this cunning, captivating new release from the innovative vocal ensemble I Fagiolini. Sidestepping the more conventional CD or digital audio formats, ‘The Stag Hunt’ is a nine-minute film, featuring a performance of Renaissance composer Clément Janequin’s ‘La chasse’. Following a brief opening…

20 from 2020

However badly this year has treated us – and in the UK, it has treated those working in the arts very badly indeed – we have still been lucky enough to hear an astonishing amount of great music. Before joining ArtMuseLondon, I would normally assemble a couple of ‘round-up’ posts for my own blog ‘Specs’…

Queen’s Dutch and Italian masterpieces go on display

A Girl Chopping Onions by Gerrit Dou 1646 Dripping wet from a heavy downpour I was very relieved to step inside the rarefied atmosphere of the Queen’s Gallery to see Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace. The exhibition is the latest offering from the Royal Collection with sixty-five priceless Dutch and Italian works on display. The first blue…

Past presence: Dead Space Chamber Music and Kate Arnold

Two brilliantly-timed records that for me sum up the word ‘spirit’: both in the eerie, evocative atmospheres they conjure up, and the sheer inventive brio with which the music was created. * Dead Space Chamber Music are an intriguing collective from Bristol, UK, who seemingly belong to all genres or none. Within the first few…

‘Owen Wingrave’. A Family at War

For its Interim Season, Grange Park Opera is offering several new filmed operas to the public. Owen Wingrave, filmed in September of this year, is a rarely performed work by Benjamin Britten and was originally conceived as a TV opera. It was broadcast on BBC2 in 1971. For this reason alone I was very curious to see it.  For…