All posts by Randolph Magri-Overend

One of the questions Randolph hates to answer is “Where do you come from?” Why? Because the answer can be so time-consuming and, in a way, also gives away how old he is!! Plus the questioner has to wrestle with the wish he hadn’t asked the question!! He was born in Cairo, Egypt, many moons ago of British parents although he can trace Maltese and Croatian ancestry in his lineage. Educated in a Jesuit college in London his wander lust for things unorthodox drove him to embark on a seafaring career with both Canadian Pacific Steamships and Shaw Savill. That in itself dates him because both lines have been redundant for many a year. One of his boasts is that he was the Purser on the “Gothic” which ten years previously had been Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Yacht soon after her coronation in 1953. One of the objects imported on the ship by HM and left behind was a tape player which Randolph utilised on many a memorable Sunday evening with a classical concert for his passengers. Thus began a journey that not only awakened Randolph’s love for good music but also eventually led to his extensive knowledge of music in all forms. That he loves the era of Sinatra, Crosby, Armstrong, Dorsey (both) and many many more exponents of the post-war music scene is also part and parcel of his appreciation of the music of many an era. These days Randolph is retired but still reviews CDs and DVDs and has written articles on such diverse personalities as Yvonne Kenny, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Alexander Briger, the late Sir John Tavener, Sir James Galway, Dawn Upshaw and countless probes into the music of Gustav Mahler, Elizabeth Shwarzkopf and her husband Walter Legge, Glenn Gould, Leonard Bernstein and many many more he regrets to admit he has lost track of! Before emigrating to Australia, Randolph spent a number of years as a Flight Dispatcher in Canada. Since arriving in Australia, Randolph has written for The Weekend Australian (especially in their travel pages), The Sydney Morning Herald, Opera Opera and Fine Music magazine as well as some jazz magazines. If you require an extensive coverage of your music to a public that, at last count, reaches the best part of 818,000 please contact David Kary on editor.sydneyartsguide@gmail.com or email me directly on ibmar@bigpond.com. This also includes advertising any forthcoming shows by promoting featured artists. Cheers and thank you.

JOHN MORRISON : LIKE HIS YOUNGER BROTHER A JAZZ LEGEND

John Morrison is a cool cat you can’t help digging.  It’s the type of lingo that John himself would use and having spoken to him at length, I can understand why he is such a well-liked and respected human being, let alone a jazz drummer of the highest quality.

He is James’ big brother, of course, and they both share the gift of eternal happiness. On first meeting you can’t help noticing that John’s eyes twinkle like sparklers on a birthday cake.  Plus, he possesses a grin that threatens to burst into laughter at the drop of a hat and a hat that has become his trademark.  He wears colourful ‘threads’ without being ostentatious and his stance is a mixture of Edward G. Robinson without the cigar and James Gagney with the swagger.  He oozes bon-homme.  When I mention I’d be travelling by train for the interview he volunteers to pick me up at the station.  I decline because it isn’t much of a walk anyway, but after our chat he offers to run me back.  Instead, I opt to accompany him to Luna Park where he rehearses with a school jazz band called Zooo! (they don’t learn to spell like they used to!) whose drummer is unable to attend.  It proves fortuitous because I get to see how John operates as well as stealing a glimpse of Caroline O’Connor rehearsing. Continue reading JOHN MORRISON : LIKE HIS YOUNGER BROTHER A JAZZ LEGEND

RANDOLPH AND HOW NOT EVERYTHING ON THE OPERA STAGE IS SCRIPTED

You may have heard stories about how I used to be an actor with Opera Australia.  Well I am here to set the record straight.  They are mostly true and even those that are not, are probably based on fact.  Like the time I lost a contact lens on stage when performing in Lucia di Lammermoor.

It is the middle 80s and John Copley has requested I be available for a special role in Donizetti’s opera.  There is not much money in acting with the national opera company but it beats slaving away 12 hours a day, 6 days a week as a taxi-driver wondering whether the next drunk will be sick in the back seat. Or do a runner after being sick.  Or not be sick and just do a runner.

Times are tough.  I had joined the opera company on an ad-hoc basis in the hope that someone will notice my dashing presence and perhaps offer me a more substantial stake in the entertainment business.  Except for the pay  I feel at home surrounded by such luminaries as Robert Gard, Donald Shanks, Glenys Fowles, John Pringle, Gordon Wilcox and many others.  I am taking singing lessons and being coached by Simone Young who has just finished her studies at the Sydney Conservatorium, has not yet joined the staff at the Opera House and is contemplating a career as a music teacher.  Even she is finding it hard to make ends meet.  Occasionally, I manage to smuggle free opera tickets for both her and her husband. Continue reading RANDOLPH AND HOW NOT EVERYTHING ON THE OPERA STAGE IS SCRIPTED

OUR NIGHT AT THE OPRY : A POEM

Our night at the Opry

We went to the opry last night,
‘Twere a grand and a costly affair;
Our Jim lost an arm an’ I lost a leg
Just for parkin’ our charabanc there.

Jim’s wife were garbed in pure finery;
‘Twere real stylish but faced wi’ old habit,
She’d covered her neck with the fur of a fox
Which our Mary insisted were rabbit.

Jim an’ I were dressed to our nines,
With moi in me best bib an’ tucker,
But the cleavage on Mary’s calico dress
Made me want to leap up an’ just hug ‘er.

As we entered the main auditorium,
The feelin’ of pride were immense;
This ‘ere place were paid by our taxes,
All our ‘ard earned dollars an’ cents.

Till we come to the price of the programme,
An’ I couldn’t get over the shock;
Ten bucks for a bundle of paper
With some tale of a gent in a frock!

But the opry were grand an’ real fancy,
‘Bout an ‘unchback whose daughter had strayed;
Understood every bit o’ the music,
Though the words were real strange, I’m afraid.

The music were written by Verdi,
Which is foreign for green I’ve been told;
An’ the singers were ever so marvellous
Though the tenor were sufferin’ from cold.

At ‘alf-time there’s no blast of the whistle,
Just a titter an’ a bit of applause;
But the champers were much too expensive
So we settled for tea an’ four straws.

When the curtain comes down at the end,
Dead people all come back to life;
‘Twere quite funny to see living corpses
Who much earlier’d been stabbed with a knife.

We found our way to the charabancs,
And whistling the tunes we just ‘eard.
Jim attempted to sing their entir’ty,
Which turned out to be truly absurd.

We got ‘ome and the children were oop,
Their excitement were reaching great heights,
Convulsing at men wearing dresses
While women wore fanciful tights.

By now I were feeling romantic,
I hurried myself into bed,
But Mary were tired or summat,
So I watched the ol’ telly instead.

Randolph Magri-Overend

Best to be read aloud with a broad Yorkshire accent

OUT-DATED : A SHORT STORY

I should have listened to my late wife.  She always said I was a born softie.  But how was I to know I’d find myself dating another mature person after 18 months.  Lovely name too – Lizzy.  Charming lady, energetic, full of fun.  Lovely blue-eyes, gorgeous flowing hair, trim-figured, and looks after her health.  A voice full of honey, molasses and promise.  But she sits on so many volunteer committees and charities I’m scared I might never get a word in.   

But why did I do it?   Too much alcohol.  And today is the day of the date.  Too late to back off now.  I know I sometimes feel like sharing my life with someone new, but I’m starting to get cold feet.

It’s her fault, of course.  Why did she accept?  Too many crème-de-menthes?  Perhaps if I telephoned her she might let me off the hook.  Even better…she’s forgotten.  No chance.  She called me asking what she should wear, remember?  Me!  How would I know?  I mean at her age, if she doesn’t know what to wear on a date, why not ask a friend?  Oh dear…maybe she hasn’t got all that many real friends.  What have I landed myself into?

I don’t even know what to wear myself.  I’ll make a call…that’s it.  I’ll call my 35-year-old son.  No that’s not a good idea… for a start, he’s a bachelor plus he’ll only spread the word that dad has finally found someone to share his life with. No!  And there’s always a risk he might urge me to go for it!  Nothing for it but to see what I have in my wardrobe.  What wardrobe?  The last time I wore a suit was at Sheryl’s wedding, and that was 25 years ago.  It fitted…just.  Oh, I had to loosen the zipper slightly when I sat down and then forgot to do it up when proposing the obligatory toast.  What was all the fuss?  Nobody noticed till the photographs were printed.

At Gloria’s funeral I used the excuse that it was too hot, and I made do with an open shirt, a pair of fashionable jeans and the obligatory hat …which I remembered to take off at the service itself.

I look through my odd assortment of clothes.  I haven’t been on a date for over decades.  The only dress shirt I find is a fuchsia-coloured one that was all the rage in the 60s.  You know the one.  Outsize collar that invited you to tie a shoelace around it (this was the period when country and western was even more popular than it is now).  No shoelaces… I now wear slip ons.  And I can’t wear a tie because the only ones I possess are hand-me-downs with painted lurid ladies that, these days, would make people nauseous.  I’ll have to make do with a sports shirt.  What a shame, I can’t show-off the gold cufflinks that Gloria bought me for our 25th wedding anniversary.

So that’s settled.  Sports shirt.  I’m now forced to dump my original idea of dining at some romantic hideaway.  Ah well, they do tell me they serve a superb smorgasbord at the local leagues club.  Good!  That means we won’t have much time for idle chatter…we’ll be too busy getting up and down to talk about anything of any great consequence.  Things, at last, are beginning to brighten, but I’m still wishing I could call it off.  She’ll never stop talking.  By the end of the evening, I’ll be nodding my head so much and making out I’m interested in what she’s saying, I’ll finish off looking like a country-fair glazed clown.

One more problem.  Trousers.  The only trousers I have are those cheapies with the maker’s name on the thigh.  I realise I have the most sought-out thighs in Australia, but do they have to be encased in some unfashionable promo?  I grab a pair of scissors and start hacking away but that doesn’t alleviate the problem, only makes it worse.  

I hurry over to George, my neighbour.  Yes, he has a pair he can lend med.  What are neighbours for, after all?  I try them on.  They fit quite nicely but have an extended crotch hanging between my legs.  I borrow them.  I’ll keep my legs crossed, and if required I’ll double-cross them.  I only kiss on a first date, anyway.

Should I shave?  No, I’ll keep my rugged, out-doorsy look.  My nervousness is beginning to make me sweat profusely.   Quick shower.  I’m beginning to feel much better now.

As I’m dressing the phone rings.  It’s Lizzie’s daughter.  “I’m sorry,” she says with great earnestness.  “My mother won’t be able to come tonight.  She fell over trying to stand on her new high-heeled shoes and broke her hip.”  

I laugh nervously.  What a relief!  I can uncross my double-crossed legs now!

Randolph Magri-Overend

 

 

Klaus Heymann : THE FOUNDER OF THE Naxos Records LABEL

 Klaus Heymann is a late bloomer.  At the age of 50 his career took a sharp turn.  At first it was nothing more than an experimental diversion but when the Naxos CD industry took off, it became a serious attempt to stay one step ahead of the bigger, more cashed-up recording companies.

I met Heymann at the headquarters of Naxos’s Australian distributor in Sydney’s northern suburbs.  He is not the stereotype of the high-powered executive who in little less than two decades has turned the recording industry on its head.  I expected a dragon and I’m amazed he hasn’t sent a representative to answer my questions.  In fact he insists I ask any question I like.  So I ask him how old he is.  “Sixty-eight!”  

Slim, tall (at a guess 180 cm or 6 feet) with a mass of flowing grey hair that threatens to cover his face when animated, he has an eye that looks into the distance only when he’s thinking aloud; the rest of the time it’s eye-ball to eye-ball.  Dressed in a black shirt, matching trousers and a grey houndstooth check jacket he looks like a 50 year-old version of Boris Becker.  And like Becker, he loves tennis.  In fact his first real job was as a tennis coach at Frankfurt University where he graduated before embarking on a sales career with an American newspaper, The Overseas Weekly.  Following a short interval working for audio-equipment giant Max Braun, he returned to the newspaper business as the Hong Kong representative of his original employer.   Continue reading Klaus Heymann : THE FOUNDER OF THE Naxos Records LABEL

TRIAL BY TIME : DO GILBERT AND SULLIVAN’S MUSICALS STILL HOLD UP WELL?

Anthony Warlow, Emma Matthews, David Hobson, John Bolton Wood and the Opera Australia chorus of OA’s 2006 production of ‘The Pirates Of Penzance’. Photo by Branco Gaica

To quote Basil Fawlty I am about to ask the bleeding obvious. Have the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas finally done their dash? They are over a century old, the text and libretti must be obsolete by now and surely the cudgels that W.S. Gilbert took up and A.S. Sullivan set to music have no relevance to 21st century morality, social interaction or mode of life.

Not so, according to Stuart Maunder, former Executive Producer at Opera Australia and now a free-lance theatrical producer. “We are the same people as when Gilbert first lampooned authority,” he explains. “We are the same as when he raged against the class system or when he raged at self-made men who became so grand they totally ignored the people beneath them. The satire is still there.”

Which begs the question whether the success of the operettas is due more to Gilbert’s scripts than to Sullivan’s music. The music is an essential part, of course, but one only has to recall that Sullivan without Gilbert was, except for a period at the start of his career, an unqualified disaster. Continue reading TRIAL BY TIME : DO GILBERT AND SULLIVAN’S MUSICALS STILL HOLD UP WELL?

SIMON TEDESCHI : PIANIST AND PRANKSTER

Foreground Simon Tedeschi

Contrary to popular belief Simon Tedeschi is not related to George Gershwin.  When the family heard the rumour ‘we laughed and joked about it,’ Simon says, ‘but there is no relation.’ The mistake evolved due to the similarity between Gershwin’s name and Simon’s grandmother’s surname which was Gerschonowitz.

Simon’s grandmother, on his mother’s side, has an interesting past.  She was born in Poland and during World War II was placed in a labour camp for a year.  Following her release and in poor health, she went looking for her husband who had been incarcerated in a concentration camp. ‘My nanna walked across Europe for three years trying to find my grandfather.’ Simon explains. ‘Working on tips and fragments of rumour, she eventually located him in Germany. (He) was emaciated, typhus-ridden and traumatised.  They came to Australia in 1948.’  Grandfather didn’t speak any English but grandmother ‘always spoke quite average English. She was a complex, loving and emotionally-scarred woman.’

Simon’s father is Mark who still practices law and is an ex-NSW Crown Prosecutor and mother, Viviene, a gynaecologist, still practicing, and who originally wanted to be a pianist.  ‘Other strong women in my life,’ Simon continues, ‘were my piano teacher, Neta Maughan, and Beryl Potter…who became my music mentor.’  Beryl was the one who cheered him up before he went on stage with a simple message: ‘Simon, clear head, full heart.’ Continue reading SIMON TEDESCHI : PIANIST AND PRANKSTER

LA FORZA AND THE ‘CLAYTON’S’ CURSE

My singing teacher mentioned it to me first, this curse that Verdi’s opera La Forza del Destino (heretofore called La Forza) carries with it whenever it is performed.   At the time, I didn’t give it much thought but recently, I started wondering whether this perception of a curse was conception or misconception.  It is like an invisible bomb ticking away like a metronome.  Or is it?  You’ll be amazed at what I found.

Verdi had, of course, already composed an opera Rigoletto with an in-built curse (La Maladizione) but La Forza was another kettle of fish – its curse had been engineered.  

History does not record the first person to associate a curse with La Forza.  In all probability it was the brainwave of a public relations person trying to boost the flagging popularity of the opera.  Which proves, if anything, that the art of spin-doctoring is not an art nouveau.   Continue reading LA FORZA AND THE ‘CLAYTON’S’ CURSE

GUSTAV MAHLER’S ‘DAS LIED VON DER ERDE’ : HIS MOST PERSONAL WORK

The hypnotic effect of Mahler’s great song-cycle/symphony Das Lied von der Erde has mesmerised many.  I have not been immune.  Every interpretation envelops my senses.  I have listened to 30 odd separate recordings of the work and I am still hoping the perfect one will pop over the horizon soon.  It is an unfinished labour of love. 

Based on 7 of approximately eighty 8th century poems translated from Chinese by Hans Bethge under the title of The Chinese Flute, Mahler originally called the work Das Lied von Jammer der Erde (Song of Earth’s Sorrow) subtitling it ‘A Symphony for Tenor, Alto or Baritone and Orchestra’.

Mahler was a symphonist. He once told Jean Sibelius that the ‘symphony was everything’, and even his song-cycles were often used as sounding boards for inclusion as melodies in his symphonies. He loved to experiment with new sounds.  With Das Lied von der Erde, and specifically his last movement, Der Abschied (Farewell), Mahler utilises instruments that had hardly been heard in western music.  The tam-tam, the mandolin and the extensive use of a lone oboe captured the mysticism of the east that was fashionable at the time. Continue reading GUSTAV MAHLER’S ‘DAS LIED VON DER ERDE’ : HIS MOST PERSONAL WORK

TITO GOBBI : THE ITALIAN OPERATIC BARITONE OF HIS ERA

Tito Gobbi (1913-1984) was the Italian operatic baritone of his era.  Suave, charming, good-looking, opinionated. He also carried a whiff of arrogance about him.  Just a glance at his portrait in the role of Scarpia from Puccini’s Tosca will attest to that.  But then he was playing a ruthless man, an autocrat used to getting his own way, a man described by Tosca herself as “before him all Rome trembled”.

He was, of course, Tito Gobbi, the singer the late EMI executive Walter Legge always referred to as the ‘acting voice’. Gobbi died in 1984 but his legend lives on.  Although he made his operatic debut in 1935 as Count Rodolfo in Bellini’s La Sonnambula his career didn’t take off until after World War II when he appeared in a popular 1948 British film set in war-torn Italy, entitled The Glass Mountain.  But his main claim to fame was as an operatic singer, and he first appeared in Covent Garden in 1950, having already broken his foreign-appearance-duck in San Francisco in 1948.  Thereafter, his fame spread and he was in great demand especially when singing some of the great baritone roles Verdi wrote in such operas as Rigoletto, Don Carlo, Otello and Falstaff.   Continue reading TITO GOBBI : THE ITALIAN OPERATIC BARITONE OF HIS ERA

ADULT ONLY CRUISING IN 2014

On Wednesday 26 February, 2014 Jenny, Siobhan and I caught the 9pm from Sydney to Southampton.  Armed with passports, new ID cards and a clutch of vaccination certificates (I swear, some cost more than the diseases they were meant to protect) we boarded the P&O liner Arcadia, 83,700 tons of reinforced steel with the odd timber and plastic veneer. We joined a precious cargo of 2000-strong mostly superannuated clientele (adults only!) all keenly anticipating 46 days of discovery, adventure and luxury.  

Of particular interest was finding out how things had changed since I was an Assistant Purser on the Shaw Savill liner Northern Star 50 years ago.  The main change, of course, can be attributed to the development of the computer.  With it a ship can be steered with the minimum of fuss (look ma no hands), communications are immeasurably quickened, the stage and lighting in the principal performing venue can be changed and configured at the press of a button, the reception staff can keep track of your spending patterns etc. etc. Continue reading ADULT ONLY CRUISING IN 2014

THE GREAT LEONARD BERNSTEIN : INTO THE MUSIC AND NOT THE CRITICS!

Sibelius once said nobody ever erected a monument to honour a critic.  Like all talented people, Leonard Bernstein had his fair share of critics.  What irked him most, however, was the amount of time critics wasted on writing about his flamboyant style rather than on his interpretative skills.  He once said that when conducting he felt he was not just interpreting the music he was actually composing it.  His style was not only different but, based on his contemporaries, almost verged on the salacious.  These days we are used to conductors using their whole bodies to convey a musical point, but in the 1940s and 50s it was a case of letting the hands do the work and keeping the body in check.  Conservatism was the expected norm and critics expected conductors to conform.

Which is not surprising, given Bernstein’s temperament throughout his life and career, that the reviews he received on making his sensational debut with the New York Philharmonic in November 1943 (it was also broadcast nationally) when deputising for an ailing Bruno Walter, were not exactly ecstatic.   ‘He conducted without a baton,’ Oliver Downes of the New York Times complained, ‘justifying this by the instinctively expressive use of his hands and a bodily plastic which is not always conservative’.    Arthur Berger of the New York Sun, not to be out-done, added:  ‘Some of the flares of temperament ….might fruitfully be modified and the stamping of the foot should be avoided’.  Continue reading THE GREAT LEONARD BERNSTEIN : INTO THE MUSIC AND NOT THE CRITICS!

JACQUELINE DU PRE : THE LIFE OF A GENIUS CELLIST CRUELLY CUT SHORT BY MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

The great Spanish cellist, Pablo Casals, was close to tears as he was about to enter the hall in Puerto Rico where Jacqueline du Pré was due to play Elgar’s Cello Concerto. “I’m so looking forward to this,” he told Daniel Barenboim. “You must know, nobody has performed this concerto as well as Jacqueline until now, and nobody will play like her after.”

Jacqueline du Pré, known as Jackie to her friends, was in many ways an enigma.  Pristine and prim for her fans, the revelation of her later sexual fling with her brother in law created much controversy after her death.  Continue reading JACQUELINE DU PRE : THE LIFE OF A GENIUS CELLIST CRUELLY CUT SHORT BY MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

JESSICA PRATT : HER COLOURFUL LIFE AND BRILLIANT CAREER

 

Leading Australian opera singer Jessica Pratt

Jessica Louise Pratt had asked her mother to send a vacuum cleaner up to her room while she was quarantined in Brisbane.  The room they’d put her in wasn’t very big and for a person used to living in a substantial homestead in Florence (even after having survived lockdown  there for five months) it was a bit of a disappointment.  Of course, she’d miss her olive trees, her garden and especially her dogs.

She’d left hubby Riccardo back in Italy (someone had to look after the dogs!).  But there were so many things to look forward to now she was in Australia – her parents, recently moved to Brisbane, whom she hadn’t seen for some time, and of course the reason she’s here – the triumphant return to the Sydney Opera House in early August performing all the four contrasting soprano roles in Offenbach’s sole opera ‘Tales of Hoffman’….. Covid-permitting. Continue reading JESSICA PRATT : HER COLOURFUL LIFE AND BRILLIANT CAREER

CLASSICAL MUSIC LEGEND : HEPHZIBAH MENUHIN

There are two films that have left indelible impressions in my memory bank.  The first is a 1957 feature film directed by Stanley Kubrick called ‘Paths of Glory’ which tells the story of three randomly picked soldiers in the First World War who are court-martialled for cowardice during a suicide mission. The second is a 1998 documentary directed and produced by Curtis Levy called simply ‘Hephzibah’.  Oddly enough there are parallel similarities in each. The Kubrick feature is about man’s inhumanity to man whereas the 1998 documentary delves into one person’s attempt to alleviate man’s inhumanity to man. 

Hephzibah Menuhin was 3 when her elder brother, Yehudi made his first public appearance as a solo violinist with the San Francisco Orchestra Symphony in 1923.  Yehudi was seven years old. None of the Menuhin children had any formal schooling and Hephzibah was taken out of her school (she only spent 5 days there) and taught to read and write at home.  Her mother, however, made sure that she was taught to play the piano.  Continue reading CLASSICAL MUSIC LEGEND : HEPHZIBAH MENUHIN

STRAIGHTLACED BUSINESSMAN BECOMES FLAMBOYANT CONDUCTOR : GILBERT KAPLAN

The great German composer Gustav Mahler

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard Mahler’s 2nd Symphony.  It was in the early 1980s and I was then very enthralled by Mahler’s other major work Das Lied von der Erde and, in particular, Dietrich Fischer-Diskau’s rendition of Der Abschied.  In fact, I was driving a cab at the time and I kept playing a cassette recording of the movement over and over again.  Some of the passengers liked it (a minority), most were indifferent and some commented on it – unfavourably!  One passenger who encouraged me was a lawyer I used to carry from Seaforth to the city on a daily basis and he suggested I should listen to Mahler’s 2nd symphony.  I forgot about it until I was asked to write an article on Leonard Bernstein and I went hunting for a comprehensive list of his recordings.  I came across his recording of the 2nd with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sheila Armstrong and Dame Janet Baker as the soloists.  I was not impressed. Continue reading STRAIGHTLACED BUSINESSMAN BECOMES FLAMBOYANT CONDUCTOR : GILBERT KAPLAN

HUMOUR AND MUSIC : THEY HAVE BEEN COSY BED PARTNERS FOR A LONG TIME

Danish comedian, musician and genius Victor Borge

Music and humour have been cosy partners for a long time.  Mozart, for example, used it in his Divertimento in F for 2 horns and string quartet in 1787 to satirise contemporary composers and performers of popular music.  At the time it was considered a musical joke and, at best, it brought a wry smile to lips instead of the guffaws and falling-abouts one associates with a good joke.

You really have to advance to the last two centuries to find some form of meaningful relationship between laughter and music.  The emergence of the film industry probably had a great influence on this.  Who can suppress a smile when listening to the music that introduces the Laurel and Hardy comedies; that bouncy, jaunty juxtaposition of discordant notes has always proved a harbinger of good, if slightly farcical, times.  Continue reading HUMOUR AND MUSIC : THEY HAVE BEEN COSY BED PARTNERS FOR A LONG TIME

CELEBRITIES REVEAL THE IDENTITY OF THEIR FAVOURITE NON CLASSICAL SINGER

Anthony Warlow

One of the questions I tend to ask all my interviewees is who their favourite non-classical singer happens to be.  Somehow, I find it displays that part of a person that previous questions had not identified.  If I have room in the article I include their thoughts.  Most times the answer remains in my notes unused but hardly forgotten.  Here is a sample of some of their answers:

Bruce Martin, retired bass-baritone from Opera Australia, liked a lot of non-classical stuff but didn’t have a favourite singer.  However he enjoyed “the 1953 version of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five.  You turn it on loud and let it fill your brain.”

The late Justice Barry O’Keefe, retired Supreme Court judge, plumbed for his late brother, “Johnny O’Keefe. I went to every one of his concerts.” Continue reading CELEBRITIES REVEAL THE IDENTITY OF THEIR FAVOURITE NON CLASSICAL SINGER

MARTA BIRGIT NILSSON : A CELEBRATED SWEDISH SOPRANO WITH AN ACERBIC WIT

Birgit Nilsson as Turandot at the Met in 1966

Märta Birgit Nilsson (17 May 1918 – 25 December 2005) was a celebrated Swedish dramatic soprano. Although she sang a wide repertory of operatic and vocal works, Nilsson was best known for her performances in the operas of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. Her voice was noted for its overwhelming force, bountiful reserves of power, and the gleaming brilliance and clarity in the upper register.

Nilsson, whose 100th birthday anniversary we celebrated two years ago, had a wicked sense of humour.  Her humour extended in particular to Sir Rudolf Bing, the then Metropolitan Opera director, conductor Herbert von Karajan and to some extent fellow artist and tenor, Franco Corelli plus the odd barb towards our very own Joan Sutherland with whom she once had a disagreement. Once, when asked if she thought Sutherland’s bouffant hair-style was real, Nilsson answered “I don’t know. I haven’t pulled it yet!” Continue reading MARTA BIRGIT NILSSON : A CELEBRATED SWEDISH SOPRANO WITH AN ACERBIC WIT

CONTEMPORARY CONDUCTORS : DANIEL BARENBOIM : A GREAT MUSICIAN AND HUMANIST

Daniel Barenboim has had a long and glorious career both as a concert pianist and a celebrated conductor.  He has been described as one of the great humanists and a person respected for his integrity and principles.

He was born in Argentina in 1942 to parents of Russian-Jewish descent.  He started piano lessons at 5 and at the age of 7 gave his first concert in his home town of Buenos Aires.  The family moved to Israel in 1952 and at 17 Barenboim performed his first cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas, something he has repeated over 30 times.  He conducted his first orchestra in Israel when he was 20.  Since then, he has been music director of the Paris Orchestra, Chicago Symphony and, his particular favourite the Berlin State Opera.  In Milan, the La Scala Theatre has created a special post for him – maestro scaligero – master of La Scala.  He has conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in its New Year Concert on two occasions, 2009 and 2014 and both times he announced the hope that that year would be a year of peace and human justice, particularly in the Middle East. Continue reading CONTEMPORARY CONDUCTORS : DANIEL BARENBOIM : A GREAT MUSICIAN AND HUMANIST

BEFORE HER TIME : THE LIFE AND MANY LOVES OF ALMA MAHLER

Portrait of Alma Mahler by Oskar Kokoschka

I have been scratching my head to try and recall if there have been any historical parallels to the lifestyle Alma Schindler Mahler Gropius Werfel chose.  The only one I can think of is Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, who lived between 69 and 30 BCE.  To cut a long bit of history short, she was banished to Syria by her brother (who was co-sovereign to the throne) where she met Julius Caesar who helped her regain her kingdom and bore him a son who became Ptolemy XIV.  After Caesar was assassinated in the Roman Senate on the Ides of March 44 BCE, she came back to Egypt, met Mark Antony and bore him twins. In 31 BCE they were defeated by Octavius however, whereupon Mark Antony fell on his sword and Cleopatra clasped an asp to her bosom.

The life that Alma Mahler chose to live, especially in her later years, bore a certain resemblance to Cleopatra, if not in the way it developed, but in the choices she made regarding her partners and in the way she ‘handled’ them.  Both were very amorous and both sought out persons who possessed creativity and authority, in Cleopatra’s case the latter while Alma Mahler was more attracted to the intellectual man.   Continue reading BEFORE HER TIME : THE LIFE AND MANY LOVES OF ALMA MAHLER

THE COLOUR ORANGE

According to a recent QI programme, Stephen Fry (that oracle of knowledge and wisdom on television) confirmed this quote I’ve extracted from Google (another oracle of knowledge):

“Before the late 15th century, Europeans simply referred to orange as yellow-red until they were introduced to orange trees, when the pigment was finally awarded its true name. During the 16th and 17th centuries, orange became a symbol of Protestantism and an important political colour in Britain and Europe under William III’s reign.”j Continue reading THE COLOUR ORANGE

THE ACACIA QUARTET AND GUNTER RAPHAEL

This CD was first conceived in Berlin in the spring of 2017 when the friendship between leading violinist Lisa Stewart and the founder of the Christine Raphael Foundation, Frederik Pachla decided that some form of recognition to the music of Günter Raphael was necessary.  The first concerts of his works were played in Sydney to a very appreciative audience and after further concerts in Berlin the present CD was recorded with three of Raphael’s string quartets – two early works, #1 Op 5 in E minor, #2 Op 9 in C major (1924 and 1925 respectively) and the last quartet he composed in 1946, #6 op 54 in F major. Continue reading THE ACACIA QUARTET AND GUNTER RAPHAEL