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 or email me directly on This also includes advertising any forthcoming shows by promoting featured artists. Cheers and thank you.


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 (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


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


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!


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Have you heard of Jack Carty?  If you’re a Country and Western fan, then perhaps you have.  I haven’t but I wish I had. He’s an Aussie who has recently come back from 2 years spent living, recording, writing and performing in the UK and Europe.  One of the reasons he’s returned to his homeland (he’s a Bellingen NSW boy) is because his wife is expecting their first child.

Actually this EP album, comprising 5 songs written and recorded by Carty, is more Country than Western.  Perhaps that is the reason I have taken a liking to it. Which reminds me of the joke in the hilarious movie The Blues Brothers when the saloon owner is asked whether they did Country and Western and he replies “We do both Country AND Western!”  Continue reading JACK CARTY : THE WORLD, WHEN IT’S SLEEPING


CD Review – Across the Stars

Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin

The Recording Art’s Orchestra of Los Angeles/John Williams

DG 4797553

4 out of 5 stars

Anne-Sophie Mutter and John Williams belong to same mutual appreciation society.

Of Mutter, Williams writes: “Anne-Sophie Mutter is many things…..a great artist, a brilliant woman who brings honour to her country, and, through her many travels, a highly contributive and outstanding world citizen”.  Of Williams, Mutter writes: “There is only one John Williams! What he writes is just extraordinary. Every time I go to one of his films and there is a violin or cello, I think, I would like to play that! And now I have his wonderful translations of all these iconic themes.” Continue reading ACROSS THE STARS : ANNE SOPHIE MUTTER AND JOHN WILLIAMS


Have you ever wondered what the best-selling Christmas song is?  Unexpectedly, it’s Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ sung by Bing Crosby.  Written in 1940-41 when sheet music sales were much more numerous than record sales it has, to date, sold more than 150 million.  It has even surpassed Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind” a song written in 1983 to commemorate Marilyn Monroe and later re-recorded, in 1997, to commemorate Princess Diana’s death.  Crosby first aired ‘White Christmas’ on Christmas Day 1941 on his Kraft Music Hall show. His interpretation soon became a favourite, especially with the troops overseas. It received millions of requests on the Armed Forces Radio.  The troops, most on their first overseas posting, obviously identified with the nostalgia in the lyrics and the song has since been covered by many artists, including Elvis Presley, Karen Carpenter and Lady Gaga. 

Other Christmas songs that have rattled the hit parade can be classified in 3 different categories –  Popular, Religious (or Christmas Carols) and Country-inspired…no Western in this…..hope it was an amicable divorce!  Trouble is that depending on what publication you research disagreements tend to occur. Here then are the favourites in each category. Continue reading SONGS OF CHRISTMAS : SOME TIME FOR REFLECTION


He was born on December 1, 1930 as Terence Edward Parsons and, in an attempt to reach some kind of recognition for his singing talent, assumed names like Terry Fitzgerald,  Al Jordan, Fred Flange (Fred Flange?…more on that later) and finally, as we know him, Matt Monro.

Matt was re-named by no less an entertainer than Winifred Atwell – remember her from Black and White Rag, the theme song for the TV programme Pot Black?  Matt came from Matt White, the first Australian journalist to write about Matt and Monro from Atwell father’s first name.  

Monro came to Atwell’s attention when she heard a recording he had made in Glasgow with some musician friends .  The song Polka Dots and Moonbeams impressed Atwell so much that she helped Monro win a recording contract with Decca.  Monro was still very much a lorry-driver then and carried on in that trade even after Decca recorded his first album Blue and Sentimental in 1956.  The recording led to him signing with the BBC Show Band.  By then he was driving a bus in London, which he told reporters at the time, he would continue to do.  But that didn’t last long. Continue reading MATT MUNRO : POLKA DOTS AND MOONBEAMS


George Ellis is quite unique in the music world.  Who else loved The Beatles at age 4 and finished off conducting a motley mixture of music (including classical) for a living.  And arranges songs to boot! And is a composer! And is so energetic, he could pass for a 15 year old! What else can I say? Oh yes, he conducted at the 2000 Sydney Olympics!  He’s also had a hand in the music for the Bruce Beresford’s movies Mao’s Last Dancer and Ladies in Black.

I catch up with Ellis at his daughter’s flat where he’s baby-sitting his grandson.  I congratulate him for being one of the few celebrities who answer their fan’s comments on Facebook.  “I know this may sound ingenuous,” he says, “but I don’t do it for my own gratification….people react positively to my social media posts and I think it’s a nice thing that they’ve taken the time – even though it’s not much effort – but it’s still a thought….that’s one of the good things of social media.” Continue reading GEORGE ELLIS : BRINGING CLASSICAL MUSIC TO THE MASSES


Australian baritone, José Carbó and his partner, soprano Jenna Robertson think he’s the bees-knees!  And so do I. But more from them a bit later. 

Just before and just after the Second World War was a golden era for opera singers.  In the baritone register there were Tito Gobbi, Gino Becchi, Robert Merrill and the subject for today’s article, Ettore (the accent is forcefully on the first syllable) Bastianini;  in the tenor ranks we had Benjamino Gigli, Jussi Bjorling , Giuseppe di Stefano, Franco Corelli and Mario del Monaco and in the soprano ranks we had Maria Callas, Zinka Milanov, Renata Tebaldi, Joan Sutherland, Birgit Nilssen and Kirsten Flagstaff.  Of course, there were others, but these were the most famous of the voices.  Continue reading ETTORE BASTIANINI : THE SINGER WHO WOULDN’T STOP SINGING


She was nicknamed “Dusty” because from a young age she liked playing soccer with the boys.  A tom-boy; which probably was an indicator for her later years when her sexual orientation was (at least according to her) indeterminate.

Born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien on 16 April 1939 she was the second child to Gerard Anthony O’Brien and Catherine Anne (nee Ryde).  He’d been raised in India and worked as a tax accountant and consultant, she was originally from Tralee, County Kerry and included a number of journalists as relatives.  Their dysfunctional frustrations would sometimes boil over and would manifest itself in food-throwing, a custom Dusty and her older brother Dionysius continued as adults, to the great regret of the managers of the hotels they were staying at.  Dusty was brought up in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and educated at St Anne’s Convent, Northfield. Continue reading POP AND BLUES LEGEND : DUSTY SPRINGFIELD


According to his former manager, Herbert Breslin, Pavarotti loved ‘music, women, food and football.’  At 150 kgs he devoured heaps of pasta, heavily sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and loads of salami. His conception of dieting consisted of a whole chicken, beans and more beans, mashed potatoes topped off with three scoops of ice cream.  When on a long tour he would ask any friend travelling from Italy to smuggle kilos of tortellini, Parmesan cheese and oodles of salami. I say ‘smuggled’ because I doubt if any customs institution would allow entrance into their country with meat in their luggage.  Even on his death-bed, his ex-wife Adua, whom he had divorced for a woman 34 years his junior, visited him and he persuaded her to cook him some spaghetti bolognese.

Pavarotti’s nickname was ‘Big Lucy’ for obvious reasons.  He was also called ‘Luciano Havelotti’ because of his size.  He was also known as the ‘King of the High Cs’, an appendage he earned after two 1972 performances singing Tonio in Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment at London’s Covent Garden and New York’s Metropolitan. In one of the arias he sang nine high Cs in a row.  At the Metropolitan he was called back for seventeen curtain calls….a record number, according to some. It was then that Pavarotti came of age as an operatic tenor. Continue reading OPERA LEGENDS : LUCIANO PAVAROTTI