Jessica Duchen; Chris Mugan; David Pollock; Stephen Kelly, The Independent (London, England)
Why Bruckner makes me lose the will to live
BY JESSICA DUCHEN
The conductor/pianist Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin explore Bruckner's last three symphonies over three nights at the Royal Festival Hall, this month.
I don't like Anton Bruckner. I may be a classical music journalist, a trained musician and so on, but I remain deeply, pathologically allergic to the Lumbering Loony of Linz. I've lost count of the well-meaning friends, relations and colleagues who have made it their personal mission to "convert" me. Alas, each attempt has been counter-productive.
An old music exam question helps to articulate the problem: "Brahms termed Bruckner's masterpieces 'symphonic boa constrictors'. Discuss." So, here goes. Bruckner's symphonies are stiflingly, crushingly, oppressive. Once you're in one, you can't get out again. Spend too long in their grip and you lose the will to live. They are cold-blooded and exceedingly long, and they go round and round in circles.
I recall my first Bruckner symphony, No 4, which I attended with my parents, aged 14: even my father, who was a Gramophone subscriber and did like Bruckner, slipped into a gentle slumber. I sought refuge with a pal after some boyfriend trouble, and she put on the slow movement of the Symphony No 7 to console me, and I fear I rather distressed her by saying it sounded like Three Blind Mice upside-down. That movement, by the way, was the music played on German radio when they announced the death of Hitler.
Bruckner (1824-1896) was obsessive compulsive. He had a counting mania - to the point that he would stand under a tree and count its leaves.
He had little or no personal life and legend suggests that he slept in protective clothing because he suffered "nocturnal emissions".
When I was asked to choose my "most boring masterpiece" for a round-up in BBC Music Magazine last year, I picked the Symphony No 7. It is the most frustrating of the lot, because after after the glorious opening minute and a half or so, he fails quite spectacularly to follow it through. All that opening's sunrise- like, mystical beauty dissipates into plinky-plonky, counting-the- notes, closing-passage twiddles. And then you have to sit through the remaining 68 minutes.
I've been trying to like Bruckner for 30 years. I have not once succeeded.
The Bruckner Project, Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 on 16, 17 & 20 April (www.southbankcentre.co.uk)
Country house date for Damon
BY CHRIS MUGAN
Damon Albarn takes his latest opera, Dr Dee, to London's Covent Garden in June. Yet before the work about the mysterious Elizabethan alchemist and scholar opens at the Coliseum, the Blur frontman takes a short detour to Wiltshire with a band that includes Guinean musician Madou Diabat.
Albarn is to present songs and music from Dr Dee at a bucolic music festival, OneFest, to be held in the grounds of Rockley Manor, somewhere between Marlborough and Swindon.
Dr Dee gives Albarn a chance to show off his musical chops, with a score that combines that period's choral practice and instrumentation with modern and West African sounds.
OneFest raises funds for a struggling pub, the Barge Inn, which has been taken over by the local community. When festival co- founder Stephen Budd saw Dr Dee and heard about the London shows, he saw an opportunity to perform its music in sympathetic surroundings that Albarn pounced on, he explains. "I was totally blown away by it, but especially the beauty of the songs that Damon himself sang. They were quintessentially English and had an amazing rural, even folk, quality to them. We discussed him presenting those …
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Publication information: Article title: Observations. Contributors: Jessica Duchen; Chris Mugan; David Pollock; Stephen Kelly - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: April 6, 2012. Page number: 2. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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