One hundred years ago, on June 18, 1912, London audiences experienced The Firebird for the first time. Performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, for whom the work was conceived, with choreography by Mikhail Fokine and music by Igor Stravinsky, the Covent Garden production was hailed for its ‘riot of rich colour and fantastic movement’, while Stravinsky himself was praised for his ‘extraordinary command of the bizarre’.
To Yehudi Menuhin he was 'a precious gift' who 'added a new dimension to my experience of music'. 'To me,' the legendary violinist declared, 'his genius and his humanity can only be compared to that of Mozart's.' To the late Beatle George Harrison, he was 'The Godfather of World Music', to conductor Zubin Mehta, the 'Jascha Heifetz of India (who) educated me more than anyone else'.
It was two days after New Year and slush was competing with snow in the streets. Galina Vishnevskaya moved her London hotel chair nearer a radiator and uttered one of the few English phrases which she has evidently learned and practised: 'Very cold'. She had come from Moscow exclusively to sing in Britten's War Requiem – both in the concert performance, which amazingly sold out the Albert Hall, and in the recording which was being made by Decca.
Aged 78, my dad, George Christie is still a little cracker. Yet for the first few minutes of my conversation with him, we delved fruitlessly into the past. He chewed resolutely on a Nicorette, while Fred, the latest rather glamorous blonde pug dog, snuffled and seemed to have a lot more to say than either of us. Dad began to list the post-war operas at Glyndebourne and after a while, a twinkle glowed in his eye and he stopped. ‘Of course, I opened the Edinburgh Festival. The very, very first performance of the Edinburgh Festival with Macbeth ’.
Charles Rosen leapt to my piano and started to play a snatch from a Saint-Saëns concerto to illustrate a controversial point he was making, namely that Britten is the Saint-Saëns of today's music. Back in a chair he was offering equally provocative comments on the way some conductors ornament 18th century music. Rosen is a compulsive, voluble talker whose ideas on subjects ranging much wider than music – good food and literature are the most common ones outside his specialised topic – are as lively as they are sometimes outrageous.
Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth performed at the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lighting ceremony on December 6, alongside the St Martin-in-the-Fields choir and the Regent Hall Band of the Salvation Army. Since 1947 the pine tree in central London has been a gift from the people of Norway in recognition of Britain's support during World War II, making Thursday's lighting ceremony the 65th. The Lord Mayor of Westminster, councillor Angela Harvey, and the Mayor of Oslo, Stian Berger Røsland, were in attendance.