Anniversaries are increasingly the very stuff of contemporary artistic programming. As we reel from the double Mahler anniversary – the 150th anniversary of his birth with the centenary of his death hot on its heels – an anniversary of far greater political significance looms on the horizon. It is a cliché to say it, but September 11, 2001, changed the world. None of what has happened since should detract from our ability to reflect upon the brutality and inhumanity inherent in what occurred on 9/11, nor upon our own recollections of the shock of the day itself.
When revered and very old musicians die there’s always a sense of severance, of losing contact with the past. And when Gian Carlo Menotti died in 2007 at the age of 95 it was acute, because Menotti was a one-man ancien regime : the last of a breed of composers who carried on writing operas and ballets in the old romantic tradition – heart on sleeve, emotional, and for all the world as though the age of Verdi and Puccini still existed.
This week marked the 30th anniversary of the death of Karl Böhm. We looked through the Gramophone archive and found this interview with the legendary Austrian conductor from 1972 when the music critic Alan Blyth sought out Böhm in Salzburg. The result was a stunning insight into one of classical music's finest minds as Böhm looked back on his career, reminiscing on his friendship with Richard Strauss, his studies under Bruno Walter and performing Wozzeck in the presence of the composer.
Frank Bridge died 70 years ago as his country was coming close to defeat by Nazi Germany. It seems ironic that such a committed pacifist should die before the outcome of this second great conflict became known. Like many of the founding fathers of 20th-century music, including Bartók, Stravinsky and Schoenberg, Bridge began writing within the post-Romantic idiom. All these composers had an early style, which the public usually prefers, and then they moved towards a more exploratory idiom.
Otto Klemperer enjoyed a remarkable Indian Summer thanks to his work with the Philharmonia Orchestra – whose principal conductor he was from 1959 until his death in 1973 – and the numerous recordings they made together for EMI (including the Beethoven symphonies, piano concertos and Fidelio , Mozart and Wagner operas, and symphonies by the great composers including Mahler, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner and Schumann).
The first 35 years of the European Union Youth Orchestra will be celebrated in an exhibition of photographs opening in London tomorrow (Wednesday July 6)...
On this day in 1865, the French composer Albéric Magnard was born. He was a prolific composer, though he was little concerned with ensuring performances of his music during his life.