Features

Bregenz Festival's giant elephant… (photo: Bregenzer Festspiele/ Babette Karner)
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Setting the scene

The opera star has a lot to contend with: the scrutiny of the public eye; the elusive union of voice, body and soul; the pressure to be glamorous whether in the throes of passion or asphyxiation. From the outset, the potential pitfalls are all too numerous. And that’s before you even begin to assess the risk of being hit by a flying corpse.

EMI producer Walter Legge, 1906-79 (photo: EMI Archives)
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Walter Legge (June 1, 1906 – March 22, 1979) remembered on the anniversary of his death

Tuesday, March 22 marks the anniversary of the death of the record producer, impresario and journalist Walter Legge. To mark the occasion we revisit the obituary written by The Times critic and Gramophone contributor William Mann in April 1979. And as a reminder of his staggering contribution to the record catalogue, we precede it with a dozen of Legge’s finest productions for EMI, each one a gramophone classic.

Victoria de los Angeles (Photo: EMI / Christian Steiner
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Victoria de los Angeles: 60 years on from her Met debut

On March 17, 1951, the Catalan soprano Victoria de los Angeles made her Met debut in Gounod’s Faust. Sixty years on we revisit a “Reputations” column that John Steane wrote in December 1998, shortly after Victoria de los Angeles had celebrated her 75th birthday.

Title page to a Cantiones sacrae, Dillingen, 1589 (Image © Lebrecht Music & Arts
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Tomás Luis de Victoria – a 400th anniversary profile

'Spain – the homeland of passionate musicians and fiery music…' claims a sleeve from works by de Falla, Granados and Albéniz (Leontyne Price, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Fritz Reiner). This opinion from the mid-20th century was probably influenced by, say, Picasso, Dalí and Gaudí and endures in the work of current artists such as the film-director Pedro Almodóvar.

Sir Thomas Beecham in his garden at Cap Ferrat (Photo: © EMI Archives)
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Sir Thomas Beecham: April 29, 1879 - March 8, 1961

In the May 1961 issue of Gramophone, David Bicknell – who would retire as Manager of EMI’s International Artists Department in 1971 after 44 years with the company – paid tribute to Sir Thomas Beecham who had died on March 8, 1961. To illustrate his unique style and personality, we include a clip of Sir Thomas rehearsing and talking about the art of the conductor... With the death of Sir Thomas Beecham, England has lost her greatest executive musician, possibly the greatest that she has ever produced.

John Goss, composer of hymns: increasingly forgotten? (image: Tully Potter Colle
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Hymns Ancient and Modern rejected

Sing on, with hymns uproarious, / Ye humble and aloof, / Look up! And, oh, how glorious / He has restored the roof! (John Betjeman, Mount Zion , “Hymn", 1931)

Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey took Ligeti into the cinema
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Lights! Camera! … Atonality!

The clandestine darkness of the cinema auditorium changes perspectives on the world. As we cosy into our cinema seat, we’re prepared to take it on trust that a Kansas farm girl can travel to a place of make-believe to meet a wizard, that Harold Lloyd can dangle out of a New York skyscraper without falling off, that six strikingly different looking men can all somehow be James Bond and, finding yourself unfortunately lumbered with a dead body, Harvey Keitel is the man to sort it: just phone him and he will ensure you get away with murder.

"Con amore" from Kyung-Wha Chung
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The new batch of Originals from DG and Decca

Mozart Piano Concertos K488 & K459 Maurizio Pollini ; VPO / Karl Böhm DG 4779376 Buy from Amazon

Percy Grainger, around 1920 (Photo: ‘The Percy Grainger Estate’)
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Percy Grainger (1882-1961) - the composer, 50 years on

Everyone knows Country Gardens (based on an English Morris dance) and probably Molly on the Shore , Shepherd’s Hey , Mock Morris and Handel in the Strand . Their popularity has tended to overshadow the rest of Grainger’s prolific and varied output and though he would never be put on a pedestal to join the pantheon of immortals, he is unorthodox, original and deserves better than to be dismissed by the more snooty arbiters of musical taste. There is a tendency to overlook real craftsmanship when it is put to (sometimes) frivolous use.

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