21 November 2022

Save the National Concert Hall of Wales

 

Shocking proposals for St David’s Hall, Cardiff, the national concert hall of Wales. Please read this petition carefully and please sign it! In addition to all the valid points made, the changes proposed would also affect the wonderful acoustics of this auditorium – and the many touring orchestras and companies that perform there may no longer be inclined to do so.

Please forward this petition so that it is circulated as widely as possible.

Diolch yn fawr!

https://www.change.org/p/save-the-national-concert-hall-of-wales?recruiter=false&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_initial&recruited_by_id=239dd630-68d6-11ed-aa01-99342cd776bf&share_bandit_exp=initial-35018032-en-GB&utm_content=fht-35018032-en-gb%3A0


18 November 2022

Save the ENO! Sign Bryn Terfel's petition!

https://www.change.org/p/reinstate-the-english-national-opera-s-ace-funding-immediately-a2c61aac-4331-4673-ba2f-ab14514caf77


13 November 2022

Fascinating new documentary.

The Maestro and the Cellist of Auschwitz

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvoT8QANp8I

Why was classical music so important to Hitler and Goebbels? The stories of Jewish cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who survived Auschwitz, and of star conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, who worked with the Nazis, provide insight. The film centres around two people who represent musical culture during the Third Reich - albeit in very different ways. Wilhelm Furtwängler was a star conductor; Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, the cellist of the infamous Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz. Both shared a love for the classical German music. The world-famous conductor made a pact with Hitler and his henchmen. The young woman, brought to Auschwitz for being Jewish, was spared death for her musical talent. While Furtwängler decided to stay in Germany and make a deal with the devil, Lasker-Wallfisch struggled to survive the brutality of the death camp, with a cello as her only defence. Why did gifted artists like Furtwängler make a pact with evil? Why was classical music played in extermination camps? And how did this change the way victims saw music? German music was used to justify the powerful position the Third Reich claimed in the world, and to distract listeners from Nazi crimes. In addition to Beethoven, Bach and Bruckner, Richard Wagner was highly valued, because he was Hitler’s personal favourite. Hitler understood the power of music, and his chief propagandist Joseph Goebbels was in charge of music in the Nazi-controlled state. This music documentary by Christian Berger features interviews with musicians such as Daniel Barenboim and Christian Thielemann; the children of Wilhelm Furtwängler; and of course 97-year-old survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch. Her memories are chilling. Archive film footage, restored and colourized, brings the story to life, and bears witness to an agonizing chapter in history.

I knew Anita Lasker as an almost inevitable member of the orchestras playing in concerts in which I sang in the 1970s/80s. She always regarded me benignly and I very much admired her playing, usually sitting next to Olga Hegedus. Of course, then I knew little of her history, so this film is particularly fascinating for me, in addition to my interest in conductors and conducting, of which Furtwängler was a master.

30 September 2022

A ‘must-read’ by George Monbiot in The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/sep/30/environmental-destruction-is-part-of-liz-trusss-plan

27 September 2022

An open letter to our new culture secretary from a lighting designer

THE STAGE ‘OPINION’, 27 SEPTEMBER 2022, BY ROB HALLIDAY

culture secretary michelle donelan


Dear Ms Donelan,

Please allow me, through these pages, to welcome you to your new job of secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

Many people have filled your role; you’re the 14th since 2007. In that period there have been just seven chancellors, five prime ministers and, until the other sad day, one monarch. The average time in your job is just over a year. There are individual shows that take longer than that to get on to the stage; it doesn’t feel long enough to figure out what everyone’s doing, let alone start making meaningful decisions. 

Ask it, and your own civil service will tell you that the sectors you oversee account for 13% of the UK economy, with the creative industries among the fastest growing. Despite what your government often seems to believe, this is a massively important area.

Narrow down the focus a bit to my world, the production side – the work of delivering live shows, events, television productions and films – and you’ll find a highly skilled, talented and serious workforce delivering big, complex projects bang on schedule. When was the last time you went to see a show and it wasn’t there ready for you? While you were there, did you wonder about the complexity of the scenery, costumes, props, lighting and sound in front of you – to say nothing of the tonnes of equipment hanging safely above you?

This is no longer the clichéd world of roadies pushing boxes. This is a world of high-level design, engineering and technology, often advancing the limits of what technology allows. Practitioners and suppliers from this country are in demand everywhere, their work acclaimed around the world. Just one example: four of the five nominees for best sound design for a musical in this year’s Tony Awards were British.

All these talents deserve the fullest support and encouragement from government, not to be ignored, dismissed and, in the worst case, told they should retrain. They need practical help with today’s challenges, including the ongoing recovery from the pandemic, the complications from Brexit and the looming catastrophe of energy prices and inflation. In that perfect storm, a number of long-established British suppliers in this field have been taken over by foreign companies. Has anyone in your department noticed that? Do you even know how many of these skilled individuals work in this field you now oversee?

It feels like you should.

Without culture, the UK would be an entirely different country, and a much less appealing one. But culture is not really a thing in itself, it’s the result of the people and organisations who make it.

Please, be bold on our behalf. Long-term bold, not just the sound-bites of electioneering. We need commitment. We need support. We need, as we used to have back in times when those leading the arts loved the arts and stuck around, an ally.


From Private Eye, 1582, 23 September - 6 October

 

I tried reading this to my wife but was so convulsed I couldn’t make it to the end!



02 September 2022

Scottish violinist Daphne Godson has died aged 90

The musician and teacher performed in several ensembles and taught at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music

The Strad, 2 September 2022


One of Scotland’s most accomplished violinists, Daphne Godson has died aged 90. Over her long playing career she was associated with ensembles such as the Scottish Baroque Ensemble, the Berenicia Ensemble, the Pegasus Trio, Merlyn Trio and the Scottish Early Music Consort.

Born in 1932 in Edinburgh, Godson attended George Watson’s Ladies’ College and the Waddell School of Music. One of her earliest notices appeared in The Scotsman in March 1950 when she was only 18, following a Saltire Society recital at Gladstone’s Land in Edinburgh. The concert also featured the counter-tenor George Rizza (later prominent in the world of music publishing). The reviewer noted that Godson ‘had, besides her beautiful tone, a confidence and a maturity about her playing that was quite exceptional’. A solo piece by Kreisler was ‘a tour de force, but it was her grasp of the implications of [Dowland’s] “Go, nightly cares” which was the more remarkable’. On the same page of the same issue a review of the Waddell Junior Orchestra remarks that Daphne Godson, among others, ‘revealed more than latent musicianship’.

She attended the Royal Academy of Music in London and, after being awarded a Belgian State Scholarship in 1954, went on to study at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels with the Hungarian-born violinist André Gertler (who also taught André Rieu). In 1957 she won first prize in the international violin competition held during the Darmstadt Festival of Contemporary Music.

The following year, 1958, she won a consolation prize of 2,000 Zloty in the third International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznań, Poland, one of five candidates representing Britain. Among the judges were David Oistrakh, Max Rostal and Gioconda de Vito.

Returning to Scotland she was active as a solo violinist and as a member of Edinburgh Barock, the Merlyn Trio, the Pegasus Trio and the Bernicia Ensemble, recording Rameau’s Pièces de Clavecin en Concert for Saga in 1966 and contributing to the 18th-century volume (‘Baroque and Classical Scotland’) of the LP series A History of Scottish Music (Scottish Records, 1972) with fellow violinist Leonard Friedman. There were also performances and recordings with the Scottish Baroque Ensemble – directed by Friedman – and with the Scottish Early Music Consort (Mary's Music: Songs and Dances from the Time of Mary, Queen of Scots; Chandos, 1984). In 1997 she was violinist and leader on the CD The Big Birl (Lismore Recordings), original compositions by Robert Mathieson, Pipe Major of the Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band.

After a recital in Glasgow with her pianist partner Audrey Innes in April 1962, Anthony Hedges commented in the Musical Times that they, ‘both as a team and as individuals, deserve to be widely heard outside Scotland. Each couples a great sense of artistry with admirable technical accomplishment; each has an ardent musical personality that communicates enthusiasm and enjoyment to the listener.’ In May 1962 she appeared at London’s Wigmore Hall in one of the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ Young Artists’ Recitals.

Daphne Godson was also principal of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (1974–76) and leader of the Edinburgh Bach Players, and appeared as a soloist with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish National Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.  From 1964 she also taught at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and at the Broughton High School Special Music Unit.

An interest in early music (she was also an accomplished rebec player) did not preclude composers of other periods, including Hans Gál, whose Concertino for violin and strings she played at Gateshead in 1963 (‘in which she showed technical mastery, beauty of tone, and maturity of interpretation’, according to the composer Arthur Milner, who reviewed it in the Newcastle Journal), Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (with the Bernicia Ensemble, Aberdeen, 1968), and Kenneth Leighton, at whose memorial concert she played in 1989 – the penultimate of 18 appearances she made at the Edinburgh University Reid Concerts series between 1959 and 1999. She also played in the University of Glasgow’s McEwen Memorial Concerts of Scottish Chamber Music.

There were more than 25 radio broadcasts between 1959 and 2004, including music by Hans Gál, Kenneth Leighton, Robin Orr and John Casken; and she was the violinist in a broadcast of David Greig’s play, Dr Korczak’s Example, first broadcast in 2004 and repeated as recently as this year on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Among her avocations were hillwalking, reading and dressmaking. She could have had an international career, but said she was ‘perfectly happy in Scotland’.

© GARRY HUMPHREYS, 2022

Edith Muriel Daphne Godson, violinist and teacher; born Edinburgh, 16 March 1932; died Edinburgh 15 August 2022