I don’t like the word ‘classical’. It’s a roadblock or, at best, a contraflow. It is music by the dead, for the undead. It breeds and perpetuates a cultural elitism that, instead of drawing people into its orbit, more often pushes them away, giving them an excuse for saying ‘no thanks, it’s not for me’. My friends are puzzled that I can relish four minutes of Massive Attack as much as four hours of Parsifal – but does one have to be ‘pop’ and the other ‘unpop’. For me they are both music. Music to love.
Edward Elgar wrote the Enigma Variations as a series of portraits of his friends ‘pictured within’, and most know the famous ninth variation Nimrod, if only from Remembrance Sunday or a State funeral. Here, the brilliant Australian film maker Rob Dougan takes the lilting 4/4 opening theme played by the first violins, and creates his own dark masterpiece.
We were reminded just before Christmas on Lazy Sunday, that Georges Bizet in his masterpiece Carmen knew a few things about sad and sexy. Here, the fertile imagination of the Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian finds some real humour within the same immortal tunes, in his 2006 collaboration with the film maker Boris Paval Cone.
The music (no inverted commas) of Samuel Beckett’s prose came to me rather late in life, even though two decades had been spent living in Dublin – and only then, when I stopped looking for Delphic messages, and settled-back to enjoy the absurdist humour. Here, we have the double treat of perhaps the master’s greatest and most mellifluous voice Jack MacGowran, reading from the timeless Molloy. I doubt if you will be able to resist the urge to search out part two of this great radio broadcast.
The Tony Palmer film on the Salzburg Festival, recently shown on BBC4 was a reminder that you can put the name or the image of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart onto a bar of soap, a tea towel, or a dinner plate, and the original will remain unsullied – enhanced even. Back in the year Scarlett Johansson was born and Diana Dors died, the offbeat Czech director Milos Forman released his take on Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus. The film was a spectacular commercial and artistic success, and must have introduced millions to the music of this unique genius. Plenty of liberties were taken with the known facts of Mozart’s short life, and this short clip illustrates just one of them, as he takes a pedestrian theme cobbled together by Antonio Salieri and with a flourish (and a giggle), turns it into something wonderful.