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Fred Porlock (London, UK)

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The Show Must Go On: On Tour with the LSO in 1912 and 2012
The Show Must Go On: On Tour with the LSO in 1912 and 2012
by Gareth Davies
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.89

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How an orchestra really works, 25 May 2013
Gareth Davies is Principal Flute of the London Symphony Orchestra and also author of a much-followed blog about the LSO on tour. This book intersperses some of his blog from 2012 with chapters describing the LSO's first foreign tour, to the United States in 1912, based on diaries written by two of the members of the orchestra and also Mr Davies's own research.
The result is something of a gem. For a start, Mr Davies writes marvellously, with an irreverent sense of humour. His description of one famous Russian pianist is characteristic: "dressed all in black, with very short white hair, looking not dissimilar to a pint of Guinness". At the other end of the scale is his deeply moving reaction to the news of the death of his colleague Kieron Moore, in the context of the oboe solo in the Brahms Violin Concerto. The frantic life of a musician on tour is well captured - in 1912 the players spent six weeks sleeping mainly in trains to save the promoter money; in 2012 the biggest problems are jet lag and transport delays due to weather.
But most remarkable is Mr Davies's ability to describe exactly how the greatest conductors get their results. Many journalists and amateurs have tried to do this, and failed. As a top-class performing musician, working with the same team and different conductors from day to day, Mr Davies can readily hear the differences in sound, but he also has the skills to show how those differences arise from what the conductor says or, more often, does. In one magnificent page we see just how Bernard Haitink obtains a unique and superlative sound - and this is followed by a hilarious contrast with how Gordan Nikolich, the LSO leader, gets results in a very different way. Valery Gergiev, the LSO's Principal Conductor, is not universally liked by critics these days; they should read this book to see just why the LSO admire him so much.
Inevitably in a blog on the LSO's website there will be little criticism. Mr Davies is generous to his fellow musicians; no trace of the cynical old pro long bereft of any enthusiasm. But that is one of the most remarkable characteristics of today's LSO who as a whole show a huge respect for their conductors and soloists, as well as for each other.
There are a few examples of careless editorial work. But this book will bring pleasure and interest to anyone interested in orchestral music. More, please!

Essays in Musical Analysis: v. 1-6 & Suppty. v.
Essays in Musical Analysis: v. 1-6 & Suppty. v.
by Sir Donald Francis Tovey
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best writer on music?, 12 Jan 2013
I have lived with these essays for nearly 40 years and I continue to delight in the richness of Tovey's insights and the common sense of his approach. You need to be able to follow the music examples (but they are not difficult); you need to be willing to read about second subjects and modulations into remote keys (but in the splendid introductions Tovey gives pretty clear explanations of these terms and why they matter); you don't need to know about complicated harmonies or other analytical technicalities. A large proportion of the standard repertoire as it existed by about 1935 is covered, from Weelkes madrigals to the Walton viola concerto. Coverage is patchy in places, dependent on what works Tovey was able to put on with his Edinburgh orchestra (so only one Mahler symphony, only two by Bruckner and next to nothing by Strauss); and the level of detail varies (Mozart 40 is very skimpy, the B Minor Mass is done in huge detail). At the time few of Haydn's scores were available at all widely and there are similar gaps for other composers. There are also essays on several works that have now become unfashionable; to judge by the descriptions, so much the worse for fashion.
Having said all that, what you will get is a narrative of the works, with lots of illuminating references to other pieces, written with style, considerable humour and immense, though modestly expressed, knowledge. If you want to know what happens in a Brahms symphony, there is nowhere better to find out. And as a recent review of a different author in the TLS said, Tovey's writing is full of remarkably profound generalisations that seem to be merely asides.
You can read these essays at lots of different levels. A relative beginner who can cope with the music examples will learn a lot; and I can testify that you can keep finding more in them on any number of revisitings. With due allowance for the patrician style, these essays defy the years. A reprint is long overdue.
(And don't miss reading the index - for its jokes.)

The History Boys [DVD] [2006]
The History Boys [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Richard Griffiths
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 2.72

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Education matters, 27 Aug 2007
It's clear from the wide range of review comments that this film is not for everyone. If you don't see the point of education, forget it. But the film raises an issue that for many people is very important today -- just what is education for? -- and answers it on two different levels. Explicitly, "pass it on", which doesn't sound very much. But it's the implicit message that matters, which is that education is essential for giving people confidence and fulfillment, as well as many other things.
The film differs in one significant respect from the stage play which was so successful at the National Theatre. Posner, whom Alan Bennett says had much of his younger self in, no longer ends up as a psychotic loner but becomes another teacher. This changes the balance of the moral, as well as increasing the gay emphasis. Bennett has also excised the puzzling opening of the play in which Irwin is seen as a spin-doctor. Yes, the younger actors were getting a bit old for 18-year-olds by the time the film was made, but the visual settings are splendid, and I'm sure I'm not the only viewer who finds the ending -- in either version -- moving.
If your're remotely interested in why people should learn beyond functional necessities, you should see the film or the play, doesn't matter which. If you're not -- why not?

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