Introduction

A very warm welcome to everyone from the blog formerly known as JDCMB – Jessica Duchen’s Classical Music Blog. That title was chosen in an off-the-cuff moment five years ago, when I set up my blog, subtitled ‘Music and writing, with ginger, in London, UK’, completely by accident. Back then, blogging was in its infancy, relatively speaking. It was a new medium and an astonishing one: you could write something, push a button and a minute later a stranger could be reading it in Bolivia. This has never happened before in the history of humanity; it proved seductive, irresistible, then addictive, and cheaper than therapy. Now here we are on the new Standpoint site and honoured to be aboard – the first time JDCMB has moved home.

For those who don’t know JDCMB, I should introduce myself. I am a writer and much of my writing concerns music. Music is a form of communication, perhaps the deepest there is. Words contain music of their own. Why not combine them, in all possible ways?

I live in London, studied music at Cambridge, tried faintly to be a pianist, worked on the editorial teams of various music magazines in my twenties, edited a piano magazine for five years, then went freelance. I’ve written biographies of Fauré and Korngold, a play about Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time and several scripts for narrated concerts. My journalism is mainly for The Independent and various music magazines, and I’m happy to be standing in as Standpoint’s music columnist in the shoes of Ian Bostridge, as long as I don’t have to sing. Most of the time I’m a novelist: my fourth novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, will be out in a few weeks.

JDCMB has always been a personal blog and will continue that way. When Bryan Appleyard picked JDCMB as one of his Top 100 Blogs in The Sunday Times, he remarked that I have ‘strange biases’, which essentially means that I like Korngold (believe it or not, this isn’t as unusual as some critics think). But don’t ‘strange biases’ make the world go round? It would be a dull planet indeed if everyone felt the same way about every composer and performer. I do love Korngold, and I don’t fawn reverentially over every recycled baroque aria that turns up in a monastery library. If that’s strange, fine. The music business is as full of scandal, corruption, half-truths, self-interests, wool-pullers, audience-dupers, platitude-spinners, received opinions and crackpot ideologies as any other corner of culture and politics – so I never accept any orthodoxy without prodding it very hard first.

There’s no reason we shouldn’t take a look at music, as at anything else, from a fresh angle; nor any law stating that a blog about music shouldn’t be entertaining. You’ll find here the occasional series label like #marriedtothelpo (my husband Tom is a violinist with the London Philharmonic and life as an orchestra spouse would make a good TV series, never mind a blog). And there’s #deadviolinistssociety – I love ‘golden age’ recordings and thanks to Youtube and the blogosphere there’s a chance to yell with joy over the marvels of certain types of musicianship before commerciality began to make some soloists sell their souls. I’ll be presenting occasional write-ups of concerts, operas, CDs and ballets (I’m a balletomane and go to classes), periodic ‘e-interviews’, and forays into the book world. References to my ginger cat, Solti, are limited to the directly relevant, such as the time he seemed to put in a personal appearance in Glyndebourne’s new production of Falstaff

So the message to regular readers of JDCMB is simply: please amend your bookmarks. It’s business as usual.

An autumn note

“For many, the end of this uneasy year cannot come quickly enough”

An ordinary killing

Ian Cobain’s book uses the killing of Millar McAllister to paint a meticulous portrait of the Troubles

Greater—not wiser

John Mullan elucidates the genius of Charles Dickens
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