Sad Stuff…and Cheering Stuff Too

I’ve had two pieces out this week which entailed a certain amount of heartbreak. The bigger one, in today’s Independent, is about Chopin (above, in his last year), whose bicentenary is almost upon us. And about why one shouldn’t judge an artist by his personality instead of his music. Here goes…

Last week I went to Lucerne to review the Piano Festival, but hit town on the one night when it might have been better not to. Fabulous festival, exquisite setting, incredible concert hall – shame about the pianist. And yet he plays all the biggest festivals in the world. Having sat through the trip home thinking of the dozens of musicians I’d have preferred to hear and who would give their eye teeth for a date like that, I’m tempted to start asking questions about who makes the decisions over which musicians will have international careers and which will not. Here’s the review, and a colleague who was with me there tells me he’s surprised I was so kind.

On a more positive note (phew), the LPO has a fabulous Christmas concert tomorrow at the Royal Festival Hall, involving rare and gorgeous seasonal choral pieces by Bach, Vaughan Williams, Mendelssohn and Honegger, with a roster of top-notch singers including Lisa Milne and Christopher Maltman, and Vladimir Jurowski on the podium. Looking forward to this lifting of the spirits – come and join us if you’re in town. Or if you’re within whooshing-in distance of Leeds Town Hall, you might enjoy hearing Philippe Graffin play the Elgar Violin Concerto with the Orchestra of Opera North conducted by Richard Farnes. Programme also includes Vaughan Williams Overture The Wasps and the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra.

As a final cheer-up, here’s a Cziffra stunner for Friday Historical: Liszt’s Gnomenreigen. I suppose we ought to have some Chopin, but maybe another time…

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"