otes &Letters The search for Brian • Malcolm Arnold’s Cello Concerto • The ‘Nazi’ debate rumbles on…
Poor productions I am grateful to Richard Lawrence (August, page 91) for shedding some light on the diabolical Don Giovanni production from Glyndebourne Touring Opera that I attended last autumn. It could have been Spain that was portrayed but I was quite unaware that the Franco era was intended. I am still at a loss to know why there were rough slabs of tarmac piled up for the graveyard scene, which reappeared at the end with the Don’s dining table on top of them. I am also intrigued that with a fairly contemporary production it was necessary to have “period” instruments in the pit. A clash of ideas, surely.
The trouble with so many current productions is that you need a guided tour beforehand in order to understand what is supposed to be going on. I know many operas tolerably well; goodness know what first‑timers make of them. Could anyone honestly have followed last year’s Aida at Bregenz without a guidebook? Frequently there is an explanation in the programme but you really need this well before the performance in order to study the facts with time and good lighting, neither of which is normally available in the auditorium.
I am not sure that many productions merit preservation arnold: should his original Cello Concerto be recorded?
L E t t E r o F t H E M o N t H
What’s in a name? The welcome attention Havergal Brian is receiving through Martyn Brabbins’s Proms performance of the Gothic Symphony prompted a memory from my student days in Leicester in the very early Seventies. In those days I think the only advocates for Brian’s work on LP were the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra, either with their principal conductor Eric Pinkett or their guest James Loughran, newly appointed to the Hallé. I used to spend most Saturday afternoons in the Leicester Record Library and recall one occasion when the phone rang and I overheard the young and obviously inexperienced assistant fielding the call with some mystification. In the end she put her hand over the mouthpiece and asked her colleague: “Do we have any music by Have‑a‑go Brian?” Hywel Jenkins Glastonbury, Somerset, UK
Symphony of a thousand: the gothic in rehearsal www.prestoclassical.co.uk is a website that speaks your language, “underpinned by an evident love of music and the world of recordings” (Gramophone). No other site selling classical CDs and DVDs is arranged in such a logical and accessible format, where you can easily ind lists of composers’ works, compare different options, view recommendations and read reviews. We believe that you will ind it one of the most user-friendly classical music sites on the internet. the letter of the month receives £50 of Presto classical gift vouchers. Please send letters for publication in the Awards issue by September 12..
on DVD, although there are certainly some. I am glad that operas are still available on CD so one can hear the singing and the orchestra, and then summon up in one’s mind any production one prefers at the time. John Harington Hawes via e-mail
Arnold original It’s good to have a recording of Malcolm Arnold’s Cello Concerto (“Shakespearean Cello Concerto”, it says on the score) which seemed to be a forgotten work (Session Report, August, page 44). I’ve heard a recording of the premiere performance of this revision by David Ellis and it’s certainly a worthwhile addition to the Arnold canon but it seems a pity not to have a recording of the original version. Having seen the score and had the effect of it described to me (I missed its only performance), I feel it’s a very different kind of work. It has massive orchestral tuttis and a ferociously stark mood. David Ellis has added a lot of detail, some of which fills apparent gaps in the score but which overall makes it a much lighter piece. The additions make it more palatable – and make it a work that is more likely to be performed, so we can be very grateful to him – but they aren’t like real late Arnold. Other late works (especially the Ninth Symphony) that seemed empty and a bit tragic at first have proved to work, for all their oddity. The Naxos disc will be a treasure but we need to hear the rough‑and‑ready original. Andrew Baker Staffordshire Library & Information Service, Stafford, UK
British birthdays Musical anniversaries come and go, some with a little more notice than others. Last year and this have seen the tercentenaries of two of the greatest native‑born English composers, Thomas Arne and William Boyce, but few record labels, including Chandos and Hyperion, seem to have noticed. A second recording of Artaxerxes was welcome but we still await first CD recordings of Comus, The Judgement of Paris, Alfred, Thomas and Sally and Judith, while the majority of Boyce’s sacred music, overtures and Odes remain unrecorded. The doggerel of the Odes has been commented on but surely it’s no worse than that for
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:p h o t o g r a p h y Purcell’s? In the last half of this year it would be gratifying to hear the hidden works of these composers committed to disc. Stephen Butterworth Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK
Ney and the Nazis I go some of the way with Tully Potter (Letters, September) but I get off at a difficult stop. Nazi Germany was in one sense run by a media dictatorship and any public event, even if not directly staged to benefit the regime, could be spun and presented as if it had been. The clips of Furtwängler conducting in factories and, in the Ninth Symphony, in a swastika‑ bedecked hall are eloquent, though one wonders whether the editing uses images from other halls, too, or has worked attentive and photogenic extras into a rehearsal to get the faces and the religious concentration. Any public personality could be press‑ ganged into these events, whether or not they viewed themselves as Nazis. They were all part of the drive Goebbels never abandoned, to confer legitimacy on a party which had impressed a desperate middle class enough to win its votes and now demanded its support, even unto death.
But what bothers me is something else. In Germany doing National Service I heard Elly Ney play twice. At the time I had no idea who she was. She gave two memorable Brahms performances, one in the D minor Concerto, the second in the E minor Cello Sonata with Ludwig Hoelscher. On both occasions the encore was “Träumerei”. What struck me was the immense affection in which the audiences held her, in both Mönchengladbach and Baden‑Baden, and how profoundly they responded to “Träumerei”. And we know that that very piece had been a battleground between the extreme right of the 1920s, who saw it as an example of pure (German) inspiration, and the Second Viennese School, who argued that, whether or not it was inspired, its thematic construction could be analysed, and did so.
Elly Ney was, in fact, by the end of the 1930s one of the musicians who most actively promoted the Nazi cause. It was suggested she had been Hitler’s favourite pianist; but there were other candidates, including – so Klemperer thought, and put it to him when they played together in London in the 1960s – Backhaus (Klemperer was disarmed by Backhaus’s simple response – he couldn’t say that he was Hitler’s favourite pianist, but “He did like my playing very much”). She had the reputation, post‑war, of having been an active anti‑ Semite, and some German towns, including Bonn, banned her. She had been a Leschetizky pupil.
It used to be the fashion, particularly in America in the 1950s, to claim that features of style in certain German artists’ playing were typically Nazi, including wide tempo variations within a single movement, allargandos, exaggerated climaxes – anything Toscanini didn’t do. I never quite saw this. Did Elly Ney, when she played Brahms or recorded Strauss’s Burleske, think of the Nazi regime, or of Leschetizky’s teaching? Moiseiwitsch once said he thought of Leschetizky every day of his career. Are we to suppose that Elly Ney did not, even when her playing was at its worst – not Nazi at all, but just bad? Her late Beethoven concerto discs offer evidence of how bad it could be. Jim Brennan via e-mail thomas arne: will his music be revived?
Key question John Hunt (Letter of the Month, August) triumphantly quotes a prominent young German conductor who rhetorically asked: “What has C sharp minor got to do with fascism?” He was right – music has absolutely nothing to do with it. It is, however, the wrong question. The right one should have been: “What has fascism got to do with C sharp minor?” What drove fascism to forbid a certain category of musicians, composers, conductors and singers to make a single note of music in public? Why were they silenced, prosecuted, driven into exile or murdered? Just to make room for artists such as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf who hadn’t anything to fear as long as they feigned to know nothing of what was happening to their colleagues? Lex Plompen The Hague, Netherlands
Stuttgart Seasons Surely the recording that opened the floodgates on the interest in Vivaldi’s music in the early 1950s (Collection, August, page 46) was that of The Four Seasons by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra under Karl Münchinger. It had widespread distribution both in the UK and the USA. The Kaufmann/Swoboda version came a little earlier but it had www.gramophone.co.uk elly ney: ‘nazi’ playing or just bad?
limited release on the Concert Hall label – Concert Hall was a record club.
Also, Peter Quantrill (page 78) overlooked the recording of Das Lied von der Erde issued by EMI with the alto part sung by Dietrich Fischer‑Dieskau, with tenor Murray Dickie and the Philharmonia under Paul Kletzki. It is a more significant version with Fischer‑Dieskau than the recent DG release. John Holmes via e-mail
Scratch that The remark of Beecham’s to the lady cello player (Letters, May) took place in Brisbane, Australia, when he was on tour during the war. The already very provincial Queensland Symphony Orchestra was missing many of its main players owning to the men being in the armed forces and it had made up numbers with whoever was available. Beecham obviously found one of its weaker points. Colin Jones South Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Editorial note In the obituary of Giorgio Tozzi (August, page 10) we attributed conductorship of the Gobbi/ Christoff studio recording of Simon Boccanegra to Nello Santi rather than Gabriele Santini.
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