The Spin Doctor Europadisc's Weekly Column

Last Orders on the Last Night?

27th July 2021

‘Tradition is the illusion of permanence,’ maintains the title character in Woody Allen’s film Deconstructing Harry (1997). And you don’t need to be a fan of Allen as a filmmaker or as a person to recognise the grain of truth contained in this bon mot. In a world that seems ever-changing, tradition gives us something apparently fixed on which to cling on, a safe harbour in turbulent times, a point of reference when everything else seems bewilderingly strange. Yet such certainty is illusory both because, as the world about us... read more

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The Pierrot Syndrome

21st July 2021

Watching the marvellous new production of Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt from the Bavarian State Opera reminded us of, among other things, a key emblem of early modernism: the figure of Pierrot, the sad, moonstruck, white-face clown. For the best part of three decades from the 1890s, this French character from the commedia dell’arte (as imported to Paris by the Comédie-Italienne in the 18th century) became the focus of a new generation of creative artists – writers, painters, actors, film-makers and musicians – who were... read more

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The Curious Revival of Bruckner’s Sixth

13th July 2021

For many years, the Sixth was regarded a the ‘Cinderella’ among Bruckner’s symphonies. The shortest of all his mature symphonies, as well as the least performed and recorded, in the composer’s output it is squeezed between the mighty edifices of the contrapuntally complex Fifth and the monumental but intensely lyrical Seventh (a fate similar to that of Beethoven’s Fourth, perhaps his most underrated symphony). When one thinks of Brucknerian pilgrims paying homage to the master in the secular temple of the concert hall, it is... read more

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Proust and Music

6th July 2021

The creative output of Marcel Proust – the 150th anniversary of whose birth falls this week – is drenched in the French culture of his time: La Belle Époque and the vibrant social and artistic atmosphere of turn-of-the-century Paris and its environs. Music plays a key part in Proust’s monumental seven-volume novel Ŕ la recherche du temps perdu (‘In Search of Lost Time’), above all in the enigmatic Sonata by the fictional composer Vinteuil, a phrase from which triggers an instance of ‘involuntary memory’ for one of the main... read more

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The Shock of the Old (Part 2)

29th June 2021

‘This evening to “Siegfried”. I rate it as highly as “Tristan”. It’s so wonderfully great and youthful. Schmedes was brilliant. Teutonic, boyish. A guest, Lieban, was terrific too. Sedlmair was in top form. The forging scene. The Wotan-Erda dialogue. Forest murmurs. The Magic Fire Music, incomparably finer than in “Die Walküre”. And the closing scene… Yes everything, everything. Every word, every note. A miracle!’
Thus wrote the 20-year-old Alma Schindler (later to be Alma Mahler, Gustav’s wife) in her diary for 6... read more

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