Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Our increasingly irregular arts blog, Current Distractions, is back. This week I’m looking at expressing disapproval, arts and politics in the news, classical CD Sales (or lack of), movers and shakers and lastly, graffiti wars.

So first up, expressing disapproval. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last week or so you’ll be aware that the Royal Opera House production of William Tell (pictured) has been somewhat controversial. Unlike many articles this week which have started ‘I haven’t seen the production but (expresses an opinion anyway)’, I’m not going to comment on the production as, no, I haven’t seen it. But the instance of booing DURING the performance made me wonder – is expressing disapproval like this ever right? Part of me likes the fact that art can elicit such a strong reaction (in my view the worst possible reaction is a ‘yes it was lovely/nice’ sort of reaction), but part of me also feels that you shouldn’t be interrupting other people’s enjoyment of the work. After all, everyone has paid (probably considerable sums) to be there. Years ago I attended a London Philharmonic Orchestra performance at the Royal Festival Hall. I think they were playing Sibelius, although I can’t remember the conductor. During the Sibelius symphony someone sat in the choir benches, and therefore visible to everyone in the hall, stood up, started to walk out and shouted something like “It’s too slow! It’s dragging!” to the rather surprised conductor. He quite possible had a very valid point – but I’m not sure that was the time or the place to make it. Two other instances of classical heckling come from the OAE. One from one of our The Works performances, when someone shouted ‘Rubbish! get on with it!’ and stormed out. His grand exit was rather ruined by having to sheepishly return for a left-behind umbrella. And my favourite heckle, and possibly one of my favourite OAE moments ever was during a Night Shift performance at Wilton’s Music Hall when someone shouted after a piece, announcing ‘I’ve just had my Baroque break-through!!’.


And now onto the minefield that is the mix of arts and politics. It’s not been a good week for it with politicians from both sides saying slightly worrying things. Labour leadership hopeful Liz Kendall came out and said that lottery funding should be diverted away from the arts to fund deprived young children, while Conservative Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said that studying arts subjects can limit career choices. A small ray of light came in the form of Lib Dem leadership hopeful Tim Farron who in a recent blog said that ‘some things, like the beauty of the natural world, like music and poetry and art, matter more than profit or growth.’ More of that please, from all sides.


Moving swiftly on from that, no Current Distractions blog is complete without some story from art commentator Norman Lebrecht’s ever-sensationalist Slipped Disc blog. It’s the industry’s guilty secret – we all love to get outraged by it, but we do all read it. It recently reported, as it is prone to do every few weeks, about the death of the recorded classical music industry (BUY YOUR OAE CDS HERE). Anyway this latest blog highlighted a rather amusing feature of the Hyperion website which lists the CD’s which they’ve not sold ANY copies of for the longest amount of time. Take a look at it here and help them out.


Kirill Petrenko

Now, classical movers and shakers. There seems to be a lot of movement in the classical world at the moment, both in terms of artists and management, so I thought it’d be worth having a little round-up. First up, the biggest news is of course that Kirill Petrenko (pictured) is the perhaps surprise choice to succeed Sir Simon Rattle at the Berliner Philharmoniker. Closer to home Andris Nelsons conducted his final concert as Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Watch their lovely tribute video to him here. Going nowhere is conductor Ivan Fischer, who announced he’s staying at the Berlin Konzerthaus Orchestra. Read an interesting article about him here. Lastly, conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy announced that he is to step down from his position with the European Union Youth Orchestra, with Vasily Petrenko his replacement. Oh, and as you may have read I’m doing my own moving, as I’m off to Canada to work with the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Hopefully I’ll have time for a few more Current Distractions blogs before I go…


And finally… this has been doing the rounds on social media of late, and I must admit it amused me somewhat – a photo blog charting the war between a graffiti artist and the council anti-graffiti team. A couple of teaser pictures below – see all of them here.

Red Graffiti

Red Graffiti



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