Fantasy classics: the new game

Fantasy classics: the new game


norman lebrecht

May 15, 2007

In a celebratory article about Elgar, launching the Daily Telegraph’s Elgar week, BBC Proms director Nicholas Kenyon observes of a distinguished scholar that ‘it is perhaps understandable of (Donald) Mitchell to regret that Elgar did not become more like Mahler.’
Come again? Apart from Elgar lacking any trace of irony or central-European angst, it would have taken more than a leap of faith and conscience to transform the blunt, race-going, business-minded Edward into Gus the nervous wreck.
Still, it kicks off this year’s great Christmas game – Who should have been more like whom?
Try five for starters:
Wouldn’t it have been great if
– Lenny Bernstein had been more like Pierre Boulez,
– Boulez had sounded more like Charles Aznavour
– Aznavour had sung like Roberto Alagna (closer than you’d guess)
– Alagna was as tough as Angela Gheorghiu
– And Gheorghiu was more like Saint Hildegard of Bingen.
Now play on.


  • Jessica says:

    …if Harrison Birtwistle was more like George Gershwin?
    … and Gershwin were more like Trevor Nunn*…
    *who made the Readers Digest version of Porgy and Bess

  • Voce di Tenore says:

    Elgar might not have had central-European angst, but he certainly had British angst. He suffered from depression for many years, and was at one point suicidal. See, for example:
    Michael Kennedy, Portrait of Elgar, Oxford University Press, 1987).

  • Can’t remember where I read this, but a reputable writer/critic once said that Elgar was musically less interesting than Simon & Garfunkel.

  • John Harris says:

    “Si ma tante en avait, je l’appelerais ‘mon oncle’.”
    NL: Alternately, if my grandmother had wheels, sh coiuld have been a perambulator

  • John Harris says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if every ‘maestro’ was a Furtwängler clone, every tenor a Pavarotti and every violinist a Heifetz? And wouldn’t it be boring?
    NL: isn’t that what so many of them aspire to? and doesn’t that explain much of the public ennui with the present-day middle generation?