The Battersea Arts Centre is on fire this afternoon. More here. BAC has tweeted that all staff and visitors are safe.


photo: Tom Dutton/ES


UPDATE: The back of the building has collapsed.

The year before last, Valery Gergiev staged a small celebration in memory of Tikhon Khrennikov, the party apparatchik who led the assaults n Shostakovich and Prokofiev in 1948 and controlled the Composers Union from that time until the USSR collapsed in 1991.

Gergiev has expressed a view that Khrennikov was much misunderstood, and that he was a better composer than many thought.

In this short film, the composer Rodion Shchedrin expands on Gergiev’s upbeat view of musical Stalinism.

Shchedrin says: ‘We are country with an unpredictable past… Khrennikov was, in my view, totally unfairly slandered and dragged through the mud…. His first syphony was outstanding. He was an exceptionally gifted melodist. (He helped many composers). Boris Tischenko oce said to me that all the avant-garde composers should club together to build a monument to Khrennikov…. The state never made any attempt to silence anyone. It allowed everyone to live…. Khrennikov was very, very tolerant.’

Gergiev believes much the same.


It’s Ethan Hawke. Could happen to anyone, right?

Hawke has made a movie about the veteran pi-a-nist, Seymour Bernstein.

ethan hawke seymour bernstein

Alexander (Ali) Rahbari, music director of the Teheran Symhony Orchestra, writes in from his rehearsal room:

rahbari teheran

Dear Norman

In this terrible time when many orchestras are fighting with financial difficulties.
In this time when most politicians are supporting football and Tennis , because they are more popular .
In a country which had always problem with the music.
In a country which is suffering very much under the sanctions.
On Monday March 16 the new Tehran symphony orchestra and choir will play the opening concert with Beethoven 9 ( with complete 150 Iranian musicians choir and singers).

Is that not amazing?

Any whoever visited the late Christoper Hogwood would be invited, sooner rather than later, to play one of the keyboards that occupied every corner of his house. I guessed there must have been three dozen. Yesterday, what’s left of the collection – 26 instruments – went up for sale.

The total haul went for £430,000 ($640,000). The star item was a Johann Adolph Hass clavichord from Hamburg, dated 1761, which went for £82,000 ($121,000).

Chris died last September, aged 73.


In the trashcan of Murdoch journalism, you will be hard pressed to find a more obscene interview than the one conducted today in the London Times (paywall) with the 84-year old composer by an intrusive hack called Tim Teeman.

The passage is far off any acceptable standard of cultural interview. Sondheim is plainly upset, but he handles the question – twice repeated – with customary dignity.

Here’s the text:

stephen sondheim

When I met Sondheim in 2012 he spoke about the state of Broadway, having his first non-platonic relationship at 60 and the state of musicals. Yet a couple of Manhattan theatre-addict friends had only one question for me afterwards: “What about the sex dungeon?”

There’s a rumour you have a sex dungeon, I say. Sondheim laughs. “I have heard of this. I don’t know how it got started.” (He ponders one possible source as the critic Martin Gottfried, who died last year.) So you haven’t got one? “No, I haven’t. There is no basis of truth in it whatsoever. It bothers me. What it represents is people trying to put me down and trash me. It’s like saying, ‘So and so’s a drunk’, ‘Who does he think he is?’

“If you go downstairs there’s a washing machine and a boiler. There’s one great thing down there and that’s a cedar closet with all my original manuscripts in it.”

The soprano-turned-conductor Barbara Hannigan, has been giving dress tips in the Guardian:

barbara hannigan conducting


When I’d made my debut at the Châtelet, I’d worn a suit: many women conductors wear either gender-neutral outfits or something resembling a man’s suit. I thought trousers and jacket were the “costume” I had to put on. However, to cover my arms in a jacket might serve convention, but not the music – and I never wear suits in real life! Ever since, I’ve worn a sleeveless dress to conduct. It’s something I can move in that doesn’t distract me or the orchestra – and it fits the music on the programme. I don’t tie my hair back, either, because I never do unless I’m having a bad hair day. I’ve had nothing but positive feedback about this from orchestras and audiences. None find it a problem that I’m not soberly clad in a dark suit. Critics do invariably always remark on my attire, though, which isn’t something they regularly do with male conductors.


Any male conductors want to follow suit?

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Heavy bombardment reduced parts of the building to rubble.

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It took 10 years to restore and reopen. More here.

When the new Philharmonie hall opened in January the architect Jean Nouvel asked for his name to be removed as many of its intended features had been omitted or left unfinished. He also boycotted the opening.

Two months later, Finnish journalist Janne Koskinen visited the hall and found continued shoddiness and dereliction, which he has posted on his blog, among them:

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– uncovered plaster in public areas

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– unfinished joinery

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– parts of the interior held together by scaffold.

For shame.


We’re hearing that April’s Seoul Philharmonic US tour with music director Myung Whun Chung has been scrapped amid continuing media and political assaults. We understand that Ms Park, the CEO sacked for sexual harrassment, told members of the city council that the tour was ‘unnecessary’ and ‘a waste of public money’. She also alleged that a UK-based agency, AskonasHolt, would make a fortune on the tour.

Wednesday’s police raid on the orchestra was, it has become clear, an attempt by Ms Park, a member of a powerful local dynasty, ‘to secure materials that may help establish the identification of the person who sent out an email’ about her harassment. Chung has been threatened with prosecution in manipulated sections of the press, but he has not been interviewed by police on any count of wrongdoing.

Meantime, 68 of 100 musicians in the KBS broadcasting orchestra have refused to sign a new contract. KBS has hived the orch off to an independent contractor and the players face loss of tenure and pension.

north korea

Maybe they should try out a new Korean pianist?