I have written a post for the Spectator’s Coffee House. Among other things, I point out that ….

Last week, the orchestra issued artist impressions of a fashionable ‘vineyard’ hall, a template taken from Herbert von Karajan’s Berlin Philharmonie and borrowed latterly for a hall on a brownfield site in Paris (cost: 390 million Euros – twice its budget) and another in Hamburg (cost: 789 million – eleven times over budget). The LSO is asking us to believe that its proposed new hall in the heart of the City of London is going to come in at not a halfpenny over £288 million, all paid for up front.

Even in these days of fake news, the Times headline ‘£288m is good value for a concert hall and it won’t cost you a penny’ caused choking at breakfast. The headline topped a Friday arts column by Richard Morrison, a music critic who has been hyping the hall ever since the LSO gave his paper first dibs at Rattle’s signing-on. Morrison, who is also the LSO’s official historian, argues that ‘by world standards, £288 million is a snip for a concert hall.’ He’s right about that. Find me anywhere a world-class hall that costs less than, say, the British Library and I will eat a vegan millinery shop….

Read on here.


Noel Rawsthorne, organist of Liverpool Cathedral from 1955 to 1980, died today in the city.

He was an appealing composer and arranger.


UPDATE: Here’s the official announcement:

Noel Rawsthorne passed on peacefully at 2.00am this morning.

Chrissie & Chris Rawsthorne and Liz, his wife, have requested a very private cremation, followed by a great service of thanksgiving celebration at the Cathedral, which, as near as we can say at this point, will be on Sunday 3rd March at 3.00pm.

Noel’s ashes will be interred under the North side of the organ, alongside those of Goss-Custard, his teacher and predecessor, during Evensong on Saturday 19th October, preceding the 93rd Anniversary Recital.

Noel Rawsthorne was Organist of Liverpool Cathedral for twenty-five years from 1955-1980 thereafter becoming Organist Emeritus. After study at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now The Royal Northern College of Music), he won scholarships to study with both Germani & Dupré. From 1980-1984 he was City Organist & Artistic Director at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool, and travelled widely as a recitalist in U.K. Europe and USSR. In recognition of his many achievements, he was awarded a D.Mus from the University of Liverpool in 1994.

An initiative of the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague.


The acoustician Rob Harris has published a paper arguing that the sound in new ‘vineyard’ halls like Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie is undermined by having too many spectators packed in behind the stage.

Jonas Kaufmann recently faced protests that he could not be heard in the hall.

Harris argues: ‘There is no fundamental need to locate a significant percentage of a surround hall audience behind the concert platform. What is needed is enough seats behind for the performers to feel at one with the audience, a shared artistic experience. Choir seating can often adequately provide this.
Notwithstanding this, several prominent new symphonic halls have a significant percentage of the
audience behind the performers.’

Selena James, who trained many of her country’s finest singers, has died at 96.

Allison Ward writes:

‘Last night, moments before we started rehearsal for La Traviata with Pacific Opera Victoria, I learned that my dear teacher Selena James had passed away. She was 96 years young and she was a force of nature. Of the thousands of singers she influenced I feel so privileged to have spent 4 and a half years under her careful, clear guidance.’


The Swiss conductor, accused of serious sexual offences and stripped of many honours, has been given a clean bill of health by the Orchestre National de France.

He will step in to conduct Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust in Paris next Tuesday in place of a sick Emmanuel Krivine.

#Metoo never really happened in the EU.

Dutoit was the ONF’s music director in the 1990s. Evidently, they have no bad memories.

HECTOR BERLIOZ La Damnation de Faust
John Osborn ténor (Faust)
Kate Lindsey mezzo-soprano (Marguerite)
Nahuel Di Pierro basse (Méphistophélès)
Edwin Crossley-Mercer baryton-basse (Brander)
Maîtrise de Radio France
Sofi Jeannin chef de chœur
Chœur de Radio France
Martina Batiˇc chef de chœur
Orchestre National de France
Charles Dutoit direction
Concert diffusé le 7 février sur France Musique.


Press release:

English National Opera (ENO) today (Monday 28 January) announces a key step forward to making the opera industry more accessible and representative of the society in which we live.

ENO is to recruit four new choristers from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background in a concerted effort to ensure our Chorus more fairly reflects our society. They will join the ENO Chorus for the 19/20 Season for a 9 month paid contract with the view to extending for a further season. This means that for the first time ever, ENO’s Chorus will more closely echo the proportion of people from diverse backgrounds that currently make up the UK population (currently 13%). ENO are also actively seeking to audition and employ Choristers from a BAME background for ‘extra chorus’ positions.

In addition, ENO is launching three annual ENO Director Observerships, offering emerging BAME directors the opportunity to work alongside world-renowned opera directors, observing the entire process of directing an opera from start to finish. Participants (who will be paid) will also be given an insight into the day to day workings of a large national company, from stage management and company office to technical and production.

From the start of the 2018 Season, ENO put into place, for the first time ever, blind auditions for the orchestra, as part of its recruitment process.

Stuart Murphy, ENO CEO,  said: “I am proud of ENO’s founding principle to provide opera for everyone and hope today’s announcement shows we continue to be committed to making this a reality in three key areas – reflecting diversity in both our performers and non-performers, and in our audiences. If we get this right, it will liberate new pools of talent in the UK and bring a greater and more varied stories to our stage. Today’s announcement follows the launch before Christmas of our scheme giving Free Tickets to Under 18’s on Saturdays, for which almost 1,000 tickets have been claimed.”

There was a time when it was possible to speak of a singers as ‘Mahlerian’, meaning that he or she had been trained by someone steeped in the Mahler tradition. That’s no longer the case. Singers are generalists nowadays and Mahler is just another composer on the schedule.

So I thought it might be useful to put together a set of outstanding singers who knew Mahler in their bones and left a lasting record of their interpretations, each with  their mentor in parentheses.

Christa Ludwig (Klemperer)

Jo Vincent (Mengelberg)

Richard Lewis (Berthold Goldschmidt)

Kathleen Ferrier (Walter)

Janet Baker (Klemperer)

Maureen Forrester (Walter)

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Horenstein)

Kerstin Thorborg (Walter)

Brigitte Fassbaender (Kubelik)

Lisa della Casa

Stokowski with Mahler 8 soloists, March 1916

And the worst?

Eiko Kitazawa utterly derails the 1930 first recording of Mahler 4, conducted by Hidemaro Konoye.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was cast on recordings by her husband Walter Legge despite lacking any positive feeling for the composer. Her singing is glassy at best.

Placido Domingo attempted Das Lied von der Erde in studio several times. So far as I’m aware only one of these hopeless efforts was released, with Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Other tenors who self-destruct in Das Lied include Jon Vickers, Siegfried Jerusalem and, latterly, Jonas Kaufmann. Klaus König, who recorded with Tennstedt, is nowhere near adequate. Desi Halban, who recorded Mahler 4 and some songs with Bruno Walter, is an avowed amateur – worth hearing as the daughter of Mahler’s cast-member Selma Kurz but not in the league of real performers.