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Writing Worth Reading

Chopin’s Heart

Chopin’s body lies in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, where he died in 1849; but his heart is in the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw, thanks to his sister, who had it cut out, pickled it in Cognac, and smuggled it into Poland a year later. During the Warsaw Uprising a German priest gave it to Heinz Reinefarth, “a high-ranking SS officer who professed to be a Chopin admirer”, and it spent the rest of WW2 in Nazi headquarters (1,000 words)

Shakespeare, Wagner, Aldridge

Dual profile of Ira Aldridge, African-American who rose to fame in Europe as one of the great Shakespearean actors of the 19C; and his daughter Luranah, opera singer, born in London to a Swedish mother. Ira saw off sneering prejudice in England, “mesmerized kings and emperors”, and was acclaimed as a genius in Germany. Luranah won over Cosima Wagner and almost sang at Bayreuth (Newly ungated) (5,000 words)

Wagner Summer

Reflections on the composer, and on the many productions of the Ring around the world in his bicentenary year. His stature has diminished: “Discussion of Wagner is stuck in a Nazi rut. His multifarious influence on artistic, intellectual, and political life has been largely forgotten”. The music continues to provoke: Bayreuth’s Ring this year is filled with “slapstick and absurdism”. Barenboim’s London Ring was a masterpiece (1,720 words)

Love On The March

Reflections on the political and social standing of gays in America. Change from complete repression to general acceptance has taken less than 50 years. Will a distinct gay culture and sensibility survive, or are they obsolete?

Deceptive Picture

Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray had an inauspicious launch. One review described it as appealing to “outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph-boys”. Beautifully crafted essay looks at Wilde, his writing and re-writing of this classic

Schubert on the Beach: New World Symphony’s Radical New Home

Miami’s new Frank Gehry-designed concert hall reflects the personality of the architect and also “the boyish enthusiasm” of its artistic director Tilson Thomas, boasting tech-savvy features matched by innovative new programming

Why Hate Modern Classical Music?

People love modern painting. Modern novels. Modern film. So why are Berg, Webern, other modern composers such a specialised taste? Is their music intrinsically hard to listen to, or is it a matter of fashion?

Wagner For A Song

All the conventional wisdom about Wagner is wrong. His operas are a critique of power, not a celebration of it. They reject the conventions of classical music. He wanted a mass audience, not an elite one

Hold Your Applause

New Yorker critic takes rule against applauding between movements as cue for virtuoso reflection on social context of classical music. Rule took hold in early 1900s, inspired by Bayreuth (PDF)

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