Archive for the ‘Classical music’ Category


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The last two years, I’ve gone for a top ten things of the year type summing up. This year, I’m not going to. There are two reasons for this: I would really end up just repeating a lot of what I said those two years and, tbh, it was a strange year for stuff as I’ll hopefully explain. Let’s start with:


As ever, I didn’t really read many ‘new’ books. I don’t mean that in any oh, I only read the classics type way, but that I’m not one for rushing out to pick up the hardback of something. With a few exceptions and this year it’s been old faithfuls Rankin and Brookmyre, both of whom turned out works of the standard you would expect without trumping some of their earlier works. The best thing I read that was published (over here at least) this year was Joseph Wambaugh‘s Hollywood Station. A series of police procedural vignettes that snowball into one of the tensest edge of the seat finales ever. Structural gold.

A special mention, though, for Cormac McCarthy‘s No Country For Old Men. Although two years old, I only got to it earlier this year. Largely this was due to recommendations on the back of my raving about The Road, but when I found out it was the new Coen Brothers movie (more of which later) I was right in there. Sheer genius. I can’t work out where I lost touch with McCarthy’s work, but feel I really must go back and redo it. I remember All The Pretty Horses being a great big slap in the face at the time.


Look at any list of the movies of the year and you’ll more than likely be looking at a list of films I really wanted to see but somehow, despite my unlimited pass and walking past the cinema every day, managed to completely fail to catch (hello The Lives Of Others, Michael Clayton, Control, 3:10 To Yuma, both Grindhouse parts…). I did manage to catch some fairly decent stuff. But, among the usual more ‘interesting’ selection, it’s three relatively major films that have stuck in the memory the most. First up, of course, the Bourne ultimatum, a flat-out object lesson in how to make a thriller. After all the praise heaped on Casino Royale, director Paul Greengrass didn’t even break a sweat as he insisted no, this is how to do it. Simon Pegg and chums did it again (better, IMO) with the very funny Hot Fuzz. Nice to know proper comedies can still get made. And, french thriller Tell No One made me feel like an real adult moviegoer. (As did the rather excellent Zodiac, actually.)

So, lot’s of good stuff, but nothing that completely blew me away. Although, while in Colorado the other week I did go catch No Country For Old Men. But, when I saw it my body thought it was 7am and I’d been awake for around 23 hours. As a result, I kept nodding off and missed about a third of it (in patches). So, can I really class it as a film I saw last year? I don’t think so. But, I will say that I still intend to be stood outside the cinema on the 18th with my nose pressed up against the door waiting for it to open. Oh yeah…


Which brings me to the real repetition bit I’m trying to avoid. Cathal Coughlan had two monumental performances and a pair of reissues this year. I once more made the trip to the US for New Year with Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. The three gigs were awesome, and the new album will be along in March. The
Spookey girls gave us three kick ass (as usual) gigs (one Brighton, two Glasgow – didn’t get round to blogging that, been so remiss this year) and the new and great Cheeky Girl ep. So, by sheer dint of giving us a new record, they’d have got the number one spot under the ‘old’ system. honourable mention goes to The Supersuckers for finally being back in the country. The venue killed them in Glasgow, but they were ginormous in Brum.

I finally get to see Electrelane and am very much enjoying their No Shouts, No Calls album when they announce they are splitting. Bummer. I completely failed to see The Future Of The Left but love the album Curses. And, The Just Joans slipped their second release out towards the end of the year. More brilliance, any fears I may have had about them keeping it up are completely unfounded.

It was also a year of festivals for me. Ranging from the camping in mud and latrine spirit type all the way to the very effete All Tomorrow’s Parties where you have walls and a shower ‘n’ ting.

And, Julian Cope wasn’t playing at all of them. But, how was his year. Well, the metal trio are getting tighter and beginning to seem like a proper band instead of a grossly misdirected conceit. He put out an album where the production quality seemed inversely proportional to the songwriting quality (it sounds like turd). He continued to dress like a fascist, and a lot of his political ranting seemed to suit that. The usual frustrations, then.

Whither my forays into the classical? This year that amounted to the wonderful Proms In The Park, again, and my first opera. It was a big brash (the posters boasted “live horses!”) populist version of Carmen. And, I loved it! There’ll definitely be more of that next year.

There were other gigs, and other records. Some were/are excellent. But, it was still a very meh year all in.

Some other stuff

Podcasts have still been floating my boat. Two top ones for this year would be Mark Kermode’s Film Reviews from 5Live. Although, sometimes dangerous while sat at work as I do have a tendency to snarl and shout “moron” throughout. And, Smodcast which is basically everything you ever wanted to know about the sex life of movie director Kevin Smith and then some. Childish and puerile but often hilarious, and better than anything you’ll see with Judd Apatow‘s name on it.

Another highlight for me would have to be discovering that Mark Steel‘s columns are no longer pay-to-view at the Indy.

For the first time ever I felt like going to a Catholic Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Because it would have been worth it to yell during the sermon: “It’s one thing tolerating the Inquisition and the Mafia and an assortment of paedophiles, but surely even YOU draw the line at Blair.”

Also, 2007 will have to go down in (my personal) history as the first time I did not vote. I realised that there was no party I had any faith in for the Holyrood elections and the independent I was going to vote for on the council didn’t reply to my email asking for clarification on a point of policy. So, no-one. The irony is I was berated for this and told I should have at least gone down and spoilt my paper. (For future reference, if any political party wants my vote, come up with a policy (smug git tax?) that’ll have John Sessions promising to leave the country if you get in.)


Written by Tony Kiernan

07 January 2008 at 10:48 pm

Stockhausen rip

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Need any help getting that rod further up your ass?

On 5th December Karlheinz Stockhausen passed away. As this cartoon shows us, the typical response of the establishment was to ridicule that which they did not understand (or perhaps even simply disliked). for this reason alone, had he not lived we would have needed to invent him.

Written by Tony Kiernan

11 December 2007 at 12:41 pm

BBC Proms In The Park – Glasgow Green (8 September 2007)

Yay! Once again the best free night of music rolls around and for the third year running the weather does us proud (let’s not think about that global warming malarkey).

It gets off to a slow start, with the SSO starting with some Bernstein (reliably bombastic) and following it with four scots ‘dances’ which I recognise none of, nor felt the toe tapping as you would expect. But, when kiwi baritone Jonathan Lemalu takes to the stage things bump up several degrees. We get the usual mix of popular classics (Mozart, Rogers & Hammerstein, Gershwin) all of which are rather lovely. But, when he gives us the traditional Te Harinui, joined by the National Youth Choir Of Scotland and it is truly magical (apparently, a xmas tune – so well suited to the evening). The choir then get to regale us with some stuff on their own (well, with the orchestra but not with the soloist) where they roll out a few scots trad. numbers. I get the feeling that I’m the only person that doesn’t know the Piper O’ Dundee (certainly within the unscientifically seleted group I’m with) and the only one that does know Johnnie Cope, which must say something about what’s wrong with the world. In my ongoing journey of expanding my musical knowledge I’m surprising myself in finding a liking of choral pieces. And, these two are brilliant.

Then we have the star turn of the evening, Julian Lloyd Webber. Slightly less repugnant a prospect than his brother, but only slightly. I’ve been told that the members of the orchestra sneer at his abilities and mutter to themselves about nepotism. Luckily my ear is not so finely tuned to be able to comment. He starts with Bach‘s Adagio In G and I’m mesmerised. By the time he gets to Saint-Saëns The Swan (trust me, you know it) he’s my favouritest cello player ever (well after Rebecca Lee Lewis Harlot). Then my ineducated populist heart cries for joy as we get the inevitable run through the South Bank Show Theme.

I then manage to miss most of what’s going on but catch all the TV links. There’s some faffing about with a Carnyx, one of the big horn things that look like a dragon. there’s been some pieces commissioned for it. Someone ignorant of this kinda stuff might call it a load od cacophonous bellowing. I couldn’t possibly comment. Then the Peatbog Fairies take to the stage. Being one of those bands I’ve always been near when their playing but always missed, I was interested to see what they were like. Exactly as I imagined, is the answer to that. One of those ‘oh, it’s them moments’. In view of the football score, they go down extra well with the flag waving contingent of the crowd. Actually, they go down well with everyone. I even quite enjoy them, but I won’t be going out of my way to catch them again.

A trip to the toilets means I then miss all the jingoistic last night stuff. Not because of under provision, just finding my way through the crowd. But, I’m back and ready for the traditional float through Highland Cathedral. Nice. Then we get the Overture in E Flat Major Op. 49, or as it’s better know the 1812 Overture! With cannons!! And, fireworks!!! Heavy metal classics!!!! I’m on my feet punching the air, getting tuts from the more discerning listener (and, my mates kids). Who cares. When it moves you like this, this is what it’s all about.

Now, I really must got to more proper recitals before next year.

Written by Tony Kiernan

10 September 2007 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Classical music, Gigs