Bit of a jolt to notice the date – and I realise I’ve been rather quiet on here this month. It’s not that I haven’t been up to anything; it’s that I’ve had my hands gratifyingly full – this is peak season for copywriting and some of my best clients have been launching some very exciting projects, which tends to keep me busy.
My pre-Christmas review of the Royal Opera’s Eugene Onegin appeared in The Spectator a couple of weeks back, and next week I’ll be reviewing Mozart revivals at Opera North and English National Opera. I wrote a piece for The Arts Desk on the CBSO’s thinly-veiled public audition of Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla; whether or not (as many audience members and all the critics in Birmingham are hoping) they offer her the vacant music-directorship (and the CBSO players have strong opinions of their own, often far-removed from what audiences and critics think), I’m in no doubt that she’s a hugely impressive and serious artist, with musicality just streaming out of her fingertips.
Omer Meir Wellber seems to be regarded as another front-runner: he’s a strikingly intelligent artist with something powerful to say (qualities not always valued in the UK), and would also be a fascinating appointment. At least that’s how it sounds from the stalls. The players may feel differently, and if we suddenly heard that either Nicholas Collon or Andrew Gourlay was the anointed one; well, that’d be no bad thing either. But a lot of the rumours that are floating around are transparently nonsense (when dealing with Birmingham, you can generally discount any speculation that originates in London): we’ll just have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, I’ve been delighted to acquire some new clients since the New Year: including the Halle, the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition and Gramophone – hugely excited to be working for them. I’ve also been working on sleeve notes for Warner Classics’ next Rattle / CBSO box set – an enjoyable pretext to catch up with my old colleague Peter Donohoe, who always has something thought-provoking to say. I popped up to Liverpool and saw the astonishing backstage transformation of my favourite concert hall in the world, the beautiful Philharmonic Hall. I wrote a concert script for Margherita Taylor – fun job. And there was a substantial programme note for a major concert at the Wigmore Hall – something to really get my teeth into.
And purely for pleasure, we took in the live New York Met cinema relays of The Pearl Fishers and Turandot (eye-popping) – the baristas at the Tamworth Odeon branch of Costa are starting to recognise us – and drove over to Sheffield for the last night of The Crucible’s production of Show Boat, a musical I’ve wanted to see on stage for a very long time.
Seems a very long time since we were in Bergen for new year, clambering around Grieg’s house at Troldhaugen – closed and completely deserted, and somehow all the more magical for it – on a clear but icy Norwegian morning. By pure coincidence, I was writing about Grieg’s C minor Violin Sonata as soon as I returned. He’s a composer I can’t help loving, and the more I listen, the more fascinated – and moved – I am by his music. I’d like to have the chance to write more about him – anyone..?