Archive | June, 2011

Daniel Barenboim, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire

24 Jun

The last time I saw him live he was a civilian now he has an honorary knighthood! To be clear I do not begrudge the man his moment of glory he has earned it as much as Joan Collins (also pictured above)!

The order (of the British Empire) also comes up with an up to date motto: For God and the Empire, so it is as much embedded in a fantasy world as the stories of the  brothers Grimm.

Barenboim has done a lot as an ambassador for music and a force for good in the middle east, but I do wonder if he will have to be addressed as Daniel KBE from now on…a bit like Simon Rattle’s people who are apparently very insistent on the title being mentioned…at least he can have a good old cackle knowing that this exclusive club has Dame Shirley Bassey as the main cheerleader, surely a fun club to belong to if you are near or over 70.

Here the story as broken by BBC News

Hope you like the lovingly crafted graphic just above, no expense was spared while using PowerPoint.


There is a set of shots on Flickr taken during the ceremony in Berlin



Sylvie, that goddess

21 Jun

Sometimes superlatives prop up in so many contexts where they do not truly belong. But one artist that has thrilled and touched me like no other is Sylvie Guillem. When people talk about unimaginable magic they are not being stupidly twee, she has always found a way to give me goosebumps on stage whether she was dancing A Month in the Country, Manon or Eonnagata. An artist of such quality and consummate intelligence is very rare.  Of course there are a lot of amazing dancers out there but Guillem has a beguiling quality that I find particularly enchanting. In essence this is my blogged love letter to one of the most singular personalities of the world of ballet and dance. 

I will never forget seeing her perform from Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated at the Nureyev gala in Covent Garden, her pas des deux with Laurent Hilaire. It was beyond definitions of greatness, a suitable tribute to her mentor and the breathtaking central axis of the evening. From that night on I was in love.

Her upcoming world premieres at Sadler’s Wells which I have anticipated for the last six months will be an early highlight of my July. The stakes are high and she’s collaborating with Mats Ek and William Forsythe, great things are to be expected. I’ll surely write a breathless blog about the experience…while I’ll be booking for the encore performances in September!

For any newbies to Sylvie have a look at the following:

Interview to Judith Mackrell on the occasion of the Nureyev gala at the Royal Opera House in 2003. Which was my initiation to her art.

Interview to Another Magazine on the occasion of 6000 miles away at Sadler’s Wells

The quirky website of the said goddess of dance

Arne Jacobsen in Oxford

13 Jun

After some planning I managed yesterday to visit St Catherine’s College in Oxford. A rarity in the UK of an accomplished major European architect that was allowed to materialise his grand plan without making too many concessions that would affect the purity of the design.

Jacobsen is a very particular kind of architect, he was precise, but at the same time his projects exude humanity and warmth. One aspect that makes his lighting and chair designs enduring classics. His touch is light but the aesthetic is ascetic and decidedly Nordic.

Walking into his campus is a quiet affair, no distracting details no extraneous detailing, just a simple bridged passage over the full length pond that is in typology a moat. All that surrounds the visitor is glass, yellow brick and the light flooding though from the end of the vista. Have been familiar with St Catherine’s from photographs but to actually move around it is such a wonderful experience. His architecture is solemn (I’d avoid calling it severe) and has gravitas but at every turn the landscaping brings a smile to the walker. Some roses hidden behind one of his low ordered walls that support the functional benches, the clipped yew that makes up imaginary walkways and is itself part covered by a floating glass roof are delightful. The scheme just feels extremely considered and mature. A piece of architecture for the senses and for contemplation. The positioning and spatial organisation of the campus is possibly the most interesting contribution and is indeed the underlying genius of Jacobsen. But the careful detailing, with some wonderful fixtures elevates this project to the extraordinary, a true Modernist triumph.

Walking into the lobby before entering the Dining Hall is a revelation, a low glazed lobby with skylights illuminating some plants against the end wall and an unassuming oak door with a signature brass handle (if you have seen Arne handles you’ll know them and all they wavy, almost liquid elegance). When the door opens the space of the Hall is almost overwhelming. Any other architect would have gone overboard and create a hangar like space. This space is surely large but it still remains curiously human in scale. An interesting junction of monumentality and domesticity. The quirkily green stone floor complements the cruciform pale cast concrete columns, the trees are brought in from the l shaped openings of the side windows, which are high enough to give the Hall an air of privacy and seclusion. If I had to describe the feel it would be very close to Byzantine monastic refectories, a sense of stillness pervades. The room is suitably finished by Tom Phillips’ tapestries, which take their graphic theme from St Catherine of Alexandria and the moto of the College and the University’s. A later addition to the scheme that respects Arne’s limited palette but is bold enough to be impactful.

The way the blue tinted English daylight gets manipulated and softened in the space and the addition of warm tinted table lamps adds to the almost monastic intensity. It was a huge privilege being in the space with just only another three people, being able to soak in the atmosphere. Anyone that doesn’t have affection for high quality Modernism they should be taken there, I would be very surprised if they are not moved by the experience.

So I will surely spent the rest of the week in a state of reverie casting my mind back to Arne’s masterful and winning College. The kind of place to give confidence about the power of great architecture. Jacobsen never went for easy, fussy structures (that has been all the rage since the 80s) his approach is thoughtful, democratic and open. Dear reader if you think his genius ended with his Swan chairs and space age cutlery think again. He was a total designer (like Frank Lloyd Wright) and all aspects of the design are integrated and transparent. Amazing.

A huge thank you to Fiona and Tim  for making the visit possible.

A set of 164 photographs taken on our visit can be seen on Flickr

You never know who’s watching ;-)

6 Jun

You just never know who’s watching!

I thought it would be fun to ask the amazing reigning super Mezzo Joyce Didonato if she was watching Katherine Jenkins’ “rendition” of Una Voce Poco Fa in last night’s results show for Popstar to Operastar…and you can imagine my surprise and perverse delight that she confirmed that she was actually watching! Calling it unforgettable is I think an appropriate turn of phrase indeed 😉

I can confirm that I played Joyce’s version later after PSTOS just to reaffirm in me the power of true musicianship and vocal beauty. Kudos to the Yankeediva for the 100th or so time 😉

The Hepworth Wakefield – The photos are in.

4 Jun
P1100630 by Georgios 1978
P1100630, a photo by Georgios 1978 on Flickr.

Dear readers, a couple of days had the opportunity to visit David Chipperfield’s other new Gallery (after his Margate the other week) and have to declare it an unqualified success.

The feel is mature, assured and concise. The finishes are smooth, precise but not self indulgent. Wakefield should be justly proud of this major civic pride injection and all of the visitors should be full of happiness and take in the work of Hepworth in a world-class setting. Chipperfield managed what a lot of architects fail far too frequently, he sculpted space using light and volume. The building’s exterior reveals a light filled, subdued interior, but with wonderful almost three-dimensional light from the unusual clerestory skylights. He also was very responsive to the location and both the industrial and waterside context of the new building. Fanciful museums as a means of regeneration quite frequently leave me cold. But the Hepworth is a building that has a sense of grace, civility and above all makes the art within speak.

I truly wish he had won the competition to built Tate Modern back in the day. His honed Modernism is much more warm and inviting than Herzog & De Meuron’s more flashy materiality, he’s more in the mould or Arne Jacobsen than the frequently bland Norman Foster. If you are living in Yorkshire you have no excuse not to visit, everyone else has to visit to admire this wonderful edifice.

Here is my set on Flickr with all the shots

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