Leipzig in Musical History

Thomaskirche und Thomasschule zu Leipzig

Leipzig in Musical History

 Tony Cooper takes a musical heritage trip to Leipzig

Leipzig is certainly a city rich in musical history. For a start, Richard Wagner was born here. But if Wagner was closely associated with Leipzig so was Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn and Johann Sebastian Bach, while other notable composers such as Robert Schumann and Georg Philipp Telemann worked in Leipzig and George Frideric Handel was born just a few miles up the road in Halle.

Surprisingly, though, during Bach’s lifetime he was not recognised as the great composer that he is today until a revival of interest in his music was led in the first half of the 19th century by the young Mendelssohn conducting St Matthew Passion at the age of 20 in 1829, the first performance since the composer’s death. Continue reading

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Better Orbán than Corbyn

Viktor Orbán

Better Orbán than Corbyn

by Ilana Mercer

It’s difficult to feel sorry for liberals when they reap the whirlwind that they sow.

A middle-aged woman, who campaigned against the deportation of migrants from her native Sweden, was raped by the very refugees she advocates for.

She met two Afghani teens on the street outside a bar and voluntarily accompanied them to their taxpayer-funded pad. The rest, as they say, is history.

Is the European obsession with importing Middle-Eastern men driven by horny, menopausal, Social Justice Warriors? “Bohemian witches” or “tie-dye hags”, as one risqué, Swedish, You Tube commentator calls this degenerate distaff. Continue reading

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What Hope for Canadian Conservatism?

Justin Trudeau celebrates Diwali at the Sanatan Mandir Cultural Centre in Markham Ontario

What Hope for Canadian Conservatism?

 by Mark Wegierski

Donald Trump is currently renegotiating Free Trade with Canada. Over 80% of Canada’s trade is with the United States; and probably over 80% of the population detests him. Canada’s armed forces are notoriously underfunded, and Canada’s contribution to NATO has been pitifully small. Canada is quite happy to be a “free rider” on U.S. military defense spending. It is also to some extent a “free rider” on the U.S. healthcare system, making use of advances in medical technology that only the more free-market-oriented medical system of the U.S. could bring about. Furthermore, the U.S. is where many wealthy Canadians go for health care, when they are tired of the ridiculous waiting periods for surgery such as hip-replacement at Canadian hospitals.

One of the main differences between Canada and the United States is that — with the possible, partial exception of the Western Canadian province of Alberta — most of the country would tend to fall into the camp of the “Bluest” of the “Blue States.”  If the left-wingers in the “Blue States” were frustrated by the Trump victory, one should just imagine how “small-c conservatives” have felt in Canada over many decades. The main origin of the term “small-c conservative” is a pointer to the fact that the “big-C Conservatives” in Canada, i.e., the Progressive Conservative party, were “ultra-moderates” and mostly spent their time fighting what they snidely called “cashew conservatives,” i.e., those who were presumed to be “right-wing nuts.” The net result of the failure of the Canadian Right has been the emergence of a political culture after the 1960s where outlooks similar to those of moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats would probably be considered as “far right.” Somewhat ironically, the entire “broader Right” in America, from Pat Buchanan, who once called Canada a “Soviet Canuckistan’, to David Frum, who once heaped disdain on Canadian “wimpishness”, probably have a rather similar view of America’s northern neighbor. Continue reading

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Whither Ukraine?

Mountain Foros Church near Yalta (Ukraine)

Whither Ukraine?

THE FOURTH REPUBLIC: Why Europe Needs Ukraine and Why Ukraine Needs Europe, Borys Lozhkin, Kyiv: Novyj Druk, 2016, reviewed by Stoddard Martin

It is a principle nearly unarguable in the capitalist West that the ‘shock therapy’ delivered by Leszek Balcerowicz to the Polish economy in the early 1990s resulted in the great success story among the transformations that followed the end of the Cold War. Mass privatisation after the fall of Marxism eradicated a command economy, Soviet style. Horrendous recession and epoch-making devaluation eventually led to the uplands of status as a ‘tiger economy’. With backsliding prevented by joining NATO in 1998 and the EU in 2004, Poland continued its new dawn of growth through the world financial crisis of 2008-9 and beyond.

In the signal instance of that country, the word ‘oligarch’ was scarcely bandied around and ‘a sunny place for shady people’ rarely cited as the ultimate destination of capital from a nation’s efforts. While Les paradis fiscaux became the playpens of plutocratic Russians, building houses and fixing toilets in the West rendered Poles fêted and hated as plucky mains d’oeuvre, and a goodly portion of what they were able to scrabble together was remitted back to the homeland. The story has been decidedly more mixed for the neighbour that Poland shares with its colossal Slavic sibling to the east and over which the two have grappled for centuries.

Continue reading

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Stuart Adamson, RIP

Stuart Adamson, RIP

The lead vocalist of Big Country, born in 1958

 

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Whiteout

Ilana Mercer

Whiteout

by Ilana Mercer

An “aging white population [is] speeding [up] diversity,” blared a headline in The Hill. A clear case of confusing cause-and-effect. In fact, whites are dying-out because minorities are thriving.

The Hill headline should have read:

“Could speeding up diversity contribute to a decline in the white population?” 

We learn that “there are growing signs that the rate of change is increasing.” Well of course. America welcomes well over 1 million, mostly non-white immigrants a year.

If white lives mattered to the liberal establishment, an inquiry would ensue. Continue reading

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Manifesto for the Earth

Chernobyl power plant, today

Manifesto for the Earth

Mark Wegierski envisages the convergence of ecology and traditionalism

What would be the policy implications of a radical ecological stance? There would presumably have to be rationing of water, of “petrochem” (resulting in the near-elimination of ‘car-culture’) and of luxury foods. Ditto, drastic population-control measures, particularly in the Third World, where nearly all of the global population increase is occurring and where the environment is most under threat. There might also have to be almost zero-immigration policies across the planet.

Our current-day commodity-culture and consumer fetishism would likewise have to end. Farewell the “carnival culture” of late modernity; the Hollywood lifestyle and fashion-industry excesses, the glitzy music videos, sports industries in which stars are paid tens of millions of dollars a year, the thousand-dollar running shoes, and so forth. Belief-systems that would ensure the continuation of a virtually zero-growth, stationary-state economy, would have to become prevalent. These belief systems might well involve some forms of neo-traditionalism and neo-authoritarianism. Continue reading

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Oper Leipzig, The Ring

Oper Leipzig – “Das Rheingold”, Karin Lovelius as Fricka, Iain Paterson as Wotan,
Foto, Tom Schulze

Oper Leipzig, The Ring

Wagner:The Ring of the Nibelung, Oper Leipzig, from 11th April 2018, directed by Rosamund Gilmore, conducted by Ulf Schirmer, reviewed by TONY COOPER

Leipzig is rich in musical history. Richard Wagner was born here, Felix Bartholdy Mendelssohn died here and Johann Sebastian Bach lived and worked here – from 1723 until his death in 1750 he was Kapellmeister at the Thomaskirche. Robert Schumann also resided in Leipzig and Georg Philipp Telemann worked there, too, while George Frideric Handel was born just up the road in Halle.

Wagner had a difficult start in his home town but Leipzig and Wagner are bound together in a common union. For one thing, the first complete performance of The Ring outside of Bayreuth took place in Leipzig in 1878.

So the return of The Ring to Leipzig for the first time in over forty years – one of the prime initiatives of Ulf Schirmer on his appointment as musical director of Oper Leipzig in the 2009/10 season – is to be applauded. Continue reading

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Reflections on Opera

Roman theatrical masks

Reflections on Opera

What Opera Means: Categories and Case-Studies, Christopher Wintle, edited by Kate Hopkins, Boydell & Brewer, 2018, 288 pp, pb., £15.99, reviewed by STODDARD MARTIN

Books on opera abound. Books on Wagner, alone, are said to be as numerous as those on Napoleon, perhaps more so. Those on Mozart rank not far behind. Verdi joined Wagner in celebration of a bicentenary in 2013, and a plethora of publications to mark that occasion included the piquant Verdi and/or Wagner by Peter Conrad, reviewed on these pages. Both figures stride like colossi through Christopher Wintle’s What Opera Means, a collection of reviews, programme essays and lectures from his distinguished career as commentator on the genre, notably at The TLS, where for a period in the early 1980s this writer was his predecessor.

Recurrent appearance of the 2013 bi-centenarians in Wintle’s book reflects their ubiquity on the boards over subsequent decades. At Covent Garden, several cycles of The Ring of the Nibelungen have been mounted, as well as a ‘festival’ to stage all of Verdi. Wintle came to write programme notes in this epoch, and the programme note – a genre of its own – is key to his style: descriptive, informative, learned. Critic gives way to guide for most of his book, conducting audiences towards a work rather than rating or slating its execution. The approach is charming, veering toward the judgemental rarely, such as when flagging admonitions about Wagner made de rigueur after World War II by the likes of Auden and Adorno. Wintle’s accommodative tone shifts in an extended last section formed of critical pieces. Several reveal a caustic awareness of the contemporary problem of ‘dogmatic’ directors or, to a lesser degree, recent composers.

Continue reading

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Trashing Populism

Yascha Mounk

Trashing Populism

by Ilana Mercer

To say that academic elites don’t like ordinary folks is to state the obvious.

To them, Lanford, Illinois—the fictional, archetypal, working-class town, made famous by Roseanne and Dan Conner—is not to be listened to, but tamed.

A well-functioning democracy depends on it.

Taming Fishtown—Charles Murray’s version of Landford—is the thread that seems to run through  a new book, “The People vs. Democracy,” by one Yascha Mounk.

You guessed it. Mr. Mounk is not an American from the prairies; he’s a German academic, ensconced at Harvard, and sitting in judgment on American and European populism.

If only he were capable of advancing a decent argument. Continue reading

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