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I've been a manager in the classical music business in the UK since 1980 (so, yes, I'm pretty old!). However, I love many kinds of music and enjoy collecting and disseminating useless (and sometimes useful) facts. I love travel, exploring and good food and drink. I also love just chatting about music in general.

  • Car insurance for laid-up vehicle?

    The insurance on one of the cars in our household is due for renewal next week. However, the car is off the road at the moment (and declared so through a SORN) and so I am loath to incur the cost of full insurance. One was once able to get 'laid-up' insurance for cars which were not in use, but I can't find any company that will now offer this option. I want to cover the car for theft, damage by vandalism or fire, but obviously don't need third party insurance while the car is stationary on the drive. I had considered allowing the policy to lapse, but after a time I don't want to take the risk of losing my no-claims bonus.

    Anyone know a company that offers laid-up insurance? Any other advice?

    I should add that this is *my* car and, although I don't drive it, I do drive my partner's vehicle.

    5 AnswersInsurance & Registration8 years ago
  • Recommendations for a 5.1 DVD player with excellent sound?

    After nearly 10 years. my excellent Sony DVD player seems to be on its way out. As I bought it so long ago, I have no idea what to get to replace it. I need a multi-region player (I have Zone 1 and 2 DVDs) with excellent sound (I'm in the music business) and with RCA analogue (for my hi-fi) and Surround Sound 5.1 outputs (I already have 5.1 speakers so don't need 'home cinema'). Upscaling isn't an essential, but might be a nice extra to have.

    At the moment I have no interest in Blu Ray because I have so many DVDs that I'm not prepared to buy all over again.

    Any recommendations?

    4 AnswersHome Theater9 years ago
  • Musicians expected to work for nothing at the Olympics?

    It has been announced by the great and the good who are running the Olympics in London this summer that a policy decision has been made not to pay musicians who have been asked to play at various ceremonies and events during the Games (see link in 'Additional Details'). I wonder what how followers of other professions (not least the organisers themselves) would react to the suggestion that THEY should work for nothing "for the exposure" it will give them? I don't think they would like it, do you (nor would their bank managers)?

    This once again throws into focus this exasperating attitude held by so many that musicians somehow don't deserve to be paid for their work. They train for YEARS (more than any doctor), incurring great expense and hardship. In fact, a musician NEVER stops 'training'.

    Why is it that so many people think musicians are fair game to be swindled, defrauded and stolen from? Do they think musicians somehow have a 'free pass' to life and don't have to pay the same bills as everyone else?

    Of course, my professional advice to musicians in London: No fee, no play, no way!

    Would people tell me they think about this development in particular and the poor attitude towards musicians in general?

    11 AnswersClassical9 years ago
  • What piece would you choose for St Cecilia's Day?

    St Cecilia is the Patron Saint (or should that be Matron Saint?) of musicians and church music. 22 November is St Cecilia's Day (as well as what would have been Benjamin Britten's 98th birthday). So, what piece would you choose to encapsulate what music means to you?

    Allow me to set the ball rolling with the 'Hymn to St Cecilia' by Britten (happy birthday, Ben!).

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    3 AnswersClassical9 years ago
  • Classical music aficionados - what are your most guilty musical pleasures?

    I last asked this question nearly four years ago (how time flies!), but we now have a (largely) new set of interesting contributors (and many we miss from their absence here!) and so I thought I would ask this question again. It will be interesting to see if some contributors who answered last time give the same answer as before.

    My most guilty musical pleasure remains the same as it was all that time ago - the silly song (yes it IS a song!) 'Dragostea din tei' (better known as the 'Numa Numa Dance') by Moldovan pop band O-Zone. No matter how many times I hear this ridiculous trifle, I still love it! Here it is:

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    Come on - what YOURS?

    9 AnswersClassical9 years ago
  • Unlikely cities to nurture great culture?

    I have been aware for some time that the Ukrainian city of Odessa (on the Crimean pennisula on the Black Sea) has been the birth place of some of the greatest names in art - especially in the early years of the 20th century:

    Anna Akhmatova (poet)

    Simon Barere (pianist)

    Zakhar Bron (violinist)

    Maria Grinberg (pianist)

    Leonid Mandelstam (scientist)

    Nathan Milstein (violinist)

    David Oistrakh (violinist)

    Igor Oistrakh (violinist)

    Yakov Zak (pianist)

    Now, Odessa is an attractive city of around one million people, but not a place one would immediately associate with such great names in western culture. One naturally expects from the great musical centres like Vienna, Berlin, New York and Paris, but Odessa?

    Are contributors aware of other unlikely cities around the world that have spawned a perhaps surprisingly high number of great artistic figures?

    7 AnswersClassical9 years ago
  • Composers who passed their sell-by date?

    This is a follow-up question to my earlier one about composers who stopped composing long before their deaths (and apologies for forgetting to choose a 'Best Answer', forcing the question to go to the vote; I'll try to do better this time).

    Our esteemed colleague mamianka suggested this second question and I think it might prove interesting. So, the question is:

    Are there any composers who showed great potential when young whom you consider didn't live-up to their early promise? Or perhaps composers whose late works you think suggest they should have 'retired' before they did?

    I will reserve some of my opinions for later.

    have fun!

    4 AnswersClassical9 years ago
  • Composers who have stopped composing too early?

    I have been listening today to the music of the famous conductor Igor Markevitch (1912-83, father of Oleg Caetani). Markevitch was one of the most promising composers of the post-Stravinsky generation, yet decided to cease composing altogether in 1941 at the age of 29 (having another 42 years to live).

    Are there composers you know about who, for whatever reason, stopped composing long before their deaths?

    7 AnswersClassical10 years ago
  • What has become of the modern overture?

    Answering a question about 'favourite operatic overtures' made me realise that all my examples were 18th and 19th century, despite my enthusiasm for more modern music as well as the 'classics'. Try as I might, I couldn't think of a single example from recent operatic repertoire. Has the overture been rendered redundant?

    How many 'modern' overtures (say, from the beginning of the 20th century to the present time) - operatic or 'concert' overtures - do you know and regard highly?

    9 AnswersClassical10 years ago
  • What do the classical contributors make of the parlous state of orchestras around the world?

    I am surprised that this hasn't been asked yet on this board (or perhaps it has and I missed it?), but I have been reading with increasing dismay about many leading orchestras going to the wall or in serious trouble.

    In the USA, the Honolulu, New Mexico and Syracuse orchestras are no more, the Philadelphia Orchestra has filed for bankruptcy protection, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has been almost ruined by strikes and many other leading orchestras are in deep financial trouble. In the USA there is no state subsidy for the arts.

    In Europe, many smaller German orchestras have disappeared or have merged and in the Netherlands, some of the most prestigious musical organisations are in danger of going bust without their traditional state subsidies (or huge cuts in them). In Europe, state subsidy is normal (to varying degrees) for orchestras.

    It seems neither system is working right now, so what's the answer? Of course, many orchestras would survive on playing the classical pops time after time with freelance players drafted in as necessary (some very major orchestras in the UK have always used freelance rather than contracted musicians), but what service does that give to music? How would living composers get their new works played? How would we get to hear fine music that didn't draw-in the crowds? Not very 'creative', is it?

    When times get tough, the arts are always the first target for cuts. Yet orchestras' budgets are TINY in the great scheme of things. The annual bonus awarded to a top banking executive in the City of London would keep a chamber orchestra in the UK going for about 2 years. How can this be right (don't think that the money-grabbing banker is going to part with any of his wad to support music - he won't!)? So, in reality, these swingeing and crippling cuts make very little difference to the national debt whatsoever, yet politicians always focus on orchestras and opera companies first. Could it be that the cynical politicians are relying on the (erroneous) public perception that the arts are a huge drain on the economy? And don't forget that orchestras put BACK a lot of money into the coffers through taxes and tourism.

    So, good people, what's the way forward?

    10 AnswersClassical10 years ago
  • Sudden problem with Lotus Approach Millennium Edition?

    I have been a user of Lotus Approach Millennium Edition since I got it as part of a package with a new PC about 10 years ago. When I upgraded to XP from Windows 98 it continued to work normally, even though I know there are some 'issues' with running Approach in XP. I use Approach for storing records of my extensive CD collection, lists of contacts and contact details for the musicians I work with on a regular basis.

    I changed to a Mac about a year ago and, unable to find a suitable database to run on the Mac that could read the DBF-based Approach files, decided to keep the PC so I could use the programs for which there seem to be no Apple equivalents (eg Approach, Microsoft Autoroute, etc). After several years of trouble-free use on the PC running XP, Approach has suddenly started to refuse to launch properly and freezes the PC every time I try to load it into memory. The opening display is corrupted and reaches a certain point on the load and then freezes the PC. Oddly, all other Lotus programs are still running just fine. As I have all the original CDs, I uninstalled Lotus SmartSuite and re-installed it from scratch, assuming that the Approach.exe file had simply somehow become corrupted. Unfortunately, the re-installation has had no effect and I am still unable to launch the Approach software.

    Any ideas what I might try next to remedy the situation? I have done all the usual virus and malware scans, none of which seem to make any difference to the problem.

    Alternatively, I would be content to be able to run a suitable relational database on the Mac which would be able to read my Approach files (several thousands of records dating back many years that I don't want to have to enter again!). I know I can open the DBF files in a spreadsheet (such as Excel), but that doesn't give me the display and search options that a database does.

    Any ideas, anyone?

    1 AnswerSoftware10 years ago
  • Blurring the lines between pop and classical styles?

    We have all seen (and been a part of) the numerous discussions and arguments about what is and what isn't classical music. A friend posted this to me today (link below). It is a fugue in the style of JS Bach on a theme by Stefani Germanotta (better known as Lady GaGa). I think it's a lovely blurring of the boundaries. But is the fugue classical? Or does the piece remain pop because it is based on a pop tune?

    Youtube thumbnail


    The original Lady GaGa song 'Bad Romance' is here for reference:

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    Do my fellow contributors know of any other such compositions based on pop/rock/jazz numbers? Please do provide links.

    9 AnswersClassical10 years ago
  • Your ten favourite film scores?

    I know, I am stretching the boundaries of what constitutes 'classical music', but where else could I ask this question? In the latest edition of one of the professional music magazines here in the UK is a list of what one person considers his ten favourite film scores. Three of them are not actually original scores at all, but use music by classical composers. Two of these are film versions of operas and so I think should not have been included (it being a different genre of film-making, surely).

    My question: what are your favourite film scores (whether by accepted 'classical' composers or not)?

    The ten from the magazine (not necessarily in order of preference as far as I can tell):

    King Kong (1933) - Max Steiner

    Psycho (1960) - Bernard Herrmann

    Batman (1989) - Danny Elfman

    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) - Ennio Morricone

    On the Waterfront (1954) - Leonard Bernstein

    The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - Thomas Newman (with a tiny bit of help from WA Mozart)

    Brief Encounter (1945) - Sergei Rakhmaninov

    A Clockwork Orange (1971) - Various (see below)

    The Magic Flute (1975 Ingmar Bergman film) - WA Mozart

    Carmen (1984 Francesco Rossi film) - Georges Bizet

    A Clockwork Orange:

    The Funeral of Queen Mary - Henry Purcell/Walter (now Wendy) Carlos

    The Thieving Magpie - Rossini

    Theme from A Clockwork Orange (Beethoviana) - Walter (now Wendy) Carlos

    Symphony No 9 (Scherzo and Finale) - Beethoven (with some arrangements by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos and Rachel Elkind)

    William Tell Overture - Rossini/Walter (now Wendy) Carlos

    Pomp and Circumstance Marches Nos 1 and 4 - Elgar

    Timesteps - Walter (now Wendy) Carlos

    Overture to the Sun - Terry Tucker

    I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper" - Erika Eigen

    Singin' in the Rain - Nacio Herb Brown/Arthur Freed, sung by Gene Kelly

    Let's hope this question doesn't get deleted like my last one for not being 'question'-y enough!

    12 AnswersClassical10 years ago
  • Longest string quartets?

    A combination of managing a leading UK string quartet AND a strong anal streak which causes me to collect obsessively useless (and sometimes useFUL) information is what is behind this question.

    I think it is widely accepted that Morton Feldman's 'String Quartet' (actually his second work in the medium) is the longest quartet ever written at around 5 hours for a complete performance. The second-longest string quartet I know is the early one in D major (often referred to as No 3, B 18 [no Op No]) by Dvořák, which clocks-in at over an hour and 10 minutes (72-74 minutes in performance, usually). This is a little more than Josef Haydn's String Quartet 'The Seven Last Words' Op 51 which is also nearly an hour and 10 minutes in performance.

    Does anyone know of any other works which can join these giants of the string quartet world?

    Come on - feed my obsession!

    Suggested category: Sports>Tennis (!!)

    7 AnswersClassical10 years ago
  • What do people think of positive discrimination?

    The link below gives information about a new fund available in the UK to help promote the work of woman musicians. For me this is patronising in the extreme. It is akin to patting women on the head and saying "There, there - we know you're not as good as men and can't compete on a level playing field. Therefore, we're going to make some special allowances for you and make it easier for you to get noticed away from the influence of and competition from all those nasty, superior men."

    I have the same objections to ANY form of positive discrimination because of gender, religion, sexual orientation (why there have to be any gay orchestras or choirs is beyond me!) or other possible 'ghettoisation' the 'PC' brigade might decide to inflict on people.

    I was once asked in a professional capacity why there weren't more works by women composers played at the Proms (the world's largest music festival, promoted by the BBC and held over two months every summer in London ( My initial answer was very simple: "Because there are a lot fewer women composers than men - especially if one looks back in history." The answer came back "But don't you think we should be setting-aside a percentage of performance time in concerts for women composers?" My reply: "Even if that percentage is completely misrepresentational? Even if the music isn't very good in some cases? Isn't that a but patronising? Where do we stop? Should we have quotas for gay composers? For Jewish ones? For Muslim ones? For disabled composers as well?" "Of course not", they said "Then why do women need special help just because they are female? Femininity is neither an illness nor a disability, is it?"

    My very non-PC answer (regulars here will know I have no truck whatsoever with 'PC') rendered my colleague into bemused silence.

    I know that in many walks of life and in some professions, men are still dominant. Sometimes this is because of the perpetuation of discrimination. Sometimes it is simply because a job/task might be unsuitable for most women (let's not kid ourselves - men and women ARE different - that's why the human species is still here).

    In music, there is very little discrimination. Outside the world of conducting (where I admit women still have to prove them selves to some), women are doing very well in music and surely need no patronising effotrs at all.

    So why do we need special pockets of money put aside for women? I would, of course, be particularly interested to get the view of women contributors here.

    8 AnswersClassical10 years ago
  • Can anyone condone Bocellism after hearing this?

    I am grateful to a fellow contributor to a classical music forum for bringing this to my attention.

    For those who seem to believe that the Bocellism is anything other than a fraud of marketing hype, I would urge them to listen to this stomach-churning effort from Donizetti's 'La fille du régiment', the famous tenor aria 'Pour mon âme'.

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    Then listen to it sung by a REAL tenor (in this case the late, great Pavarotti - who for some inexplicable reason - perhaps when he had wax in his ears - advocated the Bocellism's 'art').

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    I would read with interest any meaningful defences of the great unseeing fraud that is the Bocellism.

    6 AnswersClassical10 years ago
  • Henryk Górecki died today?

    I have just heard that the Polish composer Henryk Górecki died earlier today, a little short of his 77th birthday.

    I thought this might be an appropriate time to appraise his contribution to 20th-century music. Many will be familiar with his surprise 'hit', the 3rd Symphony ('Symphony of Sorrowful Songs'), but I would be interested to learn which other works of his people have heard and your opinion of them.

    4 AnswersClassical1 decade ago
  • Phoney use of foreign versions of orchestra names?

    I have noticed a very recent phenomenon - that of calling the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra the Berliner Philharmoniker. I have even heard the hallowed BBC doing it. Now, I realise, of course, that 'Berliner Philharmoniker' is what Germans call the Orchestra in German, but why have English-speaking people started to do it? Are we to now to refer to orchestras and ensembles by their name in their home language? If so, why are people not referring to (just examples) 'Het Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest' (the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra), the 'Wiener Philharmoniker' (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) or even the 'Российский Hациональный Oркестр' (Rossiiskiy Natsionalniy Orkestr - Russian National Orchestra)?

    It smacks very loudly to me of affected pretentiousness to me. What do others think? Have you come across any similar anomalies such as this?

    And what about the names of operas and other works? I know that in the USA, nearly all titles are translated into English, although some (eg 'La traviata', 'Il trovatore', 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik' remain in their native languages. How have such inconsistencies arisen, do you think?

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    11 AnswersClassical1 decade ago
  • Trying to remember a superb Mexican film on TV from around 5-6 years ago?

    Now, I usually don't have time for vague questions, so I will try to be as specific as I can.

    Around 2004 or 2005 there was an excellent Mexican (I think it was Mexican, but it MIGHT have been Spanish)(here we go!) film on Channel 4 (or Film 4). My recollection is that it was about a group of people in the desert under siege from a group of rather nasty 'bandits'. The film followed the struggle of the besieged people in outwitting and defeating the bandits to escape. I seem to remember a young boy escaping and trying to reach help, a scene with a large truck (either someone escaping or being captured) and a rather bloody ending to the film.

    I know this is a long shot, but I want to try to get the film on DVD. None of the lists of 'top Mexican films' have revealed this among them and so I am hoping that someone else might have seen this film and can point me in the right direction.

    Fingers crossed!

    3 AnswersMovies1 decade ago
  • Your favourite 'spoof' compositions?

    Seeing the answer to a question earlier reminded me of 'Caccini's' now quite famous 'Ave Maria'. Those 'in the know' will probably be aware that this piece is not by Caccini at all (how 16th century does it sound to your ears?), but by 20th-century Russian composer Vladimir Vavilov (1925-73). As well as 'rediscovering' Caccini's 'Ave Maria', Vavilov perpetrated a number of other musical hoaxes, mostly famous the 'Canzona' by Francesco da Milano (another 16th-century composer who had nothing to do with the piece attributed to him) which later became very successful with added words as the song 'The City of Gold'.

    The fake 'Albinoni' Adagio aside (written in the 1950s by Remo Giazzotto), what other musical 'spoofs' are you are of?

    11 AnswersClassical1 decade ago