Masterpieces From the National Gallery
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This year the National Gallery is sending 52 of its great paintings on a tour of Asia which will continue until the middle of 2024. This tour will build on the great success of the exhibition highlighted in this video. It was made in 2020 when the National Gallery took a selection of its best pictures to Tokyo, to be exhibited in the Japanese National Museum of Western Art.
This was the first ever large-scale exhibition drawn from the collection of London’s National Gallery to be presented outside the UK. Through an extensive selection of 61 masterpieces from the gallery’s collection, all shown in Japan for the first time, the exhibition gave an overview of the history of European painting by exploring the reciprocal relationship between British and continental European art.
There’s rather a long introduction in Japanese but it’s worth persevering as the commentary is soon taken over in English by the Natl Gallery’s Head Curator, Christine Riding (she’s got a much longer and more complicated title but it boils down to head curator).
She’s a bit stiff when talking to the camera but she really knows her stuff and is able to give a splendid forensic examination of the Gallery’s masterpieces, starting, unsurprisingly, with the Italian Renaissance. She then ranges, knowledgably, through Vermeer and the Dutch Golden Age, into Van Dyck and British portraiture, Canaletto and the Grand Tour, to The Discovery of Spain. Riding then carefully leads us through an explanation of landscape painting, particularly that of JMW Turner. The final section of the exhibition was French Modern Painting in Britain which inevitably means Van Gogh.
If you watch this enthralling video (or any other long form video) on YouTube you will be plagued by commercial ads, often dropped in at inopportune moments. There is a way to avoid this for a small fee which is well worth it so that you can watch your shows uninterrupted. Or you can just click Skip Ads.
Trilogia sobre la guitarra – National Theatre of Catalonia
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This is a programme that requires a premium subscription to Medici. If you love classical music in all its forms, you may well want to subscribe as they have some wonderful programmes. This is a case in point – this three-part celebration of Flamenco from one of Spain’s most celebrated exponents, Rocío Molina, with music by the great flamenco guitarist Rafael Riqueni.
The Trilogia sobre la guitarra is a study of the guitar and its relationship with the fundamental elements of flamenco. In fact, the three works (this is the first) try to deconstruct the traditional features of the instrument, in order to discover the creative momentum that animates its playing.
It is under the sign of authenticity, then, that Rocío Molina links every gesture of her body to the universality of the human experience: in Inicio (Uno), she embarks, with great aesthetic delicacy, in a celebration of the subtle ties that make us belong to a whole.
The guitar playing of Rafael Riqueni becomes the sound fabric on which takes shape this intimate connection between dance and music, between the personal and the universal, as if it marked, beating as one, the rhythm of our earth.
As the title indicates, this is the first of three programmes. There are two more which will be available soon on Medici, taking the flamenco story further.
Tom Borrow - Bach, Franck, Rachmaninov - Wigmore Hall
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Tom Borrow is a young Israeli pianist, only 23, who has won every competition in his native land and played as soloist with every one of its orchestras. With only 36 hours’ notice, he was asked to replace pianist Khatia Buniatishvili in a series of 12 concerts with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. At the last minute, he performed Ravel's Piano Concerto in G to sensational public and critical acclaim.
The chief music critic of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, Yossi Schifmann, hailed his performance as "brilliant... outstanding", ending his review with the words, "Tom Borrow is already a star and we will all surely hear more about him".
He has been singled out as ‘one to watch’ by both Gramophone and International Piano, as well as being named Musical America’s New Artist of the Month – and is also currently a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. ‘In a world teeming with young pianists,’ wrote the Cleveland Plain Dealer, ‘Borrow stands out.’
On May 1 he makes his Wigmore Hall concert with:
Johann Sebastian Bach’s Italian Concerto in F,
Cesar Franck’s Prelude, Choral et Fugue
Sergey Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Corelli Op. 42
This demanding concert will be live streamed on May 1 on Wigmore Hall’s website and will be available on this website in HD on demand for 30 days after the date of the broadcast.
Phantom of the Opera – 25th Anniversary production
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Amid much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, many crocodile tears and some real ones, and a lot of recollections from all those who have been associated with it in any way, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s now-classic musical closed last week after 35 years, the longest-running musical in Broadway history by a very long way.
Do you remember seeing Phantom in London or in New York? Are you one of those who became addicted, seeing it dozens if not hundreds of times? Were you excited by the chandelier or left cold by the music? Did you fall in love with the first Christine, Sarah Brightman or with the most recent, Emilie Kouatchou, the first Black Christine Daae?
I saw it at the beginning, when it first opened in London. Andrew Lloyd Webber had fallen madly in love with a young dancer from Cats, Sarah Brightman, and was determined to make her a star. He wrote Phantom of the Opera for her, a Beauty and the Beast story in which he envisaged her as the Beauty and himself as the Beast. It is ridiculous to call Phantom a ‘hit’ or a ‘mega-hit’ or anything other than to call it what it is, perhaps the most successful piece of musical theatre of all time.
Thinking back 10 years, when Phantom was a mere 25 years old, its producer, Cameron Mackintosh produced a celebratory spectacular staging of the musical at London’s immense Albert Hall, on a scale which had never been seen before. Inspired by the original staging by Hal Prince and Gillian Lynne, this lavish, fully-staged production set in the sumptuous Victorian splendour of the Albert Hall featured a cast and orchestra of more than 200, plus guest appearances.
I was there then too, that night, not having seen the show in the intervening years, and, despite myself, was impressed all over again. Mackintosh sensibly had that show filmed and this is it.
I thought you too might like to see it, this 25th Anniversary production, to compare your impressions with what you thought when you first saw the show. Or even just to enjoy the Lloyd Webber melodies that originated in it. They contain the best of Lloyd Webber and you may have forgotten that his best is pretty damn good.
One more thing. If you’re a fan and have watched the whole show, don’t turn it off at the end. Keep watching until the final credits because an amazing selection of former cast members, going all the way back to the first cast, come to the stage and sing. Definitely worth seeing.
For Phantom nuts, it’s a must.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.