Damian Thompson rss

Damian Thompson is an associate editor of The Spectator

Heckler_2may

The Heckler: why does John Eliot Gardiner have to be so rude?

2 May 2015

Sir John Eliot Gardiner is talented almost beyond measure. His Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists and stupidly named Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique have notched up one triumph after another over… Read more

Daniel Barenboim conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Photo: Getty)

Why Daniel Barenboim should be the next head of the Berlin Phil

18 April 2015

Daniel Barenboim is back in town: the South Bank is mounting a ‘Barenboim Project 2015’ in which he’s playing the Schubert piano sonatas and conducting his magnificent Berlin Staatskapelle in… Read more

Maria Callas recording an album for EMI at the Salle Wagram, Paris, in 1963. Photo: Robert Doisneau

The audio anoraks bringing the great vintage recordings back to life

4 April 2015

If there’s one thing people find annoying about classical music anoraks, it’s our passion for vintage recordings. ‘Listen to that ravishing rubato,’ we gush, as an elderly soprano swoops and… Read more

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The spy who snubbed me: 007's Etonian side

28 March 2015

The ginger-haired man in the three-piece suit had been standing at the bar all night, ordering gin and tonics in a proprietorial voice that conveyed unvarnished delight in belonging to a gentleman’s club.… Read more

Simon Rattle with the Berlin Phil at the Barbican. Photo: Mark Allan / Barbican

Classical music's greatest political butt-kissers: Dudamel, Gergiev and Rattle

14 February 2015

On 8 March 2013, Gustavo Dudamel stood by the coffin of the Marxist autocrat Hugo Chavez and conducted the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in the Venezuelan national anthem. He assumed,… Read more

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The march of the new political correctness

7 February 2015

I wonder how many of you know that you’re cis. Not very many, I’m guessing. So let me break this gently. You are almost certainly cis. It is short for… Read more

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Confessions of an illegal downloader

24 January 2015

I’ve never been into shoplifting, though I once had a friend who was. And, no, before you ask, I’m not using that old ‘friend’ device to hide my own identity.… Read more

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This ex-priest’s history of the gospels could unsettle the most faithful churchgoer

13 December 2014
Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age James Carroll

William Collins, pp.352, £14.99, ISBN: 9780008103484

When James Carroll was a boy, lying on the floor watching television, he would glance up at his mother and ‘see her lips moving, only to glimpse the beads in… Read more

The serried ranks of an El Sistema youth orchestra in Caracas, 2012 — a ‘miracle’ that’s turned very sour

Classical music’s dirty little secret

6 December 2014

The two trendiest words in classical music are ‘El Sistema’. That’s the name for the high-intensity programme of instrumental coaching that turned kids from the slums of Venezuela into the… Read more

Christian Blackshaw Photo: Herbie Knott

Is this 65-year-old British pianist the next big thing in classical music?

29 November 2014

Earlier this month the Wigmore Hall was sold out for a Schubert recital by a concert pianist whose only solo recordings consist of two volumes of the Mozart piano sonatas.… Read more

The erotic Mary, left, by Gregor Erhart (c.1515–20) and the penitent Mary, right, by El Greco (c.1577)

No one in the Bible has been as elaborately misrepresented as Mary Magdalene

22 November 2014

How would the real Mary Magdalene have reacted to her posthumous reputation? Not very kindly, one suspects. Our only historical source, the New Testament, does not even hint that she… Read more

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Watch out Pope Francis: the Catholic civil war has begun

8 November 2014

‘At this very critical moment, there is a strong sense that the church is like a ship without a rudder,’ said a prominent Catholic conservative last week. No big deal,… Read more

Composer Alexander Glazunov Photo: Getty

The drunk conductor who ruined Rachmaninov’s career

18 October 2014

Would musical history have turned out differently if Alexander Glazunov hadn’t been smashed out of his wits when he conducted the first performance of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 in D… Read more

Composer Franz Schubert at work Photo: Getty

My Schubert marathon

4 October 2014

On 10 October, the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford will host the first concert in ‘the biggest ever celebration of the life and work of Franz Schubert’. Over three weeks, all… Read more

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Wedding music lives or dies at the hands of the organist

20 September 2014

A few weeks ago I was at the perfect wedding. My young friend Will Heaven, a comment editor at the Telegraph, married the beautiful Lida Mirzaii, his girlfriend since university.… Read more

The BNP Hold A Demonstration In Central London

Is Britain hardening its heart against Muslims?

6 September 2014

British public opinion has never really turned against Muslims. According to Pew’s 2014 Global Attitudes survey, 26 per cent of us have ‘unfavourable’ attitudes towards Muslims in this country; compare… Read more

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Revealed: the Pope's war with the Vatican

23 August 2014

If you want to understand how Pope Francis is planning to change the Catholic church, then don’t waste time searching for clues in the charming, self-effacing press conference he gave… Read more

'Ashtray' Annie, 1956 Photo: Getty

‘Ashtray’ Annie Fischer was a piano giant. Why didn’t more people realise this?

23 August 2014

This year marks the centenary of a pianist whom London orchestral players nicknamed ‘Ashtray Annie’. Only at the keyboard did she have a cigarette out of her mouth. Annie Fischer… Read more

Handel's statue in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner. Photo: Getty

Is Handel’s Messiah anti-Semitic?

19 July 2014

The Hallelujah Chorus crops up in the most unexpected places, says Michael Marissen in his new book about Handel’s Messiah. For example, it’s used in a TV ad ‘depicting frantic… Read more

God-wars

It's not just Islam – a global religious revival is changing politics for ever

28 June 2014

Aren’t Buddhist monks adorable?  They meditate for days without needing to go to the toilet. They talk to each other in ‘grasshopper’ haikus. Their pot bellies are full of wholesome… Read more

Francesco Piemontesi Photo: Felix Broede

I think I've found the new Alfred Brendel

21 June 2014

Can you tell how intelligent a musician is by listening to him play? Last year I discovered a recording of Schumann’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, a sprawling… Read more

British pianist Clifford Curzon Photo: Getty

I could be dead soon. What should I listen to?

24 May 2014

If I live as long as my father, I’ll be checking out on 9 December 2017. Since every man in my family drops dead of a heart attack at a… Read more

A scene painting from Parsifal by Paul Joukovski - 1882 (Photo: Richard Wagner Museum Bayreuth/ Dagli Orti)

In the mood for Parsifal, my Passiontide fare

19 April 2014

This week, I have been mostly listening to Parsifal. Not the St Matthew Passion, which is my usual Passiontide fare. And, boy, it’s been quite an experience. You have to… Read more

Violinist Yehudi Menuhin conducting his 14 year-old son and his two sisters Photo: Getty

Menuhin is the world’s toughest violin competition. Why is it packed with Asians, and no Brits?

22 March 2014

‘The truth is,’ says Gordon Back, lowering his voice, ‘that if the violin finalists from the BBC Young Musician of the Year were to enter the Menuhin Competition, they wouldn’t… Read more

Choristers at Westminster Abbey, 1962 Photo: Getty

Are hymns dying? 

15 February 2014

I love a good hymn, so long as I’m not expected to sing it. Lusty declarations of faith sound ridiculous coming out of my mouth and embarrass the hell out… Read more