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Damian Thompson rss

Damian Thompson is an associate editor of The Spectator

pope-vs-vatican

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

Sir Clifford Curzon playing at his home in Highgate Photo:  Getty

I know how to cure my music addiction

18 January 2014

About 30 years ago, not long before he died, my father bought an LP of Sir Clifford Curzon playing Schubert’s last piano sonata, in B flat D960. He was slightly… Read more

Ludwig van Beethoven Photo: Getty

Music to listen to when you've broken up with a precious friend

14 December 2013

Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata is thrilling and brain-twisting. Its nickname derives from the fact that it was published as a sonata ‘for the hammer-action keyboard’, which just means a piano. But… Read more

Maria Callas and Franco Zeffirelli after a production of Puccini's 'Tosca' (Image: Getty)

Damian Thompson: I may be in danger of becoming an opera queen

26 October 2013

It’s taken 40 years, but I’ve finally developed a taste for the one type of classical music that I couldn’t stand. And last week I broke the news to the… Read more

James MacMillan

Music at Mass is theological warfare by other means

28 September 2013

How many battles have been fought over sacred music throughout history? The noise you make when you worship is a big deal: those who control it can shape everything from… Read more

The former Julio Prestes station houses the Sala São Paulo, home to the São Paulo State Symphonic Orchestra

A world-class orchestra in the heart of São Paulo’s Crackland

7 September 2013

São Paulo has a concert hall that London’s orchestras would kill for. It was originally a railway station, a mighty space bounded by Corinthian pilasters in the style of a… Read more

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Why has nobody heard of the miraculous Czech composer Zelenka?

27 July 2013

When I was in my late twenties I discovered the joy of drinking alone. Well, perhaps ‘joy’ is putting it too strongly. I’d been thrown out of the flat I… Read more

God Squad

The new God squad: what Archbishop Welby and Pope Francis have in common

6 July 2013

It’s a few weeks after the election of Pope Francis, and a notoriously leaky church source is talking about the revolution to come. The new leader of the faithful is… Read more

German composers Robert Alexander Schumann and wife Clara Photo: Getty

The syphilitic sound of Schumann’s violin concerto is part of its genius

29 June 2013

Robert Schumann met a wretched end. He died in a lunatic asylum where he thought the nurses were feeding him human faeces. Meanwhile he drove his fellow residents mad by… Read more

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Four recordings of Beethoven’s Ninth on a £10 app

25 May 2013

Last weekend my iPad sucked me deeper into Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony than I thought possible. Deutsche Grammophon and Touch Press have released an app devoted to the work that rendered… Read more

Are today's composers up to the challenge of writing sublime music?

27 April 2013

When we describe music as ‘sublime’, what do we mean? For the Romans, sublimis signified greatness beyond measure. In the 18th century, Englishmen looked to The Spectator for clarification. Joseph… Read more

Image: Getty

Beethoven at dinner parties: how to bluff it

16 March 2013

I’ve just been reunited with a man whose pungent and patronising views on great composers have haunted me for more than 30 years. His name is Gervase Hughes, and I’ve… Read more

Rediscovering Spotify

26 January 2013

All my life I’ve wanted to be able to write confidently about orchestral performances and I think I may have cracked it. So forgive me while I show off for… Read more

htb

Alpha male

15 December 2012

Just before stepping down as Archbishop of Canterbury, the late Robert Runcie told me — in a sotto voce conversation during the General Synod — that charismatic evangelical parishes such… Read more

Matchless mono

24 November 2012

Record companies: if you insist on sending CDs to my home address without so much as a covering note or a press release, well, that’s just fine by me. West… Read more

Blind spot

27 October 2012

Do you have a mysterious and slightly embarrassing musical blind spot? One of mine is for Dvorák, whom I don’t need to be told is a great composer. Maybe it… Read more

Panic attack

29 September 2012

If you want to make yourself unpopular with a classical musician, bring up the subject of performance anxiety. You can ask soloists how they remember tens of thousands of notes,… Read more