The decade the music died

For much of the past half-century, London has been the world’s orchestral capital. Not always in quality, but numerically without rival. Five full symphony orchestras and twice as many pint-sized ones kept up a constant clamour for attention. Each month brought new recordings with premier artists. Every orchestra had its own ethos, history and thumbprint.

Arts feature

Concrete cuckoo

The Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council provides a salutary example of a tiny ‘elite’ foisting ‘anti-elitist’ practices on the ‘non-elite’ — and coming a cropper. Vatican II’s dates are important. The Council was convened in 1962 and concluded in December 1965. These were the high years of the most uncompromising architectural modernism and, just as

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First Bourne

‘Modern’ dance was no laughing matter in 1987. Harold King, director of the now-defunct London City Ballet, cattily typified it as ‘lesbians in bovver boots playing a mouth organ and banging a drum on the banks of the Thames’. Camp, funny and unashamedly ‘accessible’, even Matthew Bourne’s earliest efforts were a far cry from the


Law in action

It’s like Raging Bull. The great Scorsese movie asks if a professional boxer can exclude violence from his family life. Nina Raine’s new play Consent puts the same question to criminal barristers. We meet four lawyers engaged in cases of varying unpleasantness who like to share a drink after a long day in court. They


Country pleasures

The English weren’t the first cowpat composers. Jean-Philippe Rameau raised the art of frolicking in the fields to such heights he filched pastoralism for the French. Rameau’s mastery of landscape is not just a question of orchestral colour, though that’s a large part of it — those goaty oboes, lowing bassoons, cooing flutes transport you


Look back in anger | 12 April 2017

‘What we really need is a faux-historical drama series about police brutality and black activism set in 1970s London,’ said no TV viewer, ever. But TV commissioning editors have more important priorities, these days, than mere plausibility, entertainment or value-for-subscription fee. So naturally, when the chance arose to make Guerrilla (Sky Atlantic, Thursday) — a


The good, the indifferent and the simply awful

‘There is only one thing worse than homosexual art,’ the painter Patrick Procktor was once heard to declare at a private view in the 1960s. ‘And that’s heterosexual art.’ It would have been intriguing to hear his views on Queer British Art at Tate Britain. All the more so since it includes several of his


Seeking closure | 12 April 2017

The Sense of an Ending is an adaptation of Julian Barnes’s 2011 Man Booker prize-winning novel starring Jim Broadbent (we love Jim Broadbent), Harriet Walter (we love Harriet Walter) and Charlotte Rampling (we love, love, love Charlotte Rampling). With such a cast, you’d be minded to think it can’t fail, and it doesn’t in this


Tales of the unexpected | 12 April 2017

It’s the oddest place to find a profound meditation on the death of Christ, but there it is on Radio 2 every year on the night of Good Friday, on the ‘light music’ station, and not on Radio 3 or Radio 4, where you might expect to find it. This year At the Foot of