Damian Thompson

Grave goods

There’s a folder in my computer’s external hard drive in which you’ll find 24 complete recordings of the Bach Cello Suites, 100 recordings of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, 97 of his Sixth, 107 of his Seventh, 65 of Bruckner’s Seventh, 26 of Debussy’s La Mer, 44 Fauré Requiems, 25 Mozart Requiems, 79 Mahler Sixths and 45

Arts feature

Muslim magic

In 1402, when the Turkic conqueror Temur, better known in the West as Tamerlane, was poised to do battle with the mighty Ottoman Sultan Bayazid I, the greatest power in the Muslim world, he called in the astrologers. Knowing which side their bread was buttered on, the court officials duly pronounced that the planets were


Box of tricks

Travesties is a multi-layered confection of art, song, literature and pastiche. Tiny snippets of it are true. In Zurich, in 1917, James Joyce directed a production of The Importance of Being Earnest featuring a British diplomat, Henry Carr, in the role of Algy. Joyce and Carr fell out over the costume budget and became embroiled


Sinful treat

Shiny swags of gold cloth hang in front of the curtain before David McVicar’s production of Der Rosenkavalier, and that’s good. You want a touch of luxury in a Rosenkavalier. This is 20th-century opera’s great sinful, indulgent treat. Think of it and you think of Karajan and Schwarzkopf: huge creamy voices, silken Viennese strings, and


Revenge of the robots

The other day James Lovelock, the sprightly 97-year-old inventor of Gaia theory, told a mildly surprised Guardian interviewer that he wasn’t remotely worried about climate change any more. A far more plausible threat, he explained, were all the killer robots that would soon emerge and find no use for us inconvenient humans. Apparently this is


Overshadowing all the rest

We don’t know what Caravaggio himself would have made of Beyond Caravaggio, the new exhibition at the National Gallery which is devoted to his own work and that of his numerous followers. But, by chance, we do have a very good idea what he would have said at least of one exhibit: ‘The Ecstasy of


Going nowhere fast – and loud

As a general rule, I would not wish to spend nearly three hours in a mini-van with young people who turn up the music real loud. As a general rule, being the age I am, I would go to any lengths to avoid such an experience. But American Honey is a film by Andrea Arnold


It’s (still) a man’s world

When Jane Garvey announced to the audience who had just ‘taken part’ in the 70th birthday celebrations of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on Monday morning that a woman listener had sent in an email asking, ‘Why do we need a programme like this in 2016?’, she almost caused a riot in the BBC Radio Theatre.