Arts feature

God’s architect

Somewhat magnificently, I made the notes for this article sitting in the back of a Rolls-Royce travelling between London and Goodwood. It’s a journey that provides ample evidence of how the classical language of architecture, at least in Palladio’s version, has infiltrated our imaginations and informed our concept of grandeur. I find Palladio’s spirit in

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Martian moves

Every August when London dims, Edinburgh calls, promising nothing less than ‘the greats of the arts’ at the International Festival. As if this beautiful, haunting city wasn’t enough enticement, I always pack high expectations for the EdFest, which in the past has delivered some staggeringly good international dance events that commercially biased London could not


Edinburgh on Thames

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical offers a brand new song-and-dance spectacular at every performance. It opens with a brilliantly chaotic piece of comedy. A theatre producer on stage telephones Cameron Mackintosh and pitches him a new musical. Mackintosh answers and the producer invites ideas from the audience. ‘What’s the setting?’ Someone yelled ‘Late-night sauna’ at the



Richard Strauss’s Daphne is one of the operas he wrote during the excruciatingly long Indian summer of his composing life, where he seems, in one work after another, to be looking for a subject worthy of his skills, and only finding one in Capriccio, his last opera. For that, he and his ideal interpreter Clemens


Will he was

In 2011, the Daily Mail carried a long story about how the Queen’s cousin Prince William of Gloucester, who died in a plane crash aged 30, had been Prince Charles’s boyhood idol. (Our own Prince William, it claimed, was named after him.) In passing, it tactfully informed us that William’s ex-girlfriend Zsuzsi Starkloff ‘no longer


The only art is Essex

When I went to visit Edward Bawden he vigorously denied that there were any modern painters in Essex. That may not have been true then — this was in the 1980s — or even now. What is indisputable, however, is that there have been plenty of artists in the county. They are the subject of


All from nothing

Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as a long married couple whose relationship is disturbed by a letter relating to his first girlfriend, a German who died in the Swiss alps 50 years earlier. Aside from that, not much happens. A shopping trip to Norwich is about as exciting as it


The BBC’s music man

To Radio 2 to meet Bob Shennan, controller of the BBC’s most popular radio station (the station attracts one third of all listening hours) and now also head of the newish monolith that is BBC Music. Why corral all of the Corporation’s music output on radio and TV into one enormous sub-division (on a par