Michael Kennedy

Happy 80th birthday, Dame Janet Baker

Raise your glass on 21 August to wish a happy 80th birthday to one of the greatest singers and singing actresses this or any other country has produced — Dame Janet Baker, the mezzo-soprano from Yorkshire, who never went to a music college and won the hearts of her audiences in a career spanning 35

The dark side of Benjamin Britten

We are only two months into the Britten centenary year and already books, articles and talks (and, of course, performances) swell the flood of existing biographical studies and the six bulky volumes of diaries and letters. Dead for less than 40 years, Britten is as copiously documented as any English composer except Elgar. Have emails

The unforgettable Ferrier

On the centenary of her birth, Michael Kennedy pays homage to ‘Klever Kaff’, occasional golfer, and inventor of Rabelaisian limericks Was she as wonderful an artist and woman as legend has it? Yes. Everything is true that has been said or written about the contralto Kathleen Ferrier, the centenary of whose birth is 22 April.

A golden age

Was there a golden age of English music a hundred years ago? From today’s vantage-point there probably was. Was there a golden age of English music a hundred years ago? From today’s vantage-point there probably was. The years 1910 and 1911 still excite the imagination as one contemplates the extraordinary richness of the new works

Mahler’s mass following

It is 150 years since the composer’s birth. Michael Kennedy on his remarkable popularity Approaching 60 years of writing music criticism, I have been wondering what I would nominate as the most remarkable changes on the British musical scene since I started. I decided there were three: the emergence of Mahler as a popular composer

Legacy of an Eminent Victorian

‘Mr Hallé’s Band’ began giving concerts 150 years ago. Michael Kennedy on the great orchestra On the wet evening of 30 January 1858 in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, which had been opened only two years previously, the 38-year-old Charles Hallé launched his privately funded series of orchestral concerts. On the same date next week,

Fighting Finn

Where does Sibelius stand today? Twenty years ago, the answer would have been not very high. Today, 50 years after his death, I think it would be ‘on the up’ again, especially as we now know not just the symphonies and tone-poems but also the wonderful songs in performances by Karita Mattila, Soile Isokoski, Anne

A new home rich in history

With its move into 22 Old Queen Street, The Spectator will occupy a house full of friendly ghosts and memories of grand occasions in the world of the arts in the first quarter of the 20th century. For this elegant mansion in Westminster was for over 30 years the London home of Leo Frank Schuster,