Stephen Pettitt

Capturing a moment

Stephen Pettitt on how Sir Roger Norrington and others started the debate about ‘authenticity’ In the late 1970s, the conductor Sir Roger Norrington, at the time in charge of the late and lamented Kent Opera, created the London Classical Players. With this act Norrington, who has just turned 75, joined a small group of musicians

A perfect cadence

This year, on 11 December — and I wish more people knew about it than actually do — the American composer Elliott Carter celebrates his 100th birthday. This year, on 11 December — and I wish more people knew about it than actually do — the American composer Elliott Carter celebrates his 100th birthday. At

Drama at the opera

Stephen Pettitt celebrates the new wave of masterful British productions Samuel Johnson famously defined opera in his A Dictionary of the English Language as ‘an exotic and irrational entertainment’. It’s possibly the most overquoted quotation concerning the subject, but in 1755, when the dictionary was published, he probably had a point. Opera, which for some

To finish or not to finish?

Here’s your starter for ten. What’s the most famous unfinished piece of classical music in the world? Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony, his Symphony No. 8, of course, which is usually played as a two-movement torso, bereft of the Scherzo and finale which a symphony of its provenance would normally include. Usually, but not always. The latest

A fine balance

The word ‘virtuoso’ is often bandied about. Stephen Pettitt explains what it means to him Serious music critics — and I do not except myself from the breed — have many tendencies that mark them out from the rest of society. One of them is the habit of bandying around the word ‘virtuoso’. We know

Heroes of the concert hall

Before getting down to some hard iconoclasm, let me first declare that to me all tenors, no matter what music they sing, nor even how well or badly they sing it, are heroes. Not because they tend to get heroes’ parts, but simply because of what they do, physically. Never blessed with much of a

Making arrangements

Recently I found myself lured for the second time in as many years to what is surely one of the most alluring music festivals in the world, the Handel Festival in Göttingen, Germany, which has survived — nay, flourished — for more than 80 years now, come hell, high water and Hitler. It’s alluring in

Orchestrating support

I am in Raleigh, North Carolina, unexpectedly invited here by my old friend Grant Llewellyn, who is in his first season as music director of the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra and enjoying both the challenge and the celebrity status it gives him in the university- and technology-rich region known as The Triangle. Llewellyn has been

Festive spirit

Each year the same thing happens. Each year we’re expected to suspend for a month the exercise of sound musical judgment as we’re engulfed, willingly or otherwise, in a deluge of Christmas Music. All of a sudden, banality in various guises becomes completely acceptable. Every church in the land that hasn’t descended to the satanic