Nov 27

Queen of crime fiction P.D. James dies at 94

PD James not-so-old
Phyllis Dorothy James OBE, the British writer known as P.D. James, died this morning at her home in Oxford at the age of 94.
Most famous for her crime fiction, she had published nineteen novels, two non-fiction books, and an autobiography. Her best-loved creation, detective Adam Dalgliesh, first appeared in her 1962 début novel Cover Her Face, and went on to feature in most of her works. “I gave him the qualities I admire,” James explained in 2001, “because I hoped he might be an enduring character and that being so, I must actually like him.”
PD James painting by Zsuzsi Robez
James also created a female detective: Cordelia Gray was the protagonist of two novels, An Unsuitable Job For A Woman and The Skull Beneath the Skin.
The author found worldwide fame with her 1980 novel Innocent Blood, which was so successful that she immediately retired from her job at the Home Office. Alfonso Cuarón made her 1992 book The Children of Men into a well-received film in 2005.
A.S. Byatt, Booker Prize-winner, said in an interview: “She attended to detail and knew about chemistry and the nature of poisons and stabbings. She was always in control and always knew where she was going and what would happen.”
PD James old
Photos by Louis Monier and Nigel Sutton
Painting by Zsuzsi Roboz
Nov 20

Former National Youth Orchestra director Ivey Dickson dies aged 95

Ivey Dickson OBE, hugely acclaimed pianist and long-time director of the National Youth Orchestra (NYO), died on 8 November at the age of 95.

Dickson took up the piano at age 3, under the tutelage of her mother, and by her late teens had won hundreds of music prizes. Many of these had been earned during her time at the Royal Academy of Music, to which she won the Liszt Scholarship. Described by the Radio Who’s Who in 1947 as being “in the front rank of the younger pianists”, her fifth and final Proms performance was the following year, when she played Dohnányi’s ‘Variations on a Nursery Song’ under Malcolm Sargent. Her legacy lived on in the NYO, however, which has appeared at the Proms almost annually since the 1970s, with conductors such as Pierre Boulez making their presence – and by proxy, that of Dickson – very much felt. She was also director of the NYO when Simon Rattle, now principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, was a fledgling member.

Between 1966 and 1984 Dickson ran and modernised the NYO, introducing works by Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Bartók to the Orchestra’s repertoire, and installing Boulez as conductor. She was seen by many musicians, particularly younger ones, as rather intimidating; but she expected perfection from her Orchestra, and wanted everyone to be able to prove themselves. She personally travelled around the country to audition over 800 NYO applicants annually.

48013_Simon Rattle with Ivey copy


48010_Simon Rattle with Ivey copy

Nov 06

Prima ballerina Sylvie Guillem to retire from performing

The French dancer will perform her swansong in London in May, as part of a world tour that culminates in Tokyo in December 2015, ten months after she hits her fiftieth birthday in February.

Guillem said yesterday in a statement delivered at Sadler’s Wells: “So why stop? Very simply, because I want to end while I am still happy doing what I do with pride and passion.

“I have been on an exhilarating journey,” she added, “and now I’m about to change direction.” She has yet to provide further details of this direction.

From 1989 to 2006, Guillem – a protégée of Rudolf Nureyev – forged a career as principal guest artist with the Royal Ballet, after five years with the Paris Opera Ballet. She has realised some of the last century’s most profound and important ballet heroines, including Juliet, Marguerite and Manon, while convincing the Royal Ballet to “modernise” – as could be seen in Broken Fall, her collaboration with Russell Maliphant and the BalletBoyz [sic].

Unlike her colleague Darcy Bussell, who retired from dance early, Guillem continued to perform onstage, organising her own projects and turning them into huge successes, such as Push and Sacred Monsters (which returns to Sadler’s Wells later this month).

A final programme at Sadler’s Wells entitled Life in Progress will see her bowing out; it will celebrate her career as well as the work of some of her most influential choreographers, including Akram Khan, Mats Ek and William Forsythe.

Prima ballerina, Sylvie Guillem in rehearsals for 'Marguerite and Armand', Royal Ballet production, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. Choreography and libretto by Frederick Ashton.

Sylvie Guillem and Carlos Acosta rehearsing

Sylvie Guillem

Photos by Laurie Lewis.

Oct 30

Two welcome reissues from Deutsche Grammophon

Two welcome reissues from Deutsche Grammophon.

One is of Leonard Bernstein conducting his 1985 version of the musical West Side Story with Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras, Tatiana Troyanos, Kurt Ollmann and Marilyn Horne. Iconic photo of Leonard Bernstein on the back cover is by Lebrecht photographer Don Hunstein.

The other is a reissue of Heroes Symphony by Philip Glasss in 1996 which was commissioned and performed by the American Composers Orchestra together with Glass’ Concerto for Violin and Orchestra performed by Gidon Kremer, the Wiener Philharmoniker and conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi. Atmospheric photo of Philip Glass is by Lebrecht photographer Thierry Martinot.



Oct 30

Legendary bass-guitarist Jack Bruce 15 May 1943 – 25 October 2014

Jack Bruce, legendary bass-guitarist and co-founder of Cream, died of liver failure on Saturday. Born to musically literate parents in Lanarkshire, Scotland, Bruce attended fourteen different schools before enrolling at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now known as the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Unlike the Conservatoire of today, the Academy looked down on jazz; since Bruce was heavily leaning this way, he left the Academy and toured Italy with the Murray Campbell Big Band. From that point, he would go on to play with some of the more respected and revered musicians in post-war music history, including Alexis Korner, Graham Bond, John McLaughlin, and, most notably, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, with whom he founded Cream in 1966. It was with this outfit – acclaimed by contemporary luminaries such as Jerry Garcia as the “heaviest” band in the world at the time – that Bruce won global fame, pioneering hard rock, heavy metal, psychedelia, and extremely loud improvisation. Their live shows were renowned, and reached such deafening amplitudes that drummer Ginger Baker suffered permanent hearing damage.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their tremendous success (selling either 15 million or 35 million records in two years; estimates vary between the two), Cream disbanded in 1968, having released Wheels of Fire – the world’s first platinum-selling double-album – earlier that year. Bruce went on to pursue other paths, including successful solo releases and collaborations with greats such as Frank Zappa, Tony Williams and Rory Gallagher. His final album,Silver Rails, was released in March 2014 to positive acclaim.

Jack Bruce
© Paul Tomlins/Lebrecht Music & Arts

Jack Bruce
© Paul Tomlins/Lebrecht Music & Arts

Oct 16

Cheltenham Literature Festival photographs now online

Photographs from this year’s Cheltenham Literature Festival are now available to view on Lebrecht photographer, Paul Tomlins, captured a varied selection of the speakers attending this year’s festival, including chef Yotam Ottolenghi, actress Sheila Hancock, writer Howard Jacobson, historian Simon Schama and the Right Reverend Rowan Douglas Williams. Click here to browse more of Paul’s Cheltenham photographs.

309572_Yotam Ottolenghi at the Cheltenham Liter copy

309568_Simon Schama at the Cheltenham Literatur copy

309561_Sheila Hancock signs copies of her lates copy

309554_Howard Jacobson at the Cheltenham Litera copy

309558_The Right Reverend Rowan Williams lectur copy