‘Hetero gentile @Adrian_Hilton thinks it’s ok to misrepresent @stephenfry as comparing Putin Russia to holocaust… Imagine being paid to smuther opposition to homophobia. We don’t need bigoted straight people telling us what to do thanks… kindly remove yourself from telling people who suffer an oppression you do not, to shut up about it.’
This was one of the more judgmental but eloquent rants I received from Stephen Fry’s Twitter hordes following my perfectly reasonable question as to why a ban on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics is an ‘essential’ response to Putin’s anti-gay legislation, but no such ban is warranted on the arts. Another of them helpfully advised: ‘Please go jump in a lake. I dare say you can swim, but it might just wash off the stench of smug self-righteousness.’ One of Fry’s more intelligent and articulate followers called me a ‘c**t biscuit t**t’, whatever one of those is. Continue reading →
“An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential,” says Stephen Fry in an impassioned letter to the Prime Minister and the International Olympic Committee, apparently written on behalf of the entire civilised world.
By ‘civilised’, one assumes he means the superior, enlightened and cultured proponents of equality and human rights, as opposed to the barbaric hordes whose primitive tribal impulses seek to outlaw the propagation of ‘non-traditional’ sexual orientations, ban gay-pride marches and prohibit the adoption of children by same-sex couples, as President Putin seems determined to do. Continue reading →
There really couldn’t have been a more fitting climax to the 2012 BBC Proms season. The past eight weeks of world-class music have spanned everything from Beethoven to Broadway; following hard upon the patriotic fervour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; running concurrently with the agonies and ecstasies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It has been a summer unlike any other – and Roger Wright, BBC Proms Director, knew he had to pull something special out of the bag to complement the national mood rather than try to top the bill.
And he did it. The programme was eclectic, patriotic, at times quite exhilarating, and (very wisely) significantly pulled back from last year’s rambling and tacky ‘Down-at-the-Old-Bull-and-Bush’ feel, which had us all singing about pappadums to the tune of ‘Nessun Dorma’, and gave us a pantomime Britannia dressed up like a Christmas tree, but outrageously deprived us of Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Songs. No, this year was perfectly pitched and much better balanced between the classical and the ‘red, white and blue’. It was also broadcast live in 3D at Odeon cinemas across Britain, in addition to the open-air gigs in Belfast, Caerphilly, Glasgow, and the London ‘over-spill’ in Hyde Park. This was great access to a great British institution: the BBC does more every year to expand Henry Wood’s vision of making classical music accessible to the masses. Continue reading →
Historic, patriotic, intoxicating, mesmerising: “Team GB’s heroic success seems to have re-awoken in us our sense of national pride,” wrote Sir Roger Bannister, the first man ever to run a mile in under four minutes, “a realisation perhaps that, as a people, we have the ability, the drive and the determination to be great.”
Sir Roger is one of Britain’s greatest sporting legends, into which pantheon can now be added the likes of Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy – people whose achievements are not merely exceptional, but truly and monumentally great. And that greatness is measured not only in the extent to which a triumph or victory enters the national consciousness – which is ephemeral – but also in proportion to its longevity in the league tables of history: to surpass is admirable, but to pioneer is unique and non-replicable. There is only one who can be the first. Continue reading →
Prom 18: Beethoven Symphony No.9 in D minor, ‘Choral’. Daniel Barenboim conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain (Royal Albert Hall)
“By assiduous labour you shall receive Mozart’s spirit from Haydn’s hands,” mused Count Ferdinand Waldstein, as he packed the young Ludwig van Beethoven off to Vienna to fulfil his dreams. Little could Bonn’s great patron of the arts have known that Beethoven’s own hands would surpass those of Haydn, his tutor, or that his spirit would soar above that of Mozart, his inspiration and muse.
This evening marked the culmination of Daniel Barenboim’s complete Beethoven symphony cycle at the Proms – the first by a single maestro since Henry Wood conducted them in 1942. I have either watched them on TV or listened on Radio 3, and it has been a mesmeric, occasionally revelatory cycle. Continue reading →