Radio & TV round-up
Friday 15 March 1996
Music that always sounded wild and exhilarating now reveals a tremendous precision and control, not to speak of an alluring and poetical textural surface. The cosmic power and ornithological joys of Messiaen's Chronochromie provided an exotic foil to Stockhausen's post-expressionist muse, and the fascinating combination of tonality and emergent dodecaphony in Stravinsky's Agon completed the programme.
This week's Composer of the Week was Guillaume de Machaut. This astounding and, to modern ears, radical 14th-century master was brought to life by Antony Pitts and Daniel Leech-Wilkinson in a way that avoided elitism without becoming chatty, a definite plus at a time when Radio 3's tone is under attack in some quarters. His love life and what we know of biographical facts leapt across the seven intervening centuries to touching effect, while works like Le lai de la fonteine made an overwhelming impression.
Despite notable successes, TV has never managed to challenge the authority of radio in broadcasting documentary and dramatised material on musical subjects. The point was focused once more when Channel 4 showed Elgar's Tenth Muse on Tuesday, a short drama about the ageing composer's relationship with the young Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi. The playing of the two protagonists by James Fox and Selma Alispahic was invested with a touching emotional truth, and the filming on location at the composer's Sussex cottage projected a characteristically Elgarian melancholy. But nagging doubts began to emerge.
Elgar was known to be very susceptible where young ladies were concerned, especially during the lonely years after his wife's death, but d'Aranyi is not even mentioned in the standard Elgar biographies. It seems to have been a very minor dalliance and not to be compared to the relationship with Vera Hockman, which lightened his final years.
This programme's claim that d'Aranyi resurrected Elgar's creative belief in the languishing Cello Concerto (beautifully played here by Natalie Clein) is difficult to countenance. And would upper-crust behaviour really have been as bestial as portrayed here in one social gathering? Writer Nigel Gearing and director Paul Yule subtly distorted too many facts in the interest of their own romantic vision. A poignant aura hung over the film, but it was at some remove from reality.
A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 3 World peace? These are the only 11 countries in the world that are actually free from conflict
- 4 Nicki Minaj 'Anaconda': Singer finally releases predictable video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Laughs go global as Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran bring international comedians to the Edinburgh Fringe
The Top Ten: Horrible buildings
JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Best movies on Netflix UK and US: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women