Even old masters had off days

Tom Lubbock makes the refreshing discovery that, hundreds of years ago, artists were just as capable of being superficial, vacant and cynical as they are today

Classical Music: Fiddling with the rules

Andrew Stewart talks to Andrew Manze, a violinist putting the jazz back into baroque music

Theatre Review: No sad songs, it's simply sunshine

Kristin Hersh: Inventing America Barbican, London

Obitaury: Bert Haanstra

Like Gilbert Adair [obituary of Bert Haanstra, 28 October], I gritted my teeth through most of the "supporting programme" shorts that were screened at art houses in the Fifties and Sixties, writes Timothy Gee. Our recollections differ, though, in the case of Bert Haanstra's documentaries.

Tuesday's book: Younger Brother, Younger Son by Colin Clark

Philip Roth once said that when a writer is born into a family, the family is finished. This excellent dictum has been outmoded by publishing practice. Nowadays everyone is a writer, and families are in revolt.

A heartfelt plea for Clemenza; MUSIC

We All Know La Clemenza di Tito as the opera in which Mozart, in the last year of his life, revisited the old, dying-on-their-feet conventions of baroque opera seria he abandoned years before. And so we think of it as musically regressive, staid, a touch dull: inexplicable as the exact contemporary of Zauberflote and the Requiem. That Mozart has improved on the conventions, slimming down the arias and sharpening the pace, eludes us. And while Titus's grapeshot forgiveness for everyone in the cast who has abused his kindness, torched his capital and tried to murder him may have struck 18th-century audiences as clemency, to us it seems more like a failure of imagination. Not much substitute for the diverting spectacleof vengeance.


A Concert for Dr Eric Fenby takes place at the Wigmore Hall London W1 (0171-935 2141) on 16 Sept at 7.30pm

Cirque Baroque

The New circus movement has incorporated many unlikely elements, from chain-saws to singing ducks, but how's this for a new twist: a big- top spectacle based on a work of classical French literature. Cirque Baroque's show Candides roughly traces the plot of Voltaire's satirical conte philosophique, putting its eponymous hero (represented by several commedia-style performers, hence the title's plural) through the hoops of life's vicissitudes. We see a white-faced Candide dancing on a highwire (sans safety net, of course), another balancing his partner Cunegonde on a 20ft pole, and the pair surviving the crossfire of an executioner-corps of jugglers (among them Michel Arias, above).


You may feel like cultivating your garden and doing a Dr Pangloss if you win one of 10 pairs of tickets that we have on offer for Cirque Baroque's latest production, Candides, which plays in London at Three Mills Island Green, Bromley by Bow until 21 Sept.


Cirque Baroque: Leith Links, Edinburgh (0131-477 7200) to 31 Aug; Three Mills Island, Bromley-by-Bow, London E3 (0171-494 5491) 5-21 Sept; Chorlton Park, Manchester (0161- 236 7110/832 1111) 24 Sept-5 Oct

Send off the clowns

The "ooh-aah" factor is out... Instead Cirque Baroque aims to touch our feelings with its Big Top `Candides'

PROMS 1997 Bach Evening Royal Albert Hall, London / BBC Radio 3

Visitors to Monday night's Bach Prom by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir under Ton Koopman might have been forgiven for mistaking Cantata No 214's "Sound, ye drums! Ring out, trumpets!" for the opening chorus of Bach's Christmas Oratorio. In fact, the two are virtually identical. The cantata was composed to celebrate the birthday of Maria Josepha, Queen of Poland, and received its first performance, in all probability, at Zimmermann's coffee house - a less spacious acoustic, one supposes, than the Royal Albert Hall. Chorus and timpani rang resplendent, but baroque flutes and oboes quite failed to project and certain string lines flatly refused to leave the stage. There's little doubt that, when it comes to Bach for orchestra, the RAH is best served by modern instruments or, better still, by the lavish orchestrations of Sir Henry Wood, Stokowski or Respighi. Monday's performance, however, had all the expected Koopman characteristics: crisp, buoyant rhythms, keenly attenuated phrasing and - as far as one could tell - sensitive balancing between instrumental choirs. Soprano Suzie LeBlanc exhibited admirable agility but occasionally sounded off-colour, whereas alto Elisabeth von Magnus was prone to stumble over her "Gentle muses". Tenor Mark Padmore and bass Klaus Mertens were uniformly excellent, and the chorus superb.

CLASSICAL Lufthansa Baroque Festival St James's, Piccadilly

The career-minded musicologist could happily establish a reputation for perceptive scholarship without ever listening to a note of a particular composer's output, toiling among the archives to become an expert on the same composer's life and times. Joshua Rifkin, whose expertise is most closely associated with the works of JS Bach and the ragtime king Scott Joplin, is a paid-up member of the scholar performer community, one of those rare birds with the ability to test theory against practice and challenge the lifetime performing habits of other musicians. Almost two decades after Rifkin suggested that Bach's choral works were effectively performed using one voice per part, the case for and against is still being rehearsed in learned journals and condemned by conductors who prefer the sound of a "big" choir.

Rembrandt found in antique shop

A lost work by Rembrandt, hidden for four centuries, has been discovered on the back of an oil painting sold by a Yorkshire antique shop.

It's baroque, but don't fix it

Essay: Concluding his series on the constitution, Richard D North defends our imperfect version of democracy and exposes the myth of a centralise d Britain in the grip of the ruling class
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