Arts and Entertainment

Barbican, London

Style and Design: Items and Icons bamboo

Oh, the new bamboo, the new bamboo. These strong, supple hollow "culms", exotic cousins of the grasses, are in daily use in Asia for utensils, baskets, musical instruments, furniture, even scaffolding. And now, at last, here in Britain, bamboo is coming in from the conservatory to grace our homes.

How to give Mahler a run for his money

Thomas Ades Premiere

PROMS Handel's Jephtha Royal Albert Hall, London / Radio 3

Handel's oratorio Jephtha is respectably Bible-based. But, interestingly, the Old Testament story had to be altered to make it palatable to decent 18th-century Christian ears. Similar legends can be found in many of the world's older cultures: the warrior vows that, if he is successful in battle, he will sacrifice to God (or the gods) the first living creature he meets on his return. Unfortunately it turns out to be his own child. In the Bible, Jephtha's daughter is allowed two months to "mourn her virginity", and then the grisly promise is fulfilled. In Thomas Morell's libretto, written for Handel, a happy - or happier -ending is skilfully engineered. An Angel announces that God could hardly expect his people to go against his own commandments. Jephtha's daughter (Iphis) need not die, she must simply remain a virgin for the rest of her life - not quite so happy for her, or for her valiant lover Hamor, who has been "panting for bliss in vain" since the beginning of Part 1.

Letter: Silence, please, when Mozart plays

Sir: Brian R Moore (letters, 20 August) cannot be allowed the last word. Sacheverell Sitwell's life of Mozart tells us that "when he played, there had to be complete silence, or he would stop at once" and his own letters that he walked out of the box of a man who laughed at the solemn scenes in The Magic Flute. Does that sound like someone who approved of bored concert-goers talking among themselves?

A night of mail music

The Post Office is to be congratulated for sponsoring a particularly interesting concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday. Dull as it may sound, the Royal Mail, Post Office Counters and Parcelforce Worldwide saw a mutual goal - collaboration and communication - in the aims of London Musici's Image, Music, Text. The net was cast wide to include music with text, music with image (in this case film) and music alone... which actually would have been greatly improved by a text or an image. All the music was by British composers, and a more varied lot would have been hard to find. The evening began in cabaret style with Out of the East, a set of six poems by James Fenton on the subject of war with music by Dominic Muldowney. Muldowney's fluency in writing "like" Kurt Weill is astonishing, capturing as he does the smokiness and bitterness, helped by using the tell-tale instruments - muted trumpet, sax, drums. But Muldowney's melodic gift is his alone. Mary Carewe is a chansonniere to be watched, with a clear, clean voice, commanding, intimate, and musically intelligent as she coarsened sounds at just the right moment.

If you've got it, flaut it

What do James Galway and Emmanuel Pahud have in common? Answer: they've both blown their career chances at the Berlin Philharmonic.

She works till 10; I sunbathe...

Confessions of a low-flying husband, by Nicholas Robson

arts & books: Giving Cleopatra the needle

CLASSICAL Handel's Alexander Balus Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Sounding the Century: St John's Smith Square; Nash Ensemble, Purcell Room, London

Though the contents of Radio 3's millennial review, Sounding the Century, are a reminder that the mariner's plummet is as much an instrument of caution as of testing uncharted waters, there are still discoveries to be made. One of them, Szymanowski's Songs of the Enamoured Muezzin, was featured last Monday. During a live relay of the Orchestra of St John's Smith Square from its home venue, the series' artistic consultant, George Benjamin, noted the dearth of 20th-century cycles for voice and chamber orchestra. This was an oblique way of saying that he'd chosen the work for its sheer beauty and because he liked it. And why not. Four erotic lyrics set in lush colours, they were lovingly sung by soprano Patricia Rozario, evoking an Arabia of the senses, of souks and shaded jalousies. The half-full church was perhaps too reverberant to honour their finer details. Even so, the chance to hear Daniel Harding conduct this rarity was welcome.

CLASSICAL MUSIC: New Queen's Hall Orchestra; Barbican Hall, London

The New Queen's Hall Orchestra has spent the past five years trying out piston-valve horns, narrow-bore trombones and other items from the inventory of obsolete instruments in the hope of reviving an early 20th- century orchestral sound. While the likes of Roger Norrington have removed the varnish from Brahms and Wagner, the NQHO has focused on English romantic music, the repertoire in which their earlier namesake excelled. In a message of birthday greeting on Saturday that was itself a touch of authenticity, Sir Edward Heath recalled the playing of that original pre-war Queen's Hall Orchestra, which he had heard. In a rather more offbeat way, the presence in the band of a female clarinettist named Marie Lloyd gave another authentic twist to the sense of occasion.

CLASSICAL MUSIC Gidon Kremer's Schubert Series Barbican, London

"In an attempt to quench my insatiable curiosity for art, Schubert has been one of my constant companions. Rarely do I experience in a composer's music such an intriguing combination of unending lightness of spirit and intense melancholy, of economy of musical language and avalanches of sound. This musical balancing act is so detailed and so dramatic that it demands complete personal involvement from both the listener and the performer, resulting in a uniquely satisfying musical experience." The eloquent words of Gidon Kremer, who appears to be first off the blocks to celebrate the bicentenary of Schubert's birth. As usual, Kremer has come up with something unusual, making a genuine artistic contribution out of this schlocky anniversary business. For Schubert, like Mozart, needs no special pleading: homage to a composer must mean the celebration of composition as a gift rather than the celebration of a single gift. And so, over the course of the next three months, in London, Amsterdam, Cologne, Paris and Vienna, three chamber concerts have been programmed, using differing instrumental combinations and including work inspired by the composer.

Edinburgh Festival Concert: Hanover Band Usher Hall

Bands of authentic instruments tend to sound very different from each other. It proves, perhaps, that we do not really know how music sounded in former days. Earlier in the Edinburgh Festival, the orchestra of the American Handel and Haydn Society, which accompanied Gluck's Orfeo, had a tone that was dulcet, candlelit, insinuatingly strange and seductive.

Obituary: John Lanigan

The Australian tenor John Lanigan was for nearly 30 years one of the mainstays of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, first in leading lyric roles, then in character parts.

Dance Lord of the Dance Coliseum, London

Michael Winner loved it. And this isn't some nasty private little habit of his: he shares that love with thousands and thousands of people. On Tuesday night, Winner and a host of celebrities worshipped at the altar of Michael Flatley, self-annointed Lord of the Dance. By Wednesday, we were down to the more humble disciples but their faith was absolute. "Ooh look: 'Video available October,' " burbled the folk behind me excitedly as they devoured their souvenir programme - and they hadn't even seen the show yet. Veterans of countless trips to Riverdance, they were certain to enjoy themselves. Imagine the advance box-office for Phantom II and you get the general idea.
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