News

A bitter row over the existing skatepark has forced the centre to delay its £120m overhaul

Dance: Event of the week: V-TOL Dance Company Wed & Thur Queen Elizabeth Hall

A murder at a party is the starting point for Mark Murphy's latest production combining his twin interests in choreography and film-making.

DANCE: HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK

Dance Umbrella today and tomorrow

Choice: Music: Country Joe McDonald:

Queen Elizabeth Hall, SE1 (0171-960 4242) 7.45pm "I am Country Joe. I don't pretend to be Country Joe. I don't have a Country Joe suit in my closet." Thus spake Country Joe McDonald - the West Coast folk-singer whom many identify as one of the truly gen-u-ine voices of Sixties protest. His appearance at Woodstock is the stuff of legend - as if his anti-Vietnam singalong "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" wasn't rousing enough, the crowd substituted the four letters of his introductory chant ("F, I, S, H") with ones that sent a chorus of disapproval to the Nixon administration in a language the president himself could understand. But McDonald has not been resting on past hipness. This rare appearance, timed to coincide with the rerelease of his soundtrack to Quiet Days in Clichy - Jens Jorgen Thorsen's frisky 1969 adaptation of Henry Miller - is part of a working holiday. He's over here researching the life of one of his favourite people, Florence Nightingale. Weird, huh?

DANCE: Suraya Hilal Queen Elizabeth Hall, SBC, London

Suraya Hilal used to dance on tables (she was two years old at the time). Since then she has become an authority on Raqs Sharqi, the classical Egyptian dance tradition too often degraded into mere belly dancing. Part of Raqs Sharqi's appeal, like that of Tango and Flamenco, is the fact that they can be performed most successfully by artists who look like real people but whose mastery of their chosen form transforms them into creatures of beauty.

Classical: Meltdown Queen Elizabeth Hall, London Gogmagogs Gigagain Bridewell Theatre, London

The first weekend of Laurie Anderson's Meltdown Festival at the South Bank climaxed on Sunday afternoon in the Queen Elizabeth Hall with 100 violinists turning on the heat. Everything had its story, and there were no predictable endings. Writer and broadcaster Ken Nordine told us about Rog (Oh, Here's Rog) who "played the organ in church... a strange guy, stranger than strange". Dean Brodrick's score calls for all sorts of effects, including bouncing the bow in imitation of applause, but when Gidon Kremer took to the stage for the world premiere of George Pelecis's Very Serious Variations on the Etude No 2 by R Kreutzer - prefacing it with not-very-serious comments about the rigours of practising - the temperature rose even higher. Pelecis's piece was immense fun (lots of jokey tuba and contra-bassoon writing), though less memorable than a dazzling, unscheduled and unaccompanied Tango-Etude by Astor Piazzolla. Back on schedule, BK Chandrashekar treated us to some curvaceous south Indian Karnatic music, fiddling away while stage-hands shifted chairs and the young members of the Indian Strings Chamber Orchestra prepared to join in. RN Prakesh slapped his claypot, we tapped our feet, and the 100 violins entered the spirit under Chandrashekar's hand-clapping direction. Joe Townsend's A Cat, a Horse and a Tree had the orchestra sound like a Romanian gypsy band and the grisly "Readings from the Encyclopaedia of the Violin, 1921" - intoned by Nordine and Anderson herself - included lots about dried-out intestines.

Classical Music: Ma Vlast: LPO / Berglund Royal Festival Hall, London

Smetana's Ma vlast is among the most compelling musical statements of patriotism in the orchestral repertory. The high rock Vysehrad, the Vltava river that flows nearby, the Amazonian warrior Sarka, the verdant stretches of "Bohemia's Woods and Fields", the brave Hussites of Tabor and the Blanik Mountain where they lay in wait, all inspired the "father of Czech music" to a level of originality that matches, sometimes even upstages, the best Liszt tone-poems. Opportunities to hear the whole of Ma vlast live are few and far between, and so it was heartening to encounter Paavo Berglund's forceful performance in the context of the London Philharmonic's "Great Cities of the World" series at the Royal Festival Hall. The decision to spread the cycle over two evenings, however, meant that Smetana's ground- plan was significantly misrepresented: key thematic relationships were obscured (between, say, Tuesday's "Vysehrad" and the previous Sunday's "Vltava") and the overall effect was akin to scrambling the chapters of a novel. The situation was doubly unfortunate given the impressive unity of Berglund's interpretation. And, if a split was truly inevitable, why not give us the first three pieces on Sunday and the last three on Tuesday?

Classical Music: Sounding the Century Royal Festival Hall, London / Radio 3 / BBC2

Eric Hobsbawm's remarkable account of the 20th century is called The Age of Extremes. This might have been a rather better title for the BBC's valiant celebration of the music of this century - Sounding the Century - which began its mighty course on Sunday (in an overflowing Royal Festival Hall) and will run to the millennium.

CLASSICAL MUSIC: Icebreaker; Queen Elizabeth Hall, SBC, London

As the group's concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last Friday made clear, Icebreaker have come a long way since their formation in 1989 to play the works of Louis Andriessen and Diderik Wagenaar. At the time, doubt was shed on the continuing relevance of this Dutch brand of minimalism, raunchier and more dissonant than most American varieties. Seven or so years on, things have changed, of course; some would argue that Andriessen - whose work has become much better known internationally in that time - is more in tune with current concerns than, say, Philip Glass.

Classical music / Joanna MacGregor Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Much revered, much recorded but only rarely given in concert, Bach's last work, The Art of Fugue, yields most to those who listen hardest. Bach himself offered few clues as to how - or even if - it should be performed, so any prospective interpreter needs to consider such crucial issues as style, playing order, presentation and instrumentation. Solo keyboard performances are particularly problematic in that a lack of imagination, not to say vitality, threatens to minimise essential contrasts between individual movements.

Classical Philharmonia / Mikhail Pletnev Royal Festival Hall, London

Mikhail Pletnev's mastery of Tchaikovsky is already well-documented through much-praised recordings of the Pathetique and Manfred symphonies. Last Wednesday's Philharmonia concert at the Royal Festival Hall went one better, however, with a performance of the Third Orchestral Suite that was so affectionate, playful and artfully shaped that I longed to hear him interpret the other three.

Classical Music / BBC Symphony Orchestra Royal Festival Hall, London

We hear a lot about the problems of making definitive Bruckner editions, yet the most pertinent fact concerning the composer, as recorded in Arnold Whittall's programme note for Friday's Royal Festival Hall concert given by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, is a personal style so coherently individual that no tamperings can undermine its identity. As it happened, the featured work, the Te Deum, is one that is blissfully free of textual problems. Even so, Bruckner remains among that group of composers who, in Wordsworthian phrase, are valued for creating the taste by which they are savoured.

Dance / Counter Moves Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Co Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

The British Asian choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh has spent much of the past decade addressing issues of tradition and innovation in Indian classical dance. In works such as Configurations and Byzantium to scores by Michael Nyman and Christos Hatzis, Jeyasingh's exploration and manipulation of Bharatha Natyam proved a welcome departure from the fusty and culturally detached solo recitals by other, less questing, Bharatha Natyam artists. And in striving to uncover the possibilities for natural integration between her own ancient art and the contemporary context in which, inevitably, it stood questioned, she has almost singlehandedly lifted South Asian dance out of its ethnic ghetto.

Classical: Austro-Hungarian Orchestra; Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Convention has it that Haydn is bad box-office and so are Mondays. But on two successive Mondays - last week at the Barbican and this week at the Royal Festival Hall - large, appreciative audiences greeted two orchestras, both from similar parts of the world, one in a concert entirely of Haydn, the other largely Haydn, where "conventional" was hardly a suitable description.

Classical: Alkan's Douze Etudes Jack Gibbons (piano) Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

'Gibbons addressed himself to his herculean labours with becoming modesty and a minimum of fuss. But he hardly did more than play the swarms of notes efficiently'

Classical; London Philharmonic Youth Orcehstra; Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Something of a post-war success story, the British youth-orchestra tradition survives despite straightened circumstances, doing what comes naturally: playing new music with a flair and dedication that can put full-time groups in the shade. Founded in 1922, the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra draws on students from the country's music colleges and takes up Birtwistle, the parent ensemble's resident composer, with a dedication recalling the Leicestershire School Symphony Orchestra's work with Tippett in the 1960s. Youth and innovation should belong together. With this venture, players on the verge of professional life have the chance to tackle repertoire which will accompany them throughout their careers.
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