Thursday, July 26, 2012

Booker Prize Longlist

Longlisted candidates for the 2012 Man Booker Prize were announced last night.  They are: Nicola Barker, The Yips; Ned Beauman, The Teleportation Accident; Andre Brink, Philida; Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists; Michael Frayn, Skios; Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry; Deborah Levy, Swimming Home and other stories; Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies; Alison Moore, The Lighthouse; Will Self, Umbrella; Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis, and Sam Thompson, Communion Town.

The website handily provides a picture of the books elegantly piled:

The next stage is to reduce this to a shortlist of six, to be announced on September 11.  My guess would be Mantel (because she's won before), Levy (because of the subject matter), Frayn (for longevity exceeding even that of last year's winner, Julian Barnes), Thayil and Beauman (both adding variety to the mix) and a wild card, possibly Rachel Joyce.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

From the Illustrators Lounge - Daniel Egneus

The Illustrators Lounge is a blog I visit daily without fail (see side panel).  I love it.  Today, though, I have to share the featured artist, Daniel Egneus.  Check out his website - and add the Lounge to your favourites.

First Night of the Proms

This year's Proms got underway last night with a cursory nod to the Olympics, in that four English conductors 'passed the baton' in a reference to the Team GB men's relay team, except of course that the conductors won.  The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus stayed where they were all night in what was possibly an homage to Britain's middle distance runners.

Anyhow, the evening of English got under way with the premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage's cracking curtain-raiser Cannon Fever, a forensic test for brass-players and percussionists.  I thought it was stunning.

Sir Roger Norrington then gave us a very personal rendition of Elgar's Cockaigne Overture.  Norrington favours the sweetly lyrical; personally I could have done with a little more contrast, especially approaching the climax.

Highlight of the night, undoubtedly, was Delius's Sea Drift, his setting of the Walt Whitman poem, the bulk of it sung by the mighty Bryn Terfel with lustrous interpolations from the Chorus.  Sir Mark Elder conducted, creating a kind of throbbing seascape, haunting, moving, electrical.  This was musical impression at its best, a stunning reminder that the key influences on the maturing Delius were not English, nor German, nor even European, but the sounds of the American South.  I adored it.

Martyn Brabbins brought real swing to Sir Michael Tippett's Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles (1948), something of a curiosity but great fun with its nods to bred-in-the-bone English tropes like Crimond and The Floral Dance.  I was roused by a clip of the composer himself conducting the Leicestershire Schools Orchestra back in 1968.  Back then this junior LSO was a major draw, a leader in the field.  Now all the County Council sponsors is members' expenses.  Its cultural spend is virtually nil.

Dud of the night, however, was the closing piece, Elgar's Coronation Ode (1902 and 1911).  All I could think was, who wrote these awful clunking lyrics?  Kings and wings and things.  Alfred Austin?  The Great McGonagall?  No: turns out it was A C Benson, who should be revolving in his grave with shame.  Benson, more successfully, penned the words of Land of Hope and Glory, which got an ill-judged reprise in the Ode.  Evidently Elgar felt obliged to bang out his greatest hit on every national occasion, an Edwardian precursor of poor old Paul McCartney and the albatross that is Hey, Jude.   I felt so sorry for Sarah Connolly (below), who did such a great job of Rule Britannia a couple of years ago in her Nelson outfit, and who last night drew the short straw and had to sing the bowdlerised version of Land and Hope.

All in all, though, a fascinating and eclectic start to a much anticipated season.