12 December 2011
Art, Music and Food Reviews


By: Nicholas Newman
  • David Farrar THE ARTIST'S PROOFS
    David is evidently at the beginning of an exciting professional carrier in art. It is clear from the exhibition of his work, which took place in Headington Quarry recently (6 December 2013), that David is clearly a multitalented artist with a bright and exciting future ahead of him. What I especially appreciated, was his pen and ink drawings, which reminded me of the Flemish artist Albrecht Dürer.
  • Celebrating New Year at the Cafe Rouge Oxford
    A family-friendly French restaurant in Oxford. Open all day serving a selection of sandwiches, baguettes, salads, steaks and classic French dishes.
  • Ben Okri at the Blenheim Palace Literary Festival.
    The Nigerian novelist and Booker prize-winner Ben Okri made an appearance in an unusual event yesterday held in Woodstock. He was interviewed about his life, novels, poetry and love of music by the composer Michael Berkeley, presenter of BBC Radio 3 series Private Passions. Okri selected pieces of his favourite music, which were then performed for us live by the Orchestra of St John’s conducted by John Lubbock.
  • Interview with Ed Byrne
    Ed says he's a miserable old git. He didn't celebrate his 40th birthday last year and his new show, Roaring Forties, is partly about the many things in life that annoy him. But in the flesh he's smart and funny, and as for being a party pooper... Well, not really – he's planning a celebration in November when his tour reaches Glasgow, the city where his career began 20 years ago after he had studied horticulture at the University of Strathclyde.
    We could feel a sensitive touch of art from the music and singing performed by Piotr Krupa, at his Oxford Valentine’s Day concert, held by the Oxford Polish Association at ‘The Mill’ Cowley Road.
  • Jutro jest bardzo daleko daleko!
    Poezja śpiewana w wykonaniu Piotra Krupy na Koncercie Walentynkowym zorganizowanym przez Stowarzyszenie Polaków w Oksfordzie( w klubie The Mill na Cowley Road) pozostawiła w nas wrażenie czułego dotyku sztuki.
    Stephen Farr's organ recital yesterday at Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, was a celebration of two things: the twentieth birthday of the organ itself, which was installed in 1992, and the festival of St Cecilia, patron saint of music.
  • Paul Lewis’s Heroic Schubert Recital at the Sheldonian.
    I salute Paul Lewis as the bravest of heroes for his imperturbable performance yesterday at the Sheldonian, when the noise of fireworks outside repeatedly disturbed the second half of his Schubert Piano Sonata recital. Lewis did not bat a single eyelash but continued his wonderful and magisterial interpretation of the Sonata in B flat Major D960, to an enthralled audience."
    Eldest son of King James 1, Henry was the focus of all the hopes and dreams of the newly-united kingdoms of Scotland and England. Carefully nurtured and educated, the prince showed great promise in the arts of war and peace. He had a taste for painting, architecture, literature, and took an interest in ship-building and the exploration of America. He loved hunting and he appeared personally in court masques with words by Ben Jonson and elaborate sets and costumes by Inigo Jones. Devout, handsome and promising in every way, he was expected to become a great monarch and England was grief-stricken by his sudden death at the age of only eighteen. We can only wonder how history might have been different if Henry had come to the throne rather than his younger brother, Charles I.
  • The English Prize
    If you were spending a few months in Rome, what souvenirs would you choose to take back with you? If money and weight were no object, a few marble statues, urns or sarcophagi might tempt you. Perhaps some oil paintings or handsome engravings of the most celebrated ruins of ancient Rome and the surrounding countryside would look nice on the walls of your drawing-room at home. Possibly some engravings of classical and neo-classical buildings, and prints of the Pantheon or the Temple of Jupiter? To the wealthy travellers and collectors of the late eighteenth-century, these sort of mementoes were essential, not only to remind them of their journey but also to prove to those at home that they were people of cultivation and taste.
  • Concerti Curiosi
    I cannot imagine a more delightful way to relax on a Friday evening than to put this CD on and listen with closed eyes, letting the music waft over you. Mellow, soothing sounds caress the ear, console the mind and revive the soul. The resonant acoustics are due to the recording being made in the Church of St. Andrews, Toddington, Gloucestershire. These baroque concerti by Pietro Paradies, Anton Reichenauer, Pietro Baldassari and others have been rescued from obscurity by Kah-Ming who finds the neglected manuscripts in archives and transcribes them for his team of dedicated musicians. Where the MS gives only a cryptic shorthand or figured bass, he reconstructs a detailed part complete with elaborate ornamentation. The seven complete concerti on this disc are well-varied, sometimes sweet and melodious, sometimes frisky and frolicsome.
    Visions of Mughal India: The Collection of Howard Hodgkin Exhibition | 2 Feb-22 Apr 2012 | Galleries 59 & 60 | £6/£4 (inc. Gift Aid) This exhibition of Indian paintings will show the collection of the artist Howard Hodgkin in its entirety for the first time. The collection comprises the main types of court painting that flourished during the Mughal period (c.1550-1850), including the refined naturalistic works of the imperial court, the subtle paintings of the Deccani Sultanates, and the bold, vibrant styles of the Rajput kingdoms. Hodgkin has been a passionate collector of Indian paintings since his schooldays, and has made a personal collection, formed by an artist’s eye, which has long been considered one of the finest of its kind in the world.
    Conditions could not have been more apt for Mark Padmore and Paul Lewis’s performance of Schubert’s Die Winterreise (The Winter’s Journey) at the Sheldonian. Snow, ice and bitter winds all feature in Schubert’s great work. This song cycle sets twenty-four poems by the German poet Wilhelm Müller, and seems to rise above its romantic subject matter about a despairing, rejected lover, to achieve a heroic stature; from pathos it grows into a tragic vision of life. Using glimpses of nature and symbolism, it creates a moving, sombre yet enthralling journey of feeling, which was in this performance almost unbearably poignant.
  • A meal out at The Chequers.
    The Chequers is one of the trinity of pubs tucked away amid the Cotswold stone of Headington Quarry, and for nearly a year now, it has housed the “Royal India” restaurant. Together with Nick Newman and Julia Gasper, I paid a return visit there on Sunday evening , and was impressed. If you know the Chequers in Horspath Village, you will feel at home with this “curry on the village green” format: the yeoman virtues of a standard English boozer, giving way (through a door on the left) to a plush Indian restaurant with tear-drop shaped wall-lighting and a warm décor. And those round tables may look large, but they prove to be not quite large enough once the food arrives.
  • CLAUDE Lorrain Exhibition
    Of course people painted mountains and hills, trees and lakes, clouds and horizons for centuries before Claude Gellée (1604-1682) but they painted them as the background to other, more important things: usually religious or mythological subjects. In the paintings of Claude, the religious or mythological stories are still there, but the emphasis has changed. The landscape is what matters, and the figures often seem dwarfed by their surroundings, secondary details in a vast, open expanse of ideal landscape inspired by his study of the countryside around Rome. His name has become synonymous with delicate sunset effects, and romantic ruins. This exhibition brings together thirteen of his major paintings from collections all over the world, as well as from the National Gallery in London and the Ashmolean itself, so that we can compare and appreciate them more keenly.
  • An Evening of Polish Music.
    This concert given by the impressive young pianist Alessandro Taverna and the Royal String Quartet had a Polish theme and without a doubt the performances were all polished to perfection. Taverna, who has won a string of international prizes, played three works by Chopin, the first and last being familiar. His performance of the familiar Waltz in C Sharp minor op. 64 no. 2 was mature and full of insight. There is no doubt that he possesses that special something that enables one to play Chopin. His speed was unhurried and he offered interesting detail such as the highlighting of the right hand thumb notes in bars 49-60 and on the last page, creating just the kind of hidden melody that Chopin loved. He followed this with the Introduction and Rondo in E flat major Op.16, a piece frankly written for virtuoso display. Taverna played with superb virtuosity, poise and distinction, not forgetting a touch of wit here and there. This sparkled like vintage champagne.
  • A Wonderful and Memorable Evening for Piano-lovers.
    Those who know Paul Lewis from his Proms appearances or even by reputation were expecting something special at the Sheldonian last night when he gave an all-Schubert recital. They were not disappointed. Lewis's playing was exciting, powerful and polished to a diamond sparkle. It held the audience enthralled throughout. I have rarely heard a more authoritative interpretation of Schubert than this. Lewis, who studied under Alfred Brendel, performed with a classical poise and with a certain degree of restraint. There was warmth, poignancy and feeling wherever needed, but this was not an excessively honeyed interpretation. It did not wallow. The rubato was not excessive, except perhaps in the last of the four Impromptus D.935, where Lewis highlighted the angularity and percussive nature of this piece. Lewis's performance of D.935 was designed to show how right Schumann was to regard this opus as a Sonata incognito rather than a bunch of haphazard pieces. The first Impromptu with its impressive opening and two well-contrasted themes is more or less in sonata form, albeit with an excessively lengthy development section.
  • C.S. Lewis Concert at Holy Trinity Church
    C.S. Lewis Concert at Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry. Yesterday the Friends of Holy Trinity church hosted a world premiere in Headington Quarry, the first ever performance of Roger Teichmann’s setting of four songs from the Narnia books by C.S.Lewis. It was part of a concert of choral music themed around the life and works of this much beloved local celebrity, who is still remembered personally by some of the older members of the congregation and choir. Lewis lived in Risinghurst, taught at Magdalen College, Oxford and attended Holy Trinity Church where there is a beautiful Narnia window in memory of him. Readings and reminiscences about Lewis were interspersed between the items of music. The concert opened with Yeats’ song “Down by the Sally Gardens,” arranged by Teichmann. This was chosen because Lewis was born in Ireland and loved Yeats’ poetry. The church choir then performed three typical anthems from a collegiate choral evensong, without any organ accompaniment as curiously enough Lewis did not like the organ. We then had a rare treat as the soloists Lucy Matheson and Sally Mears, performed settings of Elizabethan poetry to the accompaniment of the Apollo consort of viols. This acknowledged Lewis’s solid achievements as a professor of Renaissance literature. The soloists’ unaccompanied performance of duets by Thomas Morley was exquisite and was one of the highlights of the evening, The Pilgrim’s Chorus from Wagner’s Tannhauser was included to reflect Lewis’s love of Wagner. He and J.R.R.Tolkien would often travel up to London by train to hear the operas at Covent Garden. In this piece, it might have been better to omit the string accompaniment, which in truth only detracted from the noble sound of the male voice choir. Roger Teichmann is a local boy as, like Lewis, he is a lecturer at Oxford University. He has written prize-winning operas and cantatas. His Narnia songs are set for a chorus of women’s voices accompanied by a string quartet, two recorders, trumpet, cymbals and bells. This imaginative scoring and texture made up for any lack of obvious melody. The ending with the sound of bells resonating sweetly was truly beautiful. The concert concluded with Elgar’s little-known four-part-song My Love Dwelt in a Northern Land, performed by the whole choir with sensitive and beautiful phrasing. It was a terrific end to a very varied and stimulating concert.
  • Jeff Clarke: An Artist Looks at Old Masters.
    There are so many treasures in Oxford that we tend to take them for granted and, as residents, rarely bother to visit them. Instead of complaining about the tourists, perhaps we should follow their example more frequently. Christ Church Picture Gallery is one of these neglected gems and the present exhibition of drawings by old masters is a way to attract and stimulate more people to take an interest in it. The local Oxford artist, Jeff Clarke, RE, is currently showing a selection of his own paintings there and many of them feature the back streets of East Oxford, where he lives. It takes courage to display your own work alongside that of Holbien, Tintoretto, Correggio and Joshua Reynolds. However, there is one advantage Jeff has over them - his works are for sale and if you fancy one, you can buy it and hang it in your sitting-room!
  • Piano Recital by Tim Smith at Church of St Michael at the Northgate July 19th 2013.
    Piano Recital by Tim Smith at Church of St Michael at the Northgate July 19th 2013. The talented young student pianist Tim Smith, who lives in Stanton St John, gave a recital at the Church of St Michael at the Northgate on Friday evening. The ambitious programme started with Mozart’s Piano Sonata in B flat major K333, and six Études by Chopin, all very virtuoso and demanding. In the second half he played Rachmaninoff’s Prelude opus 23 no 2, two of Debussy’s Preludes (the capricious Les Collines d’Anacapri and the dreamy La Cathédrale Engloutie). This was followed by Beethoven’s not-very-well known 32 Variations on an Original Theme in C minor, performed with verve and conviction. Tim finished with another famous virtuoso piece, Liszt’s Jeux d’Eaux à la Villa d’Este (Fountains of the Villa d’Este) which provided a brilliant, sparkling and refreshing finale on a hot evening. Tim, who attended Wheatley Park School, has won a scholarship to the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music, and if he can already play like this what will he be like in three years time? He is giving another recital, for charity, at the same venue on September 2nd. Julia Gasper.
  • BAMPTON CLASSICAL OPERA perform Haydn and Mozart at the Holywell Music Room.
    This concert given on Sunday 24th November 2013 was a delightful chance to hear some unusual pieces performed in an ideal setting - 18th century music in the perfectly-preserved 18th century concert room that Oxford is so lucky to possess in Holywell Street. Bampton Classical Opera consists of a small band of instrumentalists and some vocal soloists of high calibre.
  • MAXIM VENGEROV at the Sheldonian, Oxford,
    Maxim Vengerov, considered by many to be the greatest violinist in the world, has honoured Oxford by becoming official Artist in Residence with the Oxford Philomusica. The amazing Russian virtuoso inaugurated his new position with a recital at the Sheldonian theatre this afternoon, which ended in a standing ovation for him and the pianist Marios Papadopolous, who is also the musical director of Oxford Philomusica.
  • TIM SMITH plays at St Michael at the North Gate Oxford


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