Marina Frolova-Walker is a Cambridge Don and musicologist. She frequently can be heard on Radio 3, notably on Saturday mornings reviewing new releases or contributing to Building a Library on CD Review. She is also currently Professor of Music at Gresham College and, as such is currently giving a series of lectures on Music under Stalin. She is an attractive and engaging lecturer. The second of her series, delivered before Christmas, was on Socialist Realism; one of the imperatives for composers under Stalin’s cultural régime and his apparatchiks. Professor Frolova-Walker said that “there is a lie at the heart of Socialist Realism”. The term was more about political and cultural power than the music and the label denigrated perfectly fine compositions. Similar music as that heard in Thirties USSR could be heard elsewhere and did not attract that label. She suggested that Socialist Realism should be forgotten as if a bad dream. The lectures end with music which illustrates the talk. This recital was by undergraduates at Cambridge University who played the Trio for clarinet, violin and piano, by Adam Khachaturian. It was well-played but for the poor violinist who was reading the score from his iPad, the signal failed for a few minutes and the performance stalled. One day we might stop the march of the machines. Gresham College lectures are all available online.
The Sunday programme is often an odd pot-pouri of quasi-religious items, although usually worth hearing when Ed Stourton is in the chair. One discussion on Artificial Intelligence caught my ear as I emerged from slumber; not that I was much the wiser after hearing it. Of the two contributors, Dr Beth Singler (Cambridge) was fluent and clear. The other interviewee, Dr Scott Midson, a ‘theologian’ (Manchester), in a contribution which came to a little over three minutes, delivered himself of the phrases sort of / kind of 34 times and you know 15 times. A filler word strike rate of about one every five seconds. I may not have learned much about AI but I learned enough not to recommend anyone to read theology at Manchester.
BBC News Channel: ‘Benjamin Button’s ‘War Requiem’. To compound the uncorrected error, it introduced an item on Coventry as the city of culture.
The westward expansion and development of London can be traced by the dedication of its parish churches. Especially those nestling under the Fulham jurisdiction. All Saints’ Notting Hill (1861), St Michael and All Angels, Ladbroke Grove and St Matthew, Kensington Olympia (both 1871) and, celebrating its sesquicentenary this year, St Luke, Uxbridge Road. The original Victorian church, large but undistinguished, was falling apart and was replaced by the present brick building in the mid-1970s. Externally, it still looks strikingly spruce. Internally the ingress of water, an effect of a flat roof remains unsolved. At the end of January, on the Feast of Dedication, it began a year of celebration to culminate on St Luke’s Day in October. The congregational Mass setting was commissioned by the parish from Colin Mawby in 2015. The setting allows for a solo trumpet but, alas, the trumpeter succumbed to illness on the day. A disappointment as there is nothing like a trumpet to add a degree of swagger. The congregation sang lustily and the motet Locus iste by Anton Bruckner was sung by a fine quartet. A larger choir gave a vivacious rendition of a Te Deum by Mozart. The Mass was followed by a generous and varied buffet. St Luke’s was not in the Anglo-Catholic fold for much of its history but none would have guessed. A year of celebration on the Uxbridge Road is not to be missed.
Last month’s gripe about the Today presenter Amol Rajan took me back to those whom I most vividly remember on that ‘flagship’ programme. Although I would have heard the legendary first presenter, Jack de Mania, I have no memory of him. He made mistakes galore but was a benign presence on what was a more variegated magazine programme and one less politically oriented or driven by current affairs. Those seemed to come later. My golden age would be the duopoly of John Timpson (19 years) and Brian Redhead (18). Different in temperament and approach but both fine journalists. The programme after Brian Redhead’s early death with its series of moving tributes stays in the memory. Some crass individual complained that too much time had been taken up with the memorials. Not so. Robert Robinson was of the same era but only served for three years, yet still donnishly memorable. Less well-known, perhaps, but nevertheless a very fine journalist and broadcaster was Peter Hobday (13), who brought an accessible financial acumen to the programme. Sue MacGregor (18) and Edward Stourton (10; see above) in their day seemed to be the most unflappable and appeared to glide through the programmes. James Naughtie (21), less so. He is a superb political and literary journalist but his questions could seem to go on until the crack of doom. There were more sub-clauses per minute per question than a three volume 18th century novel. It surprised me that his interviewees did not nod off during his exposition. Sarah Montague (17), was another favourite, even when she annoyed. And John Humphrys (at 32 years the longest serving presenter) was as irritating as he was outstanding.