Category Archives: Music

Five uneasy pieces

Violinist Joshua Bell is currently Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in London. He was born in 1967 in Bloomington, Indiana. At 14 he played with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Riccardo Muti, and he made his Carnegie Hall debut at 17 with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. In January 2007, at the age of 39, he was playing to a packed house at Boston’s Symphony Hall, where half-decent seats start at $100.

Joshua Bell
Joshua Bell in 2010

But three days after that performance he was busking at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington DC. He always plays the same violin though, a 1713 Stradivarius. He had bought this a few years previously for an estimated $3.5 million. He played for 43 minutes and made $32.17. Continue reading

Sir Isaiah Berlin

Isaiah Berlin during the reception of the Erasmus Prize, Oct. 1983

Isaiah Berlin in 1983

Last time we mentioned The Hedgehog And The Fox, by Isaiah Berlin, a British philosopher and polymath who died in 1997. He was born in 1909 in Riga, which is now the capital of Latvia, but at the time was in Livonia, then part of the Russian Empire. When he was six his family moved to Petrograd (now St Petersburg), where he witnessed the 1917 revolutions. The family then moved to the UK in 1921. He went to Oxford, where he became a fellow of All Souls College in 1932. During World War II he worked for the British Diplomatic Service, including a spell at the British Embassy in Washington. In 1957 he was appointed Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford, and also knighted.

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Emile Ford

Emile FordWhat do Ford Hermann Hueffer and Michael Emile Telford Miller have in common? Well, they both ended up being called Mr Ford and they both have blue plaques in Kensington.

Ford Hermann Hueffer became Ford Madox Ford, with a plaque in Campden Hill Road. And Michael Emile Telford Miller became Emile Ford, with a plaque in Kensington Church Street. Continue reading

Jean Sibelius

Jean Sibelius

English Heritage blue plaque commemorating Jean Sibelius, Gloucester Walk, London W8

I like blue plaques on the walls of buildings. I like their unpretentious informational content, and the way they embellish a dog walk with random snippets of cultural history.

For example in 1909 the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius lived for a while in Gloucester Walk, W8, part of that arid wasteland between Holland Park and Kensington Gardens. This was shortly after a successful operation to remove a throat tumour – possibly the result of too much smoking and/or drinking and/or lobster.

While in Britain Sibelius conducted his En sagaFinlandiaValse Triste and Spring Song.

© Chris Lawrence 2019.