The Observer from London,  on July 26, 1987 · 21
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The Observer from London, · 21

London, England
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 26, 1987
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SUNDAY 26 JULY 1987 OBSERVER REVIEW 21 Video opera comes of age Ravel double-bid at Glyndebourne; John Cage at the Proms all very well, and it makes a delightful visual impact, but the story is entirely dependent on the clockrhaker's wife entertaining her prospective lovers under cover in his workshop rather than in the open air. Hence their propensity for hiding in clocks when the husband returns. ' L'Heure espagnole,' first seen in 1911, is nowhere near as subtle and precisely imagined an opera as ' L'Enfant et les sortileges ' (which followed 14 years later), but in its parallel chords and Satie-like evocation of mechanistic regularity matched with flamboyant passion it does have its own magic. Corsaro's production somehow missed the essential, dangerous humour of the situation, and took refuge in coquettish nudging, though Anna Steiger's Concepcion was warm and Francoix le Roux's Ramiro caught exactly the right tone. Elsewhere the evening's most distinguished sounds came from the orchestra pit, where Simon Rattle conjured from the London Philharmonic the same glassy, piercingly clear yet gently rounded French textures which a year ago he coaxed from the Philhar-monia in his concert series of French music. Still, as a Glyndebourne evening this is a little lightweight : I would wait for the Sendak book, or film, or video. OLIVER KNUSSEN'S naughty child from ' Where the wild things are' reappeared in Tuesday's, excellent Prom by the London 'L'Heure espagnole,' at Glyndebourne last week: Anna Steiger was 'warm' as Concepcion in Frank Corsaro and Maurice Sendak's production. aim has always been to free art from the desire for organisational sense. Yet this giant art-work, with its complex resources and coordination, seemed to run right against this aesthetic. Better to wander round Ireland with your own copy of 'Finnegans Wake.' On Thursday night, Christoph von Dohnanyi, hero of the current Covent Garden "revival of 'Die Frau ohne Schatten ', met the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a concert which included his own version of Zemlinsky's ' Die Seejungfrau ' . corner reading lists of sounds culled from Joyce with deliberate inaudibility, while Irish folk musicians around the stage struck up on fiddles, pipes and flutes for a few minutes at at a time. The best bit of the whole enterprise was Cage's collage tape, made from sounds he collected in Ireland and assembled at IRCAM a phantasmagoria of countryside, industrial, human and leprechaun noises which somehow gave sense to the proceedings. But that can't be right, because Cage's years after Elvis Presley's death, Master and Long live the King audience, which was a pity. The big event of the week, which drove Prommers out of the arena and into the especially cheaply-priced seats, was John Cage's Roratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake. The floor was filled with an imported platform, on which Merce Cunningham's dancers went through their crisply disciplined paces pretty much regardless of what was going on around them. What was going on around them is a bit hard to describe, but Mr Cage sat in one Graceland The plane is even more impressive, in spite of being slightly austere. It took 28 people, as opposed to the 90-something it could seat as a regular jet, and every one of them had a gold plated seat belt buckle, But Elvis never stopped worrying about his parents ; even the ' Jungle Room ' was furnished as a practical joke against his father, who had abused the furniture (all fur and lion's jaws) when he saw it in a Memphis department store. When Graceland was opened to the public, the people who manage it, on behalf of Lisa Marie Presley, assumed that interest would gently decline over the years. In fact attendances keep rising. The Presley myth his self-absorption, his love for his mother, his fascination with money and glitter and fame is not only enduring but increasing. Graceland isn't to my taste, but it is a powerful statement of the extraordinary force of an very ordinary man who becomes immensely rich and famous. In three weeks' time, the tens of thousands of people who file past Elvis's grave will be lighting candles to themselves. It was in some ways an odd match, for Dohnanyi's warmly rounded gestures and his desire for long sustained lines are not always matched by the BBCSO's more incisive, brittle sound. But in Brahms's First Symphony the resulting conflict was productive. In the unlikely event that he could be enticed, there would surely be no more ideal chief conductor than Dohnanyi for this orchestra, with its solidly twentieth-century repertory and its need for ease in the nineteenth-century. pupil Wynton, the trumpeter, and has already begun to distance himself from the prevailing orthodoxies of his generation. Most players of his age remain stuck in the shadow of Coltrane, but he seems to be making a conscious effort to find a way out. The results, judging by Wednesday night, are fascinating and enjoyable but still very much work-in-progress. Roughly half the numbers were in the rolling, modal Coltrane manner, while the rest came in a variety of styles. There was the old be -bop favourite 'Cherokee,' Monk's convoluted piece 'Crepescule With Nellie,' and even one of Stan Getz's own favourites ' I Thought About You . ' Branford Marsalis is such a good musician that he can manage this whole gamut with ease, but each item remains a separate exercise in style. Hearing him alongside Getz made this quite clear. At 27 Getz was about to embark on a decade of experiment and change. It will be fascinating to watch Branford Marsalis as he goes through the same process. pop-up head, the fire dances animatedly as a front projection, as do the numbers during Arithmetic's appearance, jumping around manically on the gauze. Only when the Princess (gorgeously sung by Harolyn Blackwell) emerges in clouds of golden smoke does real magic take over. But the garden scene does not have the same depth of response to Ravel's music as David Hockney's designs, seen at Covent Garden. Corsaro's neatest ideas are to introduce a Papa as well as a Ma man, and to have them reappear in their son's Oedipal imagination as the very sexy pair of cats. The sister reappears from the opening tableau as the injured squirrel, and the final tableau returns (as in 'Where the wild things') to the safety of the home. The film animation is skilfully done, but the feeling of incipient Disneyland that it induces is heightened by a horribly tinselly scattering of stars towards the close. Happily, Cynthia Buchan's Child is almost completely unsentimental, angular and acerbic; outstanding among the cast are Fiona Kimm's Mother and Lillian Watson's Fire and Nightingale. Otherwise there seemed a less than happy touch with the casting, especially in the companion piece, L'Heure espagnole. Here the CorsaroSendak conceit was to set this saga about a clockmaker on a village square dominated by a giant chiming clock with revolving characters and mechanical dancers ' KEEP ON Elvissing ! ' said my hostess, Patsy Andersen, who works at Graceland and is in charge of liaison with the thousands of. Elvis Presley fan clubs around the world. The term 'to Elvis (vb. intrans.)' doesn't appear in Webster's, but I think I know what it means. It signifies to keep alive the cult, to maintain the eternal flame, to recognise that Elvis Presley dead is somehow even more real than Elvis Presley living. The ultimate Elvisisation is due to occur shortly, on 15 August, the eve of the tenth anniversary of his death. On that night tens of thousands of people (it has been around 15,000 in previous years, and could be as high as 50,000 next month) will take part in the Candlelight Vigil. This has become the central, annual memorial to Presley's life. Visitors will carry their pious candles up to the Meditation Gardens at Graceland, which is a largish house in a suburb south of Memphis, Tennessee. They will file past the crescent of graves : Elvis's own, his mother and father's, and his grandmother's. Some will stay until dawn breaks on the 16th, the actual day of his death, lighting a succession of candles. Elvis actually ' passed away ' (as you learn to say here) two hours before his body was found, in the bathroom. One of the saddest facts of his life was that, having spent years surrounding himself with friends and family, he was alone when the heart attack killed him. Now his aunt, Ms Delta Mae Presley Biggs, aged 68, is the only person who still lives in Graceland. She spends much of her day in the kitchen, which is closed to visitors, but at 6 p.m., when they've gone, she walks around removing the velvet-covered ropes, turning it from a tourist attraction back into a home. Graceland is a stately home, and Ms Biggs is the equivalent of the 14th Earl, glimpsed by the occasional tripper. More than half a million come here each year. Nearly 50 events have been ' scheduled for Elvis International Tribute Week, which begins in Memphis on 8 August. There will be guided tours of Elvis's old high school, including a special breakfast at which visitors can eat his favourite dishes, prepared under the supervision of his cook; Ten A SINGLE note from Stan Getz and you know who it is. His tenor saxophone is one of the most instantly recognisable voices in jazz and one that, until Wednesday night's concert at the Festival Hall, had not been heard in London for , years. His recent records have all been marvellous but, in Getz's case, j there's a special quality about his I playing that only comes over fully iwhen you hear him in person. It ihas something to do with the way in which the sound, the articulation of the notes and phrases and the evolving melodic line all hang together. A Getz solo works on so many levels at once, and is produced with such suavity, that it's difficult to believe he's making it all up, right there in front of you. Whether he's carving out an intricate line at some impossible tempo or feathering through a slow ballad, that special quality, a kind of contained passion, is always there. It was certainly present in full measure on Wednesday night, particularly in a version of ' Yes- IN Frank Corsaro's new production of Ravel's L'Enfant et les sortileges for Glyndebourne, video opera comes of age. In the theatre, we glimpse the whole production through a gauze darkly, and on the gauze are projected fluttering images which make it seem as if Maurice Sendak's designs have been intended to be immortalised on film rather than being experienced in the theatre. As the title of the opera is written out for us, we see a little dumb-show enacted : a naughty child disrupting the birthday photos of his angelic little sister. The pageant fades down to the birthday-cake candles, and the boy drifts off into his own world of fearful imaginings as Ravel's hypnotic, minimalist parallel fourths provide an accompaniment for Sendak's animated film to wander through the forest glades. The conceit is the same as that of ' Where the wild things are ', which Sendak designed and Corsaro directed for Glyndebourne, and Corsaro also did something similar a few years ago with a wonderfully effective production at the St Louis Opera Theatre of Delius's ' Fennimore and Gerda ', where the visual style (again behind gauze) was inspired by the sepia tints of old photographs. For Ravel's opera where the miracle is how real, not how remote, the fantasies seem the approach seems a little pretty-pretty to me. And as the imaginings take wing we are invited to laugh at or with their cleverness rather than to share the child's thrill of wonder. The armchairs wheel and glide around the stage, the teapot has a SIMON FRITH JENNIFER WARNES Famous Blue Raincoat (RCA PL90048) JOHN BARRY From Russia With Love (EMI 1267) LEONARD COHEN'S soggy-bohemian-in-need-of-a-bed-mate routines have always moved me to laughter not tears bul Jennifer Warnes's sincere rock treatment of the Cohen songbook is lovely, giving those meandering images just the right degree of vocal common sense. Poignant high point: when the old groaner himself joins in. James Bond was the f Upside of Sixties glam misogyny solemn exploitation replaced by laughing contempt and though the Bond films never had very good soundtracks, EMI's reissue of the first four (plus George Martin's 1973 ' Live and Let Die ') does interestingly reveal the musical move from British lightheartedness (Monty Norman's calypso Dr No) to multinational macho pomp. 0 VARIOUS ARTISTS Slruttin' and Flirtln' (Stateside SSL6028) B REGINA BELLE All By Myself (CBS 450998) LISTENING to the 1966-69 Minit label tracks on the latest Stateside reissue made me realise thai what made classic soul ' authentic ' was nol its Regina Bella: Marvel. purity all these artists wanted to ' crossover.' Bobby Womack even covers Fly Me to the Moon 'but the low budget : arrangers had to make sparse instruments interesting, tne back-up singers really were in conversation with the slars. Production techniques no longer allow such looseness. Regina Belle, for example, has the best, the most emotionally chiselled voice I've heard this year, but all we get to marvel a! on her debut LP is the smoothness of her finish. MEAT PUPPETS Mirage (SST 100) X See How We Are (Elektra 960492) Now that American hard core bands are being drawn back to punk's lolk. blue and country roots Ihere are certain advantages to being hicks lo begin wrlh. Arizona's Meat Puppets make New Age Music for people who are in dread of the landscape, guitars rippling like refreshment out o! reach, voices droning in matter-of-fact alarm X imagine similar landscapes but with inevitable Californian self-centredness. which means Ihese days that Exene Cervenfca sounds just like Grace Slick Sinfonietta. In spite of some amplification which went wrong, damaging Rosemary Hardy's crystalline singing, the atmospheric genius of this evocation of childhood (which owes an acknowledged debt to Ravel's opera) proved that you don't absolutely need Sendak's visuals sometimes credited as a major reason for this opera's success to make it work. Knussen's score has a hard-edged glint which makes its flights of lyricism all the more effective: condensed, as here, to a concert suite from the opera, it is very successful. No one could accuse recent British music of lacking sonic imagination after this concert. There was the unearthly poetry and the clangings and clankings of the Balinese-influenced percussion in Britten's 'Death in Venice,' which may not work as well in Steuart Bedford's suite as in the original opera house context, but are worth hearing far more often than the opera can be staged. There was the extraordinary, bouncing vigour of Colin Mat-thews's ' Suns Dance,' also created as a ballet this week. And there was the sweet and shimmering soundworld of Gordon Crosse's ' Dreamsongs,' in which echoes of Britten's ' Ceremony of Carols ' are mixed with the Californian sun to produce a hazy vision. It is less than concentrated, perhaps, but there are some gorgeous sounds, including a dialogue for fluttering harp and pungent bass clarinet over wind chords which sounds like a memory of childhood as vivid as those of Knussen or Ravel. That concert, perhaps because it included nothing absolutely new or European, drew a tiny SIMON HOGGART visits when the heart attack killed him. Lisa Marie, his daughter, will inherit everything when she turns 25 in 1993, which will make her one of the richest women in the world. She returns to Graceland fairly often, and was there last month : 5he has relatives and a lot of good memories of her life here. Graceland itseii, even more famous since Paul Simon took it as the title of his LP, is smaller than you might think. ' Grace ' was the wife of the original owner of the land. Elvis liked the name and kept it. It's not fanciful to suggest that it was because he felt in a state of grace there ; the house and land don't amount to a film star's home, but were an opportunity to surround himself with his family, his friends and his roots. Graceland is over-decorated for sure, like a mobile home spruced up for Louis XV, but it's no Playboy Mansion this is the house that a good ol' boy would be proud to bring his parents to. Indeed, his paternal grandmother, who survived both her son and grandson, lived here too. Visiting the house I was nearly convinced by the guides' spiel : he was no addict ; he merely took too many prescription drugs. It's no opium den, but the American equivalent of the bungalow in Epping Forest. There are mirrored marble table-tops which match the ceiling, 15-foot sofas for formal conversations, a bank of three TVs in the romper room, and a nine-foot piano, coated in gold inside and out. Fielding two trumpets, a tenor sax, guitar, bass, rhythm guitar, drums and percussion, along with three singers decked out in sporty red-and-white matching outfits, Bembeya played to a disappointingly small crowd in Covent Garden. However, those in attendance were not down-hearted. The Guineans play music which has evolved, I am assured, from West African Mandinka rhythms and is called mbalax, a fact which I derived some obscure pleasure communicating to my radio audience, and as they do it and melody upon melody flows from the guitar of Sekou Diabate, the overall effect, as I shamefacedly suggested above, hits below the belt. In Bembeya's music, as in all the best music whatever its source, there is a considerable sense of space. Rhythms are implied rather than relentlessly stated and somehow the listener's heartbeat seems to fill these gaps. Yet again the pages of my reporter's notebook remained unsullied as I closed my eyes and cursed my inability to dance. Is hypnotherapy a possible solution here ? 3 In the magazine, the Proclaimers. fa Springsteen Darkness On The Edge Of Town Streisand First Album Toto IV Vandross Never Too Much Of The Worlds Highlights Bush Dreaming Gayle Singles Album Chocolate .Greatest Hits Maiden Piece Of Mind McCartney And Wings Wings Greatest A Day At The Races , A Night At The Opera Richard . Dressed For TheOccasion Sound Of Bread Golden Hits Hotel California And The Bunnymen ... Ocean Rain Brothers Best Of Fagen The Nightfly Mac Rumours Nicks Belladonna Pretenders Simon Best Of Stewart Greatest Hits Heads .Remain In Light Deguello Here's the perfect chance to stock up on some all-time greats for your music collection. We've got lots of cassettes at the special price of either 3.29 or 2.99. The titles are also available at these special prices on LP in most of our branches or to order at no extra cost. CASSETTES YE2.99T Louis Armstrong Greatest Hits Glen Campbell .The Glen Campbell Album Barbara Dickson Barbara Dickson Songbook Fureys And Davey Arthur At The End Of The Day Images Various Ben E King And The Drifters .. Best Of Ovation Very Besl Of Andrew Lloyd Webber Percy Sledge Best Of Themes Vol 2 Together Various Artists Dionne Warwick .The Classics Don Williams Images John Williams Bridges Stan Getz and Branford Marsalis DAVE GELLY terdays,' for most of which Getz was accompanied only by Rufus Reid's bass. Standing well back from the microphone (thus allowing his sound to develop naturally, before the amplifier took over), he demonstrated all the varied textures of that extraordinary tone from gentle piping to ferocious attack but always in response to the direction and shape of his improvisation. There is not another living player with a more perfectly integrated style. It was a good idea on the part of the JVCCapital Festival to include in the same programme a young player of the same instrument, working with identical accompaniment. Branford Marsalis is 27, one year older than his brother Olter ends 10 August Available where you see tins sign. Bruce Barbra Toto Luther War Kate Cristal Hot Iron Paul Queen Queen Cliff Bread Drifters Eagles Echo Everly Donald Fleetwood Stevie Pretenders Carly Rod Talking ZZTop J S Beethoven: Mozarl: Slrauss Dvorak: Wagner: Elvis lies in state: He was alone concerts featuring his musicians, such as th'e Jordonaires ; a memorial sevice ; rallies ; dances ; art exhibitions ; and even a five-kilometre run. The Sun studios where he recorded many of his earliest hits ('That's All Right, Mama,' 'Mystery Train') will be open, and you can tour the churches, the shops and. homes he visited. Lanksy's ('Tailors to the King') is opposite the Elvis Presley statue on Beale Street, known to aficionados as the home of the blues (W. Handy came from here, and Albert King still performs two blocks away, at the Peabody Hotel) but mainly as Elvis's old hang-out. Memphis people remember how they heard the news of Elvis's death the way others recall JFK's assassination. It's not that big a city, and they felt flattered at the way he kept his home there even when he was rich enough to afford houses in Hollywood and Hawaii. Presley was obsessed with police work and used to cruise the streets of Memphis looking for accidents or arrests, stopping to ask if he could help. He gave a lot to local charities. Sometimes he would take off on long, pointless flights aboard his four-engined jet, the ' Lisa Marie.' On the way he'd munch hamburgers and watch Monty Python and Peter Sellers tapes on the video. Sometimes he'd be so bored when he arrived, wherever it was, he'd order the jet right back. r USE Bembeya Jazz National JOHN PEEL with a range of home-grown bands, made the less entrenched British audiences at least aware of the sound of African music by the simple means of playing it often and playing it well. ' African music is clearly as meaningful or as meaningless as ' European music ' or ' Asian music,' but there are common characteristics, principally and obviously a considerable but flexible rhythmic drive and an abundance of free-flowing electric guitar playing. At the Africa Centre, Bembeya demonstrated both of these characteristics marvellously well. Bembeya Jazz National is, even by local standards, a well-established band. Sekou Diabate, known to admirers as Diamond Fingers, was adjudged Africa's best guitarist in 1977 and the equipe itself, if my translation of the French so recklessly employed on the sleeve of a recent LP is correct, has been at it since 1961. Young, gifted and black POCKET MUSIC CASSETTES ONLY TE3.29T Bach: Famous Organ Works; .Ton Koopman Piano Sonalas; Emil Gilels BrahmsSchumann: Piano Concertos; ZiniermanFrantzVPOBernstein Symphonies 35. 40 & 41: VPOBemstein Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture And Olher Works: C'SOBnrenboim Family: Wallzes; VPOMaazel Symphonies Nos S & 9; VPOMaazel Orchestra Excerpts; Orchestre dc Paris Barenboim CASSETTES 3.29T Abba Greatest Hits Volume 2 Bangles All Over The Place Dave Brubeck Take Five Doris Day Best Of Doris Day Neil Diamond Beautiful Noise Earth Wind And Fire.... Best Of- Vol.1 Aretha Franklin .... Greatest Hits 60-65 Erroll Garner Misty Benny Goodman Benny Goodman Plays Gershwin Herbie Hancock Future Shock Jacksons Victory Billy Joel The Slranger Carole King Tapeslry Mealloaf Deadringer Men at Work Business As Usual Carly Simon Spoiled Girl Paul Simon Greatesi Hits eic Simon & Garfunkel.. Sound Of Silence THERE ARE times are there not when the animal passions are so engaged that you cannot understand why the breath heaving from your flaring nostrils fails to set your shirt alight. We are talking here about sex. I am not myself, I reluctantly admit, much given to or sought after for Hunnish practices an estate agent attempting to interest clients in my oh-so-subtle charms might write something like ' Rural property in need of modernisation. Delightful views. Some damp.' But the music of Bern bey a Jazz National, visiting the Africa Centre in Covent Garden from Guinea-Conakry last week, struck me as being impudently erotic. You will, without doubt, recollect previous jottings on the subject of African music in these pages, how hardly a year passes in which we are not assured by some authority or other that the aforementioned African music is poised 1 thing that is the word they use to make significant inroads into mainstream pop. It never happens, of course, and it never will, but during 1986-87 Zimbabwe's Bhundu Boys, followed by Jonah Moyo and the Devcra Mgwena Jazz Band and Real Sound, have, in conjunction itralvHSMi W jhi ! Pi ices coned at lime ot Ri)n'.g lo press Subiecl to availability

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