This is an entry to the Musica Viva “So you think you can write competition”. It is unlikely to appear on their website so is posted here instead. Enjoy!

Do I think I can write? I matriculated didn’t I? Graduated? Ivy League. OK, so I read the helpful hints. English 101. Sir Ernest Gowers didn’t even rate a mention. So who is this judge anyway? A little targeted googling suggests it may be the same person who played an F sharp in The Messiah and got life in the colonies as a result. Still, stay my starting pen, for insulting the judge is no way to win the big one.

But this is a big weekend for the classics. Jerusalem Quartet concert to be sure. A few half-hearted demonstrators before the door. But then it’s hard to rent a crowd on Saturday night, unless you run a bar behind Angel Place. I’ve rarely seen so many short skirts. If those Jerusalem Quartet boys had a party in mind after the concert, it was sure there for the having. But I digress (and one of the instructions was “Don’t be trivial”). I don’t altogether agree with the Guardian’s Mr Patridis. And anyway, Peter McCallum went on about the demonstrators at Monday’s event. So there!


Big Weekend? Well did you see the piece by Tim Dick in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald? (

With a name like his, he’s clearly grown up with a big chip on his shoulder. He’s not any old Tim, Dick or Harry. But where is Norman Lebrecht when you need him? The music industry “surviving on white guilt”? “ exist for over a century beyond its relevance”? “Inner-city white lefties”? Trouble is, Lebrecht and Alex Ross are probably too busy despairing at the death of their profession, at least as far as the print media is concerned. If the average age of classical concert-goers is around fifty, then so be it. There were five people under forty at the Saturday gig. I know. I counted. (Probably all went on to that bar afterwards to have some fun).


Certain of Dick’s statements were borne out, of course. The audience applauded Carl Vine before they had heard one note of his work. And there was a small element who, like President Obama, didn’t know when to applaud. But like Obama, they learned quickly. And from the stamping and clapping after the Schubert quintet, I guess a fair number of people found tunes where Dick thinks there are none. At least they went home happy.


If life is hard in the classics business, perhaps it is understandable when a composer hitches himself to a well-risen star by claiming a work is written as a “concert companion to Schubert’s masterful quintet”. Still, from the promoter’s standpoint it makes commercial sense, if you have to tour with two cellos, to make the second work both before and after interval. Talking of intervals, Dick had a go at them too, even while acknowledging their use in getting out before the end. He clearly doesn’t pay ninety dollars for his ticket. In this correspondent’s experience, intervals give the oldies a chance to cry in their red wine about that contemporary piece which always seems to be placed immediately before the break. Funny though, there seemed to be mostly cheerful faces after the Vine work, and the applause was warmer than for the earlier Haydn. So maybe there were a few tunes in there after all.


Now your correspondent knows this is far too long and the inner-city lefties from Musica Viva wouldn’t post it in a fit. So it will probably end up on my blog. So be it.

John of Oz

Twenty words about myself? How can I fit seventy years into twenty words? Male. Misanthrope. Occasional Correspondent. That about covers it. In twenty-one!


About johnofoz

An occasional correspondent, with particular interest in music.
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