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  • LIFESTYLE

    Get Carter

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 03/09/2013

    » Maybe it was Elliott Carter's passing last year just short of his 104th birthday that spurred the re-release of these recordings, much longed-for by admirers of Carter's music and unobtainable for many decades. Carter belongs on any shortlist of important modern composers, but the best recordings of his work have a tendency to descend into deletion limbo and stay there. These are times when even a new Mahler recording has little chance of making money for its publishers unless President Barack Obama or Justin Bieber happens to mention that he's been listening to it, so once again we must be grateful to ArchivMusic for restoring these very special performances to the catalogue.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Precise handling of explosive material

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 23/07/2013

    » One of the sternest critics of Prokofiev's Second Symphony following its unsuccessful 1925 premiere under Koussevitsky was the composer himself. "Neither I nor the audience understood anything in it," he remarked, softening his rejection somewhat with the remark that he "cherished the hope that it is a worthy piece of work". Still, with its extreme brutality, dissonance and gnarled counterpoint, it made few friends. Koussevitsky never programmed it again and, as far as I can learn, there were no further performances of it until Charles Bruck made this recording in 1957.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Terminally odd opera

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 25/06/2013

    » Sometimes the recordings that stay in the catalogue for decades, that leap from format to format and refuse to slip into the limbo of the deleted and forgotten, are not the ones you would expect. No one is surprised that Furtwaengler's Beethoven or Toscanini's Verdi can be clicked on Amazon, but it is less of a given that the American composer Virgil Thomson's own 1947 abridged recording of his 1928 opera, Four Saints In Three Acts, should still be with us after all these years.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Illuminating a dark message

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 28/05/2013

    » Listeners with an ear for the symphonies of Shostakovich and Prokofiev must have noticed the similarities between their their respective fifth and sixth symphonies. Shostakovich wrote his Fifth Symphony as "A Soviet Composer's Reply to Just Criticism" after taking a pounding in Pravda (some say written by Stalin himself), for the "formalist", meaning too stylistically modern, music he had been composing previously. His Fifth, still his most popular symphony, is full of big tunes and optimism that made it an instant success, although the composer insisted later that its surface pleasures were a facade covering coded protest and anger.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Savours of the South

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 07/06/2013

    » Bangkok's Chinatown is so dense with good places to eat that a committed foodie could spend years exploring the neighbourhood. As happens so often in this city of ours, an inverse relationship can exist between the outward appearance of a restaurant and the quality of the food inside.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Flavours of yesteryear

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 24/05/2013

    » They still do exist, you know: real raan khao gaeng _ curry shops _ where the cook pounds the nam prik personally and takes the time to squeeze genuine, fresh coconut cream, separating it into the hua (first pressing) and the haang, instead of opening a container of dairy milk or (in hanging-offence cases) a can of evaporated milk.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Poles together

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 14/05/2013

    » During his recent trip to Warsaw, my colleague sent a photo of a poster showing that the centenary of the Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski is being celebrated there as something of a national event. Nice to see the anniversary of an avant-garde artist's birth treated as such a major event, but considering that the country is Poland, it is not so surprising.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Obscure objects of desire

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 19/04/2013

    » If there is such a thing as a culinary endangered species, a type of dining establishment that occupies the same doomed territory as the Asian golden cat, the bumblebee bat and the Javan rhino, it is probably the small, informal restaurant, owned and operated by the same family for many years, where exceptional food is prepared using personal recipes that have been polished to perfection over time.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Kaleidoscope of instrumental hues

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 12/03/2013

    » Listening to almost anything written by the modern French composer Henri Dutilleux it is hard to understand why his work was a specialists' preserve for so long.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Off the eaten track

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 15/03/2013

    » You can usually be sure of a good meal if you're being taken to a restaurant you've never tried before by a friend who knows what you like. A recommendation from a co-worker with reliable foodie instincts will also generally lead to good things. But there's a lot to be said for playing it less safe, heading into unknown territory for a meal at a restaurant you've chosen just because you like the look of it.

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