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Classical music | The Guardian
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In its 22 years, the festival has cancelled only a single concert. As its founder says: ‘Every year there’s some crisis and we say: “My God, are we going to carry on?” and we always do’

Ten years ago, on the eve of Lebanon’s only winter festival of classical music, a truck bomb on the Beirut seafront killed the prime minister, Rafik Hariri, and 21 other people. The opening concert was cancelled. But the next night an Estonian choir performed as planned in a church, in what became a memorial service for the dead and a defining moment of cultural defiance.

The assassination in 2005 was the Al Bustan festival’s darkest hour, its founder, Myrna Bustani, tells me. “It was like Kennedy; it not only killed Hariri, but people’s hope.” Attendance plummeted, not out of fear but because Beirutis took to the streets. Visiting musicians joined in the peaceful protests of the “cedar revolution”. “They came back at three in the morning wearing the Lebanese flag,” Bustani recalls. “They joined the demonstrations that finally got the Syrians out of the country. The musicians were elated.”

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Sage, Gateshead
Percy Grainger’s The Warriors achieved a colossal impact through Ilan Volkov’s clarity of conducting, while the NYO’s brass section displayed a rare sensuousness during Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra Continue reading...
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Valentina Lisitsa, who has a huge online following, has criticised western journalists for supposed bias in covering events in Ukraine

A pianist has been struck off the concert programme with a Canadian orchestra for expressing her support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Valentina Lisitsa, a Ukraine-born pianist, was scheduled to play Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Friday night, but her performance was scrapped amid “ongoing accusations of deeply offensive language” on Twitter, said the orchestra’s president, Jeff Melanson.

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The city where the young Mozart spent a year in the 1760s was also home to “the London Bach” – Johann Christian. Mozart held him and his music in the highest regard, so why have Londoners heard so little of the older composer?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no great British music was composed between the death of Henry Purcell in 1695 and the emergence of Edward Elgar in the 1890s. To compensate for this we claim Handel as our own – he did, after all, take up British citizenship – but far less is made of the English connections of two other great 18th-century composers, JC Bach and – perhaps the greatest of all composers – Mozart.

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Boston Baroque/Pearlman
(Linn)

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Minguet Quartett/Huelgas Ensemble
(ECM)

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Borodin Quartet
(Decca)

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Descharmes/Giardini/Les Siecles/Roth/Brussels PO/Niquet
(Ediciones Singulares, three CDs)

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Maker of music documentaries for TV and radio who had a passion for opera

In the television programmes that he made and commissioned, Dennis Marks, who has died aged 66 following complications from leukaemia, made the most of the BBC’s commitment to cultural life: it provided the perfect environment for what he sought to do. Realising his ambitions for live performance as general director of English National Opera proved more elusive, but he went on to do much more in broadcasting, particularly radio, once free of the demands of having to run an organisation.

Dennis’s desire to communicate his love and knowledge of music, and the context in which it was created, lay at the heart of the outstanding TV documentaries that he produced. Liszt in Weimar (1986), for example, covered the composer’s piano playing, romances, travels and the social, cultural and political world that nurtured him. Dennis could tell this story in all its cultural complexity and thereby further understanding of Liszt’s music, because, as with his other favourite composers – Mahler, Janácek, Wagner and Bartók – he was a true European. Mitteleuropa was in his blood.

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It might sound like a joke, but the production could be the latest queer show to become a commercial success, and have operagoers swiping right

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