Michael Church

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Michael Church

Michael Church is a music critic for The Independent, and also an ethnomusicologist. He has made reports on traditional music from every continent for the BBC World Service, and is World-music Critic for BBC Music Magazine and The Scotsman. In 2004, Topic Records released a Cd of his Kazakh field recordings, 'Songs from the Steppes: Kazakh music today', and in 2007 two further CDs of his recordings: 'Songs of Defiance: The Music of Chechnya and the North Caucasus', and 'Songs of Survival: Traditional Music of Georgia', both of which have won awards. He is currently editing a book about the world’s great musical traditions. For 15 years he combined the posts of Television Critic of The Times and Literary Editor of the Times Educational Supplement, and was also a panel-member of the Arts Council. He was the founding Arts Editor of The Independent on Sunday, and is a former Features Editor of The Independent, for whom he now reviews books, concerts, and opera, and contributes major articles.

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‘Back to the Garden’: A compelling portrayal of ordinary people, Arts

‘Back to the Garden’: A compelling portrayal of ordinary people

I found myself caring deeply about these painfully ordinary people, and hoping they could find a way through their problems.

By | Arts, Music | Monday, 17 March 2014 at 2:42 pm

Late September, and the discreet excellence of film-maker Jon Sanders, Arts

Late September, and the discreet excellence of film-maker Jon Sanders

The discreet excellence of film-maker Jon Sanders is one of contemporary cinema’s best-kept secrets. But when his new film ‘Late September’ premieres at the ICA and the Bristol Watershed this month, that secret may finally come out. Like all Sanders’s work, it’s driven by a powerful subterranean emotional charge, but remarkably understated: only towards the end do you realise that it packs a Chekhovian punch.

By | Arts, Film | Wednesday, 6 June 2012 at 10:31 am

Maxim Vengerov’s Wigmore comeback, Arts

Maxim Vengerov’s Wigmore comeback

Two weeks ago Vengerov stood in for a sick Martha Argerich and played Prokofiev’s first violin concerto, but that was just toe-dipping before the total immersion of his come-back at the Wigmore Hall.

By | Arts, Music | Friday, 6 April 2012 at 11:40 am

Viva Verbier, Arts

Viva Verbier

As the only begetter of the Verbier Festival – unquestionably the starriest event in the classical calendar – Martin Engstroem has always lived dangerously. His initial idea was simply to combine partying and performances on top of a mountain, but being artistic boss of Deutsche Grammophon meant he had a stunning roster of talent to [...]

By | Arts | Tuesday, 26 July 2011 at 11:49 am

‘The Return of Ulysses’ as travestied by ENO, and honoured by Pierre Audi; and Peter Brook’s ‘A Magic Flute’, Arts

‘The Return of Ulysses’ as travestied by ENO, and honoured by Pierre Audi; and Peter Brook’s ‘A Magic Flute’

Substituting a modest ‘a’ for the usual ‘the’, Peter Brook’s ‘Flute’ comes courtesy of seven barefoot singers, two dreadlocked actors, a pianist, simple lighting changes, and thirty bamboo poles: the flute isn’t played, but hovers magically in the air. Those who dislike this production itemise the things that aren’t there: no Three Ladies, no Three [...]

By | Arts | Monday, 28 March 2011 at 10:42 am

Jacek Laszczkowski’s remarkable voice

It’s commonly assumed that counter-tenor is the highest male register, but as those who have seen Lukas Hemleb’s production of Agostino Steffani’s ‘Niobe’ at Covent Garden will attest, there’s a voice still higher – the male soprano. And this wacky show points up the differences between these registers – and between varieties of counter-tenor – [...]

By | Arts | Friday, 1 October 2010 at 6:35 pm

In praise of Verbier Festival – classical music’s Davos, Arts

In praise of Verbier Festival – classical music’s Davos

‘First it rained, then it poured,’ says Martin Engstroem, of the time when the festival he’d created ran into such daunting financial problems that its future suddenly looked in doubt. But he might also have been talking about this year’s opening night.
As Charles Dutoit raised his baton to give the down-beat for Yuja Wang and [...]

By | Arts | Thursday, 22 July 2010 at 5:07 pm

Katya and the Vixen: Janacek at the ROH and ENO

Orchestrally speaking, Janacek is bringing out the best in our big opera houses. While Sir Charles Mackerras gallantly triumphs over age and infirmity to conduct a coruscating performance of ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ at Covent Garden, Mark Wigglesworth extracts more pliant beauty from the Coliseum band than any other conductor has in recent memory.
Dramatically, [...]

By | Arts | Monday, 22 March 2010 at 2:07 pm

English Touring Opera goes back on tour

One of the most dependable pleasures of the operatic year comes when English Touring Opera unpacks its goodies at the start of a new season. You know everything will be pared down for travel, with visibly portable sets, but you also know that whatever it’s doing will reflect an original take. I will never forget [...]

By | Arts | Tuesday, 16 March 2010 at 2:49 pm

Tracey Emin rule ok

A few blogs ago, I ruffled some fine-art feathers by suggesting that Anish Kapoor was a fraud. I recommended that readers should catch an interview he had given on BBC World, in which the bogusness of London’s fine-art scene was gloriously laid bare. Having just watched Tracey Emin interviewed on BBC Four by the indulgently [...]

By | Arts | Tuesday, 16 March 2010 at 2:31 pm

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