Humor Magazine

An Excellent 'Speccie' This Week

By Davidduff

So go on, treat yourself to a copy on your way home, or better still, buy a subscription and help keep Britain's best weekly going for another two hundred and odd years!  This week there are two interesting book reviews.  The first, by Philip Hensher is of Churchill and Empire: Portrait of an Imperialist by Lawrence James.  I must confess that in my previous readings of books in which our national wartime hero featured I have been ever so slightly shocked by some of his views on what, no doubt, he would have called 'Worthy Oriental Gentlemen'.  Of course, if I was momentarily shocked by his frequent throwaway lines you can imagine the effect on, say, Polly Toynbee.  In fact, now that I mention it, I might compile a collection and send them to her!  In another sign of modernity, Hensher, himself, brought me to a confused halt when he referred in his review to his Indian born 'husband'!  It took me nearly a full minute to understand - DUH!

There is no question, however, that as Churchill's career progressed, his thinking and his way of talking about these subjects stayed in an embarrassingly late-Victorian mode.  Leo Amery observed that "the key to Winston is to realize that he is Mid-Victorian, steeped in the politics of his father's period, and unable ever to get the modern point of view".

So not all bad then!  Well, yes, actually it was because it clouded his judgment but then, despite the adulation, he was human after all.

Another review by James McConnachie, wittily entitled Waving, not drowning, is concerned with a book by Christopher Seaman called Inside Conducting which seeks to illuminate the mysterious art - or is it craft? - of conducting an orchestra.  I may have mentioned before that I once knew (very slightly) the late Vernon (Tod) Handley, a distinguished conductor who is reckoned to have single-handedly saved much of 20th century British music, especially that of Arnold Bax.  Quite whether it was worth the effort I am not qualified to say but certainly Tod, a constantly bubbling enthusiast, thought so.  I wish I had known him later in my life when I might have been able to ask him some pertinent and even half-intelligent questions.  As it was, all I could do was listen as he extolled the virtues of his main mentor, Sir Adrian Boult.  This from Wiki:

Handley held clear views on the style of conductors, saying "Music isn't mime; you shouldn't fraudulently convince people that they have heard what they haven't", and stating "jet-set musical careers... are little to do with the work, more to do with PR".[4] Questioning the influence of television on conducting, Handley recalled Boult telling him, "Do remember, won't you, that you are playing to the blind man in the audience."[11]

Anyway, the book review starts with this amusing tale:

Conductors love telling stories, especially stories about other conductors, and every chapter of this otherwise determinedly pragmatic book begins with one.  Perhaps the most telling concerns "a famous conductor"  who mistakenly gave a massive downbeat in a bar that was supposed to be silent.  The orchestra, reading the score correctly, did not play.  Voice from the back of the violas, " He doesn't sound so good on his own, does he?"

They're such bitches in the viola section!


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