The ‘phenomenal success’ of the Ballets Russes‘ 1909 season was purely artistic; in financial terms it was a disaster, leaving Diaghilev and his backers with a gargantuan debt of 85,000 francs (some things never change!). Lesser men would have simply given up at this point, but the indomitable impresario immediately began pressing ahead with plans for […]

Santa’s Ludwig’s Grotto. What’s wurst?

Neuschwanstein [see previous post] wasn’t Ludwig’s [Ludwig II of Bavaria] only creation. Apart from the fact that the fairy tale castle wasn’t actually finished when he died (ah, his death, there’s another mystery – suicide? murder?? escape attempt???)  the king generally seemed to prefer living in one of his smaller flights of fancy. Hidden deep […]


Not much outdoor activity; it’s raining  ̶  started this morning and is really quite heavy (Swansea equivalent = ‘perhaps you should take an umbrella, it looks a bit like rain’). Anyway, the good news is that this provided an opportunity to visit the Queen Victoria Market, a large indoor (obviously!) area full of goodies from […]

An original creation — Luonnotar

‘There was a maiden, daughter of heaven, the beautiful Luonnotar …’ … so begins – according to the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic – the making of earth, moon and stars. Sibelius’ setting of this creation myth for soprano and orchestra is, by common consent, one of his finest compositions, capturing exactly the primitive, visceral darkness of the text (and simultaneously […]


Welcome to a new year and a new term. This year’s courses present an interesting diversity. The year starts with an examination of the music of Scandinavia and Finland, and then moves on in the second and third terms to explore the great German tradition with studies of Bach, Wagner and Mahler. As you can see […]