Because I can…

I was reminded by seeing this Rembrandt self-portrait in the flesh last weekend of the amazing and uplifting effect of outrageous virtuosity. Here’s the artist at around 22, painting one of his first self-portraits, in a way completely at odds with the more formal portraits he and others were producing at the time. Lit from behind, the hair details scratched into the paint, a gaze that’s felt rather than seen, and a wall as background whose texture takes on a life of its own.
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Elliott Carter at 100 - but where’s the Proms celebration?

With his 100th birthday approaching (December 11) Elliott Carter is still writing lively, challenging, stimulating music. Here’s a short interview recorded at his home in Greenwich Village: he talks about writing music that’s rewarding for performers and which provides listeners with opportunities to make new connections.

However, for a composer whose reputation in Europe was strongly fostered by the BBC in the 60s and 70s (at a time when he was regarded as an anachronism in the USA for his adherence to complexity and modernism), it’s shocking that he’s represented at this year’s BBC Proms by a mere four works, two of them short piano solos.

(Stated interest here - my PhD research in the 1980s was on Carter’s music, and I’ve played and recorded some of his works with guitar. The Proms omission is still disgraceful, though…)