Bernard Levin, Conducted Tour

    I still miss Bernard Levin’s articles; I wonder what he would have said about the Diana inquest, or the current US election campaign?  (Though the latter topic would be more his beloved Arianna’s territory).  I made do with reading ‘Conducted Tour’, a collection of accounts of ten music festivals he attended in 1980.  Some of these are well-known (Glyndebourne, Edinburgh, Bayreuth), others less so.  At times it’s a bit like watching someone else’s party as he describes in detail meals with his distinguished friends at long-gone eateries (e.g. in the chapters on Bath and Wexford).  The Florence Festival doesnt seem to have much music in it at all so he looked at the architecture instead.  Other chapters focus more on the music.

    Levin is prone to discussing music in mystical terms which generally seem out of place today – if you have a mystical outlook now, it’s not usually classical music that you’ll be interested in.  I’m left with the impression that the only music he really loves, as opposed to enjoying, is that of Mozart, Schubert and Wagner.  Certainly he has a blind spot when it came to French music and little interest in the twentieth century apart from Britten and Shostakovich.  To be fair though, he listens to first performances of new works with an open mind.  And he is certainly able to spot up-and-coming singers bound for greater things.

    If you enjoy Levin’s writing, this little book is worth seeking out.  In future years it might be fun to read for its description of the way things were in 1980, but not enough time has gone by yet. It is not so interesting in what it has to say about music, though there are some good anecdotes.

    • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (February 1, 1988)
    • ISBN-10: 0340404884
    • ISBN-13: 978-0340404881
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