Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 8:27 am
There's a beguiling photo of Krzysztof Penderecki, who turns 80 today, inside the brochure of this week's Warsaw music festival that bears his name. It shows the lauded Polish composer standing in his immense garden, surrounded by a labyrinth of trees and shrubbery trimmed to symmetrical perfection.
Composer Benjamin Britten was born 100 years ago today, and the occasion is being marked by performances of his music around the world, from Carnegie Hall in New York to Memorial Hall in Tokyo.
Britten was a central figure of 20th-century classical music: He was a conductor, pianist and festival producer, as well as a composer. His best-known works include the opera Billy Budd, his War Requiem and The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.
I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to composer anniversaries but this year, marking 100 years since the birth of Benjamin Britten, has been absolutely fascinating for me. I am now living proof that such centenaries can indeed change the way we look at a composer and provide us with opportunities to explore their breadth and depth. In Britten I have found a new hero, a musically surprising and multi-dimensional citizen of the world.
Polo, the game much loved by the British Royals, has a murky history. No one is quite sure where it originated, but modern polo was formalized by the British in India. Normally played on polo ponies (although they are actually horses), the game involves men riding up and down a field, wielding a long handled stick called a mallet, hitting a small round ball. Fairly fast speeds can be attained, and injuries are not infrequent.
Did you think Santa Claus only delivered presents? Well, in Switzerland on the last weekend of November, would be Santa Clauses endure two grueling days of competition to find out who’s absolutely, positively the best Santa in the world. Now in its twelfth year, the Cla Wau event attracts participants from around the globe. The only requirement to enter is a Santa outfit, three co-conspirators, and an adventurous attitude.