Celebrated Italian conductor Claudio Abbado has died, aged 80. The double Grammy Award winner passed away in Bologna, Italy on Monday (20Jan14) after several months of ill health.
During his illustrious career, he held many of the music world's most coveted positions, including music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy and principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.
He also worked with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, acted as music director of Austria's Vienna State Opera, and was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra in Germany from 1989 to 2002.
Abbado won two Grammy Awards for his recorded works, picking up trophies in 1997 and 2005.
Much like the somber melodies that float throughout its 105-minute runtime, Inside Llewyn Davis will remain lodged in your head weeks after you and the film first meet. With Oscar Isaac's "Fare thee we-e-ell..." ringing daintily in your ears, you'll shuffle out from the grasp of the Coen Brothers' wonderland of gray, but you won't soon be able to relieve yourself of what is arguable the pair's best film yet. Llewyn's is a story so outstandingly simple — he's a man who's s**t out of luck, and not especially deserving of any. He wakes up, loses his friend's cat, plays some music, and wishes things were better. And yet his is the Coens' most invigorating and deftly human tale yet.
Llewyn Davis makes the bold, but practical, choice of never insisting that we love its hero. He's effectively a jackass, justifying all the waste he has incurred with the rudeness he showers on the majority of those in his acquaintance. But Llewyn Davis isn't the villain here, either. The villain is the industry, and all the uphill battles inherent to its machinations. The villain isn't Llewyn's substantially more successful contacts — an old pal Jim (Justin Timberlake) and new fellow couch-surfer Troy (Stark Sands), but the listening public that prefers their saccharine pop to his dreary drips of misery. The villain isn't Llewyn's resentful old flame Jean (Carey Mulligan), no matter how many volatile admonitions she might shoot his way, but the act of God surrounding their unwitting adherence to one another. And it's not even the cantankerous and foul Roland Turner (a delightfully hammy John Goodman), but the endless, frigid open road of which each man is a prisoner (if the film has one flaw, it's that this segment carries on just a bit too long, but that might very well be the point). The villain is the cold.
Call it all a raw deal. But the real dynamism isn't in the challenges that happen outside Llewyn Davis, but in the determined toxicity brewing inside as he meets each and every one.
But this isn't the Coen Brothers' Murphy's Law comedy A Serious Man — we don't watch a chaotic pileup of every imaginable trick that the devil can manage to pull. Llewyn is steady throughout, not burying Llewyn deeper but keeping him on the ground, with the fruit-bearing branches forever out of his reach. In its narrative, Llewyn Davis is as close to natural life as any of the filmmakers' works to date. Perfectly exhibited in a late scene involving a trip to Akron, Llewyn isn't a cinematic construct, but the sort of person we know, so painfully, that we are very likely to be... on our bad days.
Still, working in such a terrific harmony with the grounded feel of Llewyn himself, we have that Coen whimsy in their delivery of 1960s New York City — rather, a magic kingdom painted in the stellar form of a 1960s New York City. And not the New York City we're given by the likes of Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Closer, maybe, to Spike Lee or Sydney Lumet, but still a terrain unique to moviegoers. A New York that's always recovering from a hostile rain, and always promising another 'round the bend. One that flickers like a dying bulb, with its million odd beleaguered moths buzzing around it against the pull of logic. There is something so incredibly alive about the Coens' crying city; this hazy dream world's partnership with half-dead, anchored-to-earth portrait like Llewyn is the product of such sophisticated imagination at play.
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And to cap this review of one of the best features 2013 has given us, it's only appropriate to return to the element in which its identity is really cemented: the music. Without the tunes bobbing through the story, we'd still likely find something terrific in Llewyn Davis. But the music, as beautiful as it is, is the reason for the story. As we watch Isaac's hopeless sad sack drag himself through Manhattan's winter, past the helping hands of friends and into the grimaces of strangers, as we struggle with our own handfuls of nihilistic skepticism that any of this yarn is worth the agony (or that our attention to its meandering nature is worth the price of a ticket), we are given the rare treat of an answer. Of course it's all for something. Of course it's all about something. It's about that beautiful, beautiful music.
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Soul icon Aretha Franklin has axed two upcoming concerts to undergo treatment for another mystery condition. The Respect hitmaker was due to perform with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Illinois next Monday (20May13) and hit the stage at the Foxwoods Resort & Casino in Connecticut on 26 May (13), but both dates have been cancelled on the advice of doctors.
Details about Franklin's medical issue have not been released, but it's not the first time she has scrapped gigs due to her health.
She called off a series of shows in 2010 and refused to divulge details about what ailed her for two years, until revealing in early 2012 that she had undergone surgery to remove a tumour - although she did not specify where on her body the growth was found.
The 71 year old has also battled health problems with her legs and feet, which forced her to pull out of performing at Whitney Houston's funeral last year (12).
Singer Janelle Monae has stepped in to replace Franklin at the Illinois show.
Trumpeter Adolph Herseth has died at the age of 91. He passed away on 13 April (13) at his home in Oak Park, Illinois.
Born in Minnesota, he graduated from Luther College in Iowa with a degree in mathematics and served in the U.S. Navy during World War Two as a musician.
Herseth went on to become a principal performer at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where he played for 53 years until he gave up his post in 2001.
He retired in 2004 and has since been recognised as the "most respected and influential orchestral trumpeter of the last half-century," according to the Chicago Tribune.
World-renowned cellist Janos Starker has died at the age of 88. The musician passed away at his home in Bloomington, Indiana on Sunday (28Apr13). Reports suggest he had been in terminal care for several weeks, although further details about his death were unavailable as WENN went to press.
Born in Budapest, Hungary to Jewish parents, Starker was a child prodigy during the 1930s and made his public performance debut at the age of six.
He survived an internment camp during the Nazi regime in World War II and moved to the U.S. in 1948. He served as principal cellist for the Dallas Symphony in Texas and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, before joining the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the musical direction of Fritz Reiner in 1952.
He later settled in Indiana, where he became a professor at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, while still performing shows across the globe.
Starker, who made over 160 recordings of his work, won a Grammy Award in 1992 for a Bach solo cello piece, while he was also nominated for the prestigious honour in 1990 for his tribute to fellow cellist and composer David Popper.
He released his autobiography, The World of Music According to Starker, in 2004.