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Review of 2012: Arts

21 December 2012

MANY arts events this year were explicitly linked to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, which concided with the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. A new two-volume collection of anthems, Choirbook for the Queen (Canterbury Press), from which items are being sung in turn in the cathedrals of the UK, linked the two, as did a special Prayer Book exhibition, "Royal Devotion", at Lambeth Palace Library, building on the success of the King James Bible exhibition there in 2011.

Other noted exhibitions included Graham Sutherland (Modern Art, Oxford); ten British painters (Haunch of Venison, London); Titian at the National Gallery; 850 years of Livery Company treasures at the Guildhall, and "Gold, Power and Allure" at Goldsmiths' Hall; "Foppa, Zenale and Luini" (Robilant & Voena, London); "Hajj" and "Shakespeare: Staging the World" at the British Museum; tomb treasures of Han China in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; "Bronze" (RA); "The Lost Prince" (National Portrait Gallery); "Royal Manuscripts" in the British Library; Guercino (Sir Denis Mahon Collection, Ashmolean, Oxford); "Picasso and Modern British Art" (Tate Britain); Van Dyck (Dulwich Picture Gallery); John Piper (Dorchester Abbey); the Pugin bicentenary programme in Birmingham.

Contemporary shows included David Hockney (RA); John Kirby (Walker Gallery, Liverpool); David Crouch (Southwell Minster); Nigel Groom (Worcester Cathedral and St Mary's, Prestwich); Helen Marshall and Ruth Dent (Rochester Cathedral); "Reaching Beyond" in Bromley-by-Bow; Daniel Eltinger and Celia Paul (Chichester Cathedral; Paul was also shown alongside works by Gwen John at Pallant House); Roger Wagner and Mark Cazalet (Snape); 14 artists' Stations (Discoed).


New commissions for churches included Roger Wagner's window for Iffley Parish Church; Herman Heinze's sculpture Choir of Survivors for the Coventry Cathedral ruins (below); and glass doors by Mel Howse on a piscatorial theme for St Paul's, Brighton.

The renovation and conservation of the old continued, most conspicuously with the restoration of the great east window at York Minster. The Auckland Castle Zurbarán paintings were bought by Jonathan Ruffer to keep them in the north-east; Pieter Brueghel's St John the Baptist Preaching to the Masses in the Wilderness was sold for £1.61 million; Art Fund supported a public appeal by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, to buy Poussin's Extreme Unction for almost £3.9 million.

Highlights in contemporary music included James MacMillan's Gloria for Coventry Cathedral; and the world première of his Since it was the Day of Preparation . . . (Edinburgh); the UK première of Richard Causton's Blake work Twenty-Seven Heavens; Rivers to the Sea by Joseph Phibbs and Centuries of Meditation by Dobrinka Tabakova (Three Choirs); Sofia Gubaidulina's Offertorium, a violin concerto (Edinburgh); Jonathan Harvey's Welt Ethos, to a text by the theologian Hans Küng, at the Royal Festival Hall; and Martin How's RSCM Advent Cantata in Croydon.

Other notable musical events were Bliss's The Beatitudes, originally commissioned for Coventry Cathedral in 1962, but heard in that building for the first time to mark its 50th anniversary; George Dyson's The Canterbury Pilgrims and Berlioz's Te Deum (Three Choirs), and his Requiem (Proms). Bernstein's Mass had its Proms première; and the season also included John Ireland's These Things Shall Be, Handel's Judas Maccabeus, Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, and Howells's Hymnus Paradisi.

There was Gabrieli (400 years since his death), and Charpentier's opera David et Jonathas, in Edinburgh; a tour of country churches, "Music in Quiet Places"; the landmark but bleak revival of Vaughan Williams's opera The Pilgrim's Progress at the Coliseum in London (ENO); Szymanowski's Stabat Mater (CBSO); Britten's Ceremony of Carols choreographed by Richard Alston; Charles Wood's The Passion according to St Mark (Farrant Singers, Salisbury); and a rare chance to hear Carl Loewe's The Atonement of the New Testament (Oxford Harmonic Society).


Michael Kiwanuka was named the BBC's Sound of 2012.

Drama and dance included Can We Talk About This? (DV8, National Theatre and touring); The Preston Passion (BBC); David Edgar's Written on the Heart (RSC); The Beloved by Amir Nizar Zuabi (Bush, London); Life of Christ (Wintershall); How Like An Angel (touring cathedrals); Mike Bartlett's adaptation of Colin Welland's film script for Chariots of Fire in London (transferred to the Gielgud); the York Mystery Plays, their first large-scale production since 2000; Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma (National); Treasured, Jen Heyes's drama about the Titanic, in Liverpool Cathedral; Damned by Despair, Molina, adapted by Frank McGuinness (National Theatre); a stage adaptation of William Golding's The Spire by Roger Spottiswoode, in Salisbury; Chronicles of Light in Winchester Cathedral; and Alan Bennett's new comedy People at the National Theatre.

Films reviewed in our columns included Hadewijch; The Iron Lady; Acts of Godfrey; The Devil Inside; Corpo Celeste; The Monk; The Gospel of Us; Joyful Noise; Even the Rain; Faust; and Holy Motors. And on DVD: The Borgias; Relics and Roses; Ordet (The Word); Red State; The Vow; and Holy Flying Circus.

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