Or do we ever allow ourselves space to let our senses enjoy?

Click and Tick. Is that our primary driver today? Do we ever allow ourselves space to let our senses enjoy? I’ve just returned from Europe. Among many observations, no matter where I went, from Istanbul to Islington, something that proved inescapable was the rise of that 21st-century phenomenon, the selfie. Whether it’s a gaggle of girls charging about the Blue Mosque with their selfie sticks or art tourists positioning themselves to catch their best sides at the National Gallery, it seems everyone today must paint themselves into the picture. The architecture or landscape alone no longer cuts the mustard. Now it has to be “me in front of Aya Sofia” or “The Rokeby Venus and I”.

I’m not really one to judge, mind. I may lack the compulsion to capture myself but I’m often guilty of wandering a gallery, phone in hand, snapping away at the art for some never-to-be-realised future moment of contemplation, spending more time looking at a picture through the camera lens than standing still and taking in the art itself. So where are the still points in life? What price the long form? Are attention spans destined to shrink to the length of a gnat’s left foot?

Two things on my return offered a degree of hope. One was reading Andrew Upton’s mercurial and sparkling essay on Chekhov that forms our cover feature. Thank God for writers prepared to reward the curious, and unafraid of intellectual complexity. The second was the chance to journey with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau as they essayed Schubert’s superb song cycles over the course of three hours of gripping music theatre (see our reviews page).

For those who prefer the road more easily travelled, Stephen Fry this month offers a light-hearted take on the history of classical music, and in a backhanded homage to the selfie, we’ve cheekily dropped him into some of the famous paintings of the great composers. Alongside pictures of Mr Fry, you’ll find an intimate portrait of Renée Fleming, returning to Australia after ten years. Plus we look at some revolutionaries: how Tchaikovsky transformed the ballet and an encounter with the apostle of authenticity, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, still pushing boundaries at 86 years young. I hope you enjoy a good, long read.

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