The pathos and misery of his death, passed down (for example in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus) through legends of poison and a spooky Requiem commission, colour our feelings about Mozart’s last months. His fatal illness at 36 was sudden, and came at a moment when his career was picking up after a rough spell.

Garden of Eden

04 February 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
Thomas Edward Brown’s oft-quoted line, “A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!”, makes horticulture sound quaintly old-fashioned; yet gardening is a hardy perennial in the art world. Paintings of gardens not only survived the advance of Modernism but, according to this ravishing exhibition (until 20 April), they provided much of its inspiration.

Not kidding

04 February 2016 | by John Morrish
It takes chutzpah to invite in a documentary crew when the organisation you founded is on the brink of collapse, but that is what Camila Batmanghelidjh did. The result, Camila’s Kids Company: The Inside Story (3 February), was eye opening.

Female focus

04 February 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Two notorious areas of scarcity in English theatre – women playwrights and roles for older actresses – are simultaneously redressed in Caryl Churchill’s new drama, Escaped Alone, for which a writer whose recent scripts have featured dialogue with no identified characters, specifically requests four women of “at least 70”.

From A to Zee

04 February 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
As modish a radio feature as you will encounter all this year, Herland (28 January) took its title from the ­century-old utopian novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Here three travellers crash-land on to a remote territory to find a population that is entirely female, concentrating on such elemental pursuits as child rearing and reproducing by way of parthenogenesis.

Mass for nature

28 January 2016 | by Rick Jones
After a three-year gestation, the world premiere of Green Mass is the exciting event in the diary of 62-year-old Russian composer Alexander Raskatov this weekend (30 January).

Lessons to be learned

28 January 2016 | by John Morrish
There are many kinds of heroism, but at its best it is accompanied by modesty. Few heroes have shunned the limelight as effectively as Sir Nicholas Winton.

The wisdom of age

28 January 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Osbert Sitwell once remarked that the really awful thing about advancing age was that all the things old men had told you in your youth turned out to be true.

No instant recall

28 January 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Peter Shaffer has received numerous revivals of his best-known plays: the historical epic The Royal Hunt of the Sun, the psychiatric shocker Equus, and the Mozartian drama Amadeus.

Cav and Pag (as this perennial double-bill is known) is the closest thing to the general perception of opera – which means pretty near to self-parody.

Cardinal rules

21 January 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
Most visitors barely notice the bronze relief of St Thérèse of Lisieux in the south transept of Westminster Cathedral, and few who stop in front of it would know the name of the artist.

Fallout from Camelot

21 January 2016 | by Mark Lawson
The story of how two relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis finished up living in eccentric squalor in an abandoned mansion in upstate New York has had three bursts of American cultural publicity.

Plenty more room upstairs

21 January 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
The bus drivers brought together in Bus Lines (14 January) turned out to have more in common than the matter of their employment. For a start there was the pleasure they took in their jobs, valued for the chance to meet people, and, in certain circumstances, become involved in their lives.

Great lives speak to us across the centuries, and what the life of the ­sixteenth-century John Dee, as curated via a new exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians (until 29 July), says is: “So you thought you were busy, did you?”

China is a wonderful subject for a TV historian. Not only is there masses of material, the whole civilisation is built on history, reverence for the past and veneration of one’s ancestors.

From the Bible to the Greek myths to the brothers Grimm, everyone loves a good cautionary tale – and so do the gods, who have always made excellent use of these tasty bits of finger-wagging.

Total immersion

14 January 2016 | by Francine Stock
Big-screen cinema is becoming a question of immersion. The ability to transport an audience into a specific location is what characterises some of the more distinctive films around.

Watching their Ps and Qs

14 January 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Ground-down, pernickety, ever irritable, the comic actor David Mitchell was an ideal candidate to present this series on contemporary etiquette (4–7 January).

Peerless diarist

14 January 2016 | by Suzi Feay
Since his diary was deciphered in the early nineteenth century, Samuel Pepys has never ceased to fascinate, instruct and amuse.

In the heart of London’s Spitalfields is a house, a comparatively sparse and shuttered place, that seems to have both sucked in the spirit of local history and to have shed its own history into the streets around it.

Eros and the upper crust

07 January 2016 | by Mark Lawson
It is risky for a dramatist to write historical bio-dramas for a company with Shakespeare as its middle name. Helen Edmundson, though, survived the gamble with a Royal Shakespeare Company hit four years ago:

Final choice

07 January 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
The Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland’s lawyer sister Fiona died, aged 50, in May 2014. First diagnosed with cancer five years before, she had in the interim endured a life “consumed by medical appointments”...

Tolstoy by numbers

07 January 2016 | by John Morrish
Andrew Davies, master of the literary adaptation, has now turned his attention to the imposing edifice that is War and Peace – and declared it “a doddle”.

Hello again

07 January 2016 | by Brian Morton
Comebacks are not what they were. Time was, a pop artist had to be away from active music-making for a decade or more before the rumour mill circulated whispers of writer’s block, “personal problems”, management disputes or profound stylistic change.

It is an imprecise science to take the pulse of the art world from the exhibition schedules, but on a rough reading 2015 – with its blockbuster shows of Marlene Dumas, Carsten Höller and Ai Weiwei – marched to a contemporary beat.

Vision on

29 December 2015 | by John Morrish
Television is changing. Lots of people will have looked under the Christmas tree and found any number of devices that let you turn an ordinary television into a box for receiving internet content.

Certainties and surprises

29 December 2015 | by Mark Lawson
At the risk of introducing a Scrooge-like tone to New Year celebrations, advance cultural publicity is prone to humbug. Several of the most anticipated 2015 productions – including Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet and the National Theatre’s – proved disappointing.

Shots in the dark

29 December 2015 | by Francine Stock
One of the oddities of the film year is that it begins, in effect, in the second half of February – so the next few weeks still benefit from the release of contenders for 2015 awards.

A Ring of truth

29 December 2015 | by Robert Thicknesse
The latest drama at English National Opera will be played out in 2016, with the Arts Council trying to emasculate our most treasured and ambitious opera company – a desperate and sad situation.

Seasonal search for something more Free

17 December 2015 | by Mark Lawson
Theatre scheduled for Christmas divides between shows that directly feature the season (though, these days, usually its commercial rather than theological aspects) and those that aim more broadly for a party or family audience. Two prominent examples of each are currently on offer.

Films on DVD Free

17 December 2015 | by Francine Stock
Of the many styles of animation, I am particularly charmed by the aesthetic of the Irish films made by Tomm Moore – first The Secret of Kells and now Song of the Sea. Once again, Moore imbues ancient patina and reference to hand-drawn forms (this time in shifting marine hues).

Radio Preview; Fantasy, Fun and Legends Free

17 December 2015 | by D.J Taylor
The seasonal airwaves are heavily reliant on classic literature. See, in particular, BBC Radio 4’s take on T.S. Eliot (Christmas Day), neatly recited by Jeremy Irons. Even better, the two half-hour parts are quickly followed by Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”, more than capably voiced by Tony Robinson.

Television Preview; What the Dickens? Free

17 December 2015 | by John Morrish
As if to get away from the commerciality of the modern Christmas, television at this time of year often plumps for nostalgia. Two good examples are the 20-part BBC series Dickensian (starting on 26 December), and Peter and Wendy (ITV, 26 December), both cleverly assembled from literary sources.

Music on CD; Carols for our time? Free

17 December 2015 | by Rick Jones
With the death aged 95 of Sir David Willcocks in September, carol singing is more than usually poignant. Many musicians came to their art as children through yearly carolling, singing from his 100 Carols for Choirs by street lamplight.

Enduring love Free

10 December 2015 | by Mark Lawson
The super-selling Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø once told me how much he had learned from the plays of his nation’s greatest dramatist, Henrik Ibsen. Although never formally detective stories, Ibsen’s naturalistic plays have gripping narratives...

Grim tales Free

10 December 2015 | by John Morrish
Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore started Blood and Gold: The Making of Spain (8 December) at breakneck speed and never quite caught his breath.

Moving images Free

10 December 2015 | by Laura Gascoigne
For years the deconsecrated Palladian chapel in the grounds of Bretton Hall, home of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, stood empty, until funds were raised last year for its restoration and reopening as an exhibition space.

On the rise Free

10 December 2015 | by D.J. Taylor
It was no surprise that Lucy Kellaway, who has spent the past few weeks itemising the things that “bother her” about office life, should finally turn her gaze on our reluctance to discuss what we earn (2 December). But if salary scales constituted what one expert called a “massive taboo”, then the problems that underlay them were by no means clear-cut.

Sweet surrender Free

10 December 2015 | by Robert Thicknesse

Latest Issue
Digital/PDF Version

PDF version (iPad-friendly)

Previous Issues
Latest Tweet
Share Us
Tablet Subscription

Manage my subcription here


Sign up for our newsletter

Sign Up