It was a salutary experience visiting the Hôtel des Bains on the Lido in Venice last week. The site of Gustav von Aschenbach’s demise, it is one of the most evocative places in the literary and cinematic world. Full of Mahlerian resonances, triggered both by Mann and Visconti alike, this truly magnificent vacation palace – a sort of melancholy precursor to Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel – met its end in 2010. The art nouveau beast, host to Georg Trakl, Peter Altenberg, Adolf Loos and Arthur Schnitzler in 1913 and Diaghilev on his final, tragic trip to Venice in 1929, looms over the Lido like a beautiful if now redundant whale. Evidence of its conversion into apartments, three years after the announcement, is scant if not non-existent.
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One of the major topics of the London Book Fair this year, as indeed in many previous years, concerns the digitisation of books and how that growing trends is having an impact on the industry as a whole. This lunchtime, on the World at One on BBC Radio Four, Martha Kearney has been discussing those issues with a number of studio guests. One of the other commentators savvily pointed out that in the future there will be two types of books: e-books and beautiful books.

Richard Strauss's 150th birthday has spurred a great slew of recordings, some new, some re-released. The trend reaches a particularly profligate level this month, with discs featuring old established interpreters such as Wilhelm Furtwängler and Karl Böhm sitting proudly side by side with a new guard of Daniel Harding and Andris Nelsons.

Wes Anderson is well-known for whacky. And his ostensible Stefan Zweig tribute, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is no different. Gaudy in colour and no less variegated in its humour, the film is a romp from start to finish. But in a world where style certainly seeks to impress above substance, it's a considerable feat that Anderson's film also has great heart. Whether or not it ultimately has anything to do with Zweig is another matter.

The world of Lieder is, to quote A.E. Housman, a 'land of lost content', full of 'happy highways' and not quite so happy highways where we 'cannot come again'. That is unless you're Thomas Larcher, the Austrian-born composer, whose new disc is out on Harmonia Mundi. I first heard Larcher's work at Wigmore Hall in 2011, including a song cycle he had written for one of my favourite singers, Mark Padmore.

The Royal Opera House announced its plans for the the 2014/15 season this morning. On the dance side, there are enticing propositions from Wayne McGregor, who's creating a full-length work for The Royal Ballet based on Virginia Woolf's output, with a new score by Max Richter. There are also new one-act works from Hofesh Shechter, who's this year's Brighton Festival Guest Director, and in-house favourite Liam Scarlett.
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Roger Wright, currently controller of BBC Radio 3 and director of the BBC Proms, is going to become Chief Executive of Aldeburgh Music. Few can have envied Wright's task of steering BBC Radio 3 through the ongoing cuts and adjustments to the way the Corporation is run.
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And so David Pountney continues his austerity-bucking plans for WNO. Announcing his 2014/15 season for the Cardiff-based company, Pountney has lined-up a punchy Rossini season, with Mosè in Egitto and Guillaume Tell, before a spring season of 'magic, with Die Zauberflöte and Hänsel und Gretel side by side and, finally, the UK premiere of Richard Ayres's Peter Pan and a new Pelléas et Mélisande for Wales in the summer.

A few years ago I was lucky to be invited by White Label for EMI (as was) to write the liner notes for a re-release of Willi Boskovsky's survey of the waltzes, polkas and gallops of the Golden Age of Johann Strauss II and his coterie. The recordings have formed the backbone to my current History of the Waltz course at City Lit, which sadly finishes next week. Boskovsky's not trendy.

I have always loved Die Frau ohne Schatten, since the moment I first heard the Act II finale, 'Barak, ich hab' es nicht getan!', on an EMI CD of highlights for The Royal Opera's 1992/93 season. Back then Bernard Haitink was at the helm – the disc featured Sawallisch's Bavarian recording – though last night it was Semyon Bychkov who voyaged through Strauss's vast score.
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