‘Mahler helps us make sense of our modern world,” explains Norman Lebrecht. “Uniquely, he is a composer who was derided in his lifetime, ignored for decades afterwards but ultimately displaced Beethoven at the box office.”
At 62, Lebrecht is one of the world’s most prolific and widely read commentators on music and culture. Before immersing himself in the arts, he studied Talmud and rabbinic debate — knowledge which has stood him in very good stead, especially when it comes to Mahler, whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year.
Dog, Frog, Bird, Dragon and Witch are having lunch. So are Cat and Monster. This gives Olivia Jacobs, co-founder and artistic director of Tall Stories, the chance to talk about the nation’s most successful theatre company for children.
Justin Bartha may not be a household name, but the 31-year-old outshone J-Lo and Ben Affleck in Gigli, played the missing groom in 2009's surprise comedy hit The Hangover, and provided Nicolas Cage with a wise-cracking sidekick in the family-oriented National Treasure adventures National Treasure. If you still cannot put a face to the name, then his latest film (not to mention its poster), The Rebound, should change that.
All the years Zoe Silver made documentaries with Alan Yentob, she was sitting on the best arts story in Britain. But it was one she could never pitch. "It would have been a conflict of interest," she laughs of her late father's audacious collaboration with David Hockney.
She is president of an international festival, founder of the world's leading piano competition and a world-renowned teacher who will work in Washington, Seoul, Beijing, Hanover and Leipzig this year alone. At the age of 90, Dame Fanny Waterman shows no sign of slowing down.
Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota is for many one of the most important and influential people in art, regularly securing a top three placing in Art Review's annual list of the art world's most powerful figures. But he is also subjected to virulent criticism from a number of quarters, in particular from the Evening Standard's provocative art critic Brian Sewell, who regularly uses his column to lambast him for "furthering so many worthless careers".
Sha'anan Streett, the frontman of Hadag Nahash - the biggest hip-hop band in Israel - is hung over. And the waitress in the Jerusalem cafe clearly knows it. "Black coffee followed by a big green salad?" she suggests. He gives her a wry smile. "You know me too well," he replies.
Then he turns to me, sotto voce. "Last night," he murmurs, "too many substances." He motions to his "f*** the police" T-shirt. "This is my own design," he tells me.
Neil Gaiman has been described as a writer of extraordinary imagination. This imagination has been responsible for producing decades' worth of award-winning fantasy and science-fiction work, for readers of all ages. His novels, American Gods, Anansi Boys, Coraline and The Graveyard Book have all been New York Times best-sellers. He is well known for his graphic novel series The Sandman, for which he has a cult following, but he is also a prolific creator of poetry, short stories, journalism, song lyrics and drama.
When Marc Chagall began to use images of Jesus's crucifixion in the 1930s to symbolise Jewish suffering under the Nazis, many Jews found it disturbing. After all, Jews had long been blamed for the killing of Jesus and were repeatedly persecuted as a result. By using the Crucifixion in this way, Chagall represented innocent Jewish victims by the religious symbol of many of their oppressors.
It is the place where visual artists, musicians, writers and theatre directors go when they really want to focus. Cove Park is an international centre in Scotland that offers artists who work in a variety of media residencies to undertake research and develop new projects. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, it was the brainchild of Eileen and Peter Jacobs, a couple originally from Glasgow who have been based in London since 1983.