Podcast: ‘Rach 3’. The Mount Everest of piano concertos.

Raymond Bisha helps turn the pages of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto, following the release of Boris Giltburg’s fine performance of the work with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto. Noted for its length and technical difficulty, ‘Rach 3’ (its popular moniker) is reckoned to have more notes than all of Mozart’s Read More …

May. In names and notions.

May’s music. From Theresa May to Frederick May, the dawn of The First of May to the dusk of May Nights—we can view the month through a variety of musical optics which we’ve assembled for this week’s blog. Our earliest example comes from 16th-century England in a ballet by Thomas Morley (1557–1602), but that’s not Read More …

Podcast: Robert Schumann’s works for cello

Although storm clouds were starting to gather over Robert Schumann’s mental health in the years 1849–50, it proved a remarkably fertile period for his musical output, not least as reflected in works featuring the cello. The majority of the pieces on this new release were composed during that period, some with the instrumentation as originally Read More …

27 April. 4 anniversaries.

It’s worth pausing today to remember four notable musicians, the anniversaries of whose deaths all fall on 27 April. Sigismond Thalberg (1812–1871) was a virtuoso pianist considered by some of his contemporaries as a rival to Franz Liszt. Although his death in Italy on 27 April 1871 is clearly documented, details of his birth and Read More …

Podcast: Airs of authority. Concertos for guitar duo.

The combined gifts of the extraordinary Brasil Guitar Duo and two eminent Latin American composers produce a depth of experience and rare musical beauty in two concertos for guitar duo. Cuban composer Leo Brouwer has written ten concertos for guitar, but The Book of Signs is his first for guitar duo. Paulo Bellinati’s Concerto Caboclo Read More …

April playbill

We’re well into April, the name derived from the Latin word aperit which means ‘opening’. Flowers and trees in the northern hemisphere do indeed begin to bloom at this time, but April can be a most confusing, if not frustrating month: drearily wet one day, promisingly warm the next, armed with surprises and contradictions, daisies Read More …

Podcast: A final flourish.

The new Naxos edition of Saint-Saëns’ works for piano and orchestra reaches its final volume with a recording of the composer’s Piano Concertos Nos. 4 and 5, works described by soloist Romain Descharmes as “brilliant music that opens doors to a new world”. The Fourth Concerto showcases virtuosic music written by one of history’s most Read More …

Puerto Rico. Feeling the pulse.

The American composer Roberto Sierra was born in Vega Baja, in north central Puerto Rico, in 1953. I thought of him repeatedly in 2017, when Hurricane Maria was doing her worst as the most destructive natural disaster on record for the island. Sierra is currently the Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Cornell Read More …

Ire and Fury

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak. So wrote William Congreve in 1697, as the opening lines of his poem The Mourning Bride. I’m sure we’ve all experienced music’s power to calm us down, chill us out and turn our doldrums into a more optimistic state Read More …

Podcast: Every step of the play. Prokofiev’s score for the ballet Romeo and Juliet.

As was often the case, bringing performances of classical music to fruition in Russia’s Soviet era was more challenging than the actual composition. Responding to a commission from the Bolshoi Ballet in 1935, Prokofiev quickly completed the task of writing a score for Romeo and Juliet, but the first performance had to be postponed owing Read More …