Podcast: Lalo Schifrin. An immense talent. A wide reach.

Born in Argentina in 1932, Lalo Schifrin journeyed from his early classical training to study with Messiaen in Paris, before transforming into a jazz pianist, composer and arranger whose services were sought after by no less a luminary than Dizzy Gillespie. The composer of more than a hundred scores for film and television, in addition Read More …

Forging a Ring

November sees the release of Siegfried, part of the ongoing Naxos recording of Wagner’s complete Ring cycle. For this month’s blogs, we go behind the scenes of the finished product to meet some of the orchestral players involved in the project. We asked Natalie Lewis, a former member of the orchestra, to strike up the Read More …

Podcast: Terry Riley. A continuing spirit of exploration.

Terry Riley’s breakthrough work, In C, was written in 1964, but it wasn’t until 1991 that he produced his first orchestral piece. Over the years, Riley has come under the influence of a wide range of musicians, including John Cage, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Pandit Pran Nath, the master Indian classical singer. Raymond Bisha Read More …

A point in time: October 27.

October 27 marks five anniversaries—three births, two deaths—of four composers and a musicologist, so we’ll tune in to examples of their output, some of which may be familiar, others less so. It would be remiss, however, to begin without mentioning that October 27 also marks Black Cat Appreciation Day in the UK. The occasion attempts Read More …

Podcast: Symphonic music by Claude Baker

The music on this new release of orchestral music by the American composer Claude Baker occupies a wide expressive range, ricocheting between wild brilliance and deep introspection. He translates literary references into a uniquely rich and imaginative sound world, with allusions to music by other composers by turns subtle and explicit. Raymond Bisha introduces Baker’s Read More …

Playing homage

A few months ago we aired a selection of works in which composers made reference to other composers by quoting snatches of their melodies. This week, we highlight pieces that are dedicated in their entirety to a particular composer, making the product less referential, and more reverential, although you may question that latter description in Read More …

Podcast: Saint-Saëns’ works for cello and orchestra

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, one of the most extraordinary musical prodigies in the history of western music, was born in 1835 (when Mendelssohn was still in full compositional flow) and died in 1921 (the best part of a decade after Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring had delivered its shock waves). Amid all this change, Saint-Saëns retained Read More …

A breeze through trees

A news release caught my eye a few months ago. Botanic Gardens Conservation International, an organisation based in the UK, announced that they had managed to compile the first-ever comprehensive list of all known trees. The total? A staggering 60,065 different species. It then struck me that, unlike an event or an emotion, a tree Read More …

Phrases of the loon

The recent passing of the actor Jerry Lewis, forever branded the nutty professor in the madness rankings, put me in mind of British entertainers The Crazy Gang (yes, I am that old), the 1960s comedy film It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world, and a whole host of other loony screenings. When crazy turns from Read More …

Podcast: Sister Carrie. The opera of the novel.

Sister Carrie, an opera by American composer Robert Aldridge, was first performed in 2012. Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, the novel on which the opera was based, was written in 1900. It was one of the first American novels about social status which, for women around the turn of the 20th century, depended almost entirely on Read More …